The Infamy of French Bureaucracy : My adventures in avoiding deportation

Via pret-a-voyager.com

Wednesday afternoon, as I ambled back home from the downtown centre of Rennes from yet another visit to the Centre de Mobilité Internationale, I was contemplating what I could discuss next on my blog. I’ve made brief mentions in past posts regarding how my circumstances were affected by my status or because of visa issues, but haven’t really gone into many details. Though this visit was not a frustrating one in the slightest (in fact, I was surprised by how smooth it went and how awesome the employees were), I realized that the time may have come to discuss the long and winding road it has been to obtain my visa… which is still M.I.A.

Now, to clarify, when I refer to visa, I typically mean my “carte de séjour”, and not the visa that I applied for pre-departure that is currently stuck (and expired) inside my passport. The carte de séjour is more permanent and allows me to stay a year, like many visas, but is also more easily renewable. This means that if I decided to stay longer and continue going to school in France, I would not have to return to Canada first and re-apply from there.

I began the process in September by collecting the stack of necessary documents and waiting for money to be transferred from Canada to my French bank account to prove I would be financially secure throughout the year. By the time everything had come together, I made my first visit to the CMI. After sorting through all the documents with an employee, I was informed I would receive a récépissé (receipt) of my request for a carte de séjour in several weeks. Fortunately, it was available in December and I was able to pick it up before going on holidays. Unfortunately, as I was informed at the Centre, the expiration of my initial visa meant that, even with the récépissé, I would not be legally authorized to leave France (except back to Canada).

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My original and now expired passport visa, my récépissé, and the miraculous invitation to have a medical visit!

At first, I thought, ‘No problem. France is in the Schengen Zone. No borders, no big deal.’ Then, I was gently informed that I could not leave France, not even into other Schengen countries, and that even if I tried, sometimes there are random border checks, though they are rare.

And so, the wait began. The wait to hear from the police prefecture regarding notice that my appointment for a medical visit (the last step!) was fixed. Time went by with no notice until finally, after the expiration of my récépissé at the end of February, I received a letter confirming an appointment made for the 22 of March. More documents were required, as expected, however this did not shake my enthusiastic response to finally knowing that this process is coming to an end.

The following clip is a perfect example of how it feels to navigate the labyrinths of paperwork in France. However, when it came to going on exchange, I have to be honest, the Canadian side of the process wasn’t that much easier either. (The clip is only available en français, but even if you don’t understand what exactly is being said, the meaning is clear)

That clip is from l’Auberge Espagnole (link to English trailer), a film about a French student who parts on an Erasmus exchange to Barcelona. An absolute must-see film for any student considering international exchanges or internships.

I went back to the CMI on Wednesday to get a renewal of my récépissé. Even though I’m not intending to travel before my medical visit, I still believe it’s a good idea to have valid documentation just in case. The renewal was a breeze, only requiring a copy of my now-expired récépissé and a photograph. About to leave, I casually asked how long it might take to receive my carte de séjour following my medical visit. The response I was given? Oh, several weeks to a month.

And that’s when it hit me. I probably wouldn’t be getting this final, liberating piece of identification that proved my right to be living in France until a whopping ~2 months before I was supposed to be going home. Le sigh.

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Cheese, skis, and commencing 2013

*Two things I would like to note. The first being that it is now February March and this post is long overdue, and thus I say, ‘oops’. The second is that I actually had to look up the plural of ski, because ‘skis’ just doesn’t look right to me. That’s all.

One of the notable differences that many of us foreign students have noticed about the university schedule in France, is that exams typically fall after the winter break, rather than before. At first, many of us were grateful for this. December was a panicky month of end-of-term essays and presentations, and the last thing that anyone wanted to have added to their plate was final oral exams. At the time, it was easy to see how we would be much more prepared and relaxed for our finals when January rolled around. In retrospect, the break wasn’t really a period to relax, it was simply a period wherein everything we learned throughout first semester could leak out of our heads before exams.

In any case, it was certainly a relief to have time away from studying and writing to have a proper holiday. Unfortunately, due to issues related to having my visa validated, and the immigration/visa/Schengen laws of France, I was informed that I wouldn’t be authorized to leave the country. Fortunately for me, I received a generous offer to stay in the french alps with a friend of mine, whose family owns an apartment in Méribel (http://www.meribel.net/), which is part of the Trois Vallées interlinked ski system that claims to be the largest ski domain in the world. It also hosted events as part of the 1992 Winter Olympics held in nearby Albertville.

