Photography

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As much as this blog is about travelling, it’s also about the pictures I’ve taken along the way. On the topic of last weeks post about school; I signed up for a French course and a photography course, both of which start in September. I’m really excited to learn more and expand creatively. With that in mind, I took a couple of shots this past week that I really liked and decided to share them here. Hopefully you enjoy them as well.

August 26, 2014

En Francais S’il Vous Plait!

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Currently I am studying to become a Pilates teacher and I’ve been in class for the past two weeks. Therefore, I have decided to reminisce about my time at school in France. In my head I couldn’t justify a trip like mine without learning something in the process; for me, that meant studying French. I already had some background but wanted to learn how to converse more confidently. After much research, I decided on EF Language School which has campuses worldwide. Their Nice campus was a no brainer for me because of my love for the city and the beach. The last time I was in school was in 2009, so understandably I was nervous going back to a school in a foreign country. Luckily I made friends at the residency on the first day and we pulled together for the first little bit. During the summer months, EF uses the University of Nice’s dorms for it’s students. I never lived in dorms before and enjoyed having my own room for that time. My new friends were both at different levels of French understanding and so we were split up in class. The great thing is most people didn’t know anyone else either and we all warmed up to each other fairly easily. The actual classes were quite long days overall and we could only speak French. Some days it was too intense on my brain and other days it was manageable. I surprised myself with what I could remember from my schooling back in the day. Quickly, I started to think in French and I got fairly comfortable with speaking. Making friends with local shop owners helped too. The Nicoise people are so welcoming and upon learning I was in school, they would encourage me to speak to them. Nice feels like home to me now and I miss it a great deal. EF Language School was a wonderful learning experience and I met a lot of amazing people. I’ll be continuing my studies of French this fall at night school. Above I’ve included a neat shot of the Promenade des Anglais from the lookout at dusk. After the heat of the day has subsided, all the street performers come out to play and the energy becomes electric. The promenade is a buzz into the wee hours of the morning, as is most of the area around the old town. EF’s unofficial bar is called Sansas and it’s just off Place Massena, which is the stunningly beautiful main square. They host a variety of events for the students there, including quiz night and salsa dancing. Being immersed in a language from all directions made all the difference for me. My time in Nice and at EF was invaluable and a memory I will cherish always.

July 1, 2013- August 10, 2013

Stalis, Crete

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As I have mentioned countless times in my posts, by the end of my trip I was not feeling the best physically. Crete came after Athens and Santorini, both of which took the last ounces of energy I had left; therefore, Crete became a place of rest for me. This photo is from my beach front hotel, which while not nearly as glamorous as it appears here, was very comfortable and clean. The view was by far my favourite part about my stay; I mean just look at it! My time on the island was spent in those beach chairs below. Safely planted in the first row by the water, I ordered a lot of drinks and food and sunbathed until my hearts content. In my spare time, I ventured along the single street my hotel was situated to do some shopping or dine out. No, I didn’t see much of what Crete has to offer, but I had a blissful experience to say the least. I will say this though, Greece had some of the best food I ate on my entire trip! Luckily, on my arrival I befriended a nice taxi driver who gave me a discount to my hotel (saving me because I had no more cash on me and couldn’t find the bus station). He gave me his number and I called him to take me to the airport when I left. Another person I met was Bruno, my server on the beach. He was such a nice man and took especially good care of me; even saving my chair for me on both my second and third day. Being in the service industry myself, I sincerely appreciate it when someone goes a little above. Thank you to those two men, you made my time in Crete that much better.

September 24-27, 2013

London Eye

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London was one of the few places that I had a list of all the sites I wanted to visit. One of my must-do items was the London Eye. It was fairly close to my hostel, so I made my way over first thing in the morning on my third day in London. I decided I’d buy my tickets to the London Eye first and then go back later in the day. After waiting in line for tickets for a long time (note: buy in advance), I learned you could purchase in advance for a specific time. On the advice of the attendant I made a reservation for 8:30pm. It was dusk as I lined up to board the ride and by the time I was in the air the sun had set. The last slivers of light slipped away to darkness and all of London lit up. The city sparkling below me was absolutely magical and I’m so happy I opted for that late ride. The first picture above, of one of the carriages with Big Ben in the background, took me the entire ride to capture. I didn’t think I’d get that shot and I’m really happy it came out (even though it’s on an iPhone camera). The second photo is now the wallpaper on my home screen; I just love the angle of the shot and the sky behind. Definitely some of my favourite photographs from London and one of the neatest experiences. At the end of the ride a little warning is announced to stand on the marks for your picture to be taken. It happens very quickly, much like on a roller coaster ride, and only myself and one other family heard the announcement. So, if souvenirs are your cup of tea, now you know!

