Paris Pt. 3 🇫🇷

My last full day in Paris I wanted to do all the lame tourist things. So the Louvre, Cathedral of Norte Dame, the Grande Palace, the Pantheon, the Sacre-Coeur, Tuileries Garden, Laduree, and the Catacombs of Paris. If you’re reading that list and you’re rolling your eyes, I walked to all of these, so I’m sure I saw a lot more. I think Christmas in Paris is just … let’s go with, Magical. During the day there are all the decorations and festive vibe that overcomes the city and during the night everything gets lite up and the city sparkles.

My last day I woke up super early so I could get to the Louvre. Naturally, I wanted to see the Mona Lisa. I’ll save you some time, go to google and google, “Mona Lisa Louvre” Go ahead, do that now. Looks chaotic right? Well, I got lucky because I have a European student card which means I get in for free. Almost every person there that morning was there to see the Mona Lisa, all the other cool things inside kind of get cast aside. Now I did get to see it because I was a least a foot taller than anyone else in there. The Mona Lisa is small; it’s protected by bulletproof glass and there is a perimeter set up so people can’t get to close. To me, definitely not worth. I didn’t spend a lot of time in the Louvre, but it is a cool place. It’s beautiful inside and out. There’s a little high-end shopping centre attached to the Louvre where you can get overpriced coffee from Starbucks (I went and bought a mug) When I got outside you can see everything that Paris has to offer. I apologise for the photos because the weather was less than cooperative.

Again I had one of those moments where I couldn’t believe where I was. The Tuileries Garden is right in front of the Louvre, it isn’t in bloom, but nevertheless, it’s beautiful. My next stop after the Louvre and Garden was to head to the second most iconic place in Paris, The Cathedral of Notre Dame. Yes, as a kid I watched Disney movies almost religiously. Anything new that came out on VHS I had to get. Mom and I had a bet, if I did well in school (which I did when I wasn’t busy being a badass) I’d either get McDonald’s or if I did really well, I’d get one of those Disney VHS and pretty much spend the weekend making sure I knew the movie inside and out. One of the first ones I got was The Hunchback of Notre Dame. If you’ve been following the blog from the beginning it is evident that I’m a nerd so this shouldn’t surprise you, I’ve read the book by Victor Hugo.

Pretty cool eh? I stood outside for a long time taking in the sights. Perhaps I stood out there too long as I kept getting approached people to take pictures of them in front of the Cathedral and tree. Going inside was surreal, again with it being Christmas time there were decorations and people everywhere. Inside you’ll find the history of the Cathedral and a line that if you follow it takes you right up and through to the catwalk overlooking Paris. I’m a little afraid of heights, and it is a tight squeeze, so I decided against it. From here I decided to go to one of a few Canadian bars in Paris, again at this point, I was just missing home. I don’t remember the name of the bar, but it’s super close to the cathedral. When I went in, I was surprised to find that the bartenders where expats and we chatted a little about Canada and how great Canada is, and how beautiful Canada is and how Canada is the best and Canada has the… We both missed home. The other bartender however was not as friendly. The one I was talking to said: “She’s been here so long she thinks she’s a Parisian.” I chuckled and then paid my tab and left. Let’s just say there is a difference between being French and being a Parisian.

I decided that I’d pass on going to the catacombs, just in case I had another panic attack (Haven’t had one since Rome.) So I went to indulge my massive sweet tooth and headed for Laduree. Now I’ve written about some real personal things on here, and I’m about to share something once again. Firstly, on my way there I swear to god I’ve never needed to pee so badly in my entire life. I couldn’t find a bathroom to save my life so I ended up taking a leak on someone’s boat. Not like going inside and using the bathroom, but like against their docked boat. I’m a terrible person I know. I was also heading to Laduree because, this is hard to admit but a lot of what I did in Paris sort of kind of reminded me of my ex and I knew that Laduree would be one of the things, had she been there, that she’d want to see. I have her gift wrapped in the bag I got from there. I don’t think she reads this anymore so like I won’t be ruining the “surprise.” I got there in record time and didn’t wet myself, so I deserved something, that something turned out to be four overpriced macaroons and an eclair. No, they did not make it back to the hostel.

I want to say this, the building looks pink, that’s because I spent some time editing the photo. It was raining, and the building looked like a shittier version of Ollivander’s wand shop from Harry Potter. Yes, I made that reference. When I got back to my room I took the best nap I’ve had in a long time, and I managed to get another blanket and just burrito myself in the corner. When I got up, I went for Chinese food again and hoped on the metro for one last glimpse of the Eiffel Tower and check out the Sacre-Coeur, which was bhind my Hostle. Here’s what I want to say about Paris before I post the next photos, its a great city with a lot of culture. I had a lot of “Wow” Moments, moments where I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. That being said, I don’t know if I’d recommend it if you’re travelling alone. It’s not exactly the most welcoming place. If you are keen on going alone, I’d suggest downloading “Couchsurfing” It’s an app that allows you to connect with people in your area and if you’re desperate for a place to stay some of the people can help you out and offer up their spare room or couch. I enjoyed my time there because I got to explore, I just got to be alone and be free, and I had a blast.

