FIN DE L'HISTOIRE

GOING PLACES. MAKING THINGS. STANDING SIDEWAYS.

SO LONG, FAREWELL.

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ERASMUS IS OVER. Well, it has been for a week technically, but I’ve been wallowing in the wake of my early homecoming so I’ve been pretty quiet about it.

This year has been both the most exciting and terrifying of my life. I don’t think a summary here could do my experiences justice. I guess I just needed to post even this little something about it ending, as a sort of digital full stop for this part of my life. I’m still in recovery mode right now for my foot (me and my bed are one) but coming home has meant I’ve been able to transfer the enthusiasm this year has given me onto future British endeavours! So now I’m just looking forward to getting this damn plaster cast off, enjoying summer and throwing myself fully (though not literally, no more injuries PLEEEEASE) into my last year at Leeds. This all can’t come soon enough! Especially getting the cast off. I dislike having to go up the stairs like the smallest Von Trapp child.

So, are you ready for the inevitable cringe-fest? Ahem… To anyone considering a year abroad, I cannot emphasize enough…JUST. GO. FOR. IT. Maybe don’t go for it quite in the same way I did e.g. throwing yourself off every surface, but still, it is an opportunity like no other, that you should grasp in every way possible. You’ll experience so many new things and meet so many interesting people, but most of all, you’ll settle into your own skin. If I had the chance, I’d jump at doing it again, so in that respect I envy you. Enjoy.

BREAKING POINT.

The decision has been made – unfortunately I am going back to the UK for good tomorrow. When you book a flight home for the end of July that’s because you want to stay until the end of July however, there’s grinning and bearing a situation, and then there’s the breaking point. Now, I’ve reached that point.

I had a new plaster cast fitted a few days ago when I’d hoped to be given a weight-bearing boot instead. This, combined with the thought of continuing to sit at my lonely residence desk with only a bi-weekly party or occasional (revision break allowing) visit from friends, drained me of all my previous ‘Esprit de la vie’. I thought I better quit while I’m ahead before all my happy Erasmus memories are clouded by this crippling anticlimax.

With the excuse of my leaving, I thankfully managed to drag most people out of their revision hiding last night, though it was absolutely horrible saying goodbye to everyone. The majority of them live so far away, I don’t want to imagine how long it might be until we’re reunited… But my small Grinch heart absolutely melted to see how many of them had shown up for my final pub send off. *wells up.

There’s a spare couch in Leeds awaiting any of the friends I’ve made this year and I suppose I can leave feeling slightly smug knowing that the same goes for me if I ever visit….France, Belgium, Spain, Germany, Italy, Czech Republic, Romania, Greece, Turkey, Morocco, America, Canada, Mexico or Columbia. (What. A. List!)

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WHERE WE LAY OUR SCENE

Leg 2 of my recent holiday travels. I swore on Twitter, (and was therefore bound by law), that I would step off the coach in Verona and flamboyantly declare ‘IN FAIR VERONA, WHERE WE LAY OUR SCENE’, but I have to confess that after 16 hours of traveling from Paris I was more disorientated than expected so this did not happen. We dropped our bags off at our airbnb apartment, had showers and cat naps then headed into the city. Initially we couldn’t find the centre and were worried that it would all be closed anyway due to it being a Sunday, fortunately, this led us to a pizza shop that gave us free pizza! Not traditional thin base, wood oven cooked pizza but a. beggars can’t be choosers and b. FREE STUFF. With pizza off the tick list we stopped for a coffee and GELATO when we found the busier part of the city, then headed over to Castelvecchio, which had some great views over the Adige river. I found myself competing with some kids to get to the best climbing spots on the castle walls and bridge but don’t you worry, I won. (Take that small children.)

We accidentally found our way to ‘Juliet’s house’ (Casa di Giulietta), which people seem to associate with Shakespeare’s Juliet, even though it is highly unlikely she was even mildly real. (Ever the pessimist.) Plus, Google has just informed me that the infamous balcony I took a photo of was only added to the house in the 20th century. (Disappointment.) Regardless, it was funny and a little bit weird to see tourist couples trying to pose as Romeo and Juliet on the balcony while hundreds of strangers took photos of them… We wandered sort of aimlessly for the rest of the day but went full circle back to the old Arena before the sun went down. I was the only one feeling flash enough to pay the 5 euros to get into the Arena. It was set up for a concert so it didn’t have quite the archaic feel I was hoping for! Still, the views over the city made up for it.

