Where NOT To Find Squirrels In Paris
How hard could it be to find a tree-loving rodent in a city filled with parks?
The gardens of Paris' Rodin Museum are a fine setting for many a good thing. You can enjoy a tranquil oasis in the middle of the city. Great works of art are resplendent in a natural setting. Rodin's masterpiece, The Thinker, awaits your admiring gaze. What you can't do, however, is see a squirrel.
I wish I could tell you that "squirrel" is code for a kind of art or maybe even a pastry, but no. I'm talking about your everyday prosaic squirrel. Red, grey, black, flying, I was open to them all but in Paris, they eluded me.
I don't normally look for vermin when I travel and, if I did, I don't know if squirrels would top my agenda. As a dog owner, squirrels have long been on Oliver's list of enemies (along with the mop, highway rumble strips, and the doorbell). As such, while I have no personal animosity with squirrels, familial loyalty dictates that I hate them. But my hand was forced when I shared the story of seeing sheep grazing on public lands not far from my Paris apartment.
My tale of discovering the Eco-Mouton came in the middle of an online networking event with colleagues. My reference to actual animals somehow had its wagon hitched to a separate reference about animal-like energy (aka "feeling squirrel-y") and a comment was made that I should be on the lookout for squirrels as well as sheep. Challenge accepted! I'd find an adorable squirrel, take a quick snapshot as it delicately nibbled away on a gourmet nut like the true discerning Parisian it was, and gain the accolades of my friends. There was just one problem....
There are no squirrels in Paris.
After more than twenty years of value-focused travel, I'm finally saying a fond farewell to hostels - for the most part. Here's why.
Even before I had my final hostel stay, I knew it would be my last.
The previous couple of hostels I stayed at brought roller coasters of emotion. One, set in a gorgeous historic location, was clean and friendly but offered bare-bones dorms with whisper-thin mattresses, a single stingy pillow, and squeaky wooden bunk beds. My bunk was positioned in the centre of the room, without a single wall at my disposal for leaning or privacy. The muggy, warm room and back-aching bed made sleep impossible and I cringed every time I moved, fearful my squeaky bed was keeping everyone awake. It was a rough night – and a rough morning as I tried to be as quiet as a mouse, packing up my computer to escape to a nearby cafe for a bleary and bright conference call. While I was waiting for my call to connect, I found clarity in my exhaustion. For the first time ever, I sacrificed my two remaining nights of prepaid bunk accommodations in favour of relocating to a private bed and breakfast room.
I spent an extra $300 I wasn’t expecting but when I finally got to my snug room and sunk into the plush, squeak-free mattress, I nearly wept with relief – and guilt. Who was I, giving up an otherwise great-on-paper hostel just because my bedding wasn’t as sumptuous as I would like?
From boats to balloons, Hawaii to hotels, these are ten of our most memorable travel experiences in ten years of blogging.
"But really... what's your favourite place?" "So where should I go next year?" "Well there must be some place you didn't like."
After ten years of blogging, I hear questions like this all the time. Alas, dear reader, I am horrible with these queries. If you need someone to weigh in on finding pizza in Bruges or the quality of food tours in Quebec City, I am your girl. But sweeping generalizations are not my strong point. I can tell you about some destinations I didn't like - but I'd also have to get into how I slept funny the night before and skipped breakfast and honestly, that's probably what made me dislike Istanbul on my first visit (for the record, I love it now). The reverse also holds true. I'm convinced that an unexpectedly stellar hotel and accompanying breakfast factor into my long standing enthusiasm for Athens as the spot everyone should visit next.
That leaves the biggest question of all, my favourite place. People seem to think it's a bit of a cop out if I try to explain about how sometimes the most memorable trips aren't the most fun in the moment, or that the things that made me love a trip had less to do with the particular destination and more with other factors in my life. So sometimes I just name Hawaii as my favourite destination but this is what feels like the real cop out to me. Like, a decade spent travelling and writing about the world and my best answer is the one place that has long been established as the most desirable destination? Surely I can do better than that?
And that is exactly what I'm going to attempt here. These are ten of my most memorable travel experiences and destinations after ten years of blogging. I'm not going to go so far as to rank them or even say that they're my definitive top ten travel moments. These are simply the stories that flood my heart with happy remembrances and what they all have in common is that I invariably thought at some point that I truly have the best job in the world. And I do!
After ten years of being a travel blogger, I've learned some important travel lessons - and I bet you can relate to all of them. From toilets to temperature control, these are the ten things I know for sure about travel.
I like to pretend that this photo represents me at my best as a travel blogger. I'm crumpled, dusty, and sunburned, clearly exhausted as I slump in the back of a Land Rover, a water purification bottle within easy reach. It's the kind of photo that suggests I could be fatigued from any number of glamorous, travel blogger-y tasks. Maybe I was up at dawn to interview a farmer or worked through the night to "research" local liqueurs. It definitely doesn't suggest that my stomach is churning from the bumpy, twisting road or that I'd sell my soul for a working toilet. And most travel images are like that. There can be a lot of irksome truths behind soothing composition.
After ten years of travel blogging, I've learned a thing or two about what a photo really says and a whole lot about what travel is truly like. I've picked up a lot of hard earned wisdom in this job and I'm here to share my biggest lessons. After a decade of jaunting and jetting, this is what I know for sure about travel.
I thought I was ready to fly with Santa Claus - but was I? The plane was small - and the naughty list loomed large!
Every writer dreams of an exclusive celebrity scoop and I got one to top them all: Santa Claus! Not only did the head elf himself give me the inside scoop on what he loves about Ottawa but I also got to spend some time with him in his very own plane. That's right - Santa doesn't just fly a sleigh but he also offers 15 minute aerial tours of downtown Ottawa in a vintage Cessna 172 in conjunction with Ottawa Aviation Adventures as part of a program in support of the Ottawa Food Bank.
There was just one tiny complication. The plane is tiny. Santa is all-knowing. And I'm a big ol' scarde-y cat. An Anti-Adventurist, if you will. Would my notorious stomach hold up in a vintage aircraft? Would my nerve hold up if Santa started grilling me about whether I was naughty or nice?
These delicious chocolate-cherry Black Forest cookies taste like travel but feel like home. Anyone with wanderlust can whip them up in just a few minutes!
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