Welcome to Margate: Land of Dreams…

 

Sometimes the best things in life show up when you least expect them to, and I have been witness to this in the last couple of months. Although London feels like home now and I have found a kind of comfortable routine, everyday still feels in someway like an adventure. London has afforded me some amazing opportunities and now more than ever, I feel like I have complete control over what I can do with my life. I can choose everyday whether I get out of bed or not – and yes it is ok to stay in once in a while, to appreciate what it is to do nothing.

For some of you who don’t know, I recently left the job I started when I first arrived in London. I have kept my small part time job which I work online each week and was fully expecting time off to explore and hopefully be creative. My plans were thrown into the air when I was lucky enough to snag a small contract at the High Commission of Canada doing similar work to my previous contract in Paris. I have put my creative plans on hold to work at the HCC for a few months and come summer I will see what happens next.

 

In the midst of all these ever changing plans in my life, there is someone who has shown me a million and one beautiful things in the last couple of months who I want to tell you all about. Meet my boyfriend Steven. He drives a bad-ass car, is smart as a whip, has impeccable taste in music and movies and knows how to make me smile. For the last couple of months we have been swapping time in London and Margate adventuring, laughing and learning to roller blade(for him) and skate (for me).

We are both becoming pro skaters, as you can clearly see by the photos above, and Steve is hoping his newly formed soon to be ice hockey team will be up and running full steam soon . Here they are, the Margate Skulls, having a late night practice: (Go Habs Go!)

Margate is an adorable sea side town which I think should be turned into the new Brighton – to be fair, I’ve never been to Brighton but I know enough about to it to make this call.  With an old downtown full of funky retro vintage shops and handmade markets, a cup cake shop, England’s best fish and chip shop and plenty of little galleries and studios all next to a long beautiful beach, it has all it needs to thrive – now if only people would come.

Even after several weekends of walking through Margate, I’m not tired of it, and perhaps it’s because of who I am walking through it with but I still think there is something about this little place that deserves more. The tired main strip of old shut arcades makes me think that everything is just waiting to be awoken from its slumber. How could you resist this?:

I love hanging out by the water, and the first day that I spent in Margate, we walked along the beach collecting shells and Steven knew the names of absolutely everything. What I know as a shell, there being many versions, is known to him as the proper name. I’ve decided knowing things like this is important, and is what makes a person worldly and fascinating, so I think I will start reading more. I want to know things.

It was only a short while ago that weekends came and went, cold and rainy in London and now they feel like a vacation. The countdown is no longer for the weekend but rather for the dream to resume again.

I have lots of photos from Canada to show you all so I’ll be back tracking soon with those.

xx Spec

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An Arm With A Little Charm

I’m back and so much has happened! I’ve been from London to Toronto, Toronto to Halifax, Halifax back to Toronto and then Toronto back to London all in the span of three weeks. It has been a grand adventure and it was so nice to see all my family and friends who I have left back in the Great White North while I am off living in the UK. I did so many things while I was back home and will have to do more than one post to show you all, but this post is dedicated to my new tattoo, which I am absolutely crazy about!

I had decided that I wanted to get a Shel Silverstein illustration a while back but had not settled on one in particular. I waited until I got back to Toronto, where I have his entire book collection nestled on my bookshelf to crack each book open and mark off which illustrations I like most. I decided on the poem ‘Invention’ which shows a little girl/boy trying to plug a light bulb into the sun (see the poem at the top of this post). I am so lucky to know a fantastic tattoo artist in Toronto who you should definitely pay a visit to if you are looking for some new ink, her name is Emma James and she can be found on Facebook or pop me a message and I can pass along contact details to you. Emma is so lovely and super cool and the entire experience was wicked! I can’t say enough good things about it all.

 Here are a few pictures of how it all went down:

First, the stencil…

Then, Emma worked her magic:

How I felt throughout the tattoo:

And Tada!!!

And now, a couple of weeks later, it’s mostly all healed and looking amazing. Now I wake up smiling even bigger than usual.

Thanks Emma for jazzing up my visit back home with this new tattoo and thanks to my darling friend Andrew for hanging out and taking photos of it all!!!

See you all soon!

xx Spec

“If you are a dreamer come in…” – Shel Silverstein

I Planned For An Hour, Stayed For The Day: Deptford, London

Hi everyone!

