Archive for the 'On travelling' Category

On Backpacking (or “Wallowing In My Own Filth”)

July 30, 2011
Oasis in the Bolivian Altiplano desert?

The following post was originally published on June 1, 2007, during a six-week backpacking trip through South America. With les vacances approaching, most of Paris fleeing the city, and travel on everybody’s brain, I thought it was a good time dig it up from the archives.

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I don’t know about you, but there’s something about travelling that makes the unthinkable in everyday life become perfectly palatable when you’re on the road. Take, for example, hygiene.

This very thought occurred to me as I sat on the chicken bus to Uyuni, Bolivia this morning, munching on a stale piece of bread that I had stuffed in my pocket after breakfast, a scattering of breadcrumbs embedded in the fringed “100% Alpaca” (read: very possibly acrylic) sweater that I had picked up from a tourist shop a few towns back.  I was dressed in the same socks and long underwear that I had been wearing for the last two days.  Still hungry, I rummaged around in my backpack and triumphantly unearthed half a granola bar with a few pieces of lint stuck to the sugary outside coating.  Unfazed, I picked them off handily and proceeded to devour the bar with the enthusiasm of a dog who has unexpectedly come across filet mignon table scraps.

The thought occurred to me again as I sat squatting by the side of the road later that afternoon, behind a poor excuse for a bush, during a much-needed pee break.

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Taking time to stop and… listen to the accordion?

August 16, 2010

From the archives. This entry was originally written for the internet blog I was commissioned to write at Astral Media, and posted on March 19, 2010. In the spirit of les vacances and all the travelling happening over here during the month of August, I thought it might make a timely addition to this one as well.

On a side note, while travelling through Spain earlier this month, I had a minor meltdown when it turned out that the train we wanted to take from Barcelona to Sevilla was sold out, unless we wanted to travel business class for 250 euro.  I was hot, sweaty, tired, achy, hungry, cranky, toting a giant backpack, and operating on about three hours of sleep, having woken up super-early to pack and make it to the station for 8:00 a.m.  Not exactly the ideal conditions for coping with unexpected bad news. Let’s just say that tantrums were had. In that moment, I could probably have stood to re-read my own writing.  However, after a much-needed nap and a bit of time to regroup, we decided to take advantage of our extra day in the city and see the Sagrada Família, Antoni Gaudí’s famous unfinished church.  And you know what?  It ended up being my favourite Barcelona sight.

The surreal exterior of Gaudí’s unfinished masterpiece, the Sagrada Família, was stupefying enough, but it was the interior, with its complex shapes and sophisticated interplay of colour, light and shadow that really took my breath away. I can’t believe I almost skipped it.


Much of Gaudí’s design work was based on shapes and forms found in nature, and the interior of the Sagrada Família was designed to resemble a great forest, with massive columns rising up like giant tree trunks to the ceiling, a canopy of leaves that the sunlight filtered through.

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