Great view from the balcony of the mountains.

Great view from the balcony of the mountains.

There was a ski hill right beside, and the town was just down the hill.

There was a ski hill right beside, and the town was just down the hill.

Despite having never set my feet into a pair of skis in my life (and a feeble attempt at learning to snowboard when I was 13), I enthusiastically went along and agreed that I would take this opportunity to try something new. Upon arrival, we spent the first two days on cross-country skis. I found that it was a good way to start as I got to see the surrounding area and hills a bit. Of course, it was also quite useful in me getting used to the feeling of having feet almost as long as I am tall. After finally strapping on the downhill skis, learning to snow plow («chasse-neige» en français), and mastering the bunny hill, I am proud to say that I only fell once… Until I moved on to the normal hills. Nonetheless, I learned quickly from my mistakes and managed to spend a lot less time on my ‘posterior’ than I had previously expected.

Me after a long day! This was at the top of a black-level hill, so I only came up for the view!

Me after a long day! This was at the top of a black-level hill, so I only came up for the view!

Any tumbles I did take however were completely worth it by the end of the day for one reason: Cheese. Anyone who knows me probably knows that I cannot say no to cheese and would be content to consume nothing else for the rest of my life. You can imagine how excited I was therefore to be able to try some regional cheeses and partake in my first «raclette»! Believe me when I say that I probably consumed more cheese in that week than can be considered even remotely healthy.

Lamp heats the cheese up, and then when it's ready...

Lamp heats the cheese up, and then when it’s ready…

Scrape the cheese onto potatoes, pasta, bread, etc! Amazing!

Scrape the cheese onto potatoes, pasta, bread, etc! Amazing!

Unfortunately, all holidays come to an end, and this was no different. After making the trek back to snow-less Paris to spend New Years Eve at an excellent Irish pub, I began to feel slightly restless to get back to the grind of university life in Rennes. Thankfully, the exam period was less painful that I imagined and was often punctuated by reunions with friends during our coffee breaks from the library. Now, two months into the semester and back on a (stay-home) holiday for a week, it feels that it’s been much longer since my adventure in skiing, and regrettably, much closer to the finish of my adventure in France.

On the train back to Paris... Never thought I'd miss the snow!

On the train back to Paris… Never thought I’d miss the snow!

Fireworks on Christmas Eve were set off so close!

Fireworks on Christmas Eve were set off so close!

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French Immersion Enrolment is Increasing across Canada

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As a Glendon student, I’m no stranger to the benefits of bilingualism in Canada’s two official languages. And, as this article from the Globe & Mail shows, these benefits are no secret to parents across the country who are lining up to ensure their children get an education en français. 

For past and current Glendon students, this news probably doesn’t come as a surprise. We chose to work on our language skills for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the prospective of widening our future career aspects. I feel, and I expect many of my fellow students feel, almost as if this is a personal success.

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VIA The Globe & Mail. Article by JOE FRIESEN

Some of us went through French immersion on our first day of school and stuck with it to the end. Some of us, like myself, left behind friends and familiarity in changing schools, right in the middle of our education, hoping we were making the right decision. And some of us never went to an immersion school, but have dedicated themselves and worked hard to make the French language a part of their life when entering post-secondary.

For future and prospective Glendon students, this is not only a reassuring sign that you’re making a good choice, but also encouragement to work hard and keep up with your second-language skills. There’s a whole new, and HUGE, generation coming up right behind all of us that will have an ever-beneficial linguistic skill set in the Canadian economy. Let’s consider for a moment what sort of job market graduates are facing today. Who knows what it might look like tomorrow?

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VIA The Globe & Mail. Article by JOE FRIESEN

Well, for one thing, the only thing holding French immersion programs back, as cited by the article, is the “lack of capable teachers that restricts the number of immersion places”.

What does this mean for you, as a (potential) Glendon student?

For one thing, it means that you may want to consider Glendon’s bilingual Bachelor of Education, offered both as a concurrent or consecutive program. The program prepares students not only to teach French, but specifically to ensure you graduate qualified to teach in French immersion programs. Think about it, future Lionhearts, your future isn’t too far away!



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It’s life and life only.

