The Saint-Etienne Cathedral in Metz, France

While I can’t say that Metz is my favourite city I’ve ever visited, I can say with a huge degree of honesty that it holds my most favourite cathedral, which makes this a travel story that I must tell.

The train to Metz cost more than I thought and seemed to be a little bit longer too, but was made fun by the lovely ladies I was traveling with. It was a dreary, rainy Saturday in February that we decided to go and boy, did we make a mistake in not brining a map. We got off the train, starving and ready to be tourists in France. Only we ended up going the wrong way from the train station and walking about 20 minutes AWAY from the tourist part of town we had wanted to be in. Lost and turned around, sopping wet from the soggy rain, we went walking up and down the same street, trying to figure out which way we had gone wrong. Eventually, after speaking some broken french to a stranger and realizing that he too was directing us in the wrong way, we made it to the part of town we had wanted to be in.

It was adorable, with lots of shopping and places to stop and pick up pastries or meringues.But the absolute best part of the day was the cathedral. Now, before this trip I had never heard of Metz or this cathedral. I had absolutely no idea what I was in for.

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Nicknamed ‘The Lantern of God’ (and rightly so), Metz Cathedral is known for its ***fantastic*** stain glass windows & gothic architecture. Walking in, I was absolutely amazed. Even on this rainy, ugly day the colour from the windows was glinting everywhere.  The high ceilings and archways are enough to make you feel as big as an ant, but paired with the colourful glass windows and I was speechless.

metz5metz3 If anyone reading this has seen disney’s version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame- I felt like singing ‘God Help the Outcasts’ like Esmerelda in front of the stain glass. (then again, i’ve always wanted to be Esmerelda so maybe thats not such an odd thing for me)

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All in all, if you happen to be in the Lorraine region of France any time soon, it is WELL WORTH the trip to Metz for the cathedral.

It will forever be one of my most favourite churches I’ve ever seen.

February: Ahimsa & Valentine’s Day

ahimsaFebruary, whether we like it or not, is the month of mushy gushies and candy hearts. It is unavoidable for those who are heartbroken and oh so accessible for those who are hopelessly in love. The truth of it all though, is that love rules our lives whether it’s February 14th or not.

We are all products of an act of great love.

In Patanjali’s yoga sutras, ahimsa is the very first yama- making complete sense because, as life teaches, after an initial act of love, all the other work begins. Ahimsa, or loving kindness and non-violence, is the first ‘step’ to creation, manifestation and spiritual fulfillment.

This year, I’ve been trying to look at Valentine’s day and February in general as ‘ahimsa’ month (not that it should be limited to one month- i’m just focusing especially on it!) I’ve been devoting myself to moments of love, both on and off the mat. I must say, it’s not easy- especially when the internal voice turns toward condemnation and judgement. However, as love is the catalyst for all other ‘work’, I’m trusting that a month (or a few days if you want) focused on loving kindness will bring that creative energy, manifest some dreams and bring some peace. ahimsa3.jpg

ON THE MAT AHIMSA PRACTICE

If you are hoping for a generalized asana practice here, you won’t be finding it. Asana, or the physical postures of yoga, benefit all humans differently and I don’t believe my ahimsa asana practice is the perfect fit for everyone. Ahimsa is about tuning into yourself and finding your true path of self love- that may be a rigorous asana practice OR a softer one.

Instead, here I offer a few ways to find that connection with the self- so you may discern what is best for your body. These modes of connection will come in the form of pranayama (breath) and guided exploration. I practice these before my asana practice- they help bring more love to the movement, truly making it a ‘yoga’ practice and not simply a good stretch.

Dirga Pranayama: 3 Part Breath: Yogic Breath

  1. come to comfortable position- this may be seated or reclined, however if reclined try not to fall asleep! 🙂
  2. Breathe normally, as you were before coming to this practice. No restrictions, no ‘trying’.  How does the breath feel? Is it fast? Slow? Warm or cool? Bring your awareness to it in observation- never judgement- and know that this flow is what keeps you moving, thinking, ‘being’ all day.
  3. Bring your hands- one to your low belly and one to your chest (if comfortable). Allow the inhale breath to flow deep into the belly. Fill your entire belly with air then, once full, allow that air to begin filling the lungs – keeping the belly full still. Once both belly and lungs are full, bring the air (if possible) to the throat or collar bones. How does your body feel when it is this ‘expanded’? is there discomfort? is there energy?
  4. Begin to exhale slowly, letting the collar ‘deflate’ first, then the chest, then the belly. How does the body feel now? Take a moment in the space in between to notice.
  5. Repeat this, brining awareness to different aspects of the breath, the body and of course, your thoughts. Bring as much love and acceptance to the practice as possible, perhaps repeating some sort of mantra for every repetition. I’ve been using the mantra ” AHAM PREMA” meaning ‘I am divine love” (which we all are). I internally repeat it in those moments of space in between breath ‘action’ (between inhale and exhale).
  6. When you have practiced to your limit, with ease, come back to your natural breath. What is different from the list you took at the beginning? What do you notice? Give yourself thanks and slowly, and oh-so lovingly, come to your asana practice.

