An Ode to the Trips

You know those friends that always say they can’t chill because they’re “busy”? Well, travel blog, sorry for being that friend for a while.

This year has indeed been a busy one. Still, I did manage to get in a bit of site-seeing and linguistic exercise when I could catch my breath. As such, before the year starts afresh, I thought it best to take a look back at some of the traveling I forgot to mention but which were nevertheless unforgettable.

The last time we spoke, I described my beautiful adventures to the #westside in Vancouver, B.C.; yet, that hadn’t been the rest of the best.

Just after that trip, I was whisked away by my knight-in-shining armour (boyfriend) to the wonderful island of Hawaii (Boston, Massachusetts) for a relaxing vacation (a week-long business trip). At first, I was less than enthused: “You mean the place with those donuts, yeah?” Craving for more adventure, I went along anyways.

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Downtown Pier: Best clam chowder ever.

Surprisingly, it was an absolute blast! Our Airbnb was near to everything: the universities; historic monuments; and the various downtown cores. Boston is also very walkable, a feature we loved and took advantage of.

But the best part of the trip came right at the end.

One of my favourite podcasts to listen to, made in part by the New York Times, is produced at a local Boston radio station, WBUR, called Modern Love. Earlier in the week, I had the idea that maybe we could drop in to say hello and fangirl for a few minutes about how great the show is to the show’s host.

Unfortunately, once we got there, we were told that the host was busy. Instead, they invited us to meet the show’s producer, Anne Marie Sivertson, who spontaneously gave us a tour of the station. Cool!

But it gets better.

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Harvard Stadium: the American Dream.

She then proceeded to sit us down and offer us the chance to ask her anything about the show, a great treat as I had so many questions. To top it all off, she offered us free tickets to see a live taping of another popular podcast, The Moth, and gave us her contact info to stay in touch.  Much better than donuts. Awesome.

The next destination took me just across the border to Connecticut (pronounced /CONNECT-IT-CUT:/ according to my ever stubborn, Jamaican mother) for a cricket tournament. Boy, was that a trip.

Though it coincided with my birthday, the trip was anything but celebratory. Stuck on a bus full of country, city and “farrin” Jamaicans all-in-one from morning till night; I can still hear the slams of dominos echoing in my ear drums to this day. Between the cricket matches and discount shopping stops, not much time was left to explore the city.

Again, what a trip.

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La chute Montmorency: une belle vue.

Fast-forward a few months, it was as if I took a trip back in time to visit the place where it all began: Vieux-Quèbec, Quèbec.

My travel bug really took its first bite when I worked at a musical camp there in Gr. 11 for five weeks, away from anything I really knew. That trip was the first, since migrating, that really made me feel different, and which forced me to open my eyes to the differences between cultures; even one that was just about a day’s drive up north.

This was probably the best trip to end on, too, for this year, as it brought back a few of those feelings and thoughts of discovery I experienced during that period of my life. In fact, as I write this post from my family home for the holidays, I recall a night a few days ago I spent going through some of my old creative writing pieces and chemistry quizzes, stuffed in my closet, from high school.

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“The more they search, the more they doubt.”

High school was definitely something, but it was a lot of other things too. Please leave the acne, “emotional turmoil”, friendship break-ups and all other unnecessary (though entertaining, now looking back) drama in the past. But do bring back the excited nervousness of school plays; the joy of vocal classes; the passion to complete magnum opus projects and english essays.

2016 was not a bad year, though it was definitely uninspiring. And so with that, 2017 will be The Year of Creativity.

It will be the year where I do the absolute most with the things I love: singing, dancing, cooking, baking, traveling, writing. When we are our most creative, I find, we are our best selves. It’s human nature. All that we do that is different, innovative, transformative, and progressive, is creative.

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Quèbec Pride Week – allons-y les gars!

This year, I allowed myself to get lost in the popular societal, adult habit of focusing on what I have to do and how to do it, severely neglecting what I love to do and when to do it. But not this round.

Next year is gonna be good as hell.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of the Moment:

A Look Around the Bend

Travelling is a gift, I’ve said it time and time again.

