samedi 30 avril 2011

On carrying passports in France

This is a bit of a reflective post...

At the start I was not aware that I had to carry around my passport EVERYWHERE I go... This is just not done in Australia. My friends here later told me that I could be stopped in the street anywhere and anytime by customs officers to check if I'm legally allowed to be in the country (France).

French people don't need to carry around a passport because they have a laminated identity card stating their French nationality.

Trust me... the very first time I get stopped I didn't have my passport on me. I decided to on the spur of the moment take a train to Lyon for a day trip. Prior to that I thought I only needed my passport to go to Switzerland or another country so I didn't think to carry it on me. I was stopped by customs officials and inside I started panicking. "Remain calm" I told myself. These people have been trained to smell fear. I remained totally calm and polite. And honest. I told them I thought I only needed it to travel to another country and then they told me I need it everywhere I go, even if I'm not going on a train!

They asked me where I was from (I said Australia) and what I was doing there. I said I'm a teacher at the lycée (name) and that they can call the school if they wanted, to verify. Funnily, they didn't take me up on that offer. They were actually very nice and not mean at all but just reminded me to ALWAYS carry my passport on me from now on! I don't really like doing so because it's such an important document and also I don't want to get it damaged but I guess I have no choice :(

The only other time I was stopped (in France) was AGAIN in my town and again at the train station! But I was actually not in the station part and on a nearby street. They actually walked passed me earlier and didn't stop me but then I think they asked to see my ID only because there was noone else around and it was just something to do - ha! I don't know if they remember me but I certainly recognised them from before, even if it was almost 3 months ago.

The third and most recent time was when I went to Italy. Unbeknownst to me, I was getting a bus and not a train for the second leg of my trip. I'd booked it through the SNCF website and didn't see this little detail. Anyway, the much scarier looking customs officers got on and looked at everyone's passports and identity cards and it took FOREVER and made the bus depart late. The woman sitting next to me was black (from Angola) and I noticed he was much more stringent with viewing her passport than mine. I conveniently gave it to him with the page already opened to the one with my photo on it, observing to see if he'd actually check either the date of when I entered France or that I had a long stay - visa. Nup! Bit of discrimination eh? Oh well. I was happy with that especially I was sitting right at the back and the last person to be checked and just wanted to leave already!

The Prayer - Celine Dion Andrea Bocelli

When I was in Rome last night I happened to pass by an awesome looking toy store and ventured in. While I was in there I noticed the song that was playing in the background (I always do when I'm in a shop or a restaurant etc) and couldn't quite put my finger on what song it was. At the time I didn't think to ask someone what it was... I was sure it was by Andrea Bocelli and sure enough I found it.

It's The Prayer by Celine Dion Andrea Bocelli. The version I heard was solely by Andrea though. I'm not religious but I think it's such a beautiful song. Especially in both English and Italian. I used to think that French was the most beautiful sounding language in the world but after having spent a few days in Italy I'd say now it has to fight it out for the title with Italian :P

The Prayer (duet with Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli) lyrics

I pray you'll be our eyes, and watch us where we go.
And help us to be wise in times when we don't know
Let this be our prayer, when we lose our way
Lead us to the place, guide us with your grace
To a place where we'll be safe
La luce che tu hai
[I pray we'll find your light]
Nel cuore resterà
[And hold it in our hearts.]
A ricordarci che
[When stars go out each night,]
Eterna stella sei
Nella mia preghiera

[Let this be our prayer]
Quanta fede c'è
[When shadows fill our day]
Lead us to a place, guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we'll be safe
Sogniamo un mondo senza più violenza
Un mondo di giustizia e di speranza
Ognuno lo dia la mano al suo vicino
Simbolo di pace, di fraternità
La forza che ci dà

[We ask that life be kind]
È il desiderio che
[And watch us from above]
Ognuno trovi amor
[We hope each soul will find]
Intorno e dentro sé
[Another soul to love]
Let this be our prayer [Let this be our prayer],
Just like every child
Need to find a place, guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we'll be safe
È la fede che
Hai acceso in noi,
Sento che ci salverà

and a version by the young Charice and Gianluca Ginoble

Somewhat related: Vivo per lei / Je vis pour elle (a song in both Italian and French).

vendredi 29 avril 2011

The end of one chapter and the start of another...

Tonight is my last night in Rome and in Italy. Tomorrow morning I will take a very long train ride (actually 3 in total) back to my home town in France. It was a whirlwind trip that I'll never forget. I had so many fun adventures, both alone and with others. I learnt so much about Italy and also about life in general and about myself (as clichéd as that sounds). I wanted a biggish trip (and big it was because I went totally over budget! oops!) because it would probably the last holiday I will take for a while...