One thing that I’ve learned throughout my experience in post-secondary education is that there is a great difference between studying what you love and loving what you study. This is well understood by anyone who has second-guessed the major they chose when applying to university, which, let’s face it, is no easy feat in itself.

Through my own experience and through discussions with fellow students and friends, I’ve found that these feelings are not uncommon. When we first chose what programs to apply to as we were entering the post-secondary education system, we had no way of predicting our future level of satisfaction or how our interests and life plans would change over time. As we began the transition into our adult selves, many of us gained a  growing sense of uncertainty regarding the relation between our current studies and whatever we believed our true passions to be. Worse still, we were uncertain about how the choices we made, or the choices we felt still needed to be made, regarding our education would develop into a satisfying and sustainable career.

Thus, I’ve known some of us who were on the fence fell to one side and switched their major or added a second one. Some of us decided to stick it out and pursue what they had chosen originally. There are still some of us who can’t come to a solid conclusion.

This may be late in the game to post a disclaimer, however this is the point where I must make something clear : I love what I study. I enthusiastically choose my program at Glendon College three years ago and have since found it to be both rewarding and challenging. Where I believe to have lost direction is my uncertainty about whether or not I am studying what I love.

This internal discord can be easily described through a simple metaphor. For most of us, there is a main focus of our life, which could be our program of study or perhaps our career, and a number of side interests, passions or hobbies that we also take great pleasure in. Much like when we go to a restaurant, it is expected that the principal portion of our chosen dish, maybe a steak or an eggplant parmesan, will be the most delicious while the side dishes are there to keep us satisfied between bites. How do you feel, however, when you discover that a simple side dish might have been much more satisfying as your main course?

Life isn’t quite like going out for a meal. What we receive might never be as satisfying as what we were expecting when perusing the menu and ordering. If we find ourselves more passionate about something else than what we originally sought, how do we know to go back and make that our main course? How do we know that one of the most satisfying aspects of the side dish is that we didn’t get too much of it, and thus didn’t tire of it in the same manner?

At a moment when I was most uncertain of my program and very vocal about it, a friend of mine explained something to me that I both appreciated and disliked. If we made the decision to dedicate our studies to a particular subject, there must have been a reason for it to stand out above all others, and that there will always be a way for us to continue being passionate about it. It may not always be fun or easy, and perhaps we’ll find ourselves tired and worn out from it, but that’s simply how life works. There is very little out there that can enthral us for an infinite amount of time. The advice that I was given was that even if we seem completely disinterested and dispassionate in our readings and essays, it becomes necessary to make yourself interested. For better or worse, this is the plate that’s in front of you now, and the best option is to simply enjoy it and finish it to the best of your ability. If you can make yourself interested somehow, by asking questions, by pondering the concepts of what you’re learning, the apathy becomes much easier to overcome. If not, you’ll find yourself bored, unhappy and procrastinating, and in the end, unsuccessful and disappointed.

None of this is to say that once we’ve chosen a path, we must forever continue in the same direction. When something is not right in the life we’ve chosen, we have the ability to reconsider it and look for ways to make change for the better. In the end, the choices you make now, binding as they may seem, are not infinite and should never dissuade you from considering an alternative route later on in life.

When you have the freedom to choose, make the most of it.

*               *              *

Are you a student who is entering post-secondary education and feeling unsure about what program to pick? Are you a current student who’s considered changing programs, or has changed programs throughout your studies, or even transferred institutions? Or are you maybe considering or have recently gone through a career change? Please share your story or your advice in the comments below!

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The holiday of Sunday

“Millions long for immortality who don’t know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.” – Susan Ertz 

Sundays are an odd thing. Throughout most of my life, Sunday was the dreaded day of the week wherein I would wake up late, vary between unsatisfying procrastination and lazily doing leftover schoolwork all day, and finally eat dinner with the family. The day was always cast under a bitter cloud, darkened by the impending misery of Monday morning, that approached faster than a child, and especially a teenager, could handle.

University brought little change to my attitude towards Sunday. The routine, however, was composed of yet more procrastination, and an extraordinary, weeks-worth of guilt for not feeling productive enough, while snacking on comfort foods and questioning every choice I’d made in life up until that point. All this before resigning myself to bed at a ridiculous hour under the false pretence that I could somehow delay Monday morning by delaying going to sleep.

Yesterday marked three months since my arrival in Rennes, and today I’ve found myself reflecting on how my lifelong dispute with Sunday has changed while living in France.