Travelling is also a task. I recently read a brilliant book titled, The Geography of Bliss, where author Eric Weiner describes his mighty adventure in search of the happiest place on earth.

Lock and key: on the Hohenzollern Bridge, Cologne, Germany.

Lock and key: on the Hohenzollern Bridge, Cologne, Germany.

Deep into the text, Weiner explains the history of travel: “The word “travel” stems from the same root as “travail”, the word for ‘work’ in French. For centuries, traveling was equated with suffering. Only pilgrims, nomads, soldiers, and fools traveled.” To think that travel was an unfortunate destiny for many in the past is an odd thought for this generation; travelling is deemed a luxury, a dream, something only the rich and lucky can do often.

When I say that travel is a task, I don’t mean the same tedious measures as it was back in the day; travelling demands commitment, dedication and enthusiasm. Travelling tests you to see how much you will do to make it work: will you wake up early on a Wednesday morning to get the best flight prices? Will you suck it up to stay in nothing more than a budget-hostel? Will you turn down expensive transit for sole sight-seeing with bikes? on foot?

Politics isn't always pretty: L'Hôtel de la Chambre (Chamber of Deputies), Luzebourg City, Luxembourg.

Politics can be pretty: L’Hôtel de la Chambre (Chamber of Deputies), Luxembourg City, Luxembourg.

If you answered yes to all of those questions, then travel is what you want.

Travel may seem like it also tests your finances (which it does, sometimes), but there are ways to get around that: travelling to work.

Old habits die hard, yes, but the burden they bring are long past. With the development of technology, travel methods are no longer a burden, but quick and easy, allowing work and travel to go hand in hand. I mean, you get to discover while you get paid; it’s genius! And if your dedication still runs thick, the task of finding outlets to do this that meets your needs can be tricky but possible. To help with your search, check out these sites:

International work and travel organizations – http://www.gointernational.ca/work-and-travel-abroad/overview.aspx, http://www.swap.ca/out_eng/index.aspx
For the environmental worker – http://www.wwoof.net/
For the Canadians looking for work – http://www.international.gc.ca/development-developpement/partners-partenaires/avail-internships-stages-dispo.aspx?lang=eng
For those who want to work without the cash reward – www.lattitudecanada.org

So travelling is work, but it’s fun work; and where there’s a will, there’s a way.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of the Moment:

Comme les Éléphants

While wondering the halls of the musée Dauphinois right by my French residence, I happened upon a quote by mountaineer, Caroline Villeneuve, that read, “Mon rêve, c’était de faire comme les éléphants, de revenir où je suis née” or in English, “My dream, it was to do as the elephants, to come back to where I was born.” For some reason, this has resonated with me since then and I did not really know why until now.

I recently returned from a fulfilling trip back to Jamaica. It was the first time I travelled for the holidays since moving further north, and I have decided that travel during the winter season to a warmer destination can cause some painful withdrawals, upon return, which I do not admire at this time.

Uptown Kingston at primet-time: Hop on while you can!

Uptown Kingston at prime-time: hop on while you can!

Still, though I have taken this trip before, I had never taken it like this. The fragile innocence of youth can blind one to the realities that they have lived, and this trip exposed me to many of these facts and figures I had not concretely defined before.

Simply put, it was a family trip to celebrate the start of the end and the end of the start.

Nevertheless I went into this with an agenda; comme les éléphants, I knew that there was much to rediscover and I only had two weeks. I prepared myself as I had during last summer’s European adventure: I made a list of destinations after a quick search on TripAdvisor and I made a promise to myself that no time would be wasted; at least once every day, the sun would shine on my face. Soon I came to realise that my agenda was becoming of something more.

Negril: Rick's Café at sunset is a must.

Negril: Rick’s Café at sunset is a must.

It is quite difficult to explain exactly my experience; to analogize, it is as if I have been telling a story I once remembered so clearly as a kid, as clear as real life. Every time I retold this story, something was added to it or taken away; and so everytime I retold this story, it felt less true, less authentic, like I had never really known it before. So once I began seeing characters and objects from this story again, things slowly came back to me, still faint but ever so familiar.