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And then, VENICE. I was initially a little disappointed by Venice, maybe because it’s always so talked up? But after lowering my standards a little, and accepting the excessive tourism and all the disheveled buildings for what they were, I started to enjoy the labyrinth of tiny streets and quaint bridges that led you over the endless canals. More gelato was found and destroyed of course, two chubby cats, curled up in a suitcase of old maps, were also found (but definitely not destroyed…) and the hunt for the perfect Venetian mask (for future fancy dress) went well. It would’ve been lovely to see the city from the water, or even to explore some of the smaller surrounding islands, but the day went by so fast, and jeeeeeeez are those gondolas expensive.

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Also is it wrong that I was highly amused by these letterbox/doorbell faces?

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HOW TO FORGET YOU’RE IMPRISONED.

It’s typical that once I’ve found a mild solution to getting around on one leg, (see previous post), my friends have to get down to some serious end of year revision. I’m starting to feel imprisoned and going more than a little bit stir crazy as a result of the subsequent isolation. So I thought I’d distract myself by writing about some of my, as of yet, undocumented travels from the 2 weeks before deciding to step on and fall off a skateboard.

“One day I’m gonna live in Paris.” People say (and sing) it all the time, but I’m serious. If there’s no job waiting for me straight out of uni, then why the hell not? I may not have considered the issues of funding this move but hey, the language skills are (basically) there so at least I’d be able to talk the talk. With a grand total of 5 days, this trip to the French capital was quite a long one, yet still not quite long enough. We rented a cute apartment near Gare de Lyon, the owner of which was definitely a stereotypical bohemian creative type, (no objections here though!) She had home made art all over her walls, lots of strange collections, including a bunch of very freaky marionette puppets… and some serious film and philosophy books. Just as a bonus there was also a friendly cat in the shared courtyard that would always follow us into the apartment in an attempt to get his belly scratched.

There is always so much to see in Paris, especially if you’re doing the tourist-y things all in one go, like we did. I’ve seen all the big sites before but I was happy to be pretty laid back and just go along with whatever my fellow non-European travellers wanted to see. So on our touristy tick list was: les Catacombes, le jardin des Tuileries, la Tour Eiffel, Montmartre, la Basilique du Sacré Coeur, le Panthéon, le Musée du Louvre, le Musée d’Orsay, l’Orangerie, l’Arc de triomphe and le Cathédrale Notre Dame. We had beautifully sunny weather for about 90% of our stay, but being the weirdo that I am, I couldn’t help but dream about sitting in the jardin des Tuileries in the pouring rain under a huge umbrella. (Perfection.)

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Even though I’ve lived in France since September, so in theory I should have some level of restraint, I managed to truly outdo myself on the Parisian patisseries. Even the basics: croissants, pain au chocolats and baguettes. All day. Every day. Macaroons made an appearance but I don’t get the big deal so one was enough. It’s safe to say that Grenoble and Paris are completely different. The pace of life in Paris was thankfully much quicker, but not on the hectic/aggressive levels of somewhere like London. Plus, people don’t stare at you half so much in Paris because diversity actually exists there…whereas in Grenoble I feel like a performing circus act, which REALLY helps with my paranoia.

I have to admit that in the Louvre I was a naughty art student and blew off trudging through hundreds of years of art history after about an hour to go check out Napoleon III’s apartments. Has anyone else ever been? I thought it was as close as I was going to get to exploring anything remotely like Versailles, considering we didn’t have enough time to go there. Napoleon III’s apartments were pretty unbelievable to be honest, the combined extravagance and attention to detail kept me gawping for a fair while, and all the burgundy/deep red upholstery had me making a (super realistic) mental wish list.

This little vacation made me realize that I’m becoming more…girly in my ‘old age’, because one of my favourite places to see was the flower market near Notre Dame. It wasn’t very big but made a nice contrast to all the indoor Parisian sites. If I was a big souvenir buyer then I think I would’ve gone a little bit crazy on the delicious floral soaps and colourful mini buckets. A second favourite was simply a street! The cobbled Rue de Seine is littered with lots of little independent galleries and cafes, and you’re never too far from the stereotypical Parisian accordion player. And last but not least, the jardin des Tuileries. I stole some time away from my friends after visiting the Orangerie and Monet’s beautiful water lilies, just to chill in the shade of the trees overlooking one of the jardin’s fountains. I was sat on a green, metal deck chair, Amorino ice cream in hand, kindle on my lap to read some Game of Thrones, just listening to the world pass me by, (but acutely aware of the very attractive French guy sat on his own 5 metres from me.) Hopefully there’ll be plenty more rose tinted hours like that one once I move there…*fingers crossed.

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My next trip to Paris will definitely be a bit more off the beaten track, so if you have any recommendations I’d love to hear them :)

THEY SEE ME ROLLIN’, THEY HATIN’.