Place de la Mairie as the evening sets in.

Place de la Mairie as the evening sets in.

Today there is no guilt, despite the deadlines coming up before the holidays. There is no misery, despite having class at 8am on Monday morning for the first time since high school. Perhaps it comes with knowing that, as most businesses and offices are closed (except some cafés and bakeries, and only for some time of the day), most everyone has taken the day for themselves. In the past, I’ve remarked on the amount of folks that are out walking along the Vilaine river, or relaxing on benches in Parc de Thabor, seemingly without a care, and I’ve begun to appreciate a day to slow life down as well.

During past Sundays in Rennes, I’ve found myself at a bakery for a croissant before walking around the centre to take photos, or had brunch with friends before going to relax in a park. Today, however, I stayed in to relax from a weekend of walking around town and enjoying what it has had to offer.

I saw a certain Picasso painting, that was featured in Midnight in Paris, at the Musée in Rennes, and now have a postcard of that same painting in my room. Credit: Sony Pictures Classics.

I saw a certain Picasso painting, that was featured in Midnight in Paris, at the Musée in Rennes, and now have a postcard of that same painting in my room. Credit: Sony Pictures Classics.

After only three months, on Friday I finally made it to the Musée des Beaux-Arts to see their impressive collection, before wandering the centre of town. It may only be the beginning of December, but the holidays have really begun to be felt here. Over the course of the past two days, the streets have been full of cheerful shoppers, peering into windows for gifts and ideas, and the Marché de Noël has already been up a week.

Marché de Noël à la place du Parlement de Bretagne

Marché de Noël à la place du Parlement de Bretagne

I have to stop thinking about all the amazing food, or I'll be back there everyday.

I have to stop thinking about all the amazing food, or I’ll be back there everyday.

Yesterday, I found myself there for the third time for yet another cup of Vin chaud, or hot/mulled wine, from the Canada stand (though almost every food stand sold it as well), followed by a bretzel with Emmental cheese. My new favourite holiday beverage, mulled wine has counterparts in most Slavic, Nordic, Germanic, and well, almost all countries of Europe. Soon after, the christmas lights that have been hanging for some time, were lit, illuminating the cobblestone pedestrian streets of Rennes.

The only stand dedicated to a nation... and it's Canada.

The only stand dedicated to a nation… and it’s Canada.

And so, after a weekend out and around the city centre, I took today to relax with coffee, Rainymood, and some music, while organizing what needs to be done this week. Though I’m less than excited about my upcoming week of analyzing a 139-page ruling from the International Court of Justice, before writing a 10-15 page paper on the subject for my class Droit international public, I’m not overwhelmed or worried either. Because this is Sunday, a day to relax and enjoy myself, rather than feel miserable and guilty, before the real world comes rushing back to greet me on Monday morning.

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Bits and pieces of London, UK

When I wrote my post about my trip to London, naturally I wrote more about the adventure than the random details or what was going through my head at the time between the adventure bits. I thought I might mention a few of those random moments or things that stuck with me. Not an exhaustive list, just a few.

A cloudy view into Regent’s Park

  • The Parks

Nothing against France, but their parks can be a bit… Organized. Don’t get me wrong, I love them and they’re mighty impressive to wander through, but sometimes it’s nice to go into a park in the middle of the city and be able to forget you’re in the middle of the city. I would say it’s quite easy to do this in Hyde Park, than say, the Tuileries Garden in Paris. A different park for a different mood, I suppose.

An evening photo of St Paul’s Cathedral

  • University Challenge on the BBC

(Or shall I just say the BBC itself? Their programming is so extensive and of such high quality that I could only wish the CBC had such a presence in my own country) University Challenge is a gameshow on the BBC wherein two universities compete, with four members per team, against each other to answer challenging questions. A simplistic game show that, depending on your own knowledge of everything from science to history, can make you feel quite intellectually inferior. While we only caught one episode with our hosts in London, I found myself not only feeling uncultured and uneducated but also craving more. Fortunately, many of the episodes can be found on Youtube.

A hard-to-achieve night shot of the Millenium Bridge and St Pauls Cathedral from the South Bank of the Thames. (Editing for the win!)