Unlike my European escapades where walking was a must, we drove everywhere; it was a blessing and a curse as the heat could kill, but I had to absorb everything in 5 seconds or less. Even so, for the things that took more time, like going to the supermarket or meeting my father’s friend from high school, I was like a sponge in water.

St. Catherine - Flat Bridge: on the road.

St. Catherine : on the road to Flat Bridge.

Conversations had more depth, people and places had more features, and my memories had more flavour. I concluded then that, in all my denial as a proud immigrant against acclimatization, I could now properly justify my multinationality as the proof was right there.

I did indeed live a part of this story, but a long time ago; when trees grow, their roots stretch out, reaching ends once unknown to that same trunk. So I may have lost my accent, and I cannot easily differenciate between uptown and downtown as other locals; but my roots all started from the same spot that I can and will always return to.

It never hurts to learn what you have always known.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of the Moment:

On the ride

“So this cousin is your dad’s fourth cousin’s daughter-in-law’s brother’s uncle’s wife’s neighbor’s dog’s friend’s sister’s mom…”

I previously spoke of my background; where I come from, how I moved from there, and how I do not know my exact roots. I also spoke of becoming cultured by travelling and learning the cultures, and in turn, histories, of these new friends and “family”. I always thought my family to be a small one: my mom’s side was big, yes, but that was due mainly to extra family brought in by marriages, etc (I can count the number of cousins I have on her side on one hand – nope – let’s make it two fingers). But then on my dad’s side, what I thought to be just one cousin not even my age, I am now discovering is immense.

One of the many lochs of Scotand...

Scotland: Lochland

The opening line for this entry is exactly the sort of thing I have been hearing over and over for the past few days here in London, and I am absolutely loving it.

While living with my immediate family up north for the past decade and a bit, I always loved our closeness and small family-gatherings since all we have are each other up there; but now, to discover that I have a whole pool of people I can call cousins, second cousins, friends-of-seconds-who-are-like-family, it’s just such a heart-warming feeling!

Oslo Opera House: a view..

Oslo Opera House: a view..

I have changed my ways as I’ve grown and come to appreciate the same quality of love in smaller numbers, but for a time, I used to get really jealous – yes, jealous is the right, true word here – when a friend of mine would brag, if you will, about her weekend family gatherings, another wedding she had to go to or her new baby cousin. I kept wishing that I could experience a big family like that where the head count went on for hours if not days, but I never thought I would.

And now I am.

This just proves how much one can discover by getting out of one’s shell, from under one’s rock, and just giving the world a big hello.

I’ve been trying to meld well into life’s new adventures as I cope with the end of the last one: it’s been hard, I’ll admit, but these past few weeks venturing to Scotland’s gem highlands, the ABBA museum of Stockholm, and the statues of Oslo’s Vigelandsparken, and now discovering the extent of my blood have shown me that there is so much more to come.

What a rush!

Stockholm: What a rush!

I won’t forget yesterday but I must still look ahead to tomorrow.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music for the Moment:

Ahoj

There are just some moments in life where you need no explanation; no reiteration; no visuals or tell-all’s. They have been lived and experienced; enjoyed and appreciated; loved and remembered and that is enough.

This exchange was absolute bliss and I know it is imprinted in my memory forever.

Merci la France, vous tenez pour toujours une pièce de mon cœur.

À la prochaine (il y en aura bien sur une),
Moi

Music of the Moment:

Vingt-et-un

If anyone told me as a child what my life would be like now, I would never believe them.

The mystery of life is so enticing; we go on about our days not really knowing what lies ahead (no matter how much we try to plan every move) with a strong thirst for finding out where we are going and how far we’ll get.

Ever since I can remember, I have been curious about it all: how I got here, what I am here for, and who and what will I discover. That curiosity has led me into some trouble, I must admit; not everything needs to be understood, I’ve learned, but just accepted. On the other hand, that curiosity has led me to some of the greatest moments of my life thus far, and this exchange has been one of the greatest.

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La Tour Eiffel: ya d’autre si belle comme elle?

I honestly could not have predicted how this exchange would change my life. Looking back on it at the beginning, I was scared, frightened; I just kept assuming, imaging the worst once I got on that plane from home onward. I knew that change was coming, but as life’s mysterious ways play, I was not quite sure how or if I’d like it.

