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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

close the door behind you

I'm getting used to saying goodbye, it's become as natural as changing my underwear.

My stay in Vancouver has been quick and overwhelming. A day didn't pass by without several planned engagements. I saw who I could, attented my cousin's week-long wedding, made feasts, organized parties, helped cater for 85 people at the home of a famous Vancouver writer, ate some good sushi and squeezed in a few days at the beach.

I haven't had the energy to write, my mind so jumbled with thoughts that my hand has refused to pick up a pen and paper.

August is a transition time, and I'm at a transition age. A couple of months and I'll be 20.

I've been thinking a lot about happiness, careers, stamina, control, family and education.

I've been feeling like life is a test. Can you indulge without falling into gluttony? Feel beautiful without becoming vain? Drink without getting drunk? Be strong when your heart is week? Become prosperous without becoming greedy?

I'm slowly learning what I'm capable of and what I want. Most of the answers will unfold themselves through time.

In a few hours I leave for the airport. A different city and lifestyle await me.

And so I'll leave the Pacific ocean once more, en route to making something of myself.

vancouver girls
alexi back from greece
alexi and i
aimee and i
jen,me and natty

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

a day at the fair

Cotton candy and kettle corn
Those little donuts
Fresh scones with whipped butter and jam
Spinning the wheel
Garish prizes
Time with my father
Superdogs dancing under coloured lights
Luigi, an old Italian man selling pizza and pasta
People attached to wires, falling from the sky
Non-stick pans and shammy sponges
The pirate ship rocking back and forth
Cattle and horses
Little girls singing on stage
Childhood memories
Blue sky

acid trip
riding the sun
bumper to bumper
fair folk
around we go
the gabmler
pirate ship

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Friday, August 25, 2006

they say it's your birthday

To my dear brother,

Thanks for always bringing out the cheeky little sister in me.

I love you for all that you are.

rock on

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

still life

Vancouver is a world I’ve chosen to leave behind more than once.

I’ve been running around since I’ve arrived, but have taken moments to enjoy the stillness here.

Although this city lacks the energy I thrive off of, there are ways to enjoy it. Walks by the water; dinner at the beach; a yoga class in the afternoon. Walking downtown, where the streets are never too crowded, and everyone walks at an even pace. And the fresh sushi, which sings love songs on my tongue, a tribute to the exotic flavors I grew up with.

Seeing family and old friends has me looking back on my life in a slideshow. I remember purposely bumping my head in the playground so I could get ice from the school office. I remember eating homemade pizza and watching movies every Friday night with my family. I remember drinking so much one night that I fell on the pavement and cut my head open. I remember singing out my friend’s window as we rode the streets aimlessly at night. I remember moments of freedom, and moments of feeling so trapped that I had to think of ways to get away.

These days I see life moving around me. I’m connected to more lives here than in my life abroad. There have been deaths, illnesses, marriages, births, and other cycles of life taking place in my absence.

I can see that even in the stillness of West Vancouver, as everyone continues their daily routines and habits, life throws obstacles. Life will always throw us off balance, throw us rewards, take them away, keep us aware and keeps us moving. It doesn't matter how still the scenery is.

In the meantime, I'll keep on moving in my own life. Next stop, Toronto, school, a new apartment and a different life.

I suppose there’s no such thing as a still life, and if there was I don’t think I’d want to live it.

straight forward
morning coffee
java the cat
traces of my mother
summer apples

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Monday, August 21, 2006

going to the chapel

She walked down the aisle with a tissue in hand, wiping the tears from her eyes.

After a week of events and ceremonies, my cousin exchanged vows with her perfect fit, and was officially married.

We've spent the week on the edge of our seats, as my mother ran around putting the wedding cake together, and event after event took place.

My cousin has just married a man from an Indian family, and even as a bitter, single young woman, I couldn't be happier for these two.