OFF THE MAT AHIMSA PRACTICE

This month I have allowed myself an abundance of time to do one thing a day that I thoroughly enjoy and am able to connect to a deeper sense of myself within. This usually takes a creative form- writing or painting or cooking. Some believe ahimsa to mean non-violence to all creatures big or small off the mat- which I believe as well however, I also don’t think vegetarianism and veganism is all that accessible to every single person.

Off that mat ahimsa has to do with intention. What is the intention you are preforming this task with. Is your intention violent towards yourself- are you doing it to just get it over with or to escape some perceived ‘ugly’ part of yourself? or is your intention loving- you are doing it to deepen some sense of self understanding or connection? Your entire day can’t consist of this- mine certainly can’t. We all have to do things we don’t ‘want to do’ or that doesn’t necessarily bring ‘us closer to ourselves’. We have to work and take care of our families and so on… however, I’ve been taking one thing per day (outside of ‘yoga’) that brings in that little bit of love light. Whether its 5 minutes before bed or when you wake up- take a little ahimsa time- something that brings you a little closer to loving kindness for yourself.

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Travel Guide: Trier, Germany

Across the Luxembourg border is a town called Trier- the oldest roman city in Germany. I was drawn to going for its easy travel (one hour from Luxembourg by train), history and shopping. I loved it from the moment I arrived- the train station is only 10 minutes away from the centre, making it super easy to walk down. The place I stopped into (as usual) was the info centre. Usually in every town theres an info centre either in the train station or in the city centre. I got a map and a list of tourist activities and I was on my way. trier2

The first place I hit was right beside the info centre and was one of the oldest places in the city. The Porta Nigra is a huge Roman city gate built out of sandstone between 186-200 AD. It was given its’s name ‘Porta Nigra’ (latin for ‘black gate) in the middle ages however the true Roman name for the gate has been lost in time. What I found most amazing was that the gate would have been taken apart stone by stone for building materials in the 11th century if not for a Greek hermit monk named Simeon who lived in the gate. Previous to living in the gate, Simeon had lived in a cave off the shore of the Red Sea, but left because he was he found he was too often disturbed by other people. I loved hearing the bits and pieces of his story and kept imagining him living in the (freezing) cold gate, alone, all day long.

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The rooms were huge and lonely but absolutely beautiful. Graffiti is carved into the stones, a mix of historical carvings and modern swear words. trier4trier5

trier7trier6One of the other things I lvoed about it was the long hallways and winding stairs. Each area had a long hallways connecting it with huge arched open windows, allowing you to take pictures of the town below. All together the experience cost 4 euros and was well worth it to wander around. Plus the view is fantastic.

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Next, I went and got myself a real german pretzel ( really great choice by the way) and made my way to the cathedral. On the way I stopped around town mostly because it all looked so cool and colourful. This fountain is in the middle of the square making it a beautiful meeting point for people. For a while I ate my pretzel and watched family and friends meet at the fountain, hugging and speaking german or french.

trier-13Finally I got to the cathedral. Inside it was massive- high ceilings and beautiful artwork. What amazed me most was the organ up on the wall. I would’ve loved to hear it played to know what it sounded like. It was so incredibly massive. trier-12trier-10trier-11

After being a tourist for most of the day, I resigned myself to shopping at T.K Max and some other shops. I got myself a Dunkin Donuts coffee and headed home. It was a great day of solo travel and my very first time going to a new country completely alone. I find travel empowering. It confirms that the crazy things I think I can’t do, I can.

Trier may not be the world’s hottest city to visit but I do recommend if you are in the Luxembourg area or even Germany, that you take a stop, even for a few hours and visit the Porta Nigra & Cathedral. They have beautiful stories attached to their history waiting to be explored.

xx

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An Update & Living Abroad Ramblings

Right now I am typing this post with my right hand. My left hand is busy holding my laptop screen because the moment I let go, it turns white. A few weeks ago one of the connectors from my laptop screen to my computer started to fail…leaving me laptopless for the most part. This is why posts have not been regular or coming at all. Its not for lack of writing or photo taking- I swear!