Yet, as Gail Sheehy once said, “If we don’t change, we don’t grow; and if we don’t grow, we aren’t living,” and that is my ultimate goal in life – to live; so with that, changes must come…and I must grow. I have slowly watched myself progress in academics, social and professional settings, but this exchange, like my previous travel endeavors, has shown me more of myself than ever before, and I do quite like it.

I like myself.

I feel some find it hard to say, to admit with humility that they appreciate themselves. But I do, I really do. And when I say I appreciate myself, that comes along with everything that makes me me. My mother, my father, my sister, my aunts, uncles, cousins, my friends, co-workers, even my laptop that I’m using to write this with.

I owe all that I have accomplished to everyone and everything that has helped me get there, and I am forever grateful for that support – there is nothing stronger.

So with that, I shall celebrate today by celebrating the lives that give life to my own.

With love.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of the Moment:

xoxo

If you dig a little, you can find treasure in your own backyard.; and this week, I got a little muddy.

Every North American that comes to Europe, in my opinion, has the mentality that they must explore. No matter how much it takes, nor by what means, as many countries must be visited and checked off while you’re here because it’s EUROPE (also, reading articles like these just gets the Dora the Explorer in you even more hyper:  http://themindunleashed.org/2014/04/visited-201-countries-world-without-using-plane.html ).So naturally, when I found out that I would finally be crossing the pond, I quickly made a list of all the wonders I had to see on the other side.

One thing that has been difficult for me to check off my list is Italy, Italia, the land of all things Vatican and pesto. I almost had a chance to go this weekend, to start off a week-long vacation at uni, but my plans were thrown off by travel doubts and too many inquiries into the means of getting to the ends. So, I had no choice but to stay in Grenoble, which frustrated my plans and ruffled my feathers a little too.

Funny enough though, when things don’t go right, we can always go left.

I like to keep up with life’s pace so doing absolutely nothing this weekend was a definite ‘no’. However, I did end up discovering a piece of France’s beauty that was only a few kilometers away in a town called Vizille. There is a chateau, a mesmerizing park, and an atmosphere of exploration which necessitated but only a half hour’s drive.

Chateau Vizille: a palace of wonders...

Chateau Vizille: a palace of wonders…

There’s a line in the American Idol winner, Fantasia’s first ever single, “I Believe,” where she questions, “Ever felt like you were dreaming, just to find that you’re awake?” As I take in everything that is happening in my life at this time, it is hard to believe that I am awake; that this indeed is not a dream. To have your dreams spring to life almost feels as if it’s someone else who’s living them and you’ve just got the best seat in the house, watching tirelessly as you stuff a handful of extra-buttered popcorn into your mouth with every new scene.

Swan Lake: beauty in the backyard....

Swan Lake: beauty in the backyard….

She continues to sing, “And that magic that surrounds you can lift you up, and guide you on your way.” That magic that surrounds me is my family – and that includes all; blood relatives, friends-so-close-they’re-family, and my residence family, living here with me while on exchange. The love and support I receive in my life for no matter what I do is astounding, and like Fantasia as she sings in the spotlight on the eve of her Idol title, I too feel like I have won, and that feeling is bliss.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of the Moment:
Pour mes amours, ceux qui me donnent leurs coeurs et qui acceptent gracieusement le mien…

P.S. Happy Birthday Lexi :*

“Me with bike.”

The infamous poet T.S. Eliot once said, “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go,” and my trip to the modest island of Ireland proved just that.

Control is good; control is stable; control is power. But to depend on life to constantly give one control over ever possible detail of everyday happenings is an impossible feat, and nonetheless ridiculous at that. Still, my developing mind is naïve and, from time to time, I regain hope that at some point what has been planned will go as planned.

Guinness Lake: named after the beer, but so much better...

Guinness Lake: named after the beer, but so much better…

Yet, as I continue to travel and discover others parts of the world and the people who reside there, I continue to grasp the fact that control is not everything; in fact, the appreciation for the lack of control involved is what can make an event become an adventure. I had been organizing this trip since before I left home: the plan was to go to Ireland during my March break for a week, participate in a few tours in and around Dublin, the “city where the girls are pretty”, and then make my way to a nearby city to visit a co-worker who would greet me with a much-needed familiar face and show me around her temporary neck-of-the-woods.

