December Books

I naively believed that December would be quieter than November and that I would have more time for reading… I was oh-so-wrong! Between Christmas shopping, travel planning and festive gatherings, I barely had time for myself. I still managed to sneak a few pages here and there, and I had plenty of time to read whilst we were stuck on the runway for two hours on the flight back from Berlin a few days ago.

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According to Yes | Dawn French
This book made me smile, it made me laugh a few times and even though I like the overall message (live life to the fullest and say yes to new adventures), I found the plot a bit thin and twisted. This light-hearted, humorous ‘chick-lit’ novel was the perfect easy read for a busy month, but I certainly wouldn’t read it twice.

The Penguin Lessons | Tom Mitchell
This one was an early birthday present from Edward and it kept me company during our flights to and from Berlin. The author recounts the true story of Juan Salvado, the penguin he saved from an oil spill on a Uruguayan beach before taking him back to Argentina where he lived. A very touching tale of friendship and South American adventures; I laughed and almost cried a few times too.

Happy reading!

A (Not So) British Christmas

I am writing this comfortably snuggled in the bed of our London hotel. We are catching an early flight to Berlin tomorrow morning so we spent most of our Christmas day on the road. My first Christmas in England had nothing ‘traditionnally British’ about it, but it was perfect nonetheless. 

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We actually did most of the celebrations on Christmas Eve. After a festive Parkrun at Belton House, we visited my in-laws for a cup of tea (I tried mince pies for the first time; definitely not a favourite) and to exchange some presents. My mother-in-law offered me a beautiful guide to ‘Britain’s historical landscape’ that I look forward to reading before our next adventure to the countryside in January. 

In the afternoon, we started packing for our trip and I skyped my dad. Seeing the snowy landscape back in Québec made me long for a white Christmas… Same time last year, Edward and I were taking a walk in the still, crisp cold of a Canadian winter; such a contrast  with the green grass and humid freshness of England. 

After a nice dinner, we got to the best part: presents! I have been spoilt. I received two novels, a leather bracelet for my FitBit, a Kindle case, lingerie and the most perfect Manfrotto travel tripod. I gave Edward a warm cashmere jumper, the latest PS4 release, a leather band for his FitBit (great minds think alike!) and a beautiful ‘collector’s edition’ Blue-Ray of The Force Awakens

We ended the evening cuddled up on the sofa with hot drinks and a classic Christmas movie, Scrooged

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I did get a taste of a more ‘traditional’ English Christmas the weekend before when we were invited over to friends for a day of festivities – complete with a roast dinner, crackers and gifts. Once again, I was spoilt. Some friends got together to make me a giant hamper full of Canadian goodies. I am a very lucky girl! 

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To be honest, Christmas has never been my thing and I’ve never really liked the festive season… This year is different. I don’t know if it’s because of Edward’s contagious enthusiam for it or simply because everything is finally falling into place this year, but I truly enjoyed these past few days. 

Merry, merry Christmas! 

A Bird’s View of Lincolnshire

Last September, I had the opportunity to see Lincolnshire from above. I was in between two contracts and a bit overwhelmed by all the free time on my hands when my friend Mike offered to take me for a flight over the county.

My grandfather builds and restores small planes so I spent most of my childhood running around his shop and airfield but I hadn’t flown in years; I was excited to be up in the sky again, and to try my hand at aerial photography.

I think the result is not too bad considering that I wasn’t using my own camera. I do not own a proper wide-angle lens for my beloved Canon T2i so I had to borrow Edward’s Nikon D7100 and his chunky 24-70mm.

We left from Wickenby Aerodrome around lunchtime and flew over Louth towards Skegness and the coast. I’d be curious to see that same landscape in the spring when the fields are bright yellow from the rapeseed flowers.

The flight was great fun! I got to experience what ‘G-force’ feels like and Mike told me all there was to know about the history of the county. It was amazing to see – and photograph – Lincolnshire from such a different and unique point of view.

November Books

Starting a new job at the beginning of the month left me with less time for reading, and spending my days proofing horrible copy often left my eyes tired and craving other distractions. Yet, I wanted to keep up with this monthly post and share with you my short list of books for November.

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When in French: Love in a Second Language | Lauren Collins
The author – an American woman who met her husband, a Frenchman, in London before moving with him to Switzerland – explores love and life in another language and questions whether learning a second or a third language changes who we are. I can obviously relate but I believe anyone who has an interest in linguistics would enjoy this unique memoir.

Ce ne sera pas si simple | Annie L’Italien
This short novel was offered to me as a free download with a language software and even though it didn’t really appeal to me, I ended up reading it because… Well, why not? It is a light comedy and seemed like a pleasant way to finish a long week. The story follows a group of characters between Montréal, New York and Paris as they are engaged in a transatlantic scavenger hunt for the inheritance of their father/husband/boyfriend. Not fantastic but good enough if you are looking for an easy read.

I’m settling well into my new position and I hope to have more time and mental energy left for reading this month and next as I have asked Santa for many new books!

Until then… Happy reading!

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Fernweh.

Fernweh:
(German)(n.) An ache for distant places, a craving for travel.

We’ve been contemplating the idea of a visit to Québec for quite a while now… Maybe a couple of weeks in February so I can see my friends and family, indulge in maple syrup and enjoy the Canadian winter.

We started scanning the Web for flight deals and a few days ago, we almost booked tickets but decided to wait. I’m glad we did.

The thing is, I’m not sure I’m ready to go back ‘home’ yet.