Just breathtaking and then theres this outstanding building. Sorry the photos not better, my phone died. Next post is on the way and just writing about it brings back this horrendous smell. Oh well stay tuned and thanks for reading.

Week By Week 📆

Somehow I’m still alive. I haven’t had a lot of time to blog or do anything other than school work in the last little while. It, however, is starting to pay off. So I’ve been thinking about staying here and doing another year and getting my masters. Then when I woke up this morning, there was an email from an internship that I applied to saying I’d been accepted. I was talking to someone and telling them about my dilemma of wanting to stay and wanting to come home. Strange how things can change in such an instance.

So what’s on the docket? Well, I’m heading to Stockholm this weekend which should be a lot of fun. I’ve always “threatened” that I’d run away to Sweden. In reality, I’ve just always wanted to visit. In December I’m heading to Paris, then Madrid and then meeting up with some friends from Barcelona in Barcelona. So more travel is coming, and I’m really looking forward to it. So Paris? Why Paris? I’m Canadian, and I’ve heard a lot about Paris, it’s almost romanticized. I understand its a beautiful city, but I’ve heard the worst things about the people there. We’ve got a lot of Parians here, and well they’re not the friendliest. I’m not going to let a few bad apples ruin the entire pie, so we’ll see what the people of Paris are like. I do plan on doing all the tourist attractions while there, but I also think it’s important for me to go and visit the Canadian war memorials in France. Vimy Ridge, Neuville-St Vaast Canadian Cemetery are the two that I have in mind and of course Juno Beach. 359 Canadians died taking that beach, they’re all buried behind the beach. I want to visit these sites because I’m a first-generation Canadian. I’m also very proud of being a Canadian and I wouldn’t be a Canadian without the sacrifice that those brave men and women gave.

Now in Spain, well the list is rather long. In all honesty, I don’t know a lot about Spain. I have a list of things to see, for example, Spain was once under Muslim rule in the medieval period. Their rule lasting in some areas more than 700 years. I think it would be amazing to see some of the old mosques. Obviously, football is on a religious level there so I hope I can get to a game while I’m there … Maybe El Classico (Real Madrid vs Barcelona) But we’ll see how much money I have if anyone wants to give me money that would be the kindest gift! I’m just kidding, I’ve actually budgeted reasonably well.

So a few more trips, a couple of things to see and do and then I’m coming home… Oh, I haven’t mentioned, my school back home is on strike, and well I don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s a potential that they lose the entire semester, I hope not, but it’s a very real possibility. It could affect my internship, that’s a little bit of a stressor but we’ll find out soon enough. Sorry for the delays in between posts, there will be photos and posts about Sweden and the upcoming adventure. I’m also working on another short story, but it requires a lot of research.

When in Rome 🇮🇹 Pt. Ⅳ

I’m beginning this post, and for the first time in a long time, my curtains are slightly open. Outside I see forest, powerlines and snow. That’s right, today October 28th, 2017 there is snow in Finland. We got about 5cm of snow the other day, I went from wearing shorts on Monday to fishing out my winter jacket on Tuesday. I like snow, I love the cold weather, just wasn’t ready for winter just quite yet. Oh, and I didn’t bring winter boots so I might end up falling and dying.

My view this morning, sorry this afternoon makes me miss Rome and the weather. I woke up a little groggy, late nights plus early mornings don’t make me very happy. The thought of going to the Vatican, however, was more than enough for me to get my ass out of bed. I’m not a Catholic, and I’m not religious but how cool is it that I get to visit one of the holiest places in the world. I’ve always had this dream of standing in St. Peter’s Square and just looking around. Going into the Sistine Chaple, visiting St. Peter’s Basilica and just observing all the art.

It isn’t a matter of debate that the early Catholic church was far from perfect.  The sale of indulgences paid for the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica and for a number of the paints and artwork that can be found in the Vatican itself. Indulgences were a way for a person who’d sinned to reduce the amount of punishment they received in the afterlife. It was pushed by the church and priests, amassing a handsome amount of money. It’s kinda cool to read about, and this is the behaviour that helped spark the Protestant Reformation. Alright before I have a history attack let me begin!