Little did I know that once I arrived in the land of luck, a cancellation here and a sorry there would leave me with three empty days in a foreign land and a hurried search for a place to lay my head at night.

I was not in the greatest of moods, to say the least.

My anger grew gradually but never quite reached the level of stress and nervousness which I had at the thoughts of the control slowly slipping from my grasp (Drake’s Trust Issues, one could refer to the feeling as). But once again, a little step-outside-the-body moment and I was back to reality. I was in DUBLIN for pete’s sake; when would that ever happen again?

So I pulled up my big-girl pants, booked an extra two nights at Abigail’s Budget hostel (great place!) and set out to do what I intended – to LIVE. Since I had already lost control over my previous plans, I sort of just decided to wing the rest of the trip, which turned out to be the best plan ever.

Phoenix Park: take a ride around, even the little things will have you stopping for a gaze...

Phoenix Park: take a ride around, even the little things will have you stopping for a gaze…

To sum it up, I managed to meet a  bunch of great people from around the world (from Brazil to Boston with quite a lot of French in between); got to see some amazing sites which should make Ireland a definite destination on anyone’s list, like the Cliffs of Moher and Guinness Lake; witnessed a raunchy (but it’s Ireland, I mean, come on!) comedy show; and opposite to that, experienced the upscale side of Dublin as I watched a psychologically-intriguing play at one of Europe’s oldest theatres.

Smock Ally Theatre: one of Europe's oldest...

Smock Ally Theatre: one of Europe’s oldest…

And like all adventures, this one did indeed go out with a bang. As I had to hurriedly search for a place to rest my head after my plans fell through, I was left without much choice on my last night, and being momentarily homeless in the airport was my best bet. But then I remembered that I signed up as a member of a site called “couchsurfing.org” and as fate so had it, after multiple requests for a couch for the night, and even more frequent denials, late in the afternoon on Friday, I received a message from a friendly stranger asking if I still needed help.

And he sure did lend quite a helpful hand.

Cliffs of Moher: never have I seen a view...

Cliffs of Moher: never have I seen a view…

Which brings me back to Sir Eliot’s quote: control, as I’ve said before, is good. Control is stable. But control is also limiting. As I let go of whatever real control I had left or could have slightly regathered, I was able to open up my eyes and mind to the endless possibilities that were practically slapping me across the face as they passed.

Now, I’m not saying sleeping in a bunch of strangers’ houses is what gives you real sense of living, let’s be practical here; I do advise, however, to loosely hold the wheel sometimes, because you never know where the side road may take you. If it is a dark, sketchy side road though, with an unnecessarily high amount of potholes, back away, I repeat, BACK AWAY.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of the Moment:

adventureception.

In the most uncertain of times, it is often best not to judge the moment, but just let it be; that is something that travelling and being away from any and all things familiar gradually teaches you, I find.

This past weekend brought about my first adventure within an adventure as a couple of friends and I went a bit north from our current city of residence to a smaller, quaint ville called Aix-les-Bains. Our number one destination there was the grand Lac du Bourget, a beautiful lake by the mountainside. But of course, like every adventure, there was a lot of extra stuff in between where the journey started and where it ended.

The start was a little shaky.

We were running a bit behind schedule but luckily we weren’t found running behind our train. The ride was smooth and the trip not very long. Once we arrived in Aix-les-Bains, we attempted to look for a nice café to dine in for lunch. The search was endless as many shops were closed (you’ll often find yourself question when people work and how they make any sufficient income over here).

Once we found what seemed to be a reasonable stop, we eventually realized its unsatisfactory menu items and decided to leave after sitting down, taking a look at what was offered and quickly using the washroom. The latter was our worst mistake as the owner of the shop decided, right after we left her shop, to come from behind her counter, storm outside  to where we had stopped to take a look at the shop across hers and yell at us for occupying her washroom but not her business.

After we had lunch at the wonderful restaurant Au Bureau, the endless search for an open bakery started. Once we retrieved our goods, we went on our way to the lake.