  • Pub Tipping guilt

After a long day of walking through the city of London, who could say no to a pint (or two) in a British pub? Not us. However, while we were grateful for the friendly and efficient service, the thought of tipping didn’t even come up in our conversation until after the second time we patronized a busy bar near Trafalgar Square. As students in France, tipping wasn’t really considered to be an obligatory thing, unlike what I have been used to in Canada. In France, servers are typically paid a regular wage and thus, leaving a tip was usually a euro or two on a meal! Not even close to the 15-20% that a North American might be tempted to leave. We never got around to asking our hosts or fellow pub patrons what the standard behaviour was in this regard, despite our guilt, a guilt that only deepened after each visit. Though I’ve since been told by an English friend (and the internet) that the guilt was as needless as tipping in our case.

The Mall leading up to Buckingham Palace, decorated with the Union Jack and the Polish flag, as the Polish President was in town visiting.

  • Free museums

Free museums. Freeeeeeee museums. Enough said? I should think so. Non-existant in my experience back home. In France, it would depend on your situation. In London, you can literally walk right past the front desk and wander among portraits, paintings, and sculptures without paying a dime… unless you plan to see a special exhibit of course.

Canada Gate right beside Buckingham Palace!

  • Public Transit

Despite what many Londoners may think, they certainly have it good in the Underground. Clean, brightly lit, spacious, and a seemingly uncomplicated system. Both my Parisian friend and I felt that the system was quite good, and even though the local opinion seemed to differ on the subject, I was truly impressed with the metro. Perhaps the grass is greener on the other side, but compared to Paris, the Underground was could be considered nearly luxurious. Never once did we run into any issues navigating the system, though that might have just been sheer luck and good timing. Though we used the Jubilee line later that day, there was no sign of trouble until we saw the evening news.

Behind the Horse Guards Palace as the sun is on its way down

Stay tuned for my next post about life being lived back in Rennes where I’m almost finished my first semester abroad!

*All the photos in this post are my own. Please credit/source appropriately if you’d like to use them.

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Productivity versus Allergies

And old picture of me, from my trip to Paris in February, in front of my favourite museum, Orsay.

This wasn’t the post I planned to put out today, but I hope you enjoy. It’s a bit of a ramble, but very fitting for this kind of Monday.

Following this weekend, one of indulgence and not of any productivity (unless you count seeing friends and a visit to the Musée d’Orsay, which I really loved when I first came in February), in Paris, I returned to residence determined to make sure that I turn things around a bit to try to finish the semester in, at least, a satisfactory way.

I mapped out today in my planner and went to bed quite proud of myself and determined to stick to my task list and get chores and studying accomplished. I woke up this morning with my allergies acting up in an awful way. I dealt with it as best I could, sneezing through class, rubbing my eyes on my way to pay rent, eating lunch with tissue practically stuffed up my nostrils. You see, when my allergies act up, they take over completely. I get foggy, my head aches, my eyes squint… I can’t even nod my head without my nose running all over the place. To be honest, I’d rather catch a cold than have my allergies. I’m just grateful it doesn’t happen too often.

This afternoon, because of my sniffling and sneezing, I decided to forgo the library to get the menial tasks in residence, vacuuming and laundry out of the way. A nap followed and then the grocery store.

This grocery store trip was excellent. For one of the first times, I walked through, buying what I wanted without much

None of us could quite figure out what was going on with the statues. I find it was foreshadowing the way my nose looks today.

care to the price or their need. It was a trifecta of influences, feeling cruddy from allergies, rewarding myself for being proactive, and finally feeling financially comfortable.

My dinner, which I have just finished, consisted of some of my purchases, including mint green tea, a glass of orange juice, two clementines, several pieces of delicious (yet cheap!) bread with apricot jam, strawberry jam, and emmental cheese, and a yogurt sweetened with cane sugar. This is soon to be followed by some dark chocolate. Because, why not?

Today, though not the first day that I’ve suffered from my allergies in France, was also the first day I decided to stroll into a pharmacy. The efficiency was nice. You tell the pharmacists what you need and they fetch it for you, give you instructions, and you’re done. Much quicker than wandering around aisles of medications wondering what the best one for the best price is.

In a moment, I’ll begin scratching off the little bullet points I had made for today, and add a couple in for tomorrow, before moving on to get a bit of schoolwork done, and then heading off to bed with my book. Trying to be productive doesn’t have to be hard, as I reminded myself on the train yesterday. Busy hands are happy hands, right? (That cliché really is terrible; I apologize for using it) But when there’s a wrench thrown into the works, as I had today, it’s so easy to drop everything, give up and go back to bed.

