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.

Paris Pt. 2🇫🇷

My second day in France I had to wake up early, and take a train to Northern France. One of the cool things about Paris is that all long-distance trains make a stop or go through Paris. When I found out that I’d be going to Europe for the semester, I made a point to make sure I visited Vimy Ridge in Arras, France. I felt it was important for me as a Canadian to visit Vimy Ridge in Arras. The battle of Vimy Ridge was the first major battle that the Canadian army won. From April 9th to 12th of 1917 the ridge was fought over. The objective was for the Canadians to take the high ground from the Germans who were entrenched there. Whoever held the hill held the surrounding area. The French had tried to take back the ridge multiple times and failed, losing more than 150,000 soldiers in the process. I always think about that number, and it wasn’t until I visited Vimy that I finally understood.

World War 1 was fought mostly in trenches, they’d stretch for kilometres and would often become filled with human waste, dead soldiers and water. I find this terrifying but they were also apparently homes to rats the size of cats. That’s a big no for me. Soldiers fighting in the trenches suffered trench foot which is rather gross. It comes from a prolonged exposure to damp conditions, it would lead to open sores which would then lead to infections; obviously it wouldn’t adequately get treated, and the soldiers would be prone to gangrene which lead to amputations. There are still trenches at Vimy, and you can walk around in them, getting a feel for what it might have been like for a soldier. There are places between the trenches are sectioned off because there are undetonated mines. The site was covered with a fresh layer of snow, which added to the experience. I also met another Canadian on the site, and we realised that we were both Canadian because we were wearing flannel. I’ve had some really Canadian experiences abroad, and this was definitely one of them.

I walked around to the two cemeteries at the site, I’ve never seen something like that. Around Arras and the surrounding countryside there’s a lot of graves, each one seems like its bigger than the last one. A picture doesn’t encapsulate it, nor does it do it justice. I think what shocked me the most was the number of graves. Some of the cemetaries at Vimy held a few hundred, the ones in the surrounding areas had thousands of graves. The town of Arras and its neighbours share an incredible history, with outstanding views and I’ll never forget it.

After I came back to town, I had a few hours left before my train departed; naturally I explored around the town. It’s a tourist town, lots of small boutiques and restaurants. They even have poutine joint! Now I hate poutine, and if you don’t know what it is it’s fries, cheese curds and gravy, you can also get meat on it if you wanted. I opted for classic poutine with some chicken, I even got lucky and had a Canadian beer with it. I guess its safe to say by this point I was missing home. Now that I’ve been back for a while I can see that I’m coming off the high. I miss my friends, and I miss being able to hop from country to country. Arras was terrific, Vimy was incredible, and I’m so lucky that I got to see it. I can see it on tv, or it can come up in conversation, and I can say I went there. There were very few places that I went to in Europe that made me stop and take in what I was looking at. Vimy was one of them.

The next post is coming soon, I’m a tad bit busy, but I hope to get back on a regular schedule! Thank you for reading and for following.

Paris Pt. 1🇫🇷

I know it’s been a while since I’ve updated my blog. It is the holidays, and I’ve been away for a few months, so I’ve been spending time with family and my friends. Also found out this year I won’t get government funding for school, so I’ve been working a lot to try and save for tuition. I won’t buy a laptop, maybe just a fancy case and keyboard for my iPad Mini. I also have to rewrite my thesis and redo all the research which I find fun, just not now because I’m busy. Whatever, if somethings important to you you’ll make time for it.

Paris, now that I’m sitting down and thinking about it, I can’t believe I was there just a few weeks ago. The morning I left Jyvaskyla was a tough one, obviously saying goodbye to your friends, not knowing when or if you’ll ever see them again was really hard. I, however, was happy to get out of there, by the December I was pretty tired of having roommates. I decided when I booked the trip that I’d spend an entire day in Helsinki and maybe just crash at the airport. I had planned to explore the city but by the time I got there I realised my bag was to heavy for me to be walking around. I ended up just sitting in a pub and watching my beloved Manchester United get dominated by their cross-town rivals, Manchester City. It’s pretty much been downhill for them since then, but I choose to focus on the positives and … fine, there aren’t any right now. After the game, I decided to go to the airport.