935411_10200903602133495_586915099_nMade my way to a party last night on the back of a bicycle to save…oh let’s say 3 hours of walking there on crutches, but I nearly fell off a few times, so a new form of transport was clearly needed. Piggy backs were the next best option until we found this wheely desk chair outside my friends’ apartment. So, anyone want a game of crutch jousting?

BREAKING NEWS

Hello again blogosphere. I’ve been away for a while having some fun across London, Paris, Verona, Venice, Florence, Turin and Cinque Terre. I am well aware that this is a long and delicious traveling list for just 2 weeks off, and although I wanted to start posting some of the 600 (!!!!) photos I took over this time something else has come up…

I HAVE BROKEN MY FOOT.

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Some people reading this might be thinking ‘But hey, didn’t you break your wrist recently too?’ The answer would be yes. Yes I did. Turns out I can’t be involved in any sort of sport involving a board without seriously injuring myself. This time it was a skateboard though, not a snowboard. Seriously starting to think that I’m made of glass and need to invest in bubblewrap clothing.

*Warning: mild pity party ahead. Turns out this little crack in my foot is a lot more hassle than my last break (if you ignore the operation.) If you break a lower limb your circulation is affected and your blood can start to thicken, which is bad (duh). To prevent this I have to have anti-coagulant injections every day for at least 3 weeks, and I have to self-adminster these unless my insurance comes through for me and covers the costs of a nurse to come visit me at home (I froze on my first attempt to do this, thinking I’d save myself the hassle of a nurse, and my friend had to inject me instead). Sure, I could go to the hospital for these injections but I’m on crutches, (with a weak left wrist from January’s break and next to no upper body strength after a year not going to the gym), so walking 45 minutes to the tram, taking a first tram for 20 minutes, changing trams,  taking a second tram for 5 minutes, then walking 15 minutes to the doctor’s just seems a bit much for every day, oh and taxis here cost 15-20 euros each journey, (I learnt that the hard way…), so that’s not really an option for getting around. Then again maybe a daily trip to the hospital might kill 2 birds with one stone because I have to go for 2 blood tests a week anyway to check that the anti-coagulants are working. I’m off school at least until the 22nd, after that depends on how my x-ray goes. I definitely can’t drink at parties if my mode of transport is crutches, especially since to get into my bed I have to go up some very small steep steps, oh and my residence has stairs but no lift. Sigh.*

OK pity party over because breaking your foot is clearly not the end of the world and I have some very nice painkillers.

IMG-20130509-00189Yay for non-free healthcare…wait a second.

It immediately made me more positive to think ‘Wait, people deal with injuries like this all the time, some people deal with this sort of thing every day of their life’. It may not sound like it from the paragraph above but I can see the funny side too thankfully. I’m feeling very much like a flamingo, my friends find my hopping hilarious which then makes me laugh too (not a good idea on stairs!), my cast already has some interesting ‘art’ on it and I have to carry all my cooking utensils and dinner ingredients in a little rucksack on my back to hobble my way to the kitchen to cook for myself (I must look very silly). The fact that this has even happened is pretty damn funny (seriously, who goes away for a year and breaks an arm and a leg?), and this is made all the more ironic considering I wrote ‘Not breaking any other bones ‘ as my penultimate positive experience from my (sort of) snowboard season in my last post.

Plaster CastMy cast so far. “VDM’ stands for Vie de merde (Sh*t life), it’s basically the French FML but is also a website where people post ridiculous situations they find themselves in.

Writing explanatory emails to my tutors and friends has me laughing aloud, no-one believes me at first. My Leeds tutor replied ‘Would this be snowboard/ski-related? Maybe you need to take up a slightly less dangerous hobby!’ He knows me so well. There has been a suggestion that I should write a book called “How to break yourself” but I don’t think it would sell very well for some reason… and another friend made this very valid point, ‘You risked your life everyday in England with your poor ability to cross roads without injury and now look at you! I think France is far too dangerous for you.’ Well I’m not crossing roads any easier now, for sure. So, with all this time on my hands I better get editing my travel photos!

P.S. I am welcoming funny cat pictures, gifs & videos on my twitter to aid my hopefully speedy recovery.

STANDING SIDEWAYS & EXTREME SITTING DOWN : A SEASON SUMMARY

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Prepare yourself. Winter is…going away. That’s right, the sun has decided he’s here to stay and so ski season is over :( but hey, it’s been AWE-SOME so I can’t moan too much .

Sure there were a few low points… 05:30 starts . Breaking my wrist . Freestyle lessons on the big park (cue a big Draffin freak out) . Drag lifts – I CANNOT STAY ON THEM THEY ARE IMPOSSIBLE . Flat slopes . Goggles burn . Completely underestimating my speed before entering ski lift turnstiles and becoming impossibly tangled and upside down on more than one occasion .

