Why I came to Europe

Trip Start Mar 23, 2010
Trip End Aug 10, 2010

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Flag of France  , Île-de-France,
Saturday, June 19, 2010

India, Nepal, Tibet, China, Vietnam, and then.... France. Not quite the expected "next destination" on my trip, but here's why I went.

Sylvia's motherland was calling for her home to resume "normal life" in order to complete an internship as part of her degree. Me? I still had almost 2 months left of travel time before I (unfortunately) also have to return to my motherland (no, not China). I had a choice to make – continue travelling on my own onto my next destination, or go back to France with Sylvia. At first, the choice seemed daunting. Two very different paths with very different outcomes. How could I commit to one or the other?

Luckily for me, the decision wasn’t actually that difficult. I had met so many travelers from all over Europe and had my shares of cultural exchanges with them. Through these conversations, I realized how little I actually knew about life in Europe. I always thought that growing up in the “Western society” of Canada, my cultural upbringing and experiences were very similar to the “Western society” of Europe. But frankly, I learned that this was not simply so - I was constantly in situations where I had no idea what my European counterparts were talking about. After nearly 3 months in Asia, I felt that maybe it was the time for change.

The only reason not to go to Europe was money. Flying to Europe was not really cheap, neither was living in Europe. But I did a quick check of my bank account, realized I had more than enough funds to last me in Europe, and found a cheap ticket to Paris. The plan was to visit Paris for 3 days and then take the train to Sylvia's hometown of 6000 inhabitants near the politically-important city of Strasbourg and mooch off her family for several weeks. Being central to many places, Strasbourg would be my homebase to explore the nearby countries of Luxembourg, Belgium, Holland, Germany, and Switzerland. There are few places in the world where so many cultures can be experienced in such short distances from each other. 

I have in fact been on a 3 week tour across Europe before, arranged by my highschool after I had graduated. Despite seeing all the main sights and monuments in Europe, I missed out on experiencing the real heart of every destination - the people. If I was to experience the culture of any destination, I needed to live it and breath it. It was time to return to Europe and experience it right!
I must say that Paris is a beautiful city to photograph. We visited most of the main sites in Paris – Champs Elysses, Notre Damne, Eiffel Tower, Le Louvre. One of the most interesting sights though was the underground Catacombs. I am not sure exactly why it was built or what its purpose was, but under the city of Paris exists a series of tunnels housing literally thousands of human bones arranged neatly in some sort of storage/art display. The walls of these underground tunnels are built entirely of femurs and skulls. Knowing that this display is made of thousands of dead humans, you would think such a display is quite disgusting and eerie, which it is, yet the catacombs are strangely intriguing and beautiful. I couldn't help but think how crazy it is that this is just lying beneath the streets of Paris.

Other than the usual site seeting, the quintessential French experience is enjoying the food culture here. For the past few weeks, I have been spending my time getting fat eating baguettes and cheese, drinking wine, and dining out at some fine restaurants. Walking through the city streets of the warm summer evenings, it is clear that the French love to dine. All the streets are filled with patio restaurants all full with cheery people sipping wine. I realized that to the French, food is a lot more than just eating. It’s THE way people spend time together. On several occasions, I have been called in to the dinner table presumably to start eating. But instead, everyone is just sitting around drinking an aperitif and chatting for nearly an hour before the first hint of food arrives to the table. I found myself constantly asking (myself) “when is the food going to arrive!” I later learned it’s not unusual for dinners to last 4 hours or more. 

So yes, I still have a lot to learn from this wonderful land and I am excited for the remainder of my time here. Besides, it's finally time to put that bilingual Canadian education to good use!
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Richard on

Brings back the days when we were in Europe. I remember our German tour guide saying "Paris is a city of love! This means you Richard and Anny" Gosh that was retarded... But I SAY!!! PARIS IS A CITY FOR CHOW AND SILVIA

Anyways, I think I watched in a documentary about those skulls in your pic. They said that high society ppl lived above the ground and the poor lived under the ground. The people who lived underground were main targets for medical experiments in France. They would drag someone from underground and kill them (in the name of science). Lots of ppl were killed as a result of that along with disease and horrible living conditions. At one point I think that there was a flood or stn that killed most of the ppl there. I might be totally off though lol.

chowmander on

LOL, I remember that, Richard and Anny loool.

Ok, wow, your theory is quite out there. I'm pretty sure that must have been somewhere else... because I know the rough idea of what happened is that at one point there were so many dead bodies on the surface they decided to take them all and put it underground in these tunnels. Sometime afterwards, I'm not sure who.. or why.. but someone arranged all the bones in this sort of art form. That was definitely something I couldn't quite understand lol.

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