I met my friend from the night before for breakfast. She introduced me to a few other people that she’d been sitting with and we all decided that we’d go together to the Vatican. I had a tour at 2pm, and they didn’t but just being in the square was good enough for them. I’ve said to not do the tours, I stand by that, but I’ll talk about that a little later. The walk to the Vatican took about a million hours or at least that’s what it felt like. Make sure to do a lot of walking in Rome because you’ll pass an obscene amount of gelato shops, my recommendation is to stop at as many as possible. Chocolate, hazelnut, coffee, kinder, Nutella and tiramisu are all delicious. They’ve even got vegan options! Please ignore my ugly hands.

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Getting to the Vatican is simple, and when we got there, my friends decided to take a tour. This meant we had to split up. Inside I had the most unorganized tour guide and actually ended up with my friends …. until I got lost. Getting lost in the Vatican isn’t the worst thing in the world. It gives you the freedom to roam around and see everything. I liked it because I got to avoid some of the crowds. Feeling a little cramped in there is a pretty standard feeling.

The Sistine Chapel is one of the biggest draws as it should be. If I’m not mistaken, this is the sight of the papal conclave, where the new pope is chosen.   Its also home to the Last Judgment fresco painted by Michaelangelo. It’s that painting where God’s finger touches Adam’s. The Last Judgement is actually more than that, it tells the story of Jesus’ second coming and the final judgement of humanity. It truely is an amazing piece of artwork with a powerful message. When you’re in there you’re supposed to keep quiet and keep walking to the exit. You’re also not allowed to take photo’s, that didn’t stop some people, and it didn’t stop me. However with that being said, I don’t think I want to share that on the blog because it’s not the best photo. Google it, and you’ll get an incredible photo. Exiting is tricky especially if you don’t have a group or aren’t on a tour. To get to the basilica, you take the right-hand exit. You could make a left and view the Jesus Christ Museum, I took a left and then backtracked.

Once I got to the square, I ran into my friends that I thought I’d lost. We all went into St. Peter’s Basilica which is where these were taken. A lot of sins paid for that building and I’m glad they did. It is absolutely incredible, and naturally, there’s a photo of me being an ass. There are people from all over the world there. I met an elderly couple that made this visit their 50th wedding anniversary get-away. Can you believe that? 50 years with the same person that is just incredible.

IMG_2803IMG_2807They came to one of the holiest, most beautiful places on the planet to celebrate their love. So damn cool! As we got ready to leave there was one thing on my mind and that was getting my picture in the square. When you leave and get into the St. Peter’s Square it leaves you breathless. The beauty, the history, just everything about it is incredible.

Oh, this is the photo of me being an ass, I have one where I was making horns with my fingers so I could send it to my mom. She said that the devil wouldn’t be able to go to the Vatican… some of my friends said the same them. Well, I showed them!


Here (below) is the photo that I took from the entrance of the square. It’s not the greatest photo, but hey, all I’ve got is an iPhone. Sunday mass was being set up which is why there are barricades, at the very front there are chairs set up and a stage. IMG_2819That was my day at the Vatican. We’d done a lot of walking, so we took the metro back. I believed I’ve already said this but if you’re on the metro and happen to be standing near the door and you have a shoulder bag or purse, hold onto that thing. When we got onboard, a girl walked by and snatched this woman’s purse from her. Now the lady got off the train and rugby tackled the girl and hit her but I want to just tell you to hold onto your bag, so that doesn’t happen to you.

Arriving back at the hostel we all took much-deserved naps and showers. Then we convened for dinner at Mamma Angela (Via Palestro, 53, 00185 Roma)  I had lasagna again, but it was just as good as the first time I had it. We shared a bottle of wine, wine in Rome is cheaper than water (Seriously). The great thing about the restaurant we chose was that it was right across the street from the bar and the hostel I was staying at. So meeting up with some friends I made at breakfast was easy. The only problem was, they wanted to eat. Adventure time #2! Kidding, we found a place to eat, I had a drink and then walked around. I got to know some of the people a little better which was pretty cool.

At night make sure to be in a group because handling street peddlers is a lot easier in larger groups. Somehow we found an Irish bar… they’re everywhere, and we settled in for more drinks. Over drinks, we discussed our adventure for tomorrow as it would be some peoples last day. The catacombs of Rome are extensive and were on my list, so that’s what we planned for the next day. I’d later regret this, but that’s for the next post which will conclude the trip to Rome. Once again thanks for reading!

P.S forgot to mention, the Vatican, or Vatican City is technically their own country but you don’t have to bring your passport. If you’ve been let into Italy you’re allowed to visit the Vatican… after a long screening process. Have fun and safe travels!

When In Rome 🇮🇹 Pt. Ⅱ

My second day in Rome started a little early, 7 am to be precise. Why so early? Because I would be going to the Colosseum, Forum, and Pantheon for a tour. If you go to Rome, buy a book and just go without a tour, you’ll save a lot of money. I didn’t need the tour because I mean I spent so much of my life studying these buildings and the city but like a tourist, I caved and took a tour. I did this because I was afraid I’d get lost. I spent 90% of my time in Rome lost and without Wi-Fi or cell service and I’m fine. If I can do it, you can do it 100%. So back to the point, I took a tour of the Colosseum, Forum and Pantheon. From Termini its two stops to the Colosseum, the Forum is across the path, and the Pantheon is about a twenty-minute walk, follow the tourists.