But the good things outweighed the bad by far… Chamrousse . Freestyle lessons on the smaller park (cue smaller Draffin freak outs) . Snowboarding with Harriet, Katie, Sara, Basak, Caro, Eva, Tereza, Livia, Beatriz, Meghane & Jamil . Bluebird Days . Cold beers after a day on the slopes . Having an instructor with a combined French – Essex accent, hilarious stuff . Sept Laux . Midday catnaps on the sun loungers . Landing the tiniest jumps ever (little victories people, little victories!) . Learning how to not die on a half pipe & boxes . Powder Days . Frozen Mars Bars . Delicious hot chocolates & crepes & mulled wine . Deux Alpes . Not breaking any other bones . GENERAL SNOWBOARD LIFE .

 

Only 8 months until next season…

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SLOGAN T-SHIRTS. YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.

You know how some English people will wear anything with a French slogan on it just because it looks mysterious and cool to those who don’t understand the language? Turns out the French do the same thing. Just thought I’d share some of the stranger slogan t-shirts from my little wander around the shopping centre this weekend.

IMG-20130412-00165 A phrase used to express that you don’t care which film you see at the cinema or what you have for dinner.

IMG-20130412-00166Yellow may be ‘the new swag.’ But it’s not swag enough to be the colour of this t-shirt, which is green…

IMG-20130412-00167And finally, in an otherwise quite nice underwear and pajama shop – the words SAD and BAD on a pair of knickers. I think this is the very opposite of having ‘lucky pants’.

VIDEO ART & RIBENA

We’ve spent a good while looking at video, sound and text art these past two weeks in yet another Workshop. Mostly this meant sitting in a darkened room listening to things. (Yes it’s going to stay that vague.) The room being blacked out really helped us all to dig a little deeper with works that, were they in a gallery setting, perhaps we wouldn’t normally pay so much attention to. The ‘Cinepoémes’ by Pierre Alferi were my favourite discovery of the workshop. This one is called Elvin Jones.

Although not even mildly motivational in textual content there’s no doubt that the music in this video is awesome. ‘IT GETS THE PEOPLE GOING.’

And here was my own little venture into the film world.

As a sculptress I really am out of my depth when I have to film stuff or go within 10 feet of Final Cut Pro, (so be gentle…or else), but I consider this attempt a little victory! Simply because for the first time ever, I made some video ‘art’ that doesn’t look like the film from The Ring. Score.

Unfortunately I’m pretty sure I’m breaking some/many/all copyright laws because the music is 16:39 by Brian Eno from the album Music for Airports, (is admitting this the first step to recovery….?) but hey, we’ll call it ‘paying homage’ until I manage to make something similar on a Tenori-On-esque app when I’m back in the UK.

FUN FACT I used to fall asleep to this track when I was younger but I would always say to my parents ‘PUT RIBENA ON’ because however many times I was told it was by “BRI-AN. E-NO” I clearly just thought Ribena had a better ring to it.

BOARD MEETINGS

This wishlist comes at the wrong side of the ski season because it’s nearly over but I thought I’d do some snowboard related posts in the lead up to my inevitable withdrawal symptoms after next weekend’s grand finale, (orienteering treasure hunt around Deux Alpes anyone?) Also, for all my ‘standing sideways’ I haven’t really shown much evidence of it on this blog yet.

Board Lust List

1. FORUM SAUCE // 2. FORUM SPINSTER // 3. DUPRAZ D1 5’2″ STD PRESTIGE // 4. YES BASIC // 5. BATALEON FEELBETTER 11/12 // 6. BURTON FEATHER

I took my sweet time choosing my board in November because there are a ridiculous amount of technical aspects to consider e.g. type of rocker (shape of the board), what the board is best for – park, powder, all mountain etc. I wanted to find the perfect beginner – intermediate board to help me improve quickly so I eventually went for a Burton Feather Wide, which is number 6 in the photo but mine has a turquoise to purple fade instead of yellow to orange. (I wanted the yellow one okay?!) I admit that my lust list might be a little unrealistic because when I was mentally making it back in November some of these boards were out of my ability range, but to be perfectly honest they’re all mainly in this post because I think they just look so damn awesome. I entirely understand the emphasis on buying a board for how it rides over how it looks but let’s face it I was never going to spend hundreds of pounds on something that makes me want to gauge my eyes out. As an art student a little piece of me dies inside when I see the prices on some really ugly snowboards.

Also this week I found Boarding For Breast Cancer through twitter. They sound like a really great cause, providing education about and supporting young women and those affected by breast cancer, encouraging active, healthy lifestyle changes, and ultimately celebrating life both on and off a board. Gutted I only found them with only one more day of boarding to go, but I’m definitely going to get involved in some fundraising for them next year! So fellow snowboarders, what have you been riding this season?

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