Permanence is so comforting—there is sweetness to habits you form when settled in somewhere. Cultivating things that are wholly yours: homes, places, people. Paradoxically, a change of pace is something often dreamt about, but difficult to put into motion.
After living in and around Toronto for 22 years, I did what I thought was impossible. I applied for a visa, got on a plane, and moved to France for seven months. This meant a new job in a country I’d never set foot in and speaking a language I’d only ever truly practiced with a pen and paper. My temporary work contract meant a start date and an inevitable end date; I thought the end of April would mean a flight back home immediately with this experience under my belt.I settled into my town and started working as an assistant English teacher. I began to fall into step with this temporary lifestyle and recognizing things in myself I didn’t notice before. Like being able to figure out what my students were trying to say in English by recognizing how they would say it in French. Or ordering a coffee and pastry in the boulangerie in a semi-perfected accent since I had been constantly indulging. The metro stops became easy to find and how to walk arrondissements seemed simple. I suddenly knew exactly how to pack a suitcase in under an hour. First trip to the South of France meant sunbathing in late October, late night dinners, seeing the sea for the first time in two years.Then came Barcelona with its 1€ pints, watching skateboarders outside of the contemporary art museum, and a first hostel experience that feels too cliche to be true.A weekend in London with my cousin as she introduced me to another city I had always expected to love.Ticking off two firsts: visiting my family in Italy by myself and seeing the alps at Christmastime.Back to London with a friend while harbouring a cold in mid-February, but graced with rare blue skies in a city known for its rain.Porto’s custard tarts, sweet wines, and tiled buildings lining the rivers and that open onto the ocean.While we saw Madrid’s incredible art collections, we felt too tired to leave at night after walking all day and I fell ill for 24-hours in our hostel. Then Seville, who took my breath away unexpectedly. A small town full of great food, sweet vermouth, and even better people.A month later, back to the South of France to visit Marseille briefly as the mistral winds tore through.At this point, Paris was homebase and a place I knew better than the other countries I had visited. “I can’t wait to lie down at home,” I’d say in the middle of our two-week trip in February. I finished work, spent time on terraces with my friends, seeing the museums I had memorized. The weather got warmer and my parents arrived. One week in Paris to play tour guide after seven months of settling in.Then a drive through France through Fontainebleue, Lyon, and finally Nice. A whirlwind of French countryside and chateaus and the sea.Our rental car brought us back to Italy, to our family, in mid-May. Two weeks there eating the best food in the world and soaking in the mountain air; seeing Venezia, Sirmione, Verona, Caorle.Meeting two friends in Rome after taking the Frecciarossa from Pordenone. I felt the wonderment I felt at seeing Paris for the first time—why pay for a museum when the entire city is one.With an expiring Visa in my passport, I had my flight booked to London to escape the Schengen zone for a few days. London in Fall, Winter, and Spring left me ambitious for a summer adventure there soon, sometime. Then back to Paris, my semi-home before going to Canada. The last few days felt ripe and sweet. The quiet on the streets with school still in session and the weather turning as it prepared for the vacation season. The final sunset, the last 4€ glass of wine, saying goodbye to the places I never get tired of seeing.
Photos (35mm) & Article by Alexandra Scandolo