My biggest problem has always been that of saying, “Oh well, there’s always tomorrow, I guess…” So, last night I wrote Everyday is a new beginning at the top of my planner. I wanted to wake up every morning and remember my determination to do better. My little quote in my planner is meant to be a reminder that while yes, I want to be more proactive, productive, and outgoing on a daily basis, but that I should also use every day as an opportunity to see how I can push myself onward, past the unpredictable obstacles that can easily be tossed in any of our paths.

Maybe I didn’t completely clear my list of tasks for the day, and maybe there’s even more to be added now, but in the end, I think that today worked out alright.

You might recognize Orsay from the film, Hugo (no, I haven’t seen it). It used to be a train station… Hence the giant clocks.

The view from the top floor of the museum. The Tuileries are in the foreground, with Montmartre in the back.

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We used to wait…

As the line in that Arcade Fire song goes, “It seems strange, how we used to wait for letters to arrive. But what’s stranger still, is how something so small can keep you alive.”

And it’s quite true. Seeing an envelope in your mailbox that isn’t a bill or spam really does have the power to keep you on an upbeat for at least a couple of days. However, when I received my last from my mother (which included a new toothbrush and deodorant to help me save a bit of money), I had another reason to smile that day.

When I went down to pick up my package in the front office of the residence, I forgot to bring any identification to prove I was the person for whom the package had come.

“It’s not a problem,” the guardian reassured me. “I remember you. I don’t know everyone who lives here, but I know who you are. You’re from Toronto right?”

And that small thing was a little reassuring, and kind of comforting. Though I hadn’t really ever felt like I was in a strange land, it was a reminder that I shouldn’t feel like I was a stranger in it either.

.     .     .

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Sitting in an English Garden, waiting for the sun…

*Click on pictures to enlarge them*

While the autumn “reading week” has become more and more scarce at universities back home, the French still make sure to enjoy some time off for vacation at the end of October, called les vacances de la Toussaint.

And so it was that I took advantage of this time off to venture out of l’Hexagone (a nickname for France) to head off to London! (And for the first time in my life, I can honestly say I was headed for London, UK instead of my hometown of London, Ontario). A friend of mine from Paris knew friends of his family living there, and as they generously offered to host us for several days, we couldn’t say no to the opportunity.

The Palace of Westminster, with the London Eye in the background.

After a (seemingly neverending) overnight bus ride from Paris to London, we arrived early in the morning and wasted no time in grabbing coffees from the first open café we saw, Starbucks (I’m an awful tourist, I know), and headed off in the direction of Buckingham Palace to start off four days of sight-seeing.

At the Horse Guard’s Palace

The first day was a tough one after the bus ride there, but nevertheless, I was left elated to find myself in a city I had dreamed of going to for years. Looking back on it now, I cannot believe how much ground we covered before realizing how exhausted we were. After pounding the pavement by Piccadilly Circus, the Horse Guards Palace, Westminister Abbey and the Parliament, walking along the south bank of the Thames, over Waterloo Bridge, and into the Covent Garden market, we decided it was about time to finish the day with something fun, but less strenuous. We headed in the direction of the Marble Arch Odeon cinema to catch an evening showing of Skyfall, which was definitely an awesome way to finish off the first day (Not that I need to point out how good the new Bond film is!).

I couldn’t get any good pictures of the Queen’s Foot Guards, but then the Horse Guards came by!

Tuesday began, as many of my regular Tuesdays do, with watching the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, among hundreds and hundreds of other tourists (kidding about the first thing, not about the second). Nonetheless, it was pretty fun to check out, even though it was nearly impossible to find a good vantage point. Fun fact: The bearskin-fur, 45cm- tall hats that the foot guards wear come from Canadian Brown bears, and weigh 1.5lbs. Before touring the city some more, we decided a hike through Hyde Park was in order. It was also around this time that I realized just how “French” this British metropolis was. The whole time we were there, we couldn’t escape hearing spoken French everywhere on the streets, in the cinema and stores, and everywhere else. While I at first attributed this to the fact that it was holidays in France and many folks must have done as we did, it also turns out that London is considered France’s sixth biggest city, meaning an estimated population of 300 000-400 000 French citizens residing in London. Pretty crazy. (Funnily enough though, the family with

whom we were staying was actually a couple wherein the man was English, the woman was French, and the children had grown up bilingually.)