It was a week of colour and taste. We had lunch in India town, bought Indian outfits, bought the blushing bride tools and lingerie for her wedding shower (upon request), ate, drank and made merry.

I've never been to a wedding where the food, music, and entertaiment were so good. There's definitely an advantage into marrying into such a beautiful culture.

Not only has the event brought two families together, but it brought family here from afar, and gave me a chance to get to know my dad's side of the family all over again.

I've even been blessed by the presence of my beautiful cousin from San Fransisco, who rode 30 hours on a train to get here.

Everything turned out beautifully: the wedding cake was immaculate, the marriage was beautiful and genuine, the guests were interesting, the bar was open, and the Indian culture transformed the wedding into an event full of bright colours, eccentric dance moves, old rituals and exotic tastes.

And even though I shrugged away when the bouquet was tossed, I was amazed by the power of true love and the unity it can create.

There's hope for me yet.

ready for the party
the bride to be
preparing the ritual
setting up
cleansing the groom
the candle dance
cousins henna
making the cake
the masterpiece
all in the family
a dangerous pair
the right moves
stop looking at me

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

reverse culture shock

There are certain things about being home that I’m still trying to get over after living in Paris.

1. People wear sweatpants, old t-shirts, dirty gym shoes and fleeces out. Downtown. All the time.
2. Guys mostly hit on girls with their eyes, and when they actually get the nerve to say anything girls act either shocked or appalled.
3. There is no smoking in restaurants, bars or clubs. When taking a rare cigarette break outside a bar (I smoke only when drinking), a man approached me and said: “Those pants are great, you’d be really sexy if you didn’t smoke.” Well, he wouldn’t be sexy either way, so I wasn’t too bothered.
4. The streets seem deserted after 10 o’clock. Even downtown, people gather outside the clubs and the majority of the streets look empty.
5. Flirting in English is awkward.
6. People will eat muffins and donuts, but croissants and desserts are treated like sins.
7. You can eat anywhere, at anytime.
8. People eat dinner early. Restaurants are full at apero time, when all I want is a Pastis and some peanuts.
9. Coffee is big, almost too big, which leads me to getting overexcited and caffeinated.
10. People are so laid back that I find it hard to relax.

so blue

I'll get over it, I'm still just a little overwhelmed with being here.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

visions from Vancouver

morning coffee
summer dreaming
glowing lions gate bridge
blister in the sun
Ambleside beach
ma and pa
my ladies

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Friday, August 11, 2006

hell at heathrow's doors

We arrived at Heathrow to see swarms of people standing outside.

Huddled under cover a young woman approached me: "Didn't you see the news this morning? They were planning to bomb 10 airplanes. They've caught most of the suspects but they're still looking for a few."

I buttoned my jacket tighter, and watched as security ran around frantically, trying to organize flights and the people outside.

It has been said to be the most ambitious terror plot since September 11th, and there I was, gripping my suitcase, watching the effect of it.

While most European flights were cancelled, our British Airways flight to Vancouver was eventually called and we were let in the airport.

Inside I began to get shivers up and down my spine. These lasted for the three hours we were there. Men stood around with guns as we were told we could bring nothing but our passports and wallets on board.

We shoved our laptops into our suitcases and prayed they would make it, and were handed small clear plastic bags for our belongings.

No liquids were allowed, no lip gloss, no gum, none of the ammenities I usually bring aboard. In this kind of circumstance, we understood the cutbacks and obliged without complaint.

"This was intended to be mass murder on an unimaginable scale," said Paul Stephenson, Scotland Yard's deputy commissioner.

Images of Heathrow airport flashed across TV screens. Suddenly the terrorist attacks and wars I've distanced myself from for so long felt very real. It was probably the reality check I needed.

I worried about my friend flying to Amsterdam that day from Heathrow, as his flight would be cancelled, and he was to fly to India out of Amsterdam in a couple of days.

We walked around Duty Free with blank expressions. No one would be buying booze, or any other liquid, to take home with them today. Passengers huddled around TV screens and watched the news: reality TV at its best.

