We’re back from a two-week getaway to unforgettable Paris, my favorite city in the world. I’ve taken thousands of pictures which I am slowly processing, but for now here are some shots on film. They were taken in the Palais Royal gardens, among magnolias and typically Parisian square-crowned trees.
I thought I’d share some photos from our holiday this past August. We went to Florence, Tuscany and Lyon. Both D & I studied in Lyon and it was great to see our friends, catch up and see the city again through new eyes.
Here are some of the photos we took. Some are instagrams, others are taken with my trusty tilt-shift (the ones with “weird” focus) which I love. One of my favorite things is going through old photos and remembering the adventures we had. I’ll try to write down any details that come to mind, so keep on reading if you’d like to visit these parts of Italy and France anytime soon. See Part 1 here.
Cinque Terre (Five Lands) is one of my favorite places on earth. We spent a day there – we drove from Florence to Levanto where we parked the car (you cannot take a car through Cinque Terre) and then bought a whole day pass (10 euro) which gives you access to all the hiking trails in the area as well as the regional trains which pass through all five villages.
This was how we scheduled our day:
Levanto – (train) – Riomaggiore – (walk on Via dell’ Amore) – Manarola – (train) – Monterosso – (hike) – Vernazza – (train) – Levanto
We spent a few hours visiting Riomaggiore, Manarola and Monterosso. The hike to Vernazza is no picnic and it took us ~2.5 hours. My favorite views were of Manarola and Vernazza as you can see from the multitude of pictures I took.
The azure Mediterranean seen from Via dell’ Amore
Beautiful Manarola, where we had lunch
Monterosso al Mare, the only one of the 5 villages with a sandy beach.
From the arduous hike Monterosso-Vernazza
And finally, gorgeous Vernazza at dusk.
This past weekend we went to a nearby ski resort for some nature time, fresh air and good time. The temperature was perfect and it was snowing wonderfully. Although I wasn’t sad, I was reminded of this sorrowful poem about winter.
Yet another snow storm hit Montreal the day before yesterday which means I am *this* close to LOSING IT! Here is proof from my Instagram feed.
Fortunately I have a few tricks that help me brave these polar winters, which I’m going to share with you today. If you live in Florida or Australia, bugger off, but if you’re from somewhere closer to the Arctic Circle, read on. Who knows, maybe you’ll actually become one of those people who actually loves winter. *Shudder*.
A good coat and pair of boots are vital. Something light (you don’t need 5 extra pounds on when you’re climbing over heaps of snow to cross the road) but windproof is best. I love my Canada Goose Whistler Parka – it goes down to my knees and the hood is so warm I don’t need to wear an extra hat. I also love my Ugg Adirondacks – they are waterproof, fluffy and suuuuper warm. For a person whose feet are always a few degrees colder than normal, these boots are a blessing.
Moisturize, moisturize and then moisturize some more. Between the outside where every bit of moisture turns to ice and the inside with the heaters on, my skin, my lips and my hair become very dry. So I’m always looking for good lotions and creams. I love these 99% natural ones from Burt’s Bees as well as this one with shea butter from Barr-Co.
Let the sunshine in. I think what gets to me the most during the winter months is the lack of sunlight, more than the actual cold. Sunshine = happiness, so no wonder many people get depressed especially during the last stretch of winter. That’s why I make sure to really enjoy the sun as much as I can: draw the curtains in the morning, go for a short walk at lunchtime (weather permitting), start work an hour earlier and finish the day at 4pm instead of 5pm.
Make a cozy home. Since we’re spending so much time indoors, it’s essential that our home is warm, cozy and welcoming. I buy a bouquet of fresh flowers (ideally every week, but i don’t get around to it all the time), I light some scented candles like this citrus one from Diptyque or this one from Chapters, and I leave plenty of fluffy blankets in every room in case we get cold.
Hot tea and cocoa. There isn’t anything more soothing after a cold day than some hot tea with lemon & honey or a steaming cup of cocoa. I love Kusmi teas because they have a large assortment to choose from and come in cute, colorful boxes. He he!
