Paris, the city of light.

So. Here we go. Heading right back to the beginning of this trip as I have been utterly useless at keeping the world updated! (Lets be honest, world mostly equals: Mum, so here you go Robsy!)

So Paris the first time round was a potent mixture of everything being utterly beautiful, ridiculously cool people and overwhelming chaos (blame the metro and me trying to lug half my life in suitcases through it for the overwhelming aspect, never again. Learn from my mistakes people, there are a million stairs!)

Luckily for me I had the beautiful Emma Jobe (aka best tour guide ever!) to traipse around the city with me and show me all the coolest spots! Although lesson learnt immediately, French coffee is different to New Zealand coffee. Like way different. A cappuccino is not a cappuccino. And a soy latte? Yah dreaming. So here began the hunt for a perfect coffee. (Clearly some aspects of my life will never change). 

Anywho, Paris is one of those places that cannot really be captured in words, so here is some of the beauty that I was lucky enough to see..

PS, the lighting in Paris? How beautiful is it at night!!! I was in love until someone told me it’s from all the pollution… Nice way to burst that little bubble. 

 

 

 

 

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New Years eve in Dubrovnik

So again, it’s been a while since the last blog post… with some pretty momentous changes occurring.

I’m back in New Zealand and already more than halfway through a semester at University! Which after 18months off, has been a shock to the system to say the least. But on so many levels it is wonderful to be home, surrounded by water and my beautiful family and friends, and living in a flat in Kingsland/Mt Eden with the most gorgeous group of girls.

I know this trip was a long time ago, but tuning back in to the academic world and the rush of assignments and readings has left my brain well in need of a creative escape! So finally getting on top of the thousands of photos I took over the last year, and being able to write just for fun, seems like the perfect remedy.

Also, Jono and I are no longer together… So getting these stories out of my heart seems like a good way to find closure, but also honour the incredible adventures that we did have together. Breaking up after doing long distance for so long, leaves almost a translucent, dreamlike feeling to the relationship, almost a did it really happen..? Even though it finished after I returned, it wasn’t really enough time for our lived worlds to cross over. So I feel like it can be a hard thing for those around us to understand, as heartbreaks always are.

Putting pen to paper for me feels like a way to lend validity, and acknowledge that this was a major part of my life, and for a while, it was wonderful.

For now, it’s just stories (no emotional rants I promise). These are just the incredible places we visited, I hope you enjoy.

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Dubrovnik. The castle city at the bottom of Croatia that literally looks like it came from the middle ages.

We had two nights here and stayed in an Airbnb pretty high up the hillside so had the most spectacular views…

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However this meant that to get to the main city there were a solid few hundred stairs! Not exactly what you look forward to at the end of a long day exploring…

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Nonetheless, Dubrovnik was incredible! New Years eve was a giant street party with mulled wine everywhere and some great Croatian talent on stage! (Well we’re assuming this part, seeing we understood nothing!) But everyone around us was singing away… so they must have been well known! We met some hilarious friendly Bosnians, and spent most the night dancing and ignoring the fact that wind chill was easily up at -14 degrees Celsius! Luckily the sun was out the entire time we were there… it was utterly glorious.

It was so nice to have a base for 2 days, rather than having to be up and on the road immediately… (definitely a lesson well learnt on the pace of travel! And Dubrovnik was the perfect little city to have a little more time to wander and explore! It was small enough to always find your way home, but there were also so many hidden alleyways and nooks and crannies to discover… Not to mention being surrounded by the stunning Adriatic sea!

I think Dubrovnik will remain one of my favourite places… purely for the fact that the old city just feels so set in another time, like you have just been transplanted into castle life. The game of thrones vibe definitely adds to it!

That’s all the rambling for now, I hope you enjoy the photos!

Zadar and it’s haunting sea music.

And this is why I love Croatia. Just a few hours after the magical snow covered beauty of Plitvice Lakes, we were here.