Outside on the runway there was little movement. No inbound flights were allowed to come into Heathrow, and dark clouds formed over the airplanes, the stillness somehow unsettling.

After a delay of around two hours we finally boarded our flight. Comforted by the knowledge that we were flying to Canada, one of the safer destination points, my shivers eventually died off.

We arrived in Vancouver, and after some extra security measures were finally released, finally home, and thank god, safe as well.

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

don't get your knickers in a twist

I think I've died and gone to heaven. But I've actually just gone to London.

I love the energy in this city, the people, the fashion, the accents, the British magazines, the pubs, the entertainment and the pulse.

While Paris sings you a seductive love song as you walk down the streets, London plays an upbeat pop song, and puts some bounce in your step.

In London, punk music is still cool, a pub is never empty, fashion is open to anything, and people actually smile in the streets.

"Y'alright love?" Yes, I'm absolutely fabulous.

Last night I shook my body left and right to "Let's get in oonnnnn..." In the theatre where we went to see Dancing in the Streets, a Motown show.

Men in yellow silk shirts did several pelvic thrusts while singing like angels and dancing like gods. I was in heaven. If there's anything I love, it's motown. And beautiful black men that can sing.

I'm in the arms of indulgence: I've had my hair done, I've eaten Italian, Indian, and even dragged my dear mother out for Chinese food in Chinatown near midnight last night.

After so many months, I finally feel on holiday. Who knew that gin and tonic could taste so good after drinking wine all year?

Cheers London, I've been needing this.

keep right
sausage and mash
*Not actually my wine, used as prop as my G&T was finished...

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Sunday, August 06, 2006

a kiss on each cheek

I walk down the cobblestone street with tears welling up in my eyes.

I’ve said my last goodbyes. I’ve gone into the town square, into the old bar to say goodbye to my friends working as waitresses. I’ve gone to the kitchen window of the new restaurant to say goodbye to my friends working as chefs.

My friend leans out the window in chef whites, kisses my cheeks at least four times, hugs me tight, and stares into my face with love.

I've spent the last four summers here. You get to know the people in the dark hours of the night, drinking in some field or somebody’s kitchen, talking, smoking, dancing and losing yourself in the night’s sky.

My week here has gone by quickly. I barely had time to unpack my suitcase, let alone grow too comfortable.

But I’m grateful for the card games and vodka, for the stars, for the long walks, for the sweet green plums, for the three-hour lunches, for the mosquito net around my bed and for last night’s festival.

This morning I woke up in the back of a car, the light spilling through the window. In the front seat lay a young man, and an empty bottle of gin on the dashboard.

We spent the night at Vaour, my favorite festival of the summer, and spent the night to avoid drunk driving.

I turned my head from side to side, realized I had no hangover, and stumbled down the field to buy croissants for everyone.

It was a good night. I danced like a fool to a live band outside a church, lights strung everywhere, wine and beer in plastic cups circling around. I giggled feverishly at my own jokes and took off on walks when no one was looking.

I even kept my emotions intact while I watched my ex lock eyes and lips with a girl, seated directly across from me. I cursed him, his beauty, his talent, his Jim Morrison hair and his inability to communicate, and then decided to move on.

Thank god for friends that can wrap their arms around you and tell you they’ll miss you, whether they’re aware of how fragile you’re feeling or not.

In the past week I’ve realized I can never be too sure of myself or the way events will unfold. Life isn’t perfect, and neither am I. The city made me strong, but the country still makes me soft.

And now it’s time to say goodbye, or aurevoire, to pick myself up and pack my bags, because after all this time, I’m on my way home.

aurevoire Castelnau-de-Montmiral!