The truth is, a few days ago I hit my one month of living abroad. Doing this was about having 6 months of doing something ‘different’ with my life, having an adventure, however after one month of living here, I’m finding it’s been actually quite ‘similar’ to previous moves I’ve done (minus the language and food changes of course). Beginnings are difficult-no matter where you are moving, no matter for how long. I’m still nervous about ‘what comes next’ and I’m still panicked over whether it was ‘the right move’. Moves are meant to teach us that there is no right or wrong move. That, really, there is no next. Theres just you, wondering how you went from tutoring your student through a simple english assignment to managing a full on 11 year old emotional break down.  This past month I have felt absolutely everything: excitement, wanderlust, paranoia, fear, resentment, creativity, dullness, gratefulness, expansion, loss, guilt, strength…the list goes on. And I’ve realized- I didn’t take this crazy 6 month job to do ‘something a little different’ for a while- I think I did it so I would know that I actually can feel all this, do all this, and make it on okay. I think I needed that so I could start something going forward…something big and beautiful and amazing and wonderful. I think I just needed to know that I could do it and feel it all.

I think a lot of us wonder those things,  could I do that, could I make it through that. And I think a lot of us are told we can and still sit in disbelief. You don’t really know until you know. 

I’ve got 5 months left and there are days I say that exasperated and there are days I say that excited. Either way, it’s true. I’m excited to see what month 2 brings. I have a feeling it’s going to fly by- I have a lot of travel planned and fun stuff coming up- all of which will probably be shared after I figure out my tech situation.

Next on my List

I have a big travel list of where I’d like to go in the works all the time. I took this 6 month part time job abroad to accomplish some of my restless wanderlusting goals and dedicate myself to my yoga practice. During the process of finalizing I had a lot of fear crop up in the way of finances- at 23 you’re supposed to be starting your career and looking towards the future. In one particular moment I remember having a meeting at the bank and the accounts person across from me saying “have you started saving for a down payment yet?” My response was “a down payment for what?” He wasn’t so impressed- “A house, of course. If you want to be in your own place by the time your 26 you’ll need to start saving now…big time.”

And here I am. Student loans in tow, not saving for down payment, spending all my money on yoga classes and tourist traps. I don’t know- the future will most definitely be financially interesting, but I’ve learned that no matter what, its always worked out for me financial wise. Always. I’ve always made it WORK. SO why can’t I make it work for what I really love? 

This list is my 6 month no financial fear travel calendar/ list. I will not ‘put a trip on hold’ because of money- there is always a way to make it work- you just have to work it. 2017 is my year baby!

JANUARY

Luxembourg:

IMG_5763.jpgluxlife.jpgSettling in Luxembourg has taken some time and I’ve tried to be as open book as possible with sharing all the ups and downs. And there have been many ups and downs! A few months ago, back in Canada, I honestly couldn’t have told you where Luxembourg was on a map. Now I’m living here. It still boggles my mind a bit. I’m so close to everything and the country is absolutely more beautiful than I ever could have dreamed of. Sitting on 3 different plateaus I never realized how beautiful a land formation could be with an old and historical city built upon it.

Trier, Germany:

From Luxembourg, Trier is only an hour train ride away and is Germany’s oldest city. Its an ancient Roman capital that was inhabited a thousand years even before the Romans came along. Its been described to me as the perfect historical day trip- which sounds perfect while I’m settling into Europe.

FEBRUARY

Paris, France:

I think hitting Paris in February is the perfect time- not only because its valentines but it’s also my Mama’s birthday. I think we should meet in Paris- how romantic!

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-MARCH-SAVING MONTH-

APRIL

Amsterdam, Netherlands:

Meeting my parents in Amsterdam for a week of biking & yoga would be a perfect holiday! I get holidays in april & may so these trip will be longer and more thorough. Amsterdam seems like a good relaxing city- walking along canals and visiting museums.PLUS, the tulip festival is in April!!

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MAY

Greece-Anywhere & Everywhere:

May is my birthday month and I plan on making it a big one. I’d like to be in Greece for a week, island hopping, doing yoga and getting salt water cured. I’d love to get the history of Athens mixed with the relaxation of a good ol’ blue and white beach. 24 couldn’t start any better in my opinion.

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-JUNE-SAVING MONTH-

JULY

This is my big one. My big dream. My most expensive. I’d like to finish these 6 months with a yoga retreat in Bali. Its all to be decided…to be dreamed of more…but its on my list and I can’t seem to get it out of my mind.

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Those are all my MUSTS but I do have a list of optionals OF COURSE, depending on cost:

  • Rome, Italy
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Florence, Italy
  • Lisbon, Portugal
  • Provence, France
  • South Africa
  • Marrakech, Morocco
  • Croatia
  • Goa, India (but thats big dreamin’)

Where else shall I go and write about? What are some of your best travels?

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**Most of these inspiring images are not mine.