Spending the night at the airport is never fun, but I did end up getting a call from my friend Kat and my mom. It was nice to hear from them and hear the excitement in their voices knowing I was coming home soon. The reason I love Finland is that I never have to worry about people taking my things. I fell asleep, and when I woke up all my stuff was there, no one touched it, you can leave a laptop unattended and not worry about it going missing. It’s what I miss the most about Finland, but who knows maybe one day I’ll go back and visit. My flight was scheduled for 8:00 am, and as I meandered around the airport I had time to get one of those neck cushions for the plane, best purchase ever! However, when I got on the flight, I had an entire row to myself and just passed out along all three seats, not using the cushion at all. This plane ride, however, was unlike any other. When I was in Rome I met a flight attendant, and I asked her about her job and when I should be worried on a plane? She said if there is turbulence and the flight attendants look stressed or worried, panic. On approach to Paris Orly, I saw a flight attendant do the sign of the cross, clutch her crucifix pendant on her chain and begin praying. Immediately I started praying and accepted that I was going to die.

Spoiler alert didn’t die. Navigating Paris Orly is pretty easy and getting to my hostel was super easy. I want to this, Toronto is a first class city with first-class amenities and services. But our metro service in Toronto is confusing as hell. My first date with my ex I took the metro downtown. I was late because I ended up getting off at the wrong stop and having to take the streetcar. The metro in here is annoying and we’ve got like four lines. Whatever, Paris has 16 lines, and I didn’t get lost once. The hostel I stayed in, The Stay-Inn, don’t stay here. While its close to the metro station, the Moulin Rouge, the Sacre-Coeur, and a number of really good restaurants… including Starbucks. Don’t stay here because of its small, the lift was barely big enough for me and the rooms were either too cold or too hot and they were small. Okay, if you’re a small person this place is for you.

My first night in Paris, I grabbed Chinese food for dinner, because that’s what I was craving, I enjoyed some wonderful French wine and went to Starbucks because I was missing home. I did very North American things, except enjoying the ride on the metro. After dinner I got on the metro because I was in Paris, it was night time, and I just had to see the Eiffel Tower. I remember when the train exited the tunnel I looked out the window, and you just see this glittering/shimmering building illuminating the sky. I was in awe; it was truly outstanding to witness. Paris has been through a lot, especially recently with all the terrorist activity and waves of immigrants flooding into the city, there is almost a feeling of anxiousness around the city. Everywhere I went that night there was a heavy police presence, multiple checkpoints for certain things, police in heavy armour, bomb-sniffing dogs and I saw a few police officers on the top of some buildings. It was something that I’m not used to but something I understand. I feel like my mom when I say this, “It’s the world we live in.”

My first night in Paris is something I won’t soon forget. Seeing Paris in the night time and at Christmas time is amazing. The lights and decorations were something to remember. I’ll have the rest of my trip up soon, just been busy with school and work, neither have been fun. I’m sorry about the lack of pictures, but for whatever reason, I can’t seem to upload them properly on my iPad. Oh well! Stay tuned I’ll have the rest of Paris and Madrid up in the next few days.

Finland Pt. 6 🇫🇮

As mentioned in the previous post, my laptop was stolen, along with some other things. I’m at home in Toronto, showered in a proper shower, slept in my big ass bed and played video games… sort of. I’ve been busy since I came home. Below you’ll find what I had written and saved; you’ll also see the rest of the post. I’d like to wish all the readers and followers a very Merry Christmas, and a joyous holiday season.

QWhile this post is entitled, “Finland Pt. 6” I thought about calling it “Comin’ Home.” Every time I came back home from university, I’d play “Comin’ Home” It’s a song by one of my favourite artist, City and Colour or Dallas Green. I saw him in concert a few summers ago, sang along to every song, and swayed to every slow song. I’ve been a huge fan of his for a long time, and I encourage you to youtube some of his music. In the song ‘Comin Home” he sings about coming home, about being on tour, knowing that it’s a cycle, but he misses home. The song also mentions a girl and the hardship of long-distance dating.  I’d play this song when I came home because it was aptly named and I liked to lean my head against the window and daydream out the window. Now I could relate to the song because long-distance dating is taxing. But now I think I can connect to it even more.

I came to Finland with a plan. Be a better Adel, do well in school, and get the girl. I’ve written about my ex on numerous occasions. A lot of the poetry and early writing is about her. I cannot express it in words but not only did she have a profound effect on me and push me to be better, but I’ve never loved someone more in my life. Even though it’s been a long time since our break up, I think about her, and I still do love and care for her. I needed this adventure more than I let on, not because of my break up, but because I wasn’t where I wanted to be in life. I kept looking ahead, I’d propose to my girlfriend most romantically, we’d move in together, I’d get a career job, we’d live in the city blah blah blah kids, taxes and death. There is nothing wrong with trying to map out your life, but when you set it in stone, the chances of you becoming obsessed with it are pretty good. That’s where I was, and it’s why this break up has been hard for me. I’m not saying it was easy for her, breakups suck.

