All over the map

Turns out that while aimless travel has a certain appeal, there are also drawbacks in not knowing what to do next.  I can see how sometimes it would be better to have a plan in place.  Or a half plan.   I don’t love having to admit this because I’ve spent a lot of time lately cozy in my mild smugness of being so wildly free, but I promised myself I’d be completely honest in the blog so there it is. 

It seemed so easy while I was in Morocco, but now in hindsight I realize that my options were pretty simply laid out for me with the dimensions of the country.  Tourists generally make their way through the country going South or North with a few side steps thrown in for good measure.  Yes, I created my plan on the fly each day, but I was basically following a variation of the typical tourist trail. 

My travels in Morocco
And then I arrived in Europe and had the whole continent in front of me, full of more incredible places than I could see in several lifetimes…..   Suddenly I had a harder time choosing where to go.   I told a friend I’d met in Tangier that I was going to Portugal, and after one day of travel in that direction I changed my mind and went the opposite direction, retracing some ground, all the way to Barcelona.  Not my brightest move maybe. (Definitely)     
After Barcelona, I found myself buying a train ticket to France.  Some of you might remember having conversations with me before I left where I said I would be avoiding France, absolutely-for-sure not going to set foot in that country, and yet here I am.  Looks like this trip is turning me into a little liar – sorry!   Could have avoided all this falsehood by just having a teensy plan in place… Here’s something else about me: for inconsequential things like this I don’t bother getting too bogged down in regrets.   So here I am in France, and I AM SO GLAD I CAME!!  I love it here! 

Average doorway in Montpellier
This bottle of deliciousness was only 4€!
I have a new love of alleyways
Montpellier, France
In a happy coincidence, it turns out that I know TWO different people within a short distance from me; strangely enough both are aircraft engineers that I met through work.   I was able to spend a day exploring Nimes, an old Roman-style city nearby, with Sam and Sam’s rental car. If you ever find yourself in the area you HAVE to go check it out!   We had such a great day wandering charming French towns, snacking on crepes and Brie cheese, and people watching on a beach (much less creepy than it may sound I promise!)   
A Roman amphitheatre in France
Ancient Roman temple in Nimes, France
We’re both shutterbugs
Aigues-Mortes Castle where Louis IX set off for the crusades
Aigues-Mortes castle and modern life
Wine, because it’s France
Le Grau-du-Roi beach

Heartbreak and Hope

It’s a somber atmosphere around me today.  

I’m in Southern France, and last night while the country was celebrating a national holiday I was part of the outdoor crowds, revelling in the general joie de vivre in the air.  This morning I woke to the news that in the nearby city of Nice a deliberate attack killed 84 people, families out celebrating Bastille Day.  I cried as I read the news this morning, where I also saw the story of a missing girl in my home city ended in the tragic discovery of her body and murder charges pending. My heart hurts.

Attack in Nice
Calgary murders

A photo I took in Nice, 2007

It’s difficult to know how to transition when so much could be said on these devestating acts of violence.  But today I’ll take my cue from the people I see around me who fill the plaza on this sunny day: continue on, but be aware.  The cafes lining the plaza are crowded with people, white-shirted waiters bustling their trays back and forth and a street musician quietly strumming a guitar from time to time, but I also see soldiers unobtrusively patrolling the streets.  The sense I get isn’t one of head-in-the-sand “I won’t look so the bad can’t bother me” nor is it one of abject devestation but rather a reminder that life is precious and unpredictable, and maybe the best we can do right now is to go on with our days showing a little more love to the people around us.   Just a moment ago right in front of me, a family walked by and for no reason visible to me the father stopped to bend down and kiss the top of his young daughter’s head. It was only a split second and they were moving past again, but it brought tears to my eyes for the second time today.

A plaza in Montpellier