I know you are probably shocked to find an update here as it very well looked like I would never write again. I had completely lost my desire to write when I got to London and was really struggling to find the excitement and creativity to write about things you would actually want to read about. I want to assure you that I have been very busy doing fun things all over London, but just couldn’t find the drive to write it all down in the right way. Today, however, I had a spontaneous day of exploring that reminded me how it felt to want to tell lots of people about something amazing, and I thought that this would be the best way to launch myself back into blogging, by making a new project for myself. I want to really explore London with no boundaries and visit areas that perhaps I wouldn’t go to had I not searched them out or stumbled upon them. I want to know many parts of London and not just my area.  Let me tell you about my day!

This morning when I woke up, I popped onto Facebook, as I usually do, being the addict that I am, and the top post came from Handpicked London, with a picture of a tube car turned cafe. With a little research, I found that it was The Deptford Project Cafe. The Deptford Project is a sort of artist collective, including Jail Make, a group of creatives who do amazing revolutionary projects,  Crafty Bitches, who run workshops for sewing, upholstery and many other wonderful things. Last of all, there is the Union Cycle Works which is a wicked organization that works with disadvantaged people, teaching them bike building and repair skills to get them involved in the community and other great projects.  On the weekends, next to the cafe, they hold a handmade craft sale as well – bonus!!!

My new bag skull who I will call Mo – can you guess why? (made by Little-Rose Designs)

Just based on my own poking around on the websites, I decided I would go check out the cafe and see what the Union Cycle Works was all about, as I am on the hunt for a bike to get me around this huge city more efficiently.

It didn’t take too long to get there by bus, and I was greeted by a huge street market full of clothing, house stuff  and fresh fruits and veggies. I walked up and down first checking out what there was, until I stumbled on the cafe in the old train car. It’s a really neat set up as it is hoisted quite high up, with a beautiful deck built around it, complete with a ramp for accessibility. The car has been painted a fresh coat of white and has refurbished furniture and crafty handmade chairs from old pallets set up both inside and out. I ordered a hot chocolate and sat outside, thanking the weather gods for letting us have such a warm day in November.

For the record, the hot chocolate was out of this world.

While I was sitting enjoying my chocolate heaven, I flipped through a pile of flyers sitting on the table and came across one for  a hair salon called Miou Miou that really caught my eye. I have been needing a haircut for a while now, and this flyer felt for some reason like a calling. I decided to take a chance and book in for today. They booked me in at 3, which gave me about another 2 hours to explore this new area. After walking around for a good while I stumbled down a charming half block long street with a cafe called Blossoming Together. Naturally, since the words arts and craft cafe appeared outside, I felt obligated to enter.  Once inside, I felt like I was stepping into someone’s cozy kitchen with comfortable chairs and home baked goods. It was lunch time.

I had a delicious soy cappuccino and a homemade pizza bread.

After eating my most delightful lunch, the woman serving me said I absolutely had to go downstairs to meet Francisco who was a shiatsu massage therapist doing free 15 minute trials. Now normally in my book of rules, meeting a guy names Francisco in a shop basement is a no no, but this time I made an exception. He talked over a couple of exercises to help me relax me Camino calves as I have started calling them, and then gave me a 20 minute massage which felt amazing. What a treat!

My new hair!

After the fantabulous relaxation lunch stop, I headed over to my appointment at Miou Miou where I had my hair cut by Keiko, who is from Tokyo, so of course I rambled on about how in love I am with Japan after my trip there 3 years ago. I love my new hair and Keiko brought back my fringe! How I missed you fringe!! I can’t say enough nice things about this salon, as it’s a lovely funky little place with style and charm and the cut is great!  They are new, so be sure to check them out and their prices are very reasonable and refreshing for London.

Thanks Miou Miou for completing my Deptford adventure today!

I’ll be back as soon as I can with a new adventure to tell you all about! London here I come!

Spec.

I’m back after a major hiatus!

Hi everyone! (Francais en rose italics)

So I know I took a somewhat longer break than what I had originally said, but my mind just wasn’t focused enough to write for you when I came back from the Camino. I want to start by thanking everyone for the kind words and encouragement that you sent during the entire time that I was gone. It really helped me through the hard times and made me appreciate how lucky I am to have such a wonderful network of family and friends. See me above on the day I came back, fresh off the bus seeing my friends in Paris.

I want to tell you all about the experience so for the next couple of days, while I am doing boring things like job hunting and getting my life sorted out in my new city, London, I am going to tell you stories about the Camino. I hope they will inspire you all to do something grand with your life, big or small, just something fresh and new.