My plan for being out here went out the window because I hated it. Planning has its perks, but going with the flow and following your gut is pretty good too. I knew this experience would change me, not because everyone told me but because the signs are in a different fucking language! Something was going to change, and I was going to pick up words and customs. I like learning about different cultures and people, and I knew I’d try to learn as much as I could about Finns and Finland. I did that because it’s who I am. I’m a nerd, and I had a list of all these things I needed to see. I knocked down most of them, I saw Old Trafford, I visited the Guinness Brewery, I went to the cliffs of Moher and peered over the edge, I went to Rome alone and saw the Colosseum, I went to Paris apart and saw the Louvre and Eiffel Tower, and I went to Madrid and saw the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. The last three might sound insignificant, but I did those alone. I do come off as confident, but I struggle with it all the time. But the amount of travelling I did alone just showed me that I need to take those risks. It also helped me reclaim my ability to be independant. It stopped being about someone else and just became about me. I didn’t forget, I could never, it just became more imprtant to look after myself. It’s what I’ve taken back from Finland. Personal growth is always something I can be proud of and nothing about the last 5 months have been easy.

Truth be told I miss Finland, I miss being on my own. It truly was the adventure of a lifetime and one that I’ll never forget. That there is the final photo I took in Helsinki. It is at the Christmas Market and I think its where I left my Christmas spirit.

Coming Soon 📆

I’m writing this post on my iPad. Not something I like to do but I’ll have to use this for the foreseeable future. My first night in Madrid I had my laptop stolen. I was watching highlights at 9:30 in the morning, dozed off right in my bed, on the top bunk, with my computer right in front of me. I felt my laptop brush against my back, but I thought I was dreaming. When I woke up, it was gone, along with a phone that belongs to one of the guys in the room. I took all the precautions when it comes to locking it and double locking it, went to the police everything, I’ve even got a replacement one in mind. I was able to find some of my files in the cloud (Thank God), but my laptop is my life. I have countless projects, posts and stories on there that I might never get back. I know it’s just a laptop and I’ll get another one. I’ll have to work hard, but hard work never scared me. This whole ordeal could’ve been way worse; I could’ve had my passport taken… Madrid would be an excellent place to live. Anyway, I apologise for the delay in posts. I hope to have the next one up soonish! And…. 5. More. Days.

nähdään pian!/See You Soon 🇫🇮

I was sitting in a sushi restaurant in Hamilton Ontario on July 21st, celebrating my friend Arthur’s graduation from a Master’s program at McMaster University. The two of us were roommates in my final year and became pretty good friends. Come to think of it, all three of us became very good friends. I lived in the basement, Arthur, Alex and Taylor lived on the main floor. We try to get together every year, but this year we managed to get that twice. They were asking about Finland, and I told them that I was scared. It definitely took me a long time to make friends in university, and I was afraid the same would happen here.

Taylor, Arthur’s girlfriend, told me something I don’t think I will ever forget, “You have that personality. The one where people are attracted to you. You’ll be fine.” We all have our insecurities and that is definitely, or it was definitely one of mine. I’ll come back to this later. I have just one full day left here in Jyväskylä, and I’m going to miss it. Today after months of planning I completed my final assignment for school. As part of my internship, I had to take part in planning an event with my team. KeuPa HT a hockey team based out of Keuruu which is about 45 minutes outside of Jyväskylä, wanted to play a game in Jyväskylä. Aside from the distance factor, KeuPa is second division hockey. It’s like having the Grey Cup Champion (Canadian Superbowl) Toronto Argonauts play at AT&T Stadium. The potential for it going sideways was a genuine threat. We set a goal of 1000 people. The KeuPa HT management said they’d shuttle their fans in from Keuruu which would probably give us 450 fans. My team and I decided to make this a student event with student-friendly prices and a certain amount of free tickets. We’d also have networking events where there would be a chance to connect with a variety of Finnish companies. We’d even plan the in-game entertainment.

Well, things didn’t go to plan. It’s not that there was a language barrier. At the onset of this project, I was told that Finnish companies don’t like to receive advice. Outside help is also something that they don’t always think they need. This is particularly true of hockey teams. Because it’s such a popular sport, teams figure they people will be interested, so the marketing effort is lacking. A lot of the plans and timelines I’d set were ignored and discarded. Despite this, we managed to exceed our goal of having 1000 people at the game. We managed to raise a good amount of money for junior hockey players, and people had fun. I even had a chance to get on the ice after the puck throwing contest. Today was an eye-opener to what my potential career could look like, it was nice, stressful but nice.

