Back in Nancy

Six years ago Nancy had been my home, while taking an one-year master course at the university there. Now it welcomed me with warm friends and rainy skies. So Sara (the friend who, you may remember, invited me to her parents’ house in Iran) and I spent a cold Sunday morning enjoying coffee and a book and, whenever the sun was coming out of the clouds, stayed out – as long as possible!

 

It was good seeing Claudia and Tom again: last time I had seen them, they were touring Europe on bicycles. Now, 6 years and two children later, they are thinking about their next destination. Warm conversation, shared memories and home-made boeuf bourguignon, clafoutis and flan nature. And good friends to enjoy it all :)

 

One last afternoon in Nancy: the city was glowing under the long-awaited sun, just like a cat welcomes the caresses of its master. Goodbye for now.

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Little pieces of Lyon

I didn’t feel very much like leaving Aix-en-Provence: my next destination was Lyon, towards the center of France. Although I was eager to meet again my former colleagues (6 years ago I took a master course at the University of Nancy and some of my ex-colleagues were now living in Lyon), lots of rain and grey clouds were forecasted for Lyon. And in Aix-en-Provence, the weather was warm and gentle, and a house with roses, cherry trees and good friends was opening to me.

Well, finally here I am, on my ride found on a car-sharing site, 100 km away from Lyon, and the blue sunny sky turns to clouds and rain. I smile: my trip will take me north from so on, so I’d better get used to that!

I am left in one of the main squares of the city, a few hours before the friend who was hosting me comes back from work. So I have plenty of time to take the metro towards her house and find it. But before going into the metro I notice that on the last floor of the building where the metro station is, a “suspended garden” is supposed to be. I take my luggage and go up. Looking at the Ibis Hotel through the fig tree leaves, I think about other fig trees I will see later, in the summer, on the Greek island of Lesbos. Who knows what people and stories wait for me on the way until then…

Arriving close to the house of my friend, something tells me to take a little detour and go towards the riverside. And I find here the weekly local market, with fresh vegetables, fruits, flowers, home-made sweets and local products. I slowly walk through it, enjoying the smells and sounds of the market. It’s been some time since I did not do that… After buying a bouquet of flowers for my friend, I go and sit by the river for a little while. A young boy and a girl are chatting in front of the water. A few rays of sun come out of the clouds and light the surface of the water. I felt good.. I felt like Lyon was saying “welcome” guessing that I was visiting it for the first time.

 

I spent the next few days meeting my former colleagues, talking about what happened in our lives since we last saw each other, having wine and cheese for dinner, visiting Lyon and hearing its stories, drinking beer on a boat and talking some more about life, politics, philosophy, Romania, France. My heart was full of smiles and ready to set for my next location: Nancy.

In Provence…

My next destination was Aix-en-Provence, the temporary home of my friend Roxana. And by temporary, I mean that she is going to work as a researcher at the Aix-en-Provence University only for a few months, returning afterwards to Verona, were she is doing a PhD in law.

Roxana and I met while working at a Bucharest law firm and we soon discovered that, before coming to Bucharest, we had both lived in Iasi and even went to the same high school. Even if we don’t have similar personalities or, sometimes, not even the same ideas on life and the world, we always had a very good time together, whether exchanging legal arguments, agreeing or disagreeing on philosophy or ideas from the latest book we were reading or just having shots and dancing in Gaia (i.e.: a Bucharest club). So I was really happy she moved to France and that I could meet her during this tour of France of mine.

After the cold and windy days of the Cote d’Azur, Aix-en-Provence welcomed me with a warm and friendly sun that kept on shining all the time I was there. And this made me stay one day more than planned, just enjoying the peace and quiet of the house with garden Roxana was living in, taking “sun baths” (as the French put it), eating cherries from the cherry tree in the back of the house and trying to cure the cold I had caught (ironically, you might say) in Nice.

My last night there was a combination of warm weather, Bordeaux wine, stars and moon seen from the window of Roxana’s room, singing songs, wonderful conversation and an impromptu photo shoot.


Meet you some other time, in some other place, friend. May your journey be smiling and full of insights!

Saying goodbye to the Mediterranean

It’s been awhile since my last post, I must admit. From Nice I set of to Aix-en-Provence and then Lyon, meeting old friends, getting to know new cities, listening to people’s stories, and sometimes telling my own, drinking warm cafe lattes in the morning, talking, smiling, catching up.

But I did not forget about my blog and I took many pictures which I want to share with you. For now though, I would like to show you some last pictures from Cote d’Azur: mostly Cannes, a cloudy first-day-of-the-festival, and a little bit of Nice, saying goodbye to our hosts and to the Mediterranean sea.