I just want to comment on the metro in Rome. It’s hot, it’s cramped, and if you’re standing near the doors hold onto your god damn bag. It’ll cost you €1.50 to ride and that gives you 100 minutes, not too shabby. Anyway, I got on the metro during morning rush hour; I don’t recommend doing this if you have trouble in small spaces or if you don’t like people touching you. I had a bit of a freak out due to the number of people, but it was only two stops, and as soon as the doors opened I bolted up the stairs. That’s where everything seemed just to stop and come full circle. When you get outside the first thing you see is the most iconic building of the Roman Empire, the Flavian Amphitheater, otherwise known as the Colosseum. IMG_2584In 64 AD there was a significant fire in Rome, leaving the sight of the Colosseum inhabitable. Nero took advantage of this and built himself a massive house, the Domus Aurea or Golden House on the site. Many Romans thought that Nero started the fire, he blamed the Christians, naturally and burned them alive. I’ve always thought this was cool, but Nero constructed a lake on the property. Fun fact, no one liked Nero, well the higher classes didn’t. This was due to his luxurious lifestyle, which he paid for by raising taxes. In 68 AD Nero killed himself after a trial where he was declared an enemy of the state. Another fun fact, he was the first emperor to kill himself, and this idiot was the last of the Julio-Cludians. Civil war ensued after his death with multiple parties vying for the position of Emperor. They all sucked, I think there was 4 of them in a one year span, with Vespasian ultimately winning. In 70 AD undertook a mission to put down the Jewish Revolt. Upon his return, he brought 100,000 Jewish slaves and a massive war chest. Both were used to build the Colosseum, a gift for the people. See, now you don’t even need to buy a book if you go and I got to use my major for something.

The building itself is super impressive, and I want to talk about it more but I won’t…. The Romans used to flood it with water and have naval battles inside. Okay moving on, the steps in the building are all pretty steep, but the climb is worth it. Inside you can see the tunnels where animals were kept and where Gladiators came out. The floor is no longer intact because it was made of wood as were many of the seats and the giant awning.IMG_2604

There is a giant cross situated near one of the entrances, its to symbolize the significant loss of life that the Colosseum has seen over the years. Its to “Bless” the people who’d lost their lives due to the beliefs in and of Pagan gods. On one side of the building, there is a large chunk of wall missing, the Colosseum was used to build other things, and its old and well earthquakes.

Next was the Forum, for whatever reason I didn’t enjoy this much. Well, I didn’t enjoy it while on tour. I came back later and did it with a friend. If you’re going to go to Rome walking is going to be a big part of what you do, don’t wear uncomfortable shoes, and watch your step. I twisted my ankle multiple times. You’ll notice that most of the women are wearing heels, they’re Roman and have evolved into these magical creatures that can walk with heels on cobblestone and thousand-year-old roads. You’re not Roman, don’t try it. Oh and bring a water bottle.

The Pantheon was our last stop, and there is a bit of a funny story. So we walked from the Palatine Hill (Colosseum Area) to the Pantheon. One of the best things about Rome is the history, everywhere you go there is something to see. For example, on our way to the Pantheon, we stood in the middle of the Piazza Venezia, which is kinda chaotic so please watch where you’re going. As we stood in the square, well let me show you

 

 

At first glance, the photo on the top left is just a balcony. It’s actually where Mussolini declared war on the Allied Forces. The building with all the scaffolding is where Napoleon lived while he was in Rome. Lastly, the big building is the Altare della Patria also known as Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II. Itlay was a collection of city-states and was not unified until 1871 into the Kingdom of Itlay. Victor Emmanuel was the first king of unified Italy. I cannot stress this enough, if you stand at the gates and look up, you will feel like the smallest person alive. The building is also home to the unknown soldier. So lots of history from various points in Italy all within ten minutes.

Onwards to the Pantheon! The word Pantheon means “Temple of every god.” I believe that is Latin. I took a few Latin classes at Mac and learned Carpe Diem… Okay okay, I learned that watching Dead Poet’s Society. Its one of the cooler buildings because its still in use today. It was completed 125-126 AD and was finished by Hadrian. The route we took was cool, there are restaurants, souvenirs, and gelato shops. If you’re in Rome and you get lost, get gelato it’ll make you forget about being lost.