Donc, je sais que j’ai fait une pause un peu plus long que ce que j’avais d’abord dit, mais mon esprit n’était tout simplement pas assez concentré pour écrire pour vous quand je suis revenue du Camino. Je veux d’abord remercier vous tous pour vos gentis mots et les encouragements que vous avez envoyés pendant tout le temps que je n’étais pas là. Ca m’a vraiment aidé dans les moments difficiles et m’a fait apprécier la chance que j’ai d’avoir un formidable réseau de  famille et amis. Ci-dessus c’est une photo du  jour que je suis revenue, fraîchement débarqué de l’autobus pour voir mes amis à Paris. 

Je tiens à vous dire tout sur l’expérience alors pour les prochaines jours, tandis que je fais des choses ennuyeuses comme la recherche d’emploi  dans ma nouvelle ville, Londres, je vais vous raconter des histoires sur le Camino. J’espère qu’ils vont vous inspirer tout à faire quelque chose de magnifique avec votre vie, petits ou grands, juste quelque chose de frais et nouveaux. 

Where to begin….

I think I can start by telling you that the camino restored my faith in the goodness of people. It reminded me and reinforced that stereotypes and assumptions that we have about people from certain places are not always true and that pre-judging people is a dangerous game. The simple fact that everyone on the camino is doing the same thing yet at the same time creating their own experience  brings everyone together and makes for a melting pot of amazing stories and shared moments.

Par où commencer …. 

Je pense que je peux commencer par vous dire que le camino a remis ma confiance dans les gens. Ca m’a rappelé et renforcé que les stéréotypes que nous avons sur les gens de certains lieux ne sont pas toujours vrai et que de pré-juger les gens est un jeu dangereux. Le simple fait que tout le monde sur le Camino fait la même chose mais en même temps crée leur propre expérience rassemble tout le monde et  aident a creer des histoires étonnantes et des moments partagés. 

I made friends with people that I share no common languages with, just hand gestures and smiles, and I made friends who are 1,2 and 3 generations apart from me in age. It just goes to show that everyone no matter who they are, age, race etc. has something to offer.

Throughout the Camino, I felt like I was being tested by the Camino Gods, as I was calling them, as I had several days where my feet hurt so much that the prospect of walking was hard to face. I walked with one foot out at a 90 degree angle to try and move the pain elsewhere. This was during what most people say is the longest part of the Camino, called the Mesetta, where you walk 50 or so km over 2 or 3 days along a gravel path with fields around you, often atop a mountain. It is hot, dry and very sunny. One one day when I was feeling a bit alone these two German sisters came up behind me and despite not knowing German, I could understand enough to know they were commenting on my crazy limp. They came up to me and in broken English asked if I needed help or anything and I politely said no thanks because carrying me would have been the only solution. As they continued on forward moving fast, one of the sisters stopped, put down her bag and rooted through the top pocket for something. She found it and ran back to me and handed me a little rock she had gathered from earlier on during the Camino. It was in the shape of a heart and she said that it was for luck and she hopped my feet would stop hurting.

J’ai fait des amis avec des gens que je parle pas la meme langue que moi, juste des gestes de la main et des sourires, et j’ai fait des amis qui sont 1,2 et 3 générations plus ages que moi.  

Tout au long du Camino, je me sentais comme étant testés par les Dieux du Camino, comme je les appelle.  J’ai eu  plusieurs jours où j’avais mal aux pieds tellement que meme penser de marcher faisait mal. J’ai marché avec un pied à un angle de 90 degrés pour essayer de déplacer la douleur ailleurs. Ce fut durant ce que la plupart des gens disent est la plus longue partie du Camino, appelé le Mesetta, où on marchent environ 50 km sur 2 ou 3 jours le long d’un chemin de gravier avec des champs autour, souvent au sommet d’une montagne. Il fait chaud, sec et très ensoleillé. Un jour où je me sentais un peu seul, deux sœurs allemandes sont venu derrière moi et ne sachant pas bien l’allemand, je pouvais comprendre assez pour savoir qu’elles étaient entrain de parler de mes pieds. Elles sont venus vers moi et m’on demandé si j’avais besoin d’aide ou de quelque chose et je leurs est dis poliment non merci, car transportant moi aurait été la seule solution. Elles ont continuaient à avancer rapidment quand une des sœurs s’est arrêté, a poser son sac et chercher dans la poche en haut pour quelque chose. Elle l’a trouvé et a couru vers moi et m’a remis une petite caillou en main qu’elle avait recueillies plus tôt sur le Camino. Il avait la forme d’un cœur et elle m’a dit que c’était pour la bonne chance et elle souhaiter que  mes pieds cesserait d”avoir mal.