Heading towards Piccadilly Square with the sun to my back and threatening clouds ahead (no rain though!)

As Tuesday (and Wednesday) went on, we continued our adventures through London, making sure to see all the places that were recommended by friends and our hosts. These included, but weren’t limited to (click the links for their web pages if interested!):

The Royal Albert Hall, named by Queen Victoria to her deceased husband, Prince Albert.

  • Natural History Museum, home to about 70 million different items… and a large lineup, so no, we didn’t even try to go in.

The museum looked really cool. The line looked like it was 70 million long.

In case you’re interested, their current exhibition was on Hollywood costumes

  • Harrods, an upscale department store, not unlike Canada’s luxury department store Holt Renfrew. I may or may not have bought something here (But it wasn’t for me, at least!)

Only have a picture from the inside, where the stair/escalator area had an ancient Egyptian theme.

  • Camden Lock and marketplace, where I had to refrain myself from spending more money than I actually had.

Pretty cool area of town if I may say.

  • Trafalgar Square, where the Canadian High Commission is also located. Although this didn’t come as a surprise to me, knowing the location of our embassy in Paris (on Avenue Montaigne), it seems we like to be a bit “showy” on foreign territory.

View from the front of the National Gallery of Trafalgar Sq. You can see the (one of MANY) Canadian flag at the top of the High Commission on the right.

  • Brick Lane,  one  of my favourite corners of town, where we grabbed some breakfast at Café 1001 and had to tear ourselves away from the cool finds at the Blitz vintage shop.

Known for its street art, perhaps best not to park your car around here.

  • Tate Modern, one of the only museums we went into. The time we spent here was punctuated by a heated debate on what constitutes or qualifies as art (feel free to comment below!), as there was both pieces that took my breath away, and pieces that made my eyes roll.

The view from the Tate Modern, featuring St Pauls Cathedral and the Millenium Bridge.

  • The National Gallery, where my disappointment at not being allowed to take photos was melted by the collection. Despite the hordes of tourists, this was one of my favourites.

Alright, so I took one photo… But this was before I knew we weren’t allowed.

And so, Thursday was the last day in London. I always find that the last day of any “city vacation” is one of the best. By this point, you know the city and the sights well enough that you can do as you wish, at ease and while taking your time… especially if you’re not looking forward to another overnight bus ride including a part going through a stuffy, under-ventilated, underwater tunnel.

It was on the last day that we checked out the Saatchi contemporary art gallery, which included an exhibition by Karl Lagerfeld, and one by Montreal artist

Black swan in St James Park

Jon Rafman featuring his screenshots from Google Street View (believe me when I say it’s a different way of seeing the world). After enjoying some Pret à Manger in Sloane Square (the only part of the trip in which it rained, and the sun still shone brightly!), we headed off back through Piccadilly Square to have coffee in St James Park (and watch a myriad of birds being fed by passersby) and then walked down to the Thames one last time before heading back for a final dinner with our hosts.

All in all, London was an incredible experience, and one that I’d definitely like to repeat in the future whether this year

The whole point of being the photographer is to not be in the photos. This is the evidence as to why.

or sometime further dow the line. I feel like I may have over-compared the Swinging City and the City of Lights while I was there (at least in the opinion of my French friend), but it was quite a different environment than what I’ve been used to for the past few months. And as our French hostess pointed out to me while telling me the story of how she fell in love with London and left her native Paris, there’s always a lot to discover in such a cosmopolitan, culturally-rich, and very friendly city.

Once more, for more photos you can check out my tumblr account at nonexistentnotebook.tumblr.com.

Stay tuned in the next few days for some more Random Rambles, and more notes on London!

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Get on to a bus, that gets into a train, that goes into a tunnel, that goes underwater. Travel-ception?

*All photos in this blog post are my own. Please source appropriately if you would like to use them.

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Memories of the present.

A video dedicated to the hometown love of Rennes created by a girl named Gaëlle. A fantastic, and very personal, view into the city in which I currently reside for my year abroad.

I remember seeing this video long before I came to Rennes, and watching it now is so much different and means so much more. I can now relate to her experience thinking over the memories I have of just these past two months. It will be an interesting feeling to leave one day unsure of whether I’ll ever be back.

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