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I said there was a funny story, right now the Pantheon is a church, Santa Maria ad Martyres or St. Mary and the Martyrs. People walked in with shorts but this one woman got stopped, and it was the most hilarious thing I’ve ever seen. She had a low cut top, and I guess her husband told her that she’d need to cover up. At the entrance, one of the guards looked at her and said, “This is a Church. Cover please.” Her husband grabbed the shirt from around his waist and forcefully handed it to her while saying, “I told you, Jenine! Gosh” I had quite the chuckle.

 

After the tour was over, I went back to the hostel and well I’ve always heard “It’s a small world” from my mom but never paid it any mind. On my way back I ran into an old friend from a job I had as a teenager. Then on the metro, I ran into a priest I knew from my days going to Catholic school. It was the perfect way to end my day but well it was far from over. Back at the hostel, I met a flight attendant who was in Rome for just the night. So did she ever drop the bomb with the insides on being a flight attendant. Yes, I’m aware I just used the word “bomb” and “flight” in the same sentence. So I’d never do this because I’m not weird, but if you take your shoes off on a plane and go to the washroom, it’s NEVER water on the floor. Also if your kid is playing in the aisle while foods being served, you’re the problem with society. Anyway, after that wonderful conversation, we decided to do all the shit I’d already done but during the evening. It started with Pizza and beer, then off to the Cirus Maximus. Now its one of the older structures in Rome, if you can still call it a structure. The venue was home to Ludi which are games for the people. Chariot races and gladiatorial battles are great examples of Ludi. The building in the background is the back of the Palatine Hill. IMG_2658

So I promise we’re getting to the end of this post. I did almost everything on day one. I did it alone and with a friend. My friends think I’m stupid for this, but I’m really self-conscious when it comes to meeting new people. I just over think everything and the words don’t go from my brain to my mouth in one fluid motion. At least that’s the way I’ve always seen it. At the end of the night, my new friend told me she was happy that I just said hello to her. When I think about my life, I’ve been able to make friends where ever I go for whatever reason. I’m grateful for that, alone time is great and its something I’ve reclaimed for myself lately, but it’s nice to be social and out with people. So That concludes my post for today, I’ll leave you with one more photo, and it’s a good one.

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Yes, that’s me in front of the Trevi Fountain!!! Post number 3 is on the way! Thank you for reading!!!!!!!!!!!

Now Boarding 💺Pt. 2

Friday, September 29th, 2017 – Friday, October 6th, 2017 

Jyväskylä-Helsinki-Tallinn-Helsinki-Manchester-Dublin-Galway-Stockholm-Helsinki-Jyväskylä 7,152km 

Jyväskylä to Helsinki- Normally you can take the train and if you ask me you should always take the damn train. We took the bus, which on a Friday can be all kinds of packed. One of the coolest things about the bus is you really get to observe what Finlands like. So lots of trees, lakes and well nature. Its really nice to see the changing of the leaves, all the colours. Whenever you take public transportation, you run the risk of sitting close to an idiot. We had a guy who just watched Youtube videos the entire ride… without headphones.

Helsinki was the first city I got to when coming on, exchange, it’s beautiful. Right on the water with a vibrant culture and teaming with life. If you’ve never been here some advice. Fins are great, but they can be “weird” That is the way they come off. In Finland, the concept of small talk doesn’t exist. Personal space is a must here. Take, for example, when I get on the bus to school no one wants to sit next to each other. You’ll have people stand rather than sit next to someone else. If you don’t believe me check out, @finnishnightmaresofficial or @veryfinnishproblems on Instagram, you’ll get a good laugh out of it, and I can vouch for how accurate it is.

It is rather easy to get them to come out of their shells though.. sorta, beer. Kippis means Cheers in Finnish so if you want to get to know them or talk to them or have them talk to you maybe hold up two beers and say Kippis! I’ve gotten off track, sorry. We didn’t stay long in Helsinki, our ferry to Tallinn left at midnight, and we arrived at around 9:15pm. Just enough time to grab McDonalds and head to the ferry terminal. If you’re one of my North American readers, you’ll know that McDonald’s back home can be …ASS especially if you’re not drunk. Finnish McDonald’s gets the thumbs up from me. I recommend the share box, you get wings… WINGS!! Onion Rings, and Nuggets. Whats not to love? Anyway, at the ferry terminal, one of the members of the group pranced through the gates and security were waiting for him. Just a random search. Naturally, we made fun of him, and it was nice that it wasn’t me being randomly selected. Adel Darwish Mohammed  feels like this,

AasfaAT

 

Helsinki to Tallinn

Sorry, couldn’t resist. The Ferry is awesome and it even has a grocery store/liquor store.

