I Used to Love Packing

Once upon a time, packing for a trip was almost as exciting to me as the trip itself. I’d start with well thought out lists categorised by suitcase and carry-on, which were further broken down by clothing, toiletries, electronics and extras. I’d have lists of things I needed to do before I left, things that I hoped to buy while on holiday and a growing list of bookings for travel, accommodations and activities. My approach has never been minimalistic, but I’ve been realistic in that I can’t bring everything with me for any eventuality. Worst case is that I buy something while abroad if I found that I absolutely needed it and hadn’t packed it. I’m borderline OCD and took great pride in my very organised style.

I’ve collected various travel items over the years to make my life a little easier from secure day bags and baggage to packing cubes to an array of zippered pouches to organise. Normally just the sight of these things excites me. And perhaps that’s because I got great joy out of using them in the before times.

But we’re no longer in the beautifully blissful before times, are we?

This time I’m stressed the fuck out. My anxiety creeps up higher and higher as my trip gets closer.

Normally I travel when the weather is nicer, which means that I can pack lighter clothing and not worry about freezing to death while abroad. Perhaps that’s slightly dramatic but I’m overwhelmed so please forgive me. Warmer clothing means heavier clothing. Baggage weight allowances and space in my suitcase for purchases I plan to bring home means that I’ve packed and repacked my suitcase 4 times over the past week, mentally going over each item to make sure it’s justifiably being lugged with me. To the point of insanity. For hours today I played table tennis in my mind trying to decide if bringing my iPad was a good idea or not. I’m still undecided.

The same lists I’d use with pride feel overwhelming. On top of the usual to-do items, I’ve got to consider health passes, proofs of vaccination, Covid insurance, declarations of being symptom free and booking a PCR test for my return to Canada. Plus I check almost daily to be sure that the regulations haven’t changed so I can be prepared and not be barred from boarding any flights. Oh, and I’ve had 2 separate flights cancelled on me. So that’s been fun.

Work is a shit show (I work in international ocean transportation which, if you watch the news at all you’ll know Vancouver is currently facing pandemic related congestion strains on an under-equipped infrastructure that have never been seen before .. oh God why am I thinking about that during my weekend?!) and I have to make sure my desk is up to my standards before I hand it over to my Manager. All while fighting the growing urge to quit and hide in a blanket fort with my cats. In those moments, travel should be an escape for me but it’s become equally panic-inducing.

It’s been A LOT.

And because I have panic disorder and my anxiety levels continue to rise, I feel myself shutting down. Breathing exercises are child’s play at this point. The thought of packing (for the 5th time) overwhelms me. I’m starting to worry that I’ll be such a mess once I arrive to Paris that I’ll be unable to function and/or leave the hotel room. It wouldn’t be the first time. But this time is during a global pandemic. I’ve been working from home for 20 months, have given up socialising and seriously limit interpersonal interactions. Why did I think my first outing being in one of the busiest cities in the world was a good idea. Yes I love Paris but have I lost my damn mind?

I need to go lay down. But before I do, does anyone else who’s traveled during the pandemic – or has plans to – feel the same crushing anxiety? Do you have any tips or advice on how to calm down and get perspective back?

I so miss the before times. Le sigh.

Paris – A Pastry a Day Challenge

Yesterday I invited you to take part in a Paris Photo Challenge. Today I’m sharing another fun challenge I’m looking forward to do on my upcoming trip to Paris.

Because life is too short to skip dessert!

But Marla.

A pastry a day!?

Yes! Hear me out!

You’ll be out pounding the pavement each day, visiting museums and galleries. You’ll get your steps in, so why not treat yourself? You’re on vacation after all!

Everyone knows that Paris excels when offering up delicious desserts and pastries. On a short visit, it would be impossible to enjoy everything. So instead, pick an handful to try and choose a different one for each day?

Why not print out the above suggestions list and take it with you on your next visit? If you do, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram with photos of your favourites!

Paris Photo Scavenger Hunt

When I was a kid, my sister and I used to play a game in the car. We’d each pick a different colour and then spend the entire ride desperately searching for vehicles in “our” colour. Whoever had spotted the most when we’d arrived at our destination would be crowned the winner. That was all fun and games until we realised that a city works yard nearby had a parking lot full of white vehicles. It then became about who would shout out first that white was their colour. Usually a fight would ensue and I’m pretty sure our Dad started to take a different route just to avoid the white vehicles all together.

