Weekend Abroad: Paris

Wednesday Wanderlust

It had been 10 years since my last trip to Paris even though I’m from the country next door. A part of the explanation is that I lived abroad for a couple of years and sometimes not even in Europe. Secondly, I lost my interest for Paris somehow. I remembered the city was full of tourists, grey and a bit sad.

Fortunately over the years spent abroad, I met so many Parisians and foreigners studying in Paris. It helped Paris to get close to the top of my travel bucket list. Plus, moving back to Brussels last September clearly made things easier. But as I said, it was not on the top of my list: Berlin and Amsterdam were. Then, I spent a weekend visiting a friend in Rome (and eating my favourite food) and had a weekend gateway in Dublin.

Recently, I was not so enthusiastic about spending a full weekend in Brussels and when I saw bus tickets for 30 Euros to Paris, I directly bought them (well as soon as my friend confirmed I could stay with her).

Day one

I finally made it to Paris at the beginning of May 2018 and I already want to go back there. I must say that I was lucky: the weekend was sunny and the weather was 28 degrees.

I took my bus at 7.30am at the stop from Brussels Zuid and arrived in Paris Bercy at noon. It was quite a long ride and we lost one hour in the traffic jam to get into the city. Even though it was long, the price difference between a last minute bus ticket and a last minute train ticket was worth it.

As soon as I arrived, I took the metro to go to my friend’s house. I met her boyfriend and her cat. The last one warmly welcomed me with a scratch on my hand (hell yeah). After catching up, reminiscing the time we studied in Milan, and drinking a chai tea (a true love story since my trip to Nepal), we went to Montsouris, a park close to her house. It was mainly about eating food and playing with the slack line her friends brought.

Afterward, we rented two bikes and went biking along the Seine, had a drink next to the river and I got some yummy falafels in the Marais.

Paris made me so happy and it felt like a summer day (I mean those summer days when you are still a student and you have two months of holidays –  Aaah I miss this time even though I’m ALWAYS abroad now).

Paris

Day two

I woke up at 11am which is so unlike me but we went to bed late and her asshole cat just walked over me during the night, destroyed some furniture, and probably scratched me during my sleep. But that’s all good, everything is forgiven.  My friend went shopping and came back with an awesome breakfast (thank you bella <3). It was a brunch with pastries, organic bread, homemade zatar and fresh orange juice. I’m not so sure why but I constantly forget to take pictures of my meals even though it’s been forever since I want to share more food content with you.

We started the day late and walked all the way to the Institut du Monde Arabe also located right next to the Seine. It was definitely too sunny to go to an exhibition but the roof offered an amazing view over Paris. Then guess what? Back to another park with more new friends and more food!

paris

When abroad or visiting a new place, most people organized themselves and planned what they are going to visit. I’m so not like this. Like not at all. IMPOSSIBLE. I’ve never bought a Routard or a Lonely Planet guide. Sometimes I read blog posts but only sometimes! I don’t know anything about ‘instagramable places’ neither. Hence I miss out but most of the time I’m just so relaxed and I enjoy what I’m doing without feeling that I have to rush.

After the park, my friend took me to the Grande mosquée de Paris. They actually have a huge dinning section ‘inside out’ where you can drink tea and enjoy baklavas.  Nice place, nice food, I was happy. We ended up the day with pizzas next to Seine watching the sunset (that was my non-negotiable request lol).

grande mosquée de paris

Day three

My last day was a Monday and my friend went to work. I met with another friend that had more free time (hehehe) and it was pretty much the same than the weekend:  eating food in the so-called rue Mouffetard and walking around the city.

Thank you Paris, I will come back!

paris

paris

Sunbathing in Cadaqués

Wednesday Wanderlust

Each summer, I spend a decent amount of time at the Costa Brava, especially in the white town of Cadaqués, a little city located on a bay in the middle of the Cap de Creus peninsula. Before living in Catalonia,I had never heard of it even though the town is famous for its clear blue water and the white houses that remind you of Greece.

This weekend, it was the first time I was going to Cadaqués in Spring. Unfortunately, not warm enough to swim but for once the town was not packed.  So our time was about sunbathing on the rocks and drinking cappuccini outside. Not too bad!

cadaques

aurrou

cadaques

cadaques

cadaques

Israel

Wednesday Wanderlust

I only spent one week in Israel and Palestine (or West Bank, not trying to get political here) and it was definitely the best travel I have ever done. It was such a bumpy journey and I discovered 100 times more than what I expected.

Where are you going?