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Zadar was a gorgeous wee port city, with the most brilliant blue skies and almost blinding winter sunlight…IMG_2767 (2)

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But the coolest thing here was definitely the sea organ! It was an ‘experimental music instrument’ created by an architect in 2005 to add beauty to the waterfront and break up the monotonous concrete seawall… (as the area was hastily reconstructed after suffering huge damage in World War Two). The organ is powered by the movement of the waves and wind, and plays the most beautiful, haunting and somewhat random music…IMG_2789 (2)

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The music rises beautifully out of these barely noticeable holes!

We had a lot of fun roaming the ‘old city’ (the central most beautiful part) and finding incredible seafood for dinner!

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Exploring a little more the next morning was interesting… the city seemed quite deserted! That is until you got to the coffee shops. They were totally packed with people keeping away from the bitterly cold wind! Clearly the locals know best. And running with that local knowledge, I was recommended a ‘special’ coffee to go to keep me warm on the road… only to realise as we left it was a seriously potent mix of espresso and schnapps! At around 10am. When in Croatia I suppose!

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The cafe was just to the right of this guy!

Next stop, Dubrovnik!

Em

x

Plitvice Lakes National Park!

This place was easily one of the highlights of my entire year.

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The whole snow thing is still hugely novel for me, and this place was the most incredibly beautiful, magical winter wonderland… my heart is still excited thinking about it.

And team, I come from New Zealand, my standards for nature are high! But Plitvice Lakes just totalled them. It is the largest national park in Croatia and known as ‘Plitvicka Jezera Nacionalni Park’ if you are trying to find it in Croatia – a slight detail that would have made life a little less confusing on the road!

But we got there, and it was phenomenal.

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These are all frozen and semi frozen waterfalls…. the photos just can’t do it justice!

It snowed the most beautiful gentle snowflakes for most of the time we were there… I had somehow never seen legitimate snowflakes in real life before, so this caused some extreme excitement.

(Jono by now realising this is what happens to me in nature – most effectively when there is water around – and was extremely patient and helpful in catching them so I could attempt to take photos).

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Catching snowflakes.
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And this is why!

We explored for a few hours, but the amount of snow meant there were not too many open paths.. And this particular path was cordoned off…

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For good reason.

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So, of course, we went that way. One of us more exuberantly than the other. But I got there in the end..

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This may have been mid “come-on em… it will be so much easier if you put your camera away…”

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And it was so worth it!

The eerie roar of a mostly frozen waterfall… there’s nothing like it.

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This whole place was so incredibly beautiful…. but also quite possibly colder than I have ever been in my life! This unfortunately cut short our exploring a wee bit, losing the ability to not just feel but function too was a little concerning!

This was definitely one of those places that words and photos just can not do justice… It just has to be experienced.

So I will give up with the words, and leave you with some of my millions of photos.

Untill next time,

Em x

Arrival into Croatia; Zagreb, Rijeka and the beginning of our Odyssey!

Croatia. What an incredible beautiful crazy whirlwind trip.

Which leaves me wondering where to even start… Straight after Christmas in Toronto, after the most beautiful refreshing week in Canada it was back to Europe for me. This time thank goodness Jono was following me into Paris just a couple of hours later! I still had a week off work, so at some point previously I had decided an adventure was in order as soon as we got back. And a road trip around Croatia sounded like a pretty sweet adventure to me! Although it was a little bit of a surprise to discover that this was to be our car on arrival…

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It was so tiny we walked straight past it trying to find it!
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Size comparison, Jono vs Car. At least I had plenty of space 😉

And then to put a little perspective in on the travel side of things; I flew out of Toronto on the Sunday afternoon, landed around 7am Monday in Paris, with Jono landing a couple of hours later, then after a day at the airport, at around 3pm we were on the flight to Zagreb Croatia!! Arriving there at 6ish, we picked up the rental car and headed straight for the coast! Just a casual 2 hour drive, which turned into 3 as the Airbnb was impossible to find…

Note to self: next time, rent a GPS.

And learn what the word for road is in the local language BEFORE you try to roadtrip around the country.

