Weekly Photo Challenge: Against the Odds

For this week’s photo challenge Against the Odds, I have chosen a picture of French Normandy: a place called Etretat.

I love how nature can speak volumes. I remember in school (I was 10 or so), the literature teacher asked us why an author introduces a description of a landscape to a novel. (Literature is huge in Russian schools and questions like this one are not uncommon.) Most of my classmates came up with straightforward answers that made sense (to describe a setting, i.e. where the scene is taking place, or to communicate a change that is coming, i.e. that it is going to rain). When I was (finally and to my delight) asked, I said that the key purpose of introducing a scene was to describe how a protagonist is feeling at this moment.

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The cliffs of Etretat, French Normandy

While the oddity of this (and several others) cliffs is quiet straightforward, this picture has another meaning to me. It is very personal – and very happy. Normandy is probably the gloomiest region of France. Its most popular place is a city Deauville with its main attraction, casino. Sunny days are very, very rare. Yet when we came there with my parents, the sun smiled at us. Etretat was spectacular for the entire day.

That’s another fact about Normandy: when the sun finally comes out, it suddenly becomes one of the most spectacular places on Earth.

🙂

France and Them: Expats, Migrants, Refugees

I am not someone who picks up on hot social topics, let alone politics. An expat for the last 10+ years, I don’t feel entitled to meddle with internal affairs of the countries I happen to live in. I am coming from a place way too big for things to change, so I know that great expectations often lead to big disillusionment. Plus, I am a millennial and by now, after hundreds of expensive consultants’ reports conducted on millennials, everyone should know that we only mind our own business and our own benefit.

One thing that makes me write this post: I love France. I have chosen to live (and pay my taxes) here, after having lived in Helsinki, London, Istanbul, South Korea, Munich and a couple of other places.  It costed me multiple relocations (at my own expense), troubles of residence permit and a 30% salary cut once I moved out of Germany. And I am perfectly happy about it. Sure, paying 53% of my salary in taxes doesn’t make me French. But it does entitle me to have an opinion on the subject as vital to the country and as close to my heart is immigration.

In my opinion, immigration is good for France. Take me. I am a holder of an exquisite European Blue Card residence permit, the one reserved for the highly skilled, talented or in other ways rare workforce. I work for a multinational, and because of the nature of my job, I don’t compete with the local labour force, i.e. French people working for the French customers. I do, however, pay my taxes here. This makes everyone happy: I live in Paris, France gets 53% of my income, and I don’t take anything from the local labour market. It is a situation many countries would like to have. In fact, back in the days when I lived in Germany with a similar arrangement, German immigration sercvices used to send me letters, in English – people, in English! – to make sure I am doing okay and happy with the system. Germany also paid me a lot more, for the same job I am doing here. And yet I left for France.

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Paris Food Markets

With all my trips, geo discoveries, new places on my travel map and all the excitement around it, – briefly, with all the wanderlust, – I have noticed that I almost never write about Paris. Living in Paris, however, has been my lifelong dream and one of the best things that happened to me. Ever. I am grateful every day for calling it my city, walking its streets (or riding it with my white bicycle), tuning in to its noise and sleeping under its stars. So, to celebrate having spent two complete weeks here (largely devoted to visa applications), I am taking a geo detour to tell a little about my Paris.

Paris is many things to many people, and for me it’s the weekend food markets (among many other things). I don’t cook much but the beauty of these markets is that they don’t require a lot of cooking. You follow the golden rule of great meal: best ingredients. With the food markets, you do your shopping on one street and set yourself for a successful dinner (or lunch).

The closest market to me in the one on rue Poncelet. My first address in Paris (well, this time that I am living here) was just around the corner, at rue des Renaudes, and I used to come to rue Poncelet almost every day. Now I mostly come during the weekends, but every time it is a great experience, the one that makes living in Paris for me really precious. Food markets are extremely popular among locals, next door food stores are literally empty during the market working hours. Maybe because of that, markets become a center of civilization at the quartier, attracting many small restaurants, cafĂ©s and all sorts of shops and ateliers. The symphony of colors, perfumes and tastes wakes up all your senses and reminds that you are in Paris, it’s a beautiful day and life is the best tale ever told.

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Walk with me to look around.

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Roland Garros 2016: friends, traditions and some Eastern European shopping tips

For two weeks a year, everyone in Paris remembers that they are very into tennis. Crowds flock to Stade Roland Garros to celebrate spring (theoretically, since the tradition of Roland Garros goes back to 1891, long before the climate became weird), get a grasp of latest trends and social gossip, drink champagne and catch up with friends. And to watch tennis, of course. Elena and I are no exception to the rule. Roland Garros became our personal tradition since – we were trying to remember it last weekend – 2011, when we were first invited for one of the Paris sport – and social – key events. “Do you two even like tennis?” – Stephan, then Elena’s boyfriend, was challenging our intentions.

We did like tennis: at 2011, Elena, a student of Panthéon-Assas and myself, a proud resident of a 22 m2 apartment under the roofs of the 9th arrondissement of Paris and an exchange at Dauphine, liked every social event we could get to in Paris. Let alone Roland Garros.

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Rolland Garros 2016: the trophies

A lot of things have changed since then. Elena has defended the best in class thesis on political science and was then lured by the challenges of commercial sector. I have graduated from my Masters as well, went to Istanbul, then back to Finland and then returned to France for INSEAD. Elena and Stephan got married, moved to a new place and now have a daughter. I graduated from INSEAD, left for Munich and now have finally come back home, to Paris. When I think about 2011, everything has changed and only Fedya, Lena’s dog, remains a constant in our lives (and now a favorite toy of Jeanne). However, we still reunite every year to watch Nadal, make a ton of epic pictures and, naturally, to exchange news and reflections on life (and Paris public) over champagne.

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Roussillon: all the shades of red and the legend of Lady Sermond

To give you time to digest the exhaustive Chapter I of my story with geography, I have decided to lighten up the mood by a post with (well, mostly) pictures and to take a close look at one of my favorite stops during our lavender hunt, Roussillon. As I have mentioned in the overview post about that trip, Roussillon is special because of its ocher canyons which color this picturesque village in sanguine red.

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Lavender hunt: the road trip of a lifetime

About a year ago at this very time, I have been contemplating what was supposed to be Mus’ birthday’s gift. A trip to the lavender fields, her long time photohunting ambition. Armed with the knowledge of Russian, English and French Internet and, of course, with our cherished collection of the most beautiful French villages, we spent days designing the most picturesque road trip through the French Provence. Here is where we ended up driving and a glimpse of what we saw in a week.

At the dawn of the lavender season, many photohunters will find it useful.

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Paris –> MontrĂ©sor –> La-Roque-Gageac –> Avignon –> Gordes –> Roussignon –> Lourmarin –> Ansoui –> Moustiers-Saint-Marie –> Les Baux-de-Provence –> Mirmande –> VĂ©zelay –> Noyers –> Paris

Spoiler: BONUS in the end of the post!

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Étretat: French North at its best

I LOVE road trips. The window views, favorite music as a soundtrack to thoughts, car conversations, laughters, comfortable silence, driving towards a new adventure -everything. Whenever I have a chance, I jump in a car with people I love and take off to explore. In a way, these are also bonding trips, my equivalent to Steve Job’s long walks with those he cared about (no ambition here).

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