Yummy comfort food. I’d like to say I’m baking a lot but I’m not (and sadly I can’t indulge in baked goods due to some digestive issues) but that doesn’t prevent me from making a lot of creamy soups, ragus and stews and even roast beef! W00t! By the way, I think The Pioneer Woman is the queen of comfort food. Check out her blog and cookbook for appetizing, buttery recipes.
Cheer yourself up with color. I don’t know about your city, but Montreal gets so grey and depressing after a snow storm. So I try to wear colorful makeup (like the Nars Schiap lipstick), change my nail polish often (I’m loving the Canyon Coral from Essie), put on happy socks or a colorful scarf.
Board games, books and movies galore. I love playing Taboo when we have friends over. I guess an ideal evening with friends in my mind would equal some kind of board game, homemade pizza and apple cider. Books and movies are awesome too, right? Check out my previous post for a list of novels I’ve enjoyed. In terms of movies, I’ll post a list with my favorites of late, but we love Homeland, Downton Abbey and Episodes (with Matt Leblanc) in case you’re looking for something to watch.
So there you go. Phew, this post took a while to write. is it spring yet?
For my birthday, early last month, D got me a gift certificate for half a day at a local spa. Hooray! So I made an appointment and prepared myself for four hours of bliss. It was actually my first time ever getting a facial, a massage or setting foot in a hammam (Turkish steam bath) – I was, for lack of a better phrase a spa virgin.
The day I chose for my appointment turned out to be one of those Arctic-like days in Montreal (-30°C, plus wind chill) and while braving the gusts all that was giving me strength was the idea of being bathing in 60°C steam. Sweating profusely was very appealing.
The hammam was divine – to say my expectations of the whole experience were exceeded is an understatement. As I stepped out after 15 minutes, I didn’t think I could be more relaxed than that and still awake. Well, it turns out I was wrong. Next in my schedule was the facial which I also loved. But God bless technology, because you know what I liked the most (perhaps because it really took me by surprise)? Pressure booties. They put these huge boots that go up to your thighs on you, and they (boots, not thighs) are connected to a vacuum system which makes the boots become super tight on your legs. They’re very good for circulation and they’re oh so relaxing! My relaxo-meter was going up-up-up.
Next, the massage. On the sheet I had to fill out before starting, I wrote down the parts of my body that give me pain (mostly shoulders and lumbar zone, compliments of thesis writing) and that I wanted a relaxation massage (mostly because I had no idea what a Swedish or Chinese massage was – silly me, not checking Wikipedia before). Also, I was hoping I would not have a male therapist because I am such a prude and would not have enjoyed it very much (this comes to mind). Thankfully the therapist was this sweet little Asian lady.
She told me right off the bat she would not give me a relaxation massage because she herself would not pay for one. “I have a husband, why pay somebody else to do that?” is what she said. It made me chuckle and I liked her immediately. She massaged every inch of my muscles, and probably every mm of my neck with a Hulk-esque force in her fingers. It hurt so bad, but I loved it! When she got to my feet, oh boy! I am very ticklish and I had to grab the sheet really tight to not laugh or kick her horse-style. But we both got through it unharmed. Well, I was a bit frazzled and would be very sore the next day, but overall unharmed.
Final part – the wrap treatment. I chose green algae. The way it worked was that I got mushed algae spread over me and I laid on a bed wrapped in a plastic sheet and an electric blanket from head to toe. Like a mummy in a hot and sticky sarcophagus, I had to lie there for half an hour. About 5 minutes in, my claustrophobia kicked in and I had to wiggle to free my arms lest I lost my mind. The heat also kicked in and I started sweating. I was sticky, sweaty and confined. Who’d actually like that? A snail maybe. Not me. So, wrap treatments? Never again.
Concluding remarks: I loved it (almost all of it) and can’t wait to be pampered like that again. (Hint, hint, D!)