It was a while ago (January 2016) and  not at all planned. I was waiting to get my contract renew at work which was taking longer than expected. January season means holidays season and none of my friends was in Rome.

After a brief talk with the HR, I understood I would have one more week off and I decided to travel. I was endlessly bored (yeah it happens a lot to me) and wanted something a bit more adventurous than a city trip in Europe but not a too long flight and no visa requirement (time constraint).

Friday morning, I texted a friend of mine from high school in Chile who was, back then, working in Tel Aviv. He said I could stay and I booked my flight tickets. The next day I was in Israel.

Rome: Fiumicino Airport

The journey started very badly. Since I booked my flight the night before, I had done no research about Israel. I was flying with El Al and never again I would choose them. If only I had read a bit about getting to Israel I would have known about the security control you go through especially when you are travelling alone (i.e. they always suspect you to be an activist).

Short version: I was set apart and went through a 40 minutes interrogation. Plus, I had to show them my Facebook account and my mail box from work. I was not happy at all but I wanted to board the plane so I cooperated.

Afterward, the security walked me inside the plane (while everyone else was still sitting at the gate). Back in time, I was traumatized but it turned into a good story to tell.

When I arrived in Tel Aviv, they pasted a bar code with numbers on my passport and everything else went smoothly. Little did I know that the code will be used later on (when leaving the country) to allocate you to a specific security section of the airport. Yes, the number is your level of threat for the country and I scored pretty high.

Tel Aviv and Jerusalem

Tel Aviv is a little city on the beach and it’s kind of a paradise bubble. I was not there long but from my experience, everyone was friendly and keen to party anytime. The food was amazing, people were surfing, and doing yoga on the beach at sunset. I loved it but left soon to visit Jerusalem.

The country is small so a one hour-long bus ride leads you to the next city. I stayed at the best hostel ever (i.e. Abraham Hostel) and met so many awesome people all traveling by themselves. The architecture and the history of Jerusalem is completely astonishing  and I totally recommend anyone to go there once in their life.

Couchsurfing in Palestine

I met Claire in Tel Aviv and she would become my new travel buddy. I told her I had arranged a couchsurfing in Ramallah and she decided to join. I don’t know if we were unorganized or just very stupids but we rent a car with an Israeli number to get there (= Hi everyone look at us!!).

Some information: Palestine is divided into three zones (in a nutshell):

  • Zone A: about 20% of the occupied territories under Palestinian control (in theory). Access to zone A is forbidden to Israeli citizens.
  • Zone B: about 28% of the occupied territories,under Israeli and Palestinian controls.
  • Zone C: covers most of Cisjordania and is under Israeli control.

Back to my story: Claire and I spent the day in the Avdat dessert and crossed the border around midnight. That was a bit scary because the driving style is different and you have military check points, massive walls with red sign ‘ZONE A, access forbidden’. Also, the 3G signal is blurred in zone A and I forgot that… No need to say that we were quickly lost in the night with no map and too much unwanted attention (i.e. only kids but they were determined to sell us stuffs and you don’t know what means ‘determination’ before meeting them).

What happened?

We drove back to Jerusalem, left the car and asked a taximan to drive us to our couchsurfing. Fortunately, we had the most patient host  that was not even mad at us. We woke up with a beautiful view over Ramallah and an amazing breakfast (Palestinian hospitality is not a joke!) and spent the day in the city with our new friends.

Conclusions

I could tell you way more about it: I met so many nice people from different walks of life, the vibes and the revolutionary spirit, but it’s so hard to communicate.

I had never visited a conflict area before and I was so unaware of the living conditions of the people. I’m so thankful I could experience this from so close, it really gave me some perspective on this life.

It was my first time in the Middle East and I was so excited to be in this part of the world. Back in time, I was working for an international organization and the Middle East is an hot spot when you are interested in a career in the development sector. Also, I love Mediterranean kitchen, I was learning Arabic and I’m interested in the geopolitics of the region. Hence I was super entertained and I hope to go back to Israel to learn more about the country and explore the Golan Heights!

Ps: My friend offered me to live with him in Tel Aviv at no cost since they had an extra room haha. I was so excited about Israel that I called the airline to cancel my flight. Fortunately, they were charging a massive fee which gave me time to collect my thoughts and remember I had a job in Rome and an apartment full of stuffs of mine. 

Ps II: I skipped many discoveries that contributed to make this trip unforgettable (and it includes a shooting, some tears gas and running away – It felt too much for a public blog called ‘Aurrou in Wonderland’).

Ps III: Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions, I’m always glad to help and to share all of my stories!

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