 

Processed with VSCO with m5 presetAlcohol is pretty cheap on the ferry, but in Tallinn, it’s cheaper. Its why Fins go there and exchange students. So Tallinn is basically what Montreal is for Torontonians. Party Hardy beautiful city. Cabs in Tallinn are cheap … just not the ones outside the ferry terminal. Our hostel was close to Old Tallinn and some bars and clubs. I’d recommend Euphoria (Roosikrantsi 4, 10119 Tallinn, Estonia) Its real simple, really chill and a good price. After we settled we went out to a club, Münt (Müürivahe 22, 10140 Tallinn, Estonia.) They had €1-2 drinks, so needless to say there was a lot of people and a lot of security. So what I’ve been noticing is that there are smoking rooms everywhere you go in Europe. In clubs, bars, even the airports. I ended up in one at the club and while I was sitting there with my friend the fucking ashtray exploded.

The next morning was spent recovering from hangovers, I felt great because at some point during the night I switched to tonic water and limes 😉 Why? Drinking is fun, hangovers are the bane of my fucking existence, and I’d rather crawl naked across a kilometer of broken glass. Very descriptive I know. Anyway another recommendation, Kompressor (Rataskaevu 3, 10123 Tallinn, Estonia.) Its a cafe that makes the best god damn pancakes in the world … in Tallinn. Its cheap and the portions are massive. Not traditional North American pancakes, you can get them topped or filled with a variety of different things. I had the cream cheese and chicken 👍🏾

I had this feeling the entire time I was there that I was being watched. Easy to explain, there are churches EVERYWHERE! Like this one, sadly not everyone respects churches or cathedrals. On the side of this one, someone spray painted graffiti. It looked like someone had tried to remove it but they couldn’t. E8B4E146-345D-446E-84B2-ADE526E5510D

So yeah you are being watched… By God! My favourite thing about Tallinn was the variety of food options. So I’m Trinidadian, that means I get a lot of spice in my food. Finland … Does ketchup count as a spice? That night we went to an Indian restaurant, and it hit me. Keep in mind I’ve been away from home for about 3 months. Tallinn was also my first stop of my little holiday, but I sat in this Indian restaurant, and I immediately missed home. Toronto is the most diverse city, I can get food from every part of the world. I’m very fortunate to live there. I’ll elaborate more on this in the last part of this series. Myself Shawn and Jari spent the night out later than the rest of the group, I had a flight to Helsinki at 6:15am then I’d get a connecting flight to Manchester. We went to a hookah bar, Hookah Palace (Roosikrantsi 3, 10119 Tallinn, Estonia) which was across the street from the hostel. €3 Drinks, I recommend the cider and €8 Hookah, great atmosphere. We smoked and drank and had a great time.

At 4:00am I got in a cab and headed to the airport. It cost €8 to get there. Hail a cab don’t get into the ones that are just waiting around! The Tallinn Airport is small, and when I got there, I was a little drunk and tired and had to wait what felt like the most extended hour and a half of my life.

Tallinn to Helsinki

This is the last part of part 2. I got to Helsinki and had to go through customs, the customer officer laughed at me because I’d forgotten to sign my passport. Rookie mistake. The highlight of the Helsinki airport, I found a Starbucks and paid a stupid amount of money for a medium coffee… sorry Grande coffee. It warms my heart to know that Starbucks is expensive everywhere. It’s a healthy relationship to have.

22343979_10155789545547265_211654717_oAlright! Thanks for reading. Part 3 will be up later this week, or tomorrow, depending on how I feel!

The Westbound Train 🚉 Pt. 4

From the downtown train station, I’ll walk over to the bus stop and take the 51 to St. Patrick’s. When the train rolls in and the doors open a wave of hot air hits me in the face. I break out in sweat, and regret this entire endeavor. I take off my jacket and unbutton my vest. I have to roll up my sleeves, as I begin to walk down the street I pass my old apartment. I had a lot of good times in that apartment. The best had to be the night of the super bowl in 4th year. That night there was a ridiculous snow storm and there was a potluck at my place. That was the year I blew out my knee, so I was still on crutches so not only did I not cook but I had nothing in my house but ramen and mac and cheese. Oh and beer, I had beer. Everyone came over and brought various dishes, I ordered 3 large party pizzas 2 hours before the game due to the storm. They never showed up. The next morning, we heard on the news that there was a pile up right outside our favourite pizza parlour and two people died. Naturally my friends kept joking about the fact that we didn’t get the pizza because I probably killed the pizza delivery guy. They still hold it against me, even though we don’t know who died. It was morbid but those were some really good times. I smile as I walk by the old building. I stop by a Tim Horton’s and grab a cold drink, I decide that I don’t want to wait for the bus so I hail a cab. Its not a far drive to the church. The driver is a nice Afghan man, named Masood. He asks if I’ve ever been to Hamilton? I tell him that I lived here for 5 years when in University. He looks at me through the rearview mirror and says, “It feels like home, don’t it?” I nod my head, “Yes” We pass Locke Street, I remember going there after a battle of the bands that my friend was playing in and just getting absolutely hammered. I don’t remember how I got home but the next day but I woke up with someone’s number written in lipstick across my forearm so it must have been a good night. We’re stopped at a red light and I can see the the outdoor rink. I took Anna my first girlfriend there to tell her I loved her. I planned it all out, we’d finished our exams and we went for a late night skate, I led her over to where the mistletoe was and kissed her, then I told her that I loved her. I looked her right in the eyes and told her I’d love her forever. I think back to that, I was so young but I meant it. I remember the fight we had that ended our relationship, the one where she told me that if she ever got pregnant with our child she’d kill it because I wasn’t going to be a good father. I remember her telling me years later that thats exactly what she did and how sorry she was. In so many ways that was the beginning of the feeling I’ve walked around with, the broken feeling. I never brought myself to tell anyone that, its scribbled in a journal somewhere on a whiskey stained page. We’re moving again and I can see the Scottish Rite,. One night in my last year I got incredibly drunk at the art science formal, they’d given evey table two bottles of wine and I may have had a bottle or 3.  Everything brings back a certain memory. Most of them are good, some of them are bad but that was a part of me growing up in Hamilton.  It was the first time I was on my own, I wanted to leave and get as far away as possible. In the back of my mind I didn’t know if I could do it but here I was, almost 10 years later, alive, with a passport full of stamps, a hard drive full of memories, and going to a wedding where I’d watch the woman I love get married to another man.