I don't work at the school anymore and I'm not a teacher anymore and soon I won't be living in France anymore! Stay tuned... all will be revealed very soon :)

(Image from here)

jeudi 28 avril 2011

First Impressions of Rome, Italy

Second day in Rome... Apart from some light showers yesterday the brilliant weather continues and I couldn't be happier. Warm and sunny but not too hot. The large and historical monuments scattered all over Rome are beyond impressive. They rock my socks off! I can't believe it. I am having such a great time here. Everything is going great except that Italy is seriously lacking in maps. Compared to France where I see maps everywhere... it's kind of shit. That'd be one of my number one complaints about Italy!

I am also suffering from some minor physical/health problems: tiredness/exhaustion, feet absolutely killing me and hayfever allergies from hell. Apparently it's the pollen from the cypress trees I've been told and not so much the pollen from the flowers. Whatever it is, it has been making my ENTIRE trip absolutely miserable. I hope when I return home the symptoms go away! And don't bother suggesting drugs to me because my body is immune to them. Antihistamines and nasal sprays do NOTHING for me. I just have to bare the 'pain' of it all till the pollen dies down (and it stops being windy) or I go to a different place.

Tomorrow is sadly the last full day of my holidays :(

A full and travel report will be up when I get back to my normal (or maybe not so normal?) every day routine...

lundi 25 avril 2011

First Impressions of Florence, Italy

Remember when I said I didn't want to go to Venice because it'd be too sad to go to such a romantic place alone? Well now that I've been in Italy for 5 days I can say that that was a stupid comment because it's romantic EVERYWHERE in Italy dammit! In France I felt that it's only like that in Paris but in Italy I feel like it's like that everywhere you go.

And being Easter school holidays, everywhere I go and look there are couples and families. I would be lying if I didn't say I didn't feel sad and that I miss my family and friends greatly. I see things and think that my mother or sister or one of my friends would just LOVE that and what a great time we'd have eating and shopping and sightseeing together. Alas, they are not here with me :(

However, I'm never sad for too long because I actually walk around with a great big smile on my face. I'm in fact quite overcome with emotions all day long whilst walking around this beautiful and historical city. I have now walked past the Duomo probably 10 times already but today I finally went inside and I almost cried! I have NEVER had such a reaction to a church before! Italy sure does strange things to you :)

Part of the reason I'm having such a great time is the unbelievably perfect weather. I couldn't ask for anything better.. low-mid 20s. Not too hot and not too cold. I don't think I'd like coming in May or in the summer. Far too hot and even more crowded, I hear. A lot of places are NOT air-conditioned and it's bearable now but obviously not later.

Apart from that I wish I could do more but I am just dead. I booked a hotel here (as being Easter it was impossible for me to find either Couchsurfing host OR cheap accommodation as I left it too late!) and it was quite a splurge - a 3 star hotel so I'm enjoying every minute of staying here and coming back at least once in the middle of the day just to sleep! It's because my first day was so tiring. I left the house at 6:45am and then had a dinner/party up until 1am. This included multiple bus/train changes and journeys totalling more than 8 hours and I could barely move the next morning but still, I managed to walk around for 7 hours straight in the quite strong sun all day long and now it's had a cumulative effect on me where I can barely do anything for more than 3 hours now without stopping for a nap! Not to mention that Italy has far 'worse' cobble stone paths than in France and even wearing the most comfortable pair of shoes that I own, my feet are dying. I'm contemplating buying another pair of shoes just to see if that will help!

I don't know how I'll be able to handle all that walking to come in Rome but we'll see! I admit in hindsight it was so unlike me to be this last minute about this trip, especially since it's Easter AND school holidays...  but I think as long as I'm enjoying myself that's the main thing. I don't feel like I need to be a typical tourist just checking off things on a big list to see/do... that's how I used to travel but not anymore! I'd rather soak up the atmosphere and if I can, spend time with the locals... I have to admit, almost all of the Italian men that I have dealt with (at the train station, in random places, at the hotel, in shops and food eateries etc) have been extremely good looking. I don't know if I'm imagining or what... perhaps I have this subconscious attraction for Italian men that I never even realised... LOL.  This morning I got my first Ciao Bella which I found amusing.

anyway it's au dodo for me!


PS Prior to coming to Italy I didn't know any Italian apart from Ciao, Buongiorno, Grazie and food words but now I know how to count to 10 and I figured out myself what Prego means just from usage (it's like the French Je vous en prie). A lot of the time I can guess meanings of words when they sound similar to French or English. Part of my whole last minute easygoing attitude was not learning any Italian before I came but so far so good! Miming and drawing helps too! haha.

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