A few days later my feet did stop hurting, although I’m sure that was my body just taking it’s course, but when I caught up to the sisters with my new found energy and pain-free feet and I ran up behind them and surprised them. I know it wasn’t the stone that got rid of the pain, but I’m sure their kindness and generosity encouraged me to get to where I was going and to help me see further than my sore feet.

So there you have it, a little piece of my camino. More to come, stay tuned.

Quelques jours plus tard mes pieds ont cesser de faire mal, mais je suis sûr que c’était mon corpsqui devenait plus forte, mais quand j’ai rattrapé les soeurs avec mon énergie retrouver et sans douleur des pieds,  j’ai couru derrière eux pour leurs faire surprise.  Je sais que ce n’était pas la pierre qui s’est débarrassé de la douleur, mais je suis sûr que leur gentillesse et leur générosité m’a encouragé à aller jusque au bout et pour m’aider à voir plus loin que mes pauvre pieds voulait. 

Donc là vous l’avez, un petit morceau de mon camino. Plus à venir, a bientot. 

xo

Spec.

As my time in Paris comes to an end…

Hi everyone!

Today, someone said to me that they were checking into tickets for the Foire de Paris, which if you have been reading for a year will ring a bell. It’s a big exhibition show in Paris in May. I almost fell over when I came to the realization that my time in Paris, the one year mark, is coming up very fast. The sun is out in Paris, it is beautiful, and some days are feeling like Summer and the evenings like Spring. All the things I loved about Paris when I first arrived are coming back like a flood- the hustle and bustle, patios filled with people, and music. I had a couple of months where I felt down on Paris and I think it was definitely the winter blues. Now that it is nice out again, and that I can open the window in my room things are feeling lovely. I am trying not to wish the time away, spending as much time out with my friends as I can, because I know I will miss them once I am gone. Of course, like I assured them, I will be back to visit.

I’ve been out and about with my new camera taking shots of whatever I can, random things I like, this orange bicycle for example. I am trying to learn the camera works and what it can do, but for the moment I am a bit useless with it. It needs time.

I’m sure there are plenty of you that I have not told about what I am doing after I leave Paris, so here is the plan.

At the end of April, no for sure date as of yet, I will be leaving to walk the El Camino (St Jacques de Compostella) pilgrimage which is about 800 km depending on the route and brings me from France into Spain. This should take me about a month, perhaps a little over. I am anxious to get started and can’t wait to see what it brings and whether I am capable of finishing it in one piece. I felt it was really time for a new challenge, and I wanted to travel by foot so  that I can gain an idea of what a long distance feels like. We are so fortunate to have planes, cars, trains and all that, that I think we forget that we also have legs.

I haven’t decided on my route yet, but when I do I will post it here. I will continue to post as I walk, and will do my best to keep you updated on what I am up to along the way.

After Spain, I will be popping back through Paris for a night and then heading via the Chunnel to London! I am on the hunt for a room now and will be visiting in a couple of weeks for job interviews and all that good stuff. I can’t wait to get there and become a Londonian (I’m really not sure if that is the term, but I like it!)

My life is about to take an enormous leap forward and I am trying to prepare myself, but all the while, I don’t want to wish my time in Paris away.

I had a lovely little musical experience on the metro the other night and thanks to my handy iphone I caught a recording for you. There was a guy and a girl standing on seats opposite each other, one with an accordion and then other a clarinet. They sang and danced and said many times they wanted no money and that it was purely for us to enjoy. It was lovely, and another reason why I will always love Paris.

 

http://player.soundcloud.com/player.swf?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F13171821 Paris Metro – Accordions and clarinet! by Specinthecity

Miss you all!

OX Spec.

Discovering Berlin

I have to admit that prior to being proposed the idea of going to Berlin by Paul, it was very low on my list of places to visit in Europe. I think Germany in general had been put aside in my mind because of it`s history with the Holocaust and Hitler. I think I learned about it too early in school and it gives me the willies to the point where I would really be interested in going but fear that I could never be or feel the same after. Anyways, I am so glad that I was given the opportunity to go because I loved Berlin so much, I am now trying to work it into my schedule to live there for a couple of months at some point in the next couple of years. It is a city where artists can be artists and the usual economic and artistic/creative binds do not exist in the same way as other major cities.