Inside the church I can see that its already been adorned with the flowers and drapery, I take some photos when I hear, “Excuse ME!” I turn around, Father Daniels is walking towards me. “Young man this is a closed ceremo…”He stops and takes a closer look,  “Sasha?” He recognizes me, salt and pepper beard, no more long luxurious hair. I give a big smile, and he gives me a big hug. “Sasha, it has been too long! I didn’t know you’d be here!” He sees the bag, “But it makes sense, you’re the best photographer I know.” I wouldn’t know about that, but I give a faint wave of my hand. When I was in university I did a project on the restoration of St. Patrick’s. I wrote an article for the university paper and added a bunch of really cool photos that he loved. “You’re early.”

“Yeah, just wanted to get some time alone I guess and there’s no better place in the city. Would it be okay if I sat here for a bit?” He’s a short man but places his hand on my shoulder, “Remember what I told you before you left, God is always listening. He’ll always forgive you, you just need to forgive yourself.” I shake my head and smile. When he walks away I ask myself. “Is he really listening?” I take a seat at the front of the church. I look at the alter, the stain glass window, and the cross. Its been years since I’ve been here, hell its been years since I’ve been inside a church. I don’t consider myself as religious but its always nice to just sit in the quiet. It’ll change soon, in about 20 minutes I’ll have to go outside and start taking photos. Actually now that I think about it I’ll get some photos now of the church and the chalk board sign outside that says, “Nora and Jamie tie the knot” Outside some of the guests have arrived, many of them I know from when I dated Nora.  Some of them look surprised to see me, other give me a sort of sad look. You know that bullshit half smile “oh honey” smile, I get a lot of those. I knew it was coming, I’m Nora’s ex. I’m the guy that bolted for Sweden when we broke up, I’m the guy that broke her heart, I’m the guy that moved on with someone else 6 months after we’d broken up or maybe it’s because they were all at my mom’s funeral 2 weeks ago.

 

The next few hours go by in a blur, by the time the reception has begun I’ve had to change batteries 3 times. I’ve taken thousands of photos, lots of the happy couple, of her parents, her brothers and sisters, it truly is a beautiful service, beautiful everything. When I take my seat at my table I’m sweating like a mad man. Dinner is outstanding and the open bar is a nice touch because they’ve got expensive scotch and whiskey. The father daughter dance is beautiful; they dance to My Little Girl by Tim McGraw. I always loved him, we shared a love for the same hockey team, and for a good scotch. I get down on one knee and get the perfect shot, a tear is streaming down his cheek and Nora has her hand to wipe it away. Later on after the dance floor has opened I’m taking to Katie one of her friend’s form work when Nora goes up to the mic, “So I hope you’re all having fun, tonight we’ll have a midnight buffet.” I know what its going to be, chicken nuggets. “We’ll be having chicken nuggets and fries!” Everyone’s laughing, I give her a smile and tell Katie I’m going for some air. “Sasha, it really is good to see you.” “Yeah, you too.”