After the game, I went to a party where I’d have an opportunity to say goodbye to some of the friends I’ve made here. When you meet people, I don’t believe that you think about saying goodbye to them. Even though I knew I’d be leaving in four months, I never thought about today. I want to come home, I miss home, my things blah blah blah but I’m going to miss the people here. I’ve shared in adventures with them and naturally, I’ve learned so much about them and their cultures. It’s hard to say goodbye especially if you don’t know if you’ll ever see these people again. I dished out my fair share of hugs and handshakes tonight. I cannot believe that in less than two weeks I’ll be home.

I’ve made a lot of plans, which I know are dangerous. But in May I think I’d like to come back to Europe, head to Amsterdam, Harlem and Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Then back to Stockholm, hit up Norway Germany and Denmark, go back to Italy and visit Milan, Naples and Sicily. Finally, I’d conclude my trip by visiting Nashville for CMA Fest. Lofty plans with absolutely zero dollars in the bank. I also want to go shark cage diving in South Africa … So we’ll see. Might need to get me myself a sugar momma or rob a bank.

Tomorrow is my final day, I leave for Paris on Monday morning but will spend a day in Helsinki (Sunday) So there will be a final dinner tomorrow where I can say goodbye to the group. I can’t believe it’s over already but I said that at the end of the summer. One adventure ends, another begins.

Finland Pt. 5 🇫🇮

December 3rd, 2017. I leave December 21st! Naturally, I’ve got another adventure planned, France and Spain. This week will mark my final week here in Jyväskylä. It’s a city of 137,000 people, and 47,000 of them are students. So it indeed is a student town. It also happens to be the “Sports City” of Finland, it is home to the Neste rally and JYP of SMLiiga (Finnish Elite League Hockey.) It is home to 450 sporting venues, and the hometown of NBA Star Lauri Markkanen and NHL stars Sami Vatanen and Olli Määttä. Next year in February it’ll be host to the Red Bull Crashed Ice event. So you can see that the love for sport in this city is a real thing.

While in previous posts I’ve said that there isn’t much to do here it doesn’t mean that I don’t like it here. There are obvious drawbacks like the dark and damp that even the Fins complain about. And the fact that the city isn’t all that big, so there isn’t much to do. Let me put this in context, in Toronto there always seems to be something going on. Food festivals, beer festivals, concerts, and sometimes there are movies shown outside at Trinity Bellwoods Park. Jyväskylä is a small city, but it’s a beautiful city. There are a lot of pubs and bars, some restaurants, some shopping malls, this fucking bad ass bakery, Wilhelmiinan Konditoria that has the best Carrot cake in the world. There are things to do here, just a lot of the same things.

Jyväskylä has to be however the most beautiful place I’ve ever visited. There are trees everywhere. During the summer months, or at least August and September, everything is green. I know I’ve posted this photo before, but I think it’s the one that perfectly depicts how beautiful it is here. I think I love it here because of how quiet it gets. Don’t get me wrong I do miss the planes and sirens because it can get hauntingly quiet. There are so many paths and trails to take, I like going out and getting lost. It gives me time to think, or it just gives me time to be alone. There are so many lakes, so many trees, and so many fucking hills. It gives you a sense of peace and that’s what I’ll miss the most about Jyväskylä.  Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

I think about leaving, and it’s not the happiest feeling. On the one hand, I’m excited to get home and see and do all the things that being at home entails. On the other, I’ve made a lot of friends out here. I’ve got a certain level of freedom here that I don’t have back home, and well I guess this relates to the second point but I’m in Europe, travelling here is cheap, and every city has an outstanding amount of history.
When I come back from Madrid, I’ll be coming back to Finland, but I’ll spend about 3 days in Helsinki before coming back to Toronto. I’ll finally get to properly explore Helsinki and on my own terms. It’s not like Jyväskylä, it’s a city, with trams, buses and tourist. A Finnish friend of mine told me that every stereotype of Fins can and will be found in Jyväskylä. I agree. The quietness, awkwardness, Will-not-engage-in-small-talk,  personal space seeking, sauna loving, coffee addicted, hockey-crazed, and most importantly heavy metal loving will be found here in Jyväskylä. Fin’s are boastful about it, they joke and embrace the stereotypes. It’s what I can say I’ll miss about the people, their ability to laugh at themselves and their honesty.
Currently, I’m once again avoiding homework and writing instead. It always amazes me that my entire life can fit into a backpack, duffle bag and a suitcase. I’ve begun packing, and frankly, it is a little sad.