Paul and I went to Berlin to visit his friend Matt, who has been living in Berlin for over a year. Not only is Matt a great guy, but he was a superb tour guide – if not the best I have ever had when visiting a city. He knew so much about the history of the city, which for me was a plus, because aside from general grade 10 history I don`t know much detail about what went on in Berlin a little over 20  years ago and beyond. He took us walking around the city, told us stories and showed us tons of little places that only a Berliner would know about, artist hang outs, little hidden spots that have great art or interesting things about them.



On the first day we went the Holocaust Memorial, however we did not do the museum below it. We wanted to see the city, acknowledge it`s history but also stay upbeat – and so we chose to not go to the museum. Next time I am in Berlin, I am going to make a point of going. Regardless, the memorial is enormous and looming and as  you walk through the aisles of concrete blocks that get taller and taller, they overwhelm you, shadowing and towering above your head until you become the smallest thing in it`s vicinity.  Although the artist never wrote a statement explaining it, I think it`s clear what it symbolizes and the way it makes you feel, this gradual taking over, like that of Hitler step by step taking over the Jewish people. A very powerful memorial.



The longest part of the Berlin wall that is still standing has been painted with amazing murals the entire length of it.  Many different artists from all over the world participated in the murals and they all are either done in the name of peace or as a memory of the day the wall fell and the people were liberated.

I love this picture because it so simply shows that anything and everything in Berlin was and is part of their history. Throughout the city, on streets lined with fairly new buildings pieces of the old Berlin still sit, as a reminder of how it was and as a way of showing visitors a past life.

 

I can`t help but think that Berlin is  a city that was given to young people to rebuild, or at least that is how it feels. The city is as young as it`s artists and is budding growing with them. From old warehouses springs rockclimbing gyms, skateparks, art galleries, night clubs, bars, and beach like sandpits for the summer. Berlin is a city that encourages sharing and participation in a way that I have never seen or felt when visiting a place.

If you have the chance to go, really go, you will love it. It`s refreshing and really historically interesting and recent, a rarity in most of old Europe.

To see more photos visit the this link for the entire album on Facebook: (You don`t need to have Facebook to see it!)

Have you been to Berlin? Did you love it as much as me???

Thanks for reading!

Spec.





 

A tourist in Paris – Part 1

Hello everyone!

I know I have been MIA for a while, but since nothing particularly interesting was happening I thought I would wait to update you all when I had something fun to tell you about. This past week I was off work and my good friend Paul, who I met back in Halifax, decided to come and visit me in Paris.  We had made a plan to do 2 and a half days of Paris and then jet to Berlin for 3 days to see his friend Matt and to see the city. It turned out to be a jam packed week that was so much fun I am sad to say it’s over.

On Paul’s first day in Paris, we walked around, ate at a little cafe and went out for dinner with friends at an English pub (an odd choice of restaurant, yes). We waited until the following day to start our whirlwind tour of Paris. When I first arrived, 10 months ago, I spent a lot of time wandering the city alone, which means I now know a lot of places and how to get there on foot, but I avoided the touristy spots like the Eiffel Tower and The Louvre, because it just didn’t seem interesting to go alone. When Paul was here, it was my first chance to go with someone to see all the tourist hot spots and so it felt like a whole new city for me, only I knew how to get around.

We spent part of the day at the Louvre, walked to Notre Dame where we saw point zero – the centre of Paris, and attempted to go to the Catacombs (which sadly were closed). Upon finding out that they were closed, we abandoned our tourist sightseeing efforts for a glass of wine on a heated patio – one of the best things Paris has to offer, in my opinion.

We did so many tourist spots that I can`t even quite remember in what order we did things. We spent a half day at Versaille pretending we owned it, or at least letting Paul `pick out the furniture` for his palace back home.  Check out the throne he chose below.

 

We spent an evening at the Eiffel Tower followed by a visit to Scare Coeur to see the view of Paris by night.

Look how far we are from home!!!

  

 The three days went so fast and we crammed in as much of Paris as was humanely possible, that is if you are drinking wine while tourist-ing.  Paul was pretty excited about how cheap wine and cheese was, somehting I got over a couple of months after moving here, but I was happy to have someone to share all the good parts of Paris with. We were so lucky to have nice weather, with lots of sun and we survived living for 4 nights in my tiny apartment. What a week! I hope Paul visits me every year depending on where I live 🙂

Check out this link to Facebook for the entire album of photos. (You don`t have to have Facebook to see them)

Spec.