Tuesday, February 1

Before, Again...

It's hard to believe, but I've been in Europe for more than two weeks.

The last time that I updated this, I was in Norwich with my friend Nick. After leaving there, I met up with Will, a friend of mine from my last trip to France, who took french classes with me in Nice. Will is now married and living in London, and he invited me to stay at his place for a bit on my way from Norwich to Brighton. It was great to see him and his wife, Lucy. Unfortunately, my time in England was running a little short, so I was only able to spend the one night with them. Still, we had a wonderful time, first taking in a movie, and then going out for a few pints at a local tavern. Although I didn't have extremely high expectations for the film, it turned out to be one of the best big budget movies that I've seen in ages. It was the new Clint Eastwood movie, Million Dollar Baby, about a boxing trainer who decides to work with a woman boxer for the first time. From the blurb alone, it stunk of clich├ęs, but had hardly any what-so-ever. And to top things off, an ending that by the middle of the film, you would never expect, and were unsure of up until the very end. It's also been nominated for the Academy Award for best picture, but that's not always saying much.

After leaving London, I spent a few nights in Brighton, a city of which I'd heard many good things. It lived up to most of it, and is probably my favorite place in England. A coastal town, it's very pretty, but above all else, there was a vibrancy that I didn't expect at all. I find that most English towns are sleepy and at times downright gloomy, but Brighton [as the name implies?] escaped from all of that. There was an extremely colorful carnival on the port that was open year round, which in some ways set the tone. But all over, there were nice buildings, beautiful parks, and wonderful beaches. I also met up with an old friend, Ben, who I first met in B.C. [Canada]. It's strange, but our paths seem to cross at odd times. The first was when we were both in a small town in B.C., Kamloops. I saw him again in Vancouver, and a third time when I randomly bumped into him at a drum fest in Victoria.

This time he responded to the mass email I sent, saying that he was in East Sussex, very close to Brighton. I was planning on going to Brighton anyway, as it was the only place in England that I had wanted to see but missed on my first trip to Europe a few years ago. Now he says that he might come to France, so our paths may cross again in the near future.

Speaking of which, while I had a good time in Brighton, I was eager to move on to France, so leaving England wasn't painful. My flight was from London to Nice, Nice being where I had lived for four months back in 2002. It was very strange being back there, as almost everyone I knew had moved on. A consequence of having made most of my friends in a language school. Now I know lots of Swedes, as well as a few Germans, Austrians, and English. But not many locals from Nice itself.

Still, the one person I was sure would still be around didn't disappoint. She was my old land lady from when I lived there, and she has to be one of the strongest personalities that I've ever met. Affectionately [at least by most] known as the pink lady, I don't think that I stand a chance of doing her justice here. She's around 65, always (and I mean always) wears pink, and works the most ungodly hours of anyone that I've ever known. She runs a restaurant, but refuses to hire any help. This means that she works from about 7 am till 2 am, seven days a week. On top of that, she owns two buildings next door, which she rents out. One of them being a hostel, she's always running back and forth. She mentioned once that she hadn't taken a day off in 11 years. That includes Sundays. The only help she gets is from her sister, and though both are very nice, they spend more time bickering with each other than actually talking.

A few things had changed with her, though. The first, and most shocking to me, was that she had changed the color of her restaurant. Formerly (as you probably guessed) pink, it was now bright red. And secondly, her dog had died. Finally. I call it a dog, but back when I lived with her, sometimes I wasn't really sure. It was one of those little lap dog things, but seeing as how it was pushing twenty, it looked more like an oversized hairball. It couldn't really move [like, at all], but knew enough to make some sort of gurgling sound when it needed to relieve itself. The gurgling was a queue to the Pink Lady to carry it outside and hold it while it did its business. Then it was back to it's chair, where it would lie, seemingly lifeless, until feeding time. At which point it's head would be placed into the bowl, as it couldn't do it itself.

After staying in the Pink Lady's hostel for a few nights, I realized that my time in Nice really was over, and that it was time to see if not greener, at least different pastures. So I caught the next ferry to the Isle of Corse, a French island close to Italy. The ship was run almost entirely by Italians, and [coincidently or not] was about two hours late. After docking in the town of Bastia at about 10 pm, and seeing as how hotels are very much over priced here, I decided to camp out on a beach for the night. I awoke to some homeless guy telling me that I was in his spot, of which he'd staked claim to about two months earlier. This was a wake up call that maybe, just maybe, my life style was getting a bit iffy.

I tried the tourism office, and was told about some affordable accommodation about 7km out of town. What I hadn't realized was that it was a monastery, run by an order of polish nuns. So yes, I'm now staying in a monastery. It's definitely the quietest place that I've stayed at in a while, and I've taken advantage of the opportunity to work on some more drawings. The one that I've started is of a picture that I find completely fascinating, you can check out the photo under scraps on the web page where I keep my drawings. Tomorrow I'll probably take off for a different town on the island, as it really is very beautiful here, and since I only have a week, I want to explore as much as possible in the time that I have.

On a bit of a side note, typing this has helped me get used to french keyboards again. For some reason, the french switch the w, q, a, z, and m keys around, which makes typing a bit of a challenge. Most Mediterranean countries do similar mix ups, hence typing becomes even more of a pain if you're travelling around a few different countries.

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