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Lac du Bourget is an absolutely stunning sight to see. The way the sun glistened on the water ripples was near indescribable (but luckily captured on photo). I highly recommend this destination to anyone  desiring to visit the lower France regions.

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As I sat there admiring Mother Nature’s softer side, I  couldn’t help but think of how much  little thought went into this trip. It  was really more of a point-on-the- map-and-just-go sort of thing and it  worked – it really did work.

That’s why whenever someone asks me what I want to do with my life, I always think it should be rephrased with, “What does life want to do with me?” Now, of course that is a question I cannot answer as I have yet to completely break through the surface that is my life; still, I find it best to just sometimes let it be. Let it be and you will see.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of the moment:

On est là.

I used to do this thing as a kid while travelling; once I arrived somewhere, the first thing I would do was always to take one deep breath in and taste the air of the foreign land. The air was always new, unfamiliar to me, and desired immensely.

Once I arrived in France this past week, it was only natural for me to do the same. It struck me by surprise, however, that the smell was no different from where I came from nor where I’ve been.

I don’t know if it’s because I was still inside the airport when I inhaled, but another thought which explains otherwise has crossed my mind. Before I left for this trip, I mentally held the journey, this country, and its people so highly, much more highly than my own life (sort of like a fairy tale experience that only happens in dreams). Because I put it all on such a high pedestal, I made it out to seem almost impossible to feat myself, which explains most of my pre-flight fears.

But as I habituate myself to the area, its inhabitants, and its incredible views, I slowly come to realize that the task was not so unreachable.

Now, that’s not to say that the French are mediocre people and their way of life is seldom unique; on the contrary, the French are quite a relaxed yet active people, a combination which I do not see often. What I’m really trying to say, I guess, is that I needed not to change myself in order to understand where I was going; France and I would merely discover each other.

For instance, I arrived in Lyon, a city just above Grenoble where I currently reside and will reside for the next six months, and stayed there for two days (including New Year’s) to take a look around and prep myself for what was to come in Grenoble. Upon arrival, my arm pits were honestly sweating bullets and I felt lost for a second. I didn’t want to open my mouth and immediately be targeted as an Anglophone, or worse, a foreigner. But it wasn’t like that at all.

Once I got out the airport, I met a too-hip-for-his-age taxi driver who drove me to my hostel, Cool & Bed (if you’re ever in Lyon, pay it a visit – nice place!). The city is absolutely beautiful – a must-see if near the area.

To build a bridge...

To build a bridge…

My trip to Grenoble was very interesting, to say the least. I used the same too-cool-for-school taxi driver who played rap, jazz, and soul music all throughout the ride. While I spoke to him about my life in Canada and he described his love for Snoop Dogg, I finally felt at peace. It’s silly to think that rap music can calm a person, but it did the job!

My residence is on a mountain (literally); Le Rabot is a bit of a trip to get to by foot (my taxi driver was worried we were lost as I pointed him in the direction of the residence) but the view from my rooms is, as I continue to repeat, spectacular. As soon as I reached my room, I was acquainted with a floor mate who has kept me active every day since. Often times, I just want to stay in my room and relax, really ease myself into the area; but at others, I know I should dive right in since this opportunity comes only to so little and only so often. So with that, I am very pleased at our acquaintance.

To sum up the week, I’ve went grocery shopping; ate a crêpe (comme il faut); went on an adventurous trip to Ikea (yes, they have one here, and yes, it’s just as crazy inside as it is in North America); visited my university and today, recently went up further on the mountain which holds my residence, all the way up to the top to La Bastille, an old prison used by the French monarchy and an important symbol for the French Republican movement.

Et on marche...

Et on marche…

But all in all, life here is normal just like anywhere else. I think back to the shock of the not-so-unusual scent once I landed, and there comes a point, I guess, when you realize that life is life. We each have our own to live, and that is no different anywhere else in the world. We all need to eat, breathe, sleep, connect, feel; it’s an old tradition, one that’s kept us alive and will keep doing so.

So the next time I sniff, if anything smells differently, it’ll probably be due to a washroom entrance I’ll find myself standing by.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of the Moment: