For Paris, my heart is aching.

IMG_2176Paris is in my heart. It has been there for so long, I hardly remember a time when it wasn’t. I walked off the train in Gare de Lyon, I was 19 years old, carrying a big pack on my back, I felt strong and free. Finally stepping in the world, Paris caught me in its embrace and never let me go.

I went back after a couple of years, planning to stay forever, even though, at 21, forever is never very long. It was a bitter winter but I learned to love the cold. Our one room studio was dark and small, but I can only remember light and space. And then there were the people. New people appearing in my life, turning into friends, becoming important, opening my eyes, while Paris watched and smiled.

Whenever I go back to Europe, I make sure I can step off the train in Gare de Lyon and every time I feel 19 again, excited and full of hope. I am back, happiness in my heart.

On Thursday I’ll be flying To Paris, arriving at Charles de Gaulle airport. Sofia will be spending a month in Paris, in “my” Paris and I hope it will take over her heart, become that place where it all started. I want her to have a memorable time and come home with her own Paris’ stories. As the date draws closer, I have been getting very excited.

IMG_2659And then it all changed. It started when I read a friend posting on Facebook, to someone living in Paris, “Are you ok?”. In the past few years I have become suspicious of such harmless enquiry. I immediately think: something has happened. But I don’t like this new way of being, this fear that creeps up and makes me look for bad news. I ignored my uneasiness. It was Sofia who told me and I could not ignore it anymore. It was Paris, again.

I feel heavy and confused. I want to know, but I don’t want to know. I want my girls safe by my side, but I want to let them go. I want to be in Paris, but I don’t want to be there.

My girls are starting their life in the world, they are leaving the nest, spreading their wings. I am cherishing every moment of their new found independence, even the fear in seeing them go. But then this happen and is so real, so close, so ultimate and I am questioning everything.

We have to wait and see. It’s all so raw and there is no need to make a decision quite yet.

I am not worried about terrorist attacks. Since 9/11 I am so used to worry, every time I catch a plane, every time I am in a busy street or at a big event. But the worry doesn’t worry me anymore. It’s just part of me and I accept it a move on. I have decided that I am not stopping what I love doing, I have become quite fatalistic and I know I can’t escape when my time will come.

Arriving in a city in mourning, leaving Sofia surrounded by sorrow and pain and not being there to hold her and guide her through it. These are my concerns. I feel that I should be more concerned about her physical safety, that I shouldn’t impose my fatalistic view of the life on her.

My heart is aching, for Paris and for humanity.

Vientiane: Then and Now

A few months ago Paola offered me and the rest of the Expatclic team the opportunity to take part in one of her travel writing workshop. I like to write and I love to travel so I took her up on her generous offer and started on this exciting journey. The aim of the course was to write a travel article to enter in a writing competition. I have never entered a writing competition and I have to admit that the concept was, and is, a bit scary. In an effort to get out of my comfort zone I took on the challenge I loved every step of the process.

Before starting with the writing we had to do some reading. Although I have always been an avid reader, I never paid much attention to the different styles. Under Paola’s attentive direction I learned how to read critically and started to see the difference between show and tell. 

Then came the second, more challenging part, writing my story!

Having just got back from Thailand and Laos, where I hadn’t been for 25 years, I chose to write about Vientiane, using a “before and after” angle. 

I immediately realised, with Paola’s discreet prompts, that I used too many words. No surprise there, I have been told once or twice that I am a tad verbose! I had to start cutting down and dig in the meander of my mind for interesting a descriptive words, in English of course!

This was just the beginning of learning to write in a new style, putting myself in the reader’s mind, all the while staying true to myself.

Then there was the memory part that, for a nostalgic like me, is always ridden with emotions. I looked at old photos, read old diaries, searched deeply for special moments and wrote about them.

Well, there is a lot more I could write about the process of writing, but this was to be only an introduction to my big announcement and I am already approaching the 400 words!

I am very excited to announce that, with Paola’s wonderful advice and support, I managed to write an article that made it to the top ten in the I Must Be Off! Travel Essay Contest. The winners will be announced on September 30 but for now my story has been published and this is so much more that I expected. 

Here is “Vientiane: Then and Now”.

Please go and have a read and tell me what you think. Any hits and comments on the website will help my story towards the Readers’ Choice award, even negative comments count, so please be honest!




…and now!