August 27, 2013

Wasaga Beach, Canada

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This week, I had a couple days off and ran away to my favourite place, Wasaga Beach. I’m sure your scratching your head with that statement given my extensive beach repertoire. It’s my favourite because it’s one of the few places I feel close to my dad. It’s funny how certain places, smells or sounds can bring up so much emotion. It will be three years next week since we lost him and not a day goes by that I don’t miss him terribly. Wasaga Beach is nostalgic for me because as a teenager we came up each year to the cottage in Tiny Township. My step-sisters and I would get dropped off on the main beach and hang out all day, parent free. The beaches were too rocky for our liking in Tiny, but our parents enjoyed the quiet. So many of my memories from that time revolve around these shores; from getting ice cream after dinner, to going to the drive in, to taking the boat out fishing or visiting my godfather and his family. When I’m here the memories come flooding back around every corner. My friends and I also used a local campground for some post high school partying, including prom night. It’s one of those places that never seems to change either. Shops have closed and the strip is showing it’s wear; but it’s still very much the same as it was a decade ago. The biggest change is the the shopping area of the main beach that was lost to the fire a few years back; it’s noticeably empty and feels unfinished. When I visit I like to lay out closer to the beach 2 boarder, where it’s less crowded and noisy. Usually, I only get to come up for day trips but this year I got to stay for two nights. The Luau Resort is near beach 2 and is very clean, cozy and well maintained. The heated pool is a nice bonus and the view of the river is a pretty backdrop. This is the most peaceful and happy I’ve felt since I came back from Europe. My favourite feeling is that of being sandy, sun kissed and smelling of campfire.
This is definitely my happy place!

July 23-25, 2014

Bastille Day!

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Fête Nationale as it is known in France is today July 14 and commemorates the Storming of the Bastille in 1789 and celebrates French unity among the people. Last year I was in Nice, France during the festivities and snapped this picture of Le Negresco hotel! Bon fête!

A World Record!

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This week was filled with friends, family, sun and fun; as a result, I wanted to keep the energy high for this post too. Probably the coolest moment this year was in Dubai at their record breaking fireworks display. In a previous post there is a detailed account of the entire trip, but I thought it would be fun to see the video I shot of the fireworks! This was taken at the Hilton hotel’s beach which faces the Palm and had a prime view of the whole display. This was an incredible way to ring in the new year and I’m so grateful to have gotten to witness it in person. I hope you like the video! Please follow the link below to view my Facebook video of the fireworks!

January 1, 2014

https://www.facebook.com/shawna.marie.503?ref=tn_tnmn

Verona, Italy

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(La Traviata- Arena di Verona)

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(Juliet’s Balcony)

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(Juliet statue and the original letter wall.)

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(The first of many Aperol spritz and my vintage B&B keys.)

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(An attempt to catch the energy of Verona.)