But I just don’t see why being an adult means that the fun has to stop.

Since then I’ve taken part in many fun (albeit dorky) challenges like counting wildlife on a cross-province road trip, or excitedly pointing out monkey trees on drives through the neighbourhood. Since moving closer the the countryside, finding decrepit old barns is a new favourite.

One time in Paris, my best friend and I decided to do a photo scavenger hunt of typically Parisian sights. It was a perfect way to really pay attention to our surroundings. So I’ve made a similar list of things to look out for on your next visit to Paris.

Feel free to print this page and bring it with you. And once you’re back home, you’ll have an album of quintessential Paris photos.

If you decide to take part, tag me on Instagram so I can see your photos!

Thursday Doors – Paris

While looking through my various Paris photos, I realised that I’d never posted about the classical music concert I attended at Sainte-Chapelle. Which is strange, as it’s up there with some of my most memorable experiences. So I’ll have to get on that sooner than later.

In the meantime, here’s a small taste. Starting with front portal of the upper chapel with its statue of Jesus flanked by doors.

It was through the open door that I entered for the concert.

And here’s a quick peek inside of the 13th century chapel with its stunning (and mostly original) stained glass windows.

I’m gearing up for my next Parisian adventure (15 days to go!), so if you’d like to see what I get up to why not follow me on Instagram? Let’s be friends!

Thursday Doors is a weekly event facilitated by Dan. If you’re interested in participating, check out Dan’s blog.

Paris’ Grand Cemetery – Père Lachaise

It might seem a bit odd to search out a cemetery when travelling, but in Paris it’s an enjoyable way to spend some time. Hear me out! Gone are the crowds. It’s like walking through a beautifully landscaped park. Tombstones vary from grave to grave, some simplistic while others are intricately detailed. And don’t even get me started on the history. If you’re needing a break from galleries, consider a visit to a Parisian cemetery.

The first time my best friend, Stephanie, and I visited Paris together, we thoroughly enjoyed a couple of hours wandering through the Montmartre Cemetery.

So while in the planning stages of our next recent trip (this time with the guys in tow), we decided that making the trek out to the Grand Père (ahem) of them all was a priority.

Trek sounds quite dramatic but most visitors to Paris focus on the city’s central area and rarely leave it. It was my fifth time to Paris and only my first visit to Père Lachaise. But in reality our “trek” was an easy bus ride without transfers. Before the pandemic and working from home, it took me longer to get to/from work each day!

In my research I learned that Emperor Napoleon I inaugurated the cemetery in 1804. He mustn’t have been overly confident, as he arranged to transfer the remains of French playwright Molière and famous lovers Abelard and Heloise to Père Lachaise in order to up the prestige factor.

But he didn’t need to worry, as Père Lachaise houses approximately 300,000 graves and consistently has a waitlist for people to be buried there. It’s also one of the world’s most-visited cemeteries. In fact, hundreds of thousands of people stroll its beautiful grounds each year.

Most people arrive with a map and list of graves they want to visit, and we were no different. The grounds of Père Lachaise are huge so it was a fun scavenger hunt to find them all. Here’s our list in order of graves visited ..

Oscar Wilde
Irish Writer
October 16, 1854 – November 30, 1900

You’ll note the glass around Wilde’s grave? It was put there to prevent people leaving lipstick kiss marks all over the stone. Not only was it gross, but Wilde’s family had to incur the costs of repeated cleaning.

Victor Noir
French Journalist
July 27, 1848 – January 11, 1870

Monsieur Noir would be interested, I’m sure, to know that his grave is probably the most popular in all of Pere Lachaise with female visitors.

Move over Oscar Wilde!

According to Wikipedia, “Myth says that placing a flower in the upturned top hat after kissing the statue on the lips and rubbing its genital area will enhance fertility, bring a blissful sex life, or, in some versions, a husband within the year..

.. As a result of the legend, those particular components of the otherwise verdigris (grey-green oxidized bronze) statue are rather well-worn and shiny.”

No, not awkward at all.

Edith Piaf
French Singer, Songwriter and Performer
December 19, 1915 – October 10, 1963

Her nickname La Môme Piaf (“The Little Sparrow”) comes from the fact she was only 4’8″ tall. Her colourful life was marred by tragedy from the very beginning. Love, loss, sickness, addiction.. and the French public wrapped their arms around their beloved chanteuse.