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Thursday, August 03, 2006


I came, I saw, I conquered. But what did I like best? The question comes up often, and luckily I’ve been keeping notes. Sure, the tourist sights are typically beautiful, but it was the small hidden streets I liked best, the quaint cafes and small boutiques. If you want to know about the Louvre or Notre Dame, buy a Guide Book, but if you want to know what perked the interest of this fanciful young woman, keep reading…

how blue


An upstairs café to a trendy bakery with nice meals, tasty breads and pastries. Fun to sit upstairs with a coffee and people watch through the window.
2 rue de la Verrerie
Metro: Hotel de Ville
angel in the window

Café de Flore
Okay, you’ll definitely find this in any guide book, but it’s worth stopping for the excellent, and elegant, coffee or Kir.
“This afternoon I’m upstairs at the Flore, near the window; I can see the wet street, the plane tree swaying in the sharp wind; there are a lot of people, and downstairs there’s a great hubbub.” –Simone de Beauvoire
172 Boulevard St.Germain
Metro: St.Germain des Pres

Café Psycho
A comfortable café just off the Jardin de Luxembourg. Great for reading, writing, and tasty drinks.
13 rue de Medicis

Café Martini
Just off La Place des Vosges, this cozy little café is often full and serves some excellent thick hot chocolate.
11 rue du Pas de la Mule


La Perle
A funky old bar in the Marais filled with great energy and young hipsters.
78, Rue Vieille du Temple

La Fourmi
A cheap student bar with a great ambiance in Montmartre.
74 rue des Martyrs
Metro: Pigalle

La Belle Hortense
A small literary café/bar with a nice selection of wine. Open in the evenings. Very cozy back room with books lining the walls.
21, rue vielle du Temple
Metro: Hotel de Ville or St.Paul

Caveau de la Huchette
A tourist attraction, but also a great place to go for live jazz and blues and some fascinating swing dancing. Entry from 9-13 euros, drinks around 6 euros.
5, rue de la Huchette
Metro: St.Michel

Le Petit Journal
Another tiny jazz bar. Go for dinner and live music, but check who’s playing ahead of time.
71 boulevard St.Michel

Taverne de Cluny
The drinks here are a huge rip off, but some evenings there’s great live music and the drinks pay for themselves.
51, rue de la Harpe


Le Procope
An old artist hangout, this large restaurant carries a certain glow, is always warm and welcoming, and has some great seafood. Reasonable prices.
13, rue de l’Ancienne Comedie
Metro: Odeon

Les Philosophes
I was drawn into this place by the name, and came back for the simple food, Perrier cocktail, and the ultra modern bathrooms. Great crème brulee.
28, rue Vieille-du-Temple
Metro: Hotel de Ville or St.Paul
lunch at les philosophes

Remember the Sex and the City where Carrie Bradshaw goes to Paris? Well this is the trendy restaurant where she meets her lover’s ex. Placed on top of Kenzo, the top floor has a great view. Food is so-so, but cocktails are quite good.
1 rue Pont Neuf
Metro: Chatelet

Traditional French food in an authentic setting. Great big wood tables and tasty eats. Arrive early as it fills up fast.
41, rue Monsieur-Le-Prince
Le Polidor

Creperie Josselin
On a street covered in creperies, this one seemed to be the most authentic. Full of French people and great crepes, order the one they light on fire…
67, rue de Montparnasse

Krishna Bhavan
A great Indian vegetarian restaurant full of Indians. Amazing prices and great food. Placed on a street of great, cheap Indian restaurants. Take your pick, although this one was my favourite.
24 rue Cail
Metro: Gare du Nord

The best Japanese restaurant I could find it Paris. I always felt comfortable and relaxed eating here alone, and loved getting a Shake Don menu for under 10 euros. Great service and pitchers of wine.
39, rue Galande
Metro: Cluny de la Sorbonne

A chain of trendy café-style food to eat in or take out. Healthy and yummy, and always a nice set-up inside.
15, Boulevard Haussman (one of many)

