A Travellerspoint blog

Random reflections #1

This isn’t a post about a particular place or event – just a series of random reflections I’ve been gathering over the past few weeks of travel.

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View Europe 2023 on AvrilAbroad's travel map.

First of all, a disclaimer. Normally when I’m on vacation I try to stay as far away from the news as possible. News and pleasure are largely incompatible, partly due to the fact that (a) the world is a fucking mess, and partly due to (b) the news media’s proclivity for focusing on the fucking mess to the exclusion of everything good that is also happening.

But what’s been going on for the past week in Israel and Gaza has been hard to ignore. And it feels wrong to try to ignore it. It also feels somewhat self-indulgent to focus on my pleasures knowing of the horrors that are being perpetrated there. Nevertheless, I’m not going to talk about it in this space. There will be plenty of time for that when I get home. (Alas.) In the meantime I’m going to allow myself the luxury of continuing to enjoy the time I have here, and hopefully create a small island of joy and humour for whoever is reading this. In times of pain we need those islands of joy and humour more than ever.

We now return to our previously scheduled programming.

Random reflection #1: France is expensive. Corsica is part of France. Ergo: Corsica is expensive! (I knew my philosophy degree would pay off one day.) When Avi and I were in Portugal, we didn’t find it as inexpensive as people said it was. No surprise, having become a hot spot on the tourist circuit. By and large, prices seemed on a par with Vancouver, except hotels were cheaper, wine was definitely cheaper, and probably real estate is cheaper. (I don’t know that for sure: we weren’t inquiring into real estate. Though maybe we should!) But then we got to Corsica, and we realized that yup, compared to other places in Europe (like for example France), Portugal is cheap! In general we’re finding that stuff is 25-35% higher here than there. Breakfast alone can set us back €30-40, which is something like $45-55 CAD. Breakfast, people! We're picnicking as much as we can to save on food costs, but even so. I think our next holiday will have to be somewhere slightly off the beaten path that might still be friendly to the traveller’s wallet. Albania, anyone?

2) Europeans still smoke like chimneys. Not indoors anymore – that’s not allowed. But the joys of dining on a terrace are decidedly mitigated by being surrounded by all the smokers who aren’t allowed to light up inside. *Ack.*Hack.*

3) Half of Israel appears to be in Europe. I haven’t heard so much Hebrew spoken since I was last in Israel, and that was in 1985! We thought many Israelis might have gone home this past week, but I’m still hearing Hebrew almost daily. Sometimes for fun we've dropped a casual remark in Hebrew just to watch the surprise on people’s faces – though that was all before this week. It's been nice getting a chance to exercise both my other languages. That would be Hebrew and French. Forget Portuguese. It’s impossible.

4) Portuguese is impossible. Both Avi and I can make some sense of it when we read it because of its general resemblance to Spanish on paper. But when spoken …. Yikes. Every second word ends in “sh”, and they cheerfully admit to dropping half their vowels and most of their syllables. Usually when I’m learning a new language I understand more than I can speak. Portuguese is the opposite – and since I can only say a few words, that tells you how much I can understand of it. But I got as much mileage as I could out of “Bom dia,” “boa tarde,” “boa noite,” “disculpe” (“I’m sorry” – good Canadian that I am), and especially “obrigada” (“thank you” when spoken by a female). “Muito obrigada” when I was very thankful. Which was often. The language may be impossible, but the people are great.

5) Driving and wayfinding = maximum oy! Have you driven in Europe? Holy shit. The roundabouts! The roads that go off in all directions! The narrowness of the roads! The curviness of the roads! (Straight lines do not seem to be part of road-building vocabulary in either Portugal or Corsica, and we haven’t even gotten to northern Corsica yet, where the roads on the map look like my hair on a humid day.) Also, the drivers! They are so … how shall I say? Confident! Confident taking cliffside curves at speed, passing on curves at speed (did I mention that the roads are very curvy?), stopping in the middle of the street to chat with someone on the sidewalk … We are impressed. And slightly terrified.


Also, wayfinding. I am earning a doctorate in Google Maps. “Turn right here. No, not that right – the other right! … I know. There are two right turns here – but it’s the second one we wanted. OK. Just go forward a bit and turn left – yup, that left. Now left again. Uh huh. OK. We’re back on the road. Carry on.” Or sometimes: “You want to take the third exit on the roundabout. … There’s the first one. … There’s the second one. … OK, the one coming up. … SHIT!! Google said to take that one, but now we’re going the wrong way! … Anyway, why did Google send us all the way around the roundabout when we could have just turned left from the road and skipped all the confusion??” Or sometimes: “So turn down this street. Now go left. I know it looks like an alley, but it’s a street. Keep going. Now turn right. Uh-oh, what’s that barrier ahead of us? We can’t get to the next street from here – it’s barred! OK. Let’s try again. … Wait, why are we being directed back here again? … Just breathe. I promise you we are not going to die here. … There! We’re back on the main road. Carry on straight. WTF.”

And we haven’t even gotten to northern Corsica yet.

6) Selfies! Is there anything more entertaining than watching people take selfies? Upon picking up their iPhone, the person who was totally deadpan just a second before quickly arranges their face into a carefully curated smile as they tilt their head to just the right practised angle or purse their lips into the perfect moue to get an Instagram-worthy shot. Then back to deadpan as soon as they put the phone down. Of course, we all compose our faces just so for selfies, but some people have got it down to a fine art. I am a total amateur by comparison. (I suppose it doesn’t help that I usually giggle or make silly faces when I try to take a selfie.) Also, what’s with the weirdly arched-back poses young women take for their selfies? I can’t even figure out how to do that with my body! I think my next photo project is going to be just taking pictures of people taking pictures of themselves.

8) Concept Stores. Apparently a thing in both Portugal and Corsica. Sometimes they are big, fancy concepts – sometimes rather little ones. I have a lot of concepts, and I think it's time I opened a store in Vancouver. Could be the next Big Thing, and for once I'd be ahead of the curve.


7) TWO (Travelling While Older). Both Avi and I have travelled pretty extensively over the course of our lives. We’ve both been willing to try lots of things, take a few risks, and not require luxury. We’re still willing to try lots of things, take a few risks, and not require luxury – but parts of our bodies are telling us maybe we shouldn’t have climbed all those stairs and hills in one day, and parts of our brains are telling us that maybe we should consider the wider, straighter road over the curly, more scenic single-lane road on the side of the mountain. With that scenic but sheer cliffside drop-off. We didn’t worry about stuff like this when we were young. We kind of didn’t worry about anything much when we were young. We do now. Also: I’m here to say I don’t object to a few more amenities than I cared about in my 20s and 30s.


8) Atlantic vs Mediterranean.

That is all.

Posted by AvrilAbroad 21:17 Archived in France Tagged beaches reflections corsica driving roads language portugal smoking selfies

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I've read them all but didn't comment for a week or so because I've been deep in prep for the beginning of the Elders course. It was today. Went very well. David Suzuki was brilliant - particularly in Q & A. So I'm relaxing this evening and enjoyed a few belly laughs at your road warrior stories.

by Carole Christoher

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