We had plans: spending a night in Montréal to see my best friend, ice-skating at Place d’Youville, hiking the Vallée-de-la-Jacques-Cartier in the snow (a first for Edward), having lunch at Les P’tits Oignons and decadent ice cream at Les Chocolats Favoris, probably attending some kind of family reunion…

As pleasant as they are, I’ve done all those things before and I’m yearning for novelty. I want to visit new countries, admire unfamiliar landscapes, be surrounded by languages I don’t fully understand. I’m craving adventures, whether it’s to get lost in a foreign city or to climb mountains.

I obviously want to go back to Canada someday but at the moment Vancouver, Banff and Jasper are calling my name – not Québec. Maybe because ‘home’ doesn’t feel like home anymore? I sometimes feel nostalgic, I miss people and places but I belong in England now. Edward and I have built something good here and for the first time in months, my feet are on solid ground. I finally found my balance and want to savour it for a while.

For the next few months, I want to focus on taking care of myself and spending quality time with Edward. We plan to explore more of Europe and cross a few countries off our bucket list. Germany is the first with a trip to Berlin in December; others include Ireland, Scotland, France, Italy, Greece, Norway, Austria, Croatia and Portugal.

I will go back ‘home’ someday, just not yet.

Running in a New City

Moving to England came with many challenges but I never expected running to be one of them – to be honest, I even thought running here would be easier. Flat landscape and mild weather, right?

Turns out it’s not as simple as that.

I was impatient to start running again and after tagging along on Edward’s run for a few days, I decided to try one on my own. My first weeks as an expat were difficult: I was living at my in-laws, had no job and was unable to drive. Running was my way to regain some independence, and some confidence too. So I put on my running gear and headed out.

Two weeks before that, my running kit was composed of underwear, a base layer, long leggings, a thermal shirt, a lined jacket, thermal socks, a buff/neckie, two pairs of gloves, a hat and – on cold and icy days – a windproof shell and some running crampons.

That day, I was wearing capri leggings and a tee. In the middle of February. Quite a change!

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My first solo run was a short 3.5K around the estate. I’ve never been (and will probably never be) a fast runner, but getting lost every half-kilometres certainly didn’t help me on that one. I had to get my phone out to check a map more often than I like to admit…

Despite stopping every two minutes, I was out of breath. I thought it would be a one-time thing and blamed it on the stress and the inability to zone out by fear of taking the wrong path. I hadn’t thought of the adaptation phase my body would have to go through. My hometown is built along a headland and surrounded by mountains; I had rarely run long flat stretches before moving to Lincoln and was unable to pace myself. This – added to a slight anaemia caused by changes in my alimentation – made for a few though months of running.

Nine months later, it’s getting better. I still struggle on some runs and the constantly changing weather does nothing to help me, but I’m determined to get my fitness level back to where (and better than) it was when I left Québec. To help with that I started cross-training and practising yoga regularly, and I stretch nearly every day. Most of all, I try to simply enjoy myself when I’m out running.

Upcoming races are great motivation too! Edward and I have signed up for the London Winter Run in February and we plan to run the City of Lincoln 10K for a good cause in April. Until then, we have Parkrun to look forward to every Saturday morning. I’m currently working on getting my 5K under 30 minutes and Parkrun is really helping with that.

In between Parkruns and races, I have the British countryside at my doorstep and I find running is a wonderful way to explore more of it.

October Books

I’ve always had a passion for words; whether it’s writing them, learning them in a new language, or leisurely reading them. I used to be an avid reader and devoured several books every week throughout high school and college. It was before Netflix and its endless binge-watching possibilities!

It’s when I moved to England that I started reading again. Jobless and depressed during the first few months of my expat life, books were my escape. After a while, I got frustrated by the absence of French in my reading list – and by the cost of delivery to order books from Quebec or France. That’s when I started borrowing Edward’s Kindle to satisfy my French literature needs.

I’ve never been a fan of electronic reading… I love browsing through the shelves of a quiet library or busy book store to find my next literary adventure. I love the feel of paper between my fingers when I turn a page. I love the smell of books; freshly printed ones as much as ones that have already been read a million times.

Yet, the Kindle grew on me so much that Edward ended up offering me one of my own so he could get his back. Since then, I’ve read several books every month and I thought I’d share with you my monthly reads on here. I would like to make this a regular post… Let’s hope I can stick with it!

Until then, October books:

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206 Bones | Kathy Reichs
The fans of Bones will know Kathy Reichs as the Temperance Brennan book series actually inspired the TV show. I’ve not read the entire collection but I do enjoy a good thriller and those are good; I especially liked this one because part of the story takes place in Montreal. The author even included a few swear words in French for more realism!

Once Upon an Expat | Liza Webb
Being an expat myself, I can totally relate to most of the stories of this anthology. Some are funny, some are sad, some are heartwarming and many will make you cringe… But all are worth a read whether you are an expat, on the way to become one of just wondering what it is like to be ‘the foreigner’.

The Existentialist Café | Sarah Bakewell
This one is a slow reader and to be honest, I’m only halfway through but I like it. It explains the existentialist philosophy from its creation to its more modern signification by telling the story of its beginning during the post-war Années Folles in Paris.

Braver Than Britain, Occasionally | Spadge Whittaker
Spadge decided to face Britain’s top 10 fear in the course of a year and recalls the experience in a light-hearted but beautifully written novel. I read the whole thing in one sitting and laughed to tears a couple times. The ideal book for a rainy Sunday afternoon!

Happy reading!

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