How do you choose?

I wonder sometimes how other people choose the places they want to visit. For me, I generally travel to places I’ve formed an emotional connection to, often via some kind of media. Is that weird?

One of the trips on my current to do list is sailing around the British Virgin Islands with Intrepid Travel. I’ve travelled with Intrepid twice before – once in Morocco and once in Thailand – and had a wonderful experience both times. For me, it’s the perfect compromise between adventure and an organized tour. It takes away all the stress of planning and keeping a schedule, but I don’t end up just shuffling on and off a bus. I would have toured Greece with them, too, but they didn’t run late enough into the year.

I’ve wanted to learn to sail for a few years now. I fell in love with the idea the summer I worked in Prince Edward Island, but never had the opportunity to follow through. The trip notes for the sailing adventure indicate it’s up to the individual how involved they want to get in the actual sailing of the ship, and I love that they provide that option.

The reason I chose the Caribbean as a destination, though, is largely due to a cheeseball television show I fell in love with over the winter called Death in Paradise. It’s a BBC show about a detective who gets transferred from London to the Caribbean and ends up stuck there. Which would be great, except that he hates the sun, and the sea, and the sand. It’s a simple little detective show, with a little hint of romance, and it was exactly what I wanted over the winter. The past two winters in Canada (in fact, much of North America) have been particularly cold and harsh. And even just getting to see the sun and the sea on television was a relief.

The show gave me a bit of an emotional connection to the area, and inspired my curiosity to learn more. And when I came across the Intrepid trip, it seemed an ideal combination. I wonder, though, if maybe I’m not supposed to admit this kind of thing out loud.

Paris Street Art walking tour

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A particularly stunning piece that combines paint with strategic carving into the wall’s already crumbling surface.

I came across the Underground Paris street art walking tour when I was digging through websites about the Paris literary scene. When I first conceived my trip to Europe, it was largely as a kind of self-imposed writing retreat.

The idea of the tour intrigued me, as I know absolutely nothing about street art whatsoever. So this past Saturday morning I met up with the tour guides at a cafe in the Belleville neighbourhood in the northeast of Paris for three hours of education on the subject.

The tour began gently, introducing us to the various different kinds of street art, Continue reading

Paris Catacombs

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Entrance to the Catacombs

I first heard about the catacombs under Paris when I visited for a weekend while I was in Brussels with the circus. The friend I was travelling with explained she wanted to see them, but it was forbidden and all the entrances were locked. She thought there was a way down through one of the mausoleums in Pere Lachaise cemetery, but we didn’t have the time to go monument to monument and test the theory. Also, ew. Continue reading

Eurovision Melancholy

Yesterday was the Eurovision Song Contest and I’m still sad that I couldn’t watch it this year.

For those of you in North America who may not have heard of it (I hadn’t before I moved to Europe), the Eurovision Song Contest is kind of like a bigger, campier version of American Idol, where every contestant comes from a different country and the whole thing happens in one night. Also, campier. Did I say campier? So. Much. Camp.

I was first introduced to Eurovision while I was on tour with the circus. My colleagues were initially appalled that I’d never heard of it, and then felt the need to induct me into the cult. The circus was the perfect environment in which to experience Eurovision for the first time. The group was largely made up of straight women and gay men, and we were from so many different countries that it could get nicely competitive. We all gathered in someone’s hotel room (I can’t remember whose) with plenty of snacks and lots of wine, and it’s possible we laid bets on whose country would win. Since Canada doesn’t compete (the definition of ‘Europe’ in Eurovision is flexible and includes in this case both Russia and Israel, but it hasn’t bent far enough to yet include North America), I rooted for the UK, my second home, and I think I ‘won’ that night, as the UK placed second overall, higher than anyone else’s home country.

That was 2001. I stayed with the circus until mid-2003, and then remained in Europe until mid-2005. Eurovision was a party every year. But in 2005 I moved home to Canada, and Eurovision doesn’t even air here, so it mostly fell off my radar after that.

Until last year. Last year I was on tour with a show in the UK for the first six months of the year. In May, I happened to be renting a room from a lovely married gay couple in Liverpool. I got home from work one evening after the show, and was greeted by Adrian as I headed upstairs.

“We were out earlier, so we taped Eurovision and we’re just about to watch. Do you want to join us?”

“Oh my god, I think I do.”

There were snacks. There was wine. There was slightly bitchy commentary. It was awesome.

So I’m missing it this year. I’m told a bearded transvestite from Austria called Conchita Wurst won it this year. I’m looking for a way to stream the contest from Canada, but failing that, I may just need to look up Conchita’s performance on YouTube.

In closing, I’m going to leave you with my favourite performance from last year’s Eurovision, which was Greece’s entry:

And, just for good measure, the most WTF moment from 2013. This is Serbia’s entry:

WTF ARE THEY WEARING?! I can’t even understand. And I didn’t even show you the entry with the giant in it. Or the one where the woman’s dress telescoped up while she sang.