I read that while she had been denied a funeral mass by the Roman Catholic archbishop of Paris because of her lifestyle, her funeral procession was followed by tens of thousands of mourners. It was apparently the only time since the end of World War II that Parisian traffic has come to a complete stop.

Jim Morrison
American singer, songwriter and poet
December 8, 1943 – July 3, 1971

The bottom of the plaque is inscribed with ΚΑΤΑ ΤΟΝ ΔΑΙΜΟΝΑ ΕΑΥΤΟΥ, which literally translates to “according to his own daemon, i.e., guiding spirit,” to convey the sentiment “True to Himself.”

Next to the grave there is a gum tree. As in, a tree covered with chewed gum. I don’t understand the significance, but kept a safe distance. Because germs.

Gross, non?

One of the last public places that Jim Morrison was seen alive is a bar called La Mazet which, incidentally, was also the last place all four of us were seen together in Paris before my husband and I headed for Normandy the next morning.

Frédéric Chopin
Polish pianist and composer
March 1, 1810 – October 17, 1849

Chopin was one of music’s earliest superstars, who sadly died of tuberculosis. He reportedly requested that his body be opened after death (for fear of being buried alive) and his heart was returned to Warsaw where it rests to this day.

One of the strangest things I’ve learned about Chopin is that while on his death bed it was apparently said that “all the grand Parisian ladies considered it de riguer to faint in his room”.

Héloïse & Abelard

Héloïse d’Argenteuil
French nun, writer, scholar and abbess
1090/1100–1 (?) – May 16, 1164

Peter Abelard
French scholastic philosopher, theologian, and logician
1079 – 21 April 1142

The romance and letters of these two eternal lovers remain legendary almost a century later.

Georges-Eugène Haussmann
Prefect and urban planner
March 27, 1809 – January 11,1891

We can thank Baron Haussmann for the Paris we see today, with its beautiful parks, impressive wide boulevards and tidy buildings complete with intricate wrought iron works – not to mention its essential sewage system. Interestingly, while he’s celebrated the world over, he wasn’t very popular with Parisians themselves.

If you’re interested in seeing the rest of my photo album, check it out here. Of course, I’ve only just scratched the surface – there are so many more beautiful things to see at Père Lachaise. Have you been? If so, what were your favourites?

Helpful tip:
If you’re lazy like me jetlagged, do yourself a favour and enter the cemetery from the top of the hill through Porte Gambetta. By doing so, you’ll make your way leisurely downhill (rather than walking uphill), eventually arriving at the main entrance, Porte du Répos.

Thursday Doors – Paris

This week I’m taking you for a tour around the exterior of L’église Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois, a Catholic Church located in central Paris.

But before we begin, I should warn you to take a seat. If you’re into historical architecture and design as much as I am, this church might just take your breath away. I know that it did mine. Mostly because there was so much to take in. I didn’t know where to look.

The church we see today was mainly built in the 15th century, although the site saw previous variations dating back to the 7th century. Back when the nearby Louvre was home to French Royals, L’église Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois was the Royal parish church.

While not as well-known as Notre Dame, this church does have the honour of hosting the former’s church-goers while it’s being rebuilt after the devastating fire of 2019.

Do you notice the figure holding his own head on the column above? That’s Denis, Patron Saint of Paris and France. He’s a common sight across the city. You may remember him from my earlier post.

L’église Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois butts up against the Town Hall for the 1st arrondissement (district), with this pretty walkway separating the two. I now wish I had taken a stroll to see where it leads.

I really like the main entrance to the church. From the curved archway and decorative porch ceiling, there’s so much to marvel at.

Did you see my post last week about why I love Paris? I recommend you check it out if you didn’t. In that post, I shared a photo of a plaque under the Pont Neuf which relates to the Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day (1572) when a targeted attack by Catholics murdered 4000 Huguenots.

The start of the Paris attack happened here at L’église Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois with the ringing of the church bells setting off the craziness. Many high ranking Huguenots were in town for a wedding, so it made sense for the Catholics to strike then. I’ve heard of weddings getting a bit out of hand but this .. this is next level. Yikes.

Founders of the church, from left to right, King Childebert, Queen Ultrogoth
and Deacon Vincent.
Saint Germain of Paris, Saint Geneviève
and an Angel carrying a torch.
Virgin and child.

I’ll be back soon with a tour of the inside of L’église Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois. Be sure to check back, or sign up for email notifications so you never miss a post.

Thursday Doors is a weekly event facilitated by Dan. If you’re interested in participating, check out Dan’s blog.