Recipe for one perfect Cote d’Azur day

Firsts of all, you take one late breakfast, eaten at ease, with freshly baked baguette, orange juice, milk coffee with milk foam (home made foam, that is – my little guilty pleasure, for which I took from Romania my very own milk-foam-maker) and, of course, the newspaper (even though the only happy-matching-our-mood piece of news we could find in it was about the Cannes festival). You add in a little walk in the old center of Nice, not forgetting on the way to enjoy and smell the flowers and that scent that only the Mediterranean sea seems to have. You mix it with a high view over Nice. You also though in there a little waterfall, silverish reflections of the sea, a narcissistic moment in front of the camera and a French coffee under a tree sharing your thoughts on the latest book you read. You stir everything very well and then you absolutely have to let it rest by the seaside. In the meanwhile, you watch little Ema laughing and crawling on the pebbles (being careful not to let her eat one of them – she seems to enjoy that very much), listen to the sea or just look at the boats leaving the port…

Note: In order for this recipe to work, it is essential to have one main ingredient: a very good friend, a wonderfully open-hearted and beautiful person that will share with you all of this.

The secret garden

Nice-8400There are some places in the world that, even if you have visited over and over again, you cannot grow bored of. One of these places is for me the rose garden of the Franciscan monastery of Cimiez, in Nice – the city of my Erasmus year. So, when, after coming back from Iran, I met in Nice my friend Irina and her daughter Ema, who were also visiting, I knew I wanted to show them and again go back to Cimiez.

So here we are, one not-so-cold morning, going down from our bus and heading for the rose garden! It’s 10 minutes away, but hurry up, the rain will start soon, the bus driver had told us. (Well, if you don’t already know, France had one the coldest months of May ever recorded in history. My plan to leave Romania and go towards western Europe mid-April – because, isn’t it, very soon it will be May and it’ll be warm and sunny – didn’t work very well!.. One would say that even the weather is plotting to remind me that this trip is not about what I am planning or how I am thinking things will be, but about learning to enjoy the moment, about enjoying what is.)

And besides, who could hurry when you were passing by Hotel Regina, with its 19th-century-France air, when you were taking little alleys with old houses surrounded by palms trees and olive trees, when pictures had to be taken (and both Irina and I, we are passionate, in our amateurish way, about taking pictures) and when there was so much to tell and to share in the meanwhile?…

It was windy and indeed rain was very close when we entered the garden. That made it quiet and almost deserted. We walked slowly along the alleys, smelling, caressing, smiling. Filling our eyes with the wonderful colors of these beautiful flowers. Breathing in the sweet scent of roses and spring.

I must say that I love all flowers, but that, in general, roses are among my least favorite. There is too much marketing, there are too much everywhere and, most of all, they often seem so fake, so stiff and fixed – the perfectly fake natural flower. But Cimiez is the exception. Maybe because here the roses are alive, flowing around you like colored waterfalls. Maybe because the silence in this garden gives you the feeling that you are walking not in just-another-park, but that you are entering a sacred space.

I let myself move slowly and without direction. Rain indeed came, but left shortly after, letting a little bit the sun shine over us, letting us enjoy a little bit longer the garden and its peace.

 

Eventually we left. And after visiting the Matisse Museum on the way, we stopped in the old city of Nice to rest and close the day. The sun was getting close to set and was looking sideways. Every little thing surrounding us had an aura of light around it – the people passing by, the buildings, the signs on the street, our glasses, the hair of my friend Irina. Sitting quietly, enjoying the sun, barely hearing the muttered conversations of the people in the street, holding little Ema in my arms.. I felt time stopping. And truly and completely blissful.

Last night in Paris

Ever since I arrived in Paris, the idea of a pick-nick on the Seine had teased me and got away: first, the party we were supposed to go got cancelled, then, when we decided to do a pick-nick for ourselves, the weather was too cold to stay out. So you can imagine that when the two friends I was supposed to meet on my last evening in Paris waited for me outside the cafe and proposed to have a pick-nick on the Seine instead of drinks in that place, I immediately said YES!

Pick-nick close to Bastille

Let me explain: a pick-nick on the Seine is not, as one may expect, a pick-nick during the day, but rather an alternative for going out for a drink and/or dinner. The recipe is simple: you take a nice warm evening in Paris that you would hate to spend inside, you buy some wine and your favorite kind of cheese (one could just as well buy beer and crackers, but when in Paris… ), add blankets, glasses and (especially don’t forget!) a corkscrew, accompany all this by very good company of old and new friends and there you have your Paris pick-nick!

Sharing ideas and experiences, looking at the people, the sky, the trees and the flowers, giving and asking for cigarettes to/from perfect strangers, occasionally listening to music from the boats in front of us. Breathing. Saying goodbye to Paris. At least for now.

 

… Below you find bits and pieces of my last days in Paris. Next stop: Iran.

Jazz night

Video

The lights were too low in the jazz bar we were to take any good picture. But just imagine a small cellar with brick walls, in which by the end of the evening got crammed together French people, foreigners, students, men, women, people around 50, black people, white people, my friends and I. At the piano, a tall, 30-something guy, with small, round glasses, was playing as if with all his being, sometimes closing his eyes and accompanying the piano with little words and sounds. The bass player was an skinny American with black eyebrows and grey hair, moving his fingers so fast, you could hardly see what they were doing. And, finally, at the drums there was this young blondish guy, with long hair put up in a crazy ponytail on one side, that while playing was leaning his head to one side (which could be the explanation for the ponytail). I liked them – they had energy and passion and life.

This was the first song they played – “because it is April, and because this is Paris”, as the piano guy said. In a very egocentric way, I felt like this song was for me :)

I would like to share it now with all of you – enjoy!