What can I say about Verona? Home to Romeo and Juliet and famous for its opera; it’s also the first place I tried an Aperol Spritz! As is the theme with most of my trip (as you probably have noticed), I was only there for a short time. Less than a day actually from start to finish; I used it as a stopover between Switzerland and Florence. Mostly though I just wanted to see Juliet’s house and opted for a bed and breakfast next door (literally). After missing my bus stop (note: transportation drivers are not always helpful) and walking back quite a bit and purchasing a map, I finally found the B&B only to have no answer with the doorbell. I ended up having to call and since she had expected me about 2 hours prior, she had gone out. Luckily she wasn’t too far and within 30 minutes I was checked it, changed and ready to see Verona. The B&B itself was quaint but lovely, very feminine due to its owner but I enjoyed that aspect. The massive shutters opened to the bustling street below and added character to the rather modern space. The owner was the quintessential Italian woman, animated and exquisite. She was beyond welcoming and accommodating (I had my breakfast at 6am). My favourite part though, was how she said “Prego” as every other word. She’s the one who informed me an opera was to be preformed that very evening and I must attend to get the full Verona experience. I only really knew about Juliet’s house and because I knew my stay was brief, I didn’t look up what else to do or see. Thinking an Italian opera sounded wonderful, I made a metal note to check out tickets and headed next door to Juliet’s house. The courtyard part is free but it is quite small and pictures are difficult with people in every nook and cranny. The house is a bit larger and costs to go in which lessens the crowds a great deal. After looking around at the sparse space, I made my way to the electronic computer area to write my letter to Juliet (no paper letters anymore). Next was a quick stop on the famous balcony and I was desperately wishing I wasn’t alone at that moment so is have picture evidence of it. That was it, short but sweet and exactly what I had come to see. With an evening to kill now, I wandered around the cobblestone streets; just taking it all in. Verona is just a buzz with energy from tourists and locals alike. I found the arena and bought my ticket to the opera, “La Traviata”. By this point, exhaustion is starting to set in and I find a little restaurant to rest, eat and sit and to watch the passersby. After dinner, I make my way back to dress for the opera; suddenly I’m grateful to have brought a dress but missing my heels. Again with too much time on my hands before the start, I venture to a nearby piazza for a drink. Sitting in Verona, waiting for the opera, I realize I am in a sea of orange beverages. Being curious I order one and that, my friends, is the life changing moment of my first Aperol spritz! For those of you who have not had one it is Aperol, which is a bitter orange liqueur, and sparkling wine and it is delicious! As if I could follow that (ha-ha), I went to the opera. I sat beside a lovely German couple on a second honeymoon type vacation, which I quickly became friends with. They hand out candles and it’s so magical in the open air arena with the sun setting and the hundreds of candles all aglow. I couldn’t believe I had almost missed it. The opera itself was an experience and although I couldn’t understand the words it was wonderful. It was also familiar and after a déjà vu moment, I text my friend to Google its movie origin. Turns out I was sitting at the very same opera as Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman!! At the last intermission I took a quick photo with my new friends and we said our goodbyes. I couldn’t keep my eyes open and knowing I was heading into a long day with Florence and Rome, I left before the end. The streets had calmed down significantly but it was still very lively as I walked home. I didn’t want to go to bed but I knew I had to and so with great sadness I ended my only day in Verona. The next morning I ate and took another pause at the gate to Juliet’s for a photo op and I was off to my next city. I would definitely return as there is a lot more to Verona then those two sites but I feel more then content with what I experienced. It’s a very romantic and family oriented city and maybe because I was a touch homesick, I felt a bit lonely here. I’d like to bring a companion if I ever get the chance again; if only to have someone to take my picture of Juliet’s balcony!

June 22-23, 2013

Start to Finish

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Today is a special day because it is exactly one year since I left Toronto for Paris, France! I wanted to tackle Paris this week but as it is with life, things come up. So I’ve decided to instead give you a list of everywhere I actually went on my trip. Until now I’ve only written about certain places I’ve gone, so I thought by giving the whole list then you could request a place to hear about. Sound good?
So here it is! In order from start to finish:
1. Paris, France
2. Giverny, France
3. Mont St. Michel, France
4. Geneva, Switzerland
5. Montreux, Switzerland
6. Verona, Italy
7. Rome, Italy
8. Florence, Italy
9. Positano, Italy
10. Cinque-Terre, Italy
11. Nice, France
12. Cannes, Italy
13. Eze, France
14. Monaco, France
15. Lyon, France
16. St. Tropez, France
17. Antibes, France
18. Munich, Germany
19. Prague, Czech Republic
20. Berlin, Germany
21. Copenhagen, Denmark
22. Amsterdam, Netherlands
23. Bruges, Belgium (stopover in Brussels)
24. London, England
25. Edinburgh, Scotland
26. Dublin, Ireland
27. Marbella, Spain
28. Seville, Spain
29. Barcelona, Spain
30. Bilbao, Spain
31. St. Julian’s, Malta (including Valletta and Gozo)
32. Athens, Greece
33. Santorini, Greece
34. Crete
35. Ayia Napa, Cyprus
C’est tous!
So let me know if there is anywhere specific you want to hear about next week! This truly was a once in a lifetime adventure filled with incredible experiences and amazing new friends. I lost my father almost 3 years ago and it hit me incredibly hard. I was just sort of floundering; at a loss for what was next. It sounds silly but this trip put me back together. I feel more like myself again; I feel joy again. Of course I still miss him terribly, that never goes away. June 4th was his birthday and with Father’s Day, it is tough. Today, at the one year mark, I am feeling sad and nostalgic. Right now I’m sitting at work and wishing I was on a plane instead, but I’ll be off again soon enough. Until then, I have my blog to keep my memories vivid and my photos to reminisce over. No matter where life takes me, this trip will always be one of the best times in my life. It could not have been any better if I had dreamt it, even the weather was perfect. I know how lucky I am and I hope I’m half as lucky in the future.

June 13, 2013- October 1, 2013

(Photos above: Eiffel Tower and me in Cyprus. The start and finish of my trip.)