It was with screen-shotted google maps on an ipad, prayers and maybe a little colourful language that we finally found the first stop – just a few hours late, completely exhausted and having done the whole thing in complete darkness! This was the first inkling that my method of travel, while exciting, may not be entirely survivable long-term. Especially as this was the state at the Paris Charles De Gaulle airport… before we even got to Croatia!

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I am somewhat jealous of this talent for sleeping anywhere.

Thankfully after an exhausting and stressful previous 2 days, we were woken to the most beautiful clear day… And after a quick explore of Rijeka/hunt for coffee and breakfast we were on the road again!

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And we now knew the word for road! (It’s the ‘Ulica’ bit if you’re wondering)
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Also Rijeka had some fun buildings… But the blue sky was SUCH a welcome sight!

This time direction Plitvice Lakes National Park and Zadar for the night, and we were DEFINITELY running to a schedule as it was almost a 4 hour drive with the detour to the park, and there was no way I was missing out on seeing Plitvice!

But as life does, early on in the day we were heading across a beautiful bridge and I was landed with the most poignant reminder of why sometimes you have to let go of even the best laid plans… And just experience what life is offering right in front of you.

Which in this case meant taking a turn off the highway, and away from our screen-shotted maps, to a tiny little village and…

This.

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With my determination to squeeze in as much as possible to our trip and ‘see everything!’ this was the most timely reminder on the first day, that life is so much bigger than that. I can’t say that I chilled out more after that, and we still travelled at a hectic pace, but it is a lesson that looking back I see so much more clearly now. The peace of this place was just phenomenal.

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And just imagine picnics at this table and swimming in summer… glorious!

Next stop, Plitvice National Park!

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But actually, one more incredibly cute village first!

With love,

Em x

Getting lost in the wonder of Niagara Falls.

This is another little trip down memory lane as I sort through photos, back at the end of December! I will catch up one day ❤

So after a beautiful Christmas with Ally and Jamie and their Canadian family in Toronto, Boxing day was a wee adventure down towards the border… All packed into the one car, it was a definitely a pretty cool opportunity to get to know the Canadian Bays a bit better!

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The gorgeous Bay family x

Somehow in my lacking geographical understanding of Canada, I had totally missed the fact that Niagara was so close! So when I was told that this was a feasible day trip, and that it was happening, it was the best kind of surprise. Take me to any form of water and my heart literally sings (and amusingly enough I’m writing this on a train through Switzerland just after I embarrassed Tallulah by getting really excited passing a lake… who said the au pair always has to be the mature one?).

But I don’t think words can really describe the presence of the falls… wandering around the area, taking a million photos from every angle possible, I was blown away by the sheer immensity and power of the falls over and over again.

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The American side
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IMG_2345 (2) And the Canadian side!

 

You could literally just stand there mesmerized, the force and beauty of the continuous rush of water holding you captive… Added to the fact it was a gorgeous day with blue skies (and Canada’s blue skies were the first I’d seen in months!), the fresh air and unbridled power of nature had the most soothing, recalibrating effect. There’s nothing quite like being overwhelmed by creation for bringing my soul back to a place of peace.

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A stunning day outdoors was finished off perfectly by dinner up at the revolving restaurant – which was the sweetest Christmas treat thank-you Jamie and Ally! Seeing Niagara from 360 degrees as the sun set was really something… And with Kayla and Tyler charming the waitresses it was especially hilarious. Dining with beautifully loving people, watching over one of the most beautiful natural sights I have seen, what more could one want?

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Until next time,

Em x

A perfect day in Toronto.

A chance to explore a city with someone who knew it well.

I love travelling, and I love travelling on my own too. I think there is an incredible amount you learn about yourself in such situations… And I wouldn’t trade my experiences there for anything.

I have learnt so much about myself this year, and been humbled in so many ways.. This year as an Au Pair has been so many things; but at the deepest level, it has been a huge year of learning. With some lessons easier to take than others. And some experiences harder than others.