Home of my acclaimed Turkish family, this small fast-food Turkish restaurant is cheap and good. You can pay around 6 euros for some great lamb and couscous and sit in the comfortable tables in the back. Don’t be fooled by the fast-food front, this place is actually a great restaurant and the people are astoundly kind and generous. Tell them you know Gill, the blond Canadian, and you will receive great service. I ate here every Sunday for a year, and practically cried saying goodbye to this beautiful family.
41, rue de Clignancourt
Metro: Anvers
yeliz and i


The place to see and be seen. Great books, music, accessories and clothing. Fun and funky, and full of the trendiest Parisians. Water bar downstairs.
213 rue St.Honore

Adorable little store filled with original creations by small-time Parisian designers. Small gallery downstairs.
7, rue Vauvilliers
Metro: Chatelet

Comme des Garcons
Just go to look, it’s a fashion playground.
54 rue du faubourg-saint-honore
Comme des Garcons

Simple gadgets, clothing, house-ware and accessories by this modern Japanese brand. Reasonalbe, practical and fun.
27, rue St.Sulpice (One of many)

Shakespeare & Company
I love this place for many reasons. I love it because it has English books, beds to read on, and because it’s open until midnight.
37 rue de la Bucherie
Metro: St.Michel or Cluny de la Sorbonne
(Other great English bookstores include the Red Wheelbarrow, Village Voice, and W.H Smith)

Expensive French food goodies, great for looking around, and best lemon tarts ever.
26 place de la Madeleine
Metro: Madeleine

Pierre Hermes
Orgasmic pastries…try the macaroons to make your life worth living.
185 rue de Vaugirard
or 72 rue Bonaparte
choose your weapon

Bon Marche Epicerie
Foodie heaven.
Metro: Sevres-Babylone


sunday market

Belleville Market
Metro: Belleville and Melimontant

Place d’Aligre Market
Tuesday-Sunday, 7am-1.30pm
Metro: Bastille

Place Monge Market
Close to rue Mouffetard
Wednesday, Friday, Sunday

Flea Market
The biggest market in Paris with a giant antique section as well as hundreds of stands selling souvenirs, jewelery, shoes, Dior rip-offs and other Parisian wonders. Beware of pick pockets and hold your bag close to you. Stop for a crepe or lunch in one of the restaurants in the antique section.
Saturday-Sunday 9:30am-7pm
Metro:Porte de Clignancourt


Parc des Buttes Chaumont
A savage beauty of a park.
Rue Botzaris
Metro Botzaris and Buttes Chaumont

Parc Javel-Citroen
A beautiful park with everything to offer and more. Pay around 10 euros to take the hot air balloon up into the sky and get a 360 degree view of Paris.
Metro/train: Javel-Citroen
hot air balloon
jardin des fontaines

Bois de Boulogne
A giant forest that runs across the top border of Paris. The best place to go on a sunny day.
bois de boulogne


Rocky Horror Picture Show
Sing along with the actors on stage, who sing and dance in heavy French accents and fake an orgy. Good times all around. Saturdays at 10pm, 8 euros.
The Studio Galande
42, rue Galande
Metro: Cluny de la Sorbonne

Rue de la Lappe
A street for night owls, full of bars and clubs. Stop in Bollywood for some Indian dance music or discover some of the best happy hours in Paris.

Passage Brady
A passageway full of great Pakistanian Indian restaurants. I recommend Bhai Bhai Sweets, 77 Passage Brady.
Metro: Strasbourg St.Denis

Place des Vosges
Oldest square in Paris. Great for people watching over a giant café crème. Located in the Marais.
place des vosges
monsieur bouge

Palais de Tokyo
I have so much love for this place it hurts. As a modern art museum it is pure fun and originality, and also provides great gift shops and an even better restaurant. I am in love with the entire male staff.
13 avenue du Président Wilso
Metro: Iena
Palais de Tokyo
asian girls in art

Maison Europeene de la Photographie
Great photography museum.
5, rue de Fourcy
Metro: St.Paul