I get a whiskey and head outside. I pull a cigar out from my jacket pocket and light it. Blue suit, whiskey and a cigar, I feel rather classy, or maybe it’s the alcohol. I’m looking out over the field and I feel a hand on my shoulder, Nora. “Sashie.” She looks up at me and gives me a big smile, “I’m happy you came.” Then the smile leaves her face and is replaced by some sorrow, “You know you didn’t have to. I know its been a hard few weeks for you. I’m so sorry about Maria and mom. I miss her so much, I wish she was here.” She takes my hand and I put my cigar down all I can do is shake my head. “These things happen and at least moms not in pain anymore. She got you a gift, but I haven’t been to the apartment so I’ll FedEx it to you.” She squeezes my hand and I remember the last time we held hands. It was when I was leaving for Sweden, I promised her I’d come back to her. I was sure that we’d get back together, but when I got there something changed. I didn’t want her to wait around, I wanted her and thought about her every day but I just didn’t think I was what she needed anymore. Maybe I should’ve just asked instead of assuming. She takes the drink from my other hand and drinks some, “Do you know why Maria…?” She tales off and I look at the camera, Property of Sasha Dobson, I pick at the label. “I don’t know.” But I do know. She’ll find out soon, but tonight’s her night.  I look at her and finish my whiskey, it burns a little going down. “One day at a time. I’ll be fine, promise.” She knows I’m lying but she doesn’t want to fight, not now, not ever, and neither do I. “Please don’t let what happened the last time happen again. Sasha, promise me, please.” When we broke up I honestly just wanted to darkness, maybe I even thought about killing myself. I felt that I’d done so many things wrong, that I’d hurt Nora. But no, the hurt came later. I was sure that the pain I was feeling would eventually get better but I got tired of waiting or it to happen. That’s when I started drinking. I drank on the train to work, after work, if you saw me with a cup in my hand it was alcohol. It didn’t make me feel good, if anything it made things worse. It made the pain unbearable but then something changed, that pain, it became my normal. It’s like I was okay with being miserable. “Okay Nora. You don’t have to worry about me. Please. Thank you for the invite and the job…See?” I gesture to her, everything around her, “I told you you’d get your fairy tale.” I smile and give a little squeeze to her hand, “I better get going, the last train is in a hour.” For a moment she continues holding my hand, I let go and go back inside. I say my goodbyes and take my camera bag from the table.
No ones on the train when I get on. I decide to start editing photos, best to get it out of the way. I take the SD card out and begin uploading the photos. There are thousands of them, so I begin the sift through them. There’s one, Jamie has Nora pulled close, his hand is on her lower back and her hand on his chest. I remember taking that earlier in the day, he said “Make sure to get my good side.” It made her laugh and that’s when I took the photo. It’s a silly but perfect shot of the two of them. I’m so focused that I nearly miss my stop. It’s a short walk back home, I don’t even bother hanging up my jacket, I dump everything on the floor. I sit at the edge of the bed, rest my had on the side that used to be Maria’s. I desperately want a drink but I know at this point I wouldn’t be able to stop. That picture I was editing on the train, hurt. When I finally decide to try and sleep I stare at the ceiling fan, “Make sure to get my good side” and then I hear her laugh. I turn over to Maria’s side and grab her pillow, I clutch is tight and scream into it, it’s the last thing I remember.

Candles 🕯🕯🕯

They’re for celebration, wish making, for seeking hope in times of darkness. They light the way in time of darkness. Darkness. Because thats what we do, in those times of darkness we look for the light. Light means safety and safety is comforting.

When I think candles I think of birthday parties. One of the things I forget all the time about candles is how relevant they are in religious fixtures. I went to church the other day and at the pulpit someone was lighting candles. Why’d I go to church? I’m not a Christian, hell I’m not even religious. So it begs the question, why did I go to church? I’m in Finland and there are a number of churches around. I can just walk in and sit down and no one will even pay me any attention.

Can you tell that I’m avoiding the question?

I went because a few days ago I learned that at any moment you can have a brain aneurysm. You can be walking with your daughter to get ice cream and you can collapse and die and thats it. One minute you can be planning your wedding and then someones planning your funeral. In an instant everything you’ve done, everything you are, and everything that you were working towards can come to an abrupt end.

People die. I get it. People leave. I get it. Its part of gods plan. The older you get theres more of a chance that you’ve experienced loss. Some more painful than the other. Some leave you with a gapping hole in your chest that you try to fill anyway possible. Sometimes you lose people that you don’t care a lot about. Sometimes you lose the people closest to you. And sometimes you lose the people you need. Right now it feels like all of them.

Not a person I was overly close to, or at least not anymore. Not a person I’d move heaven and earth for, not a person I always felt I needed. So how can it feel like all 3? Because it was a person who I had hope for and in. A person that I looked up to. People die and they leave us behind to fill the void anyway possible. I’ve looked for a lot of things in my life to fill the void left by all the people that aren’t with me anymore. I haven’t tried organized religion, I won’t, not yet.

So I sat there and watched as the candle was lit. Delicately the candle was lit, and then another was lit and another all with the same stick. A steady hand and a little direction and soon candlelight filled the pulpit.

As one candle was extinguished another was lit, all it needed was a little guidance.