But life as an au pair can also come with a lot of alone time. A lot of time to think, a lot of time where your schedule is the complete opposite to anyone else your age, a lot of time where you are the sole caregiver of someone else’s heart in the form of a child, and a lot of last minute changes in plans making for solo adventures towards the first cheap flight you can find (Although its plausible that last one is just me).

And these can all be wonderful things.

Always growing things, sometimes scary things, yet still wonderful things.

But sometimes, to be able to explore with someone else and take any turn you want, knowing they will find your way home is exactly what you need. Not having to be aware of the fact that I am 5foot 1 and female, appearing relatively young, generally not speaking the local language, and always looking like a tourist because I am so excited by beautiful things I just can’t put my camera down…

Just look at this building. How can you not love Toronto?
Especially when there is a shot like this. Just look at this building. How can you not love Toronto?

So Toronto was a breath of fresh air… not to mention an awesome city! With its markets and great food, especially a delicious brunch with some lovely Canadian friends of Jono’s I fell in love immediately (FINALLY in a country where brunch is a thing again!!!). After our few days in the woods, a day exploring the city was the perfect amount of time. Wandering the streets taking any turn we wanted, the only the only essential being a stop at ‘Free People’ (after a years long obsession with their designs and clothes, Jono found me one to go shopping in person for the first time before I even touched down! The excitement was palpable. As was the resigned patience from the other half. Luckily for him my au pair wage/travel habit meant I was very depressingly well behaved. My girls won’t believe it!).

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I think I might just have to come back.

Till next time,

Em x

Christmas adventures in Canada.

Where to even start.

This was one of those adventures I never saw coming, in fact, amidst the craziness of starting a new life as an au pair in Europe it wasn’t until I was actually on the plane to Chicago (first stopover) that it hit me that I was going to Canada.

CANADA.

And unbeknownst to me at that point, towards what was to be one of the best weeks ever.

Not only did the country and its beautiful people steal a sizeable piece of my heart, but it was definitely helped along by a certain kiwi waiting with flowers when I landed at 1am on the 22nd of December… who proceeded to spoil me rotten for the rest of the trip.

He is real after all.
He is real after all!

Although there was certainly a bit of nerves prior – long distance is hard to start with, and turning up in a country you’ve never been to for Christmas with someone you haven’t seen for 5 months, and their extended family can be somewhat daunting… regardless, Canada was just incredible. And definitely the adventure my heart needed. For starters, SNOW. Compared to the light dusting we had had in Strasbourg, Canada was like a magical winter wonderland! Especially as my first real day in Canada, Jono and I hit the road up north towards the woods!

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I can’t tell you how much of a relief that first day was.

No. 1 to be with Jono and have someone else driving who knew where they were going!

No. 2 be able to stop in at roadside cafes and have soy milk in my coffee (one day France…) and eat food I recognised.

And No.3 to be able to understand everyone and make myself understood. It wasn’t until then that I understood just how much mental pressure being constantly surrounded by so many languages puts your brain under.. And this is not necessarily a bad pressure – in-fact it’s a wonderful opportunity. But it IS exhausting, and having a little vacation from that was wonderful.

Anyway, back to Canada!

We had a few days up north getting used to the non-pixelated versions of each other again, staying in Minett and exploring the Lake Rosseau region – especially Muskoka woods where Jono used to work along with my little brother! Then with cranberry wine tastings and swimming in hot pools surrounded by snow, it was a beyond perfect start to a winter adventure.

And the lakes. Oh my. I’ve always been a total beach bum, but Lake Rosseau may have almost converted me… It was just so incredibly beautiful. My heart literally could have burst.

Muskoka Woods deserves its own little spiel, that place was beyond incredible! I was expecting a kids camp, but this was a resort! (Literally ‘a resort just for kids!’). I can totally understand why everyone loves it so much now, they have everything! From all the crazy water activities and sports and high ropes to cake decorating.

I have no idea how the kids can choose what to do each day! It was sleepy and quiet under the snow, but we still caught up with some lovely people in the art studio turning pottery. Turning pottery! Just another of the things I dream of doing. Needless to say, I am a fan.

Until next time.

Em x