That Day I Got Attacked

So much for feeling relatively safe in my neighbourhood despite its “charms”…

I was walking home from the metro station, and was very close to my house. I felt someone behind me, but he crossed the street to his friend. They talked for a moment, and then split off. I remember thinking it was very suspicious, but I was so close to home, and they were on the other side of the street, so I let it go.

I was looking at my phone when I felt that someone was following me very close. I turned to see what they wanted, and I discovered it was the taller one of the kids, and by kid I mean older teenager. As I was turning, he sprayed something into my left eye. I distinctly remember seeing the white stream of it hitting my eye. The dispenser was only inches from my face as he was standing directly next to me. At first I thought it was spray paint, and I clutched my eye in pain. The look on his face was a bit of shock, or maybe that was me projecting my emotions onto him. I wondered if he would go for my phone, but he didn’t. He turned and walked calmly away. Then I noticed there was no colour, and all of my exposed skin and lungs started to burn. I was confused, but then I got angry. I wanted to confront him. He was about 15 feet away when I started screaming at him. He turned to look and then started to run. There were people around, but they just watched. I started running after him, but I could barely see. I was worried about going blind, and that my house keys would fall out of my pocket and I wouldn’t be able to find them. He booked it down the street, and I decided my health was more important than revenge. I crossed the street, clutching my eye in pain. I didn’t know if I should go to a doctor. I didn’t know how I would even find one, or how I could explain what happened since my French is still very low level. I was in complete distress. I somehow made it into the apartment and no one was there. I ran into the bathroom and washed my face, but the water didn’t help. I tried to wash out my eyes, especially the left one that got directly hit, but the water increased the burning. It was horrendous timing. I had to pack and then head to the airport for my trip to London within the hour. I changed my clothes to get the stench off, and everywhere my skin had been exposed to the substance was bright red. And it burned. I don’t know exactly what he sprayed on me.

I warned my housemates via text what had happened and to be extra careful in the neighbourhood. They went to the police in the arrondisment that they were currently in but the police refused to help. Over the phone she told me to take some eyewash stuff that she had and use that to wash out my eyes. Whatever it was helped quite a bit. She ordered me a taxi to go to the airport because I was at this point terrified to take the metro. They eventually filled out a form online for the police, and on Wednesday I will go in and make a statement. The worst thing about the whole thing, is that I don’t remember exactly what they look like, so if I see them again, I will be completely oblivious. Apparently the son of someone else in our building was attacked by, we are supposing, the same guys but in a larger group. It is really distressing to know about the cruelty in the world, and even more so to experience it first hand.

But I must count my blessings. I am not permanently injured. I am not dead. I was not robbed.

 

Protest or Art?

I’m living in the 18th arrondisment in Paris. It’s definitely not the best neighbourhood, but not the worst either. The streets generally smell like piss despite there being FREE public toilets set up for use. There are at least two tent cities within 5 blocks of my house that I’ve noticed. There is garbage everywhere, stations of contraband laid out on blankets, and the hum of young men selling Marlboro cigarettes outside the metro station and by the park. Men greatly outnumber the women, at least in public. I’ve passed by many restaurants that are full, and not one woman inside. I pass 20-30 men on the street before I pass a woman. It doesn’t bother me so much as concerns me. I don’t feel unsafe, but I wonder why the other women aren’t dining in those places or walking along the streets. Perhaps they know something I don’t.

Since I’ve decided to drop school, and to be quite frank, now that I have a SIM card for my phone, I’ve been going on lots of long walks with three intentions: to get exercise, to see more of Paris, and admittedly, to hatch eggs in Pokemon Go. The latter actually helps me see things I wouldn’t have otherwise seen, as stops and gyms are at “landmarks” more or less. On these walks I’ve begun to notice a startling trend: vehicles being tagged.

1476636792212

This was the first one I noticed just outside of Paris on my walk along the canal. Not long after, I discovered a car with the back half burned out. I was going to take a picture, but there was a group of tough-looking men standing by, and I didn’t want to risk anything. Now that I have seen them, I’ve been noticing them more often.

On my way back from a walk, just 2 blocks from my house I discovered this one:

img_20161019_1310426

And on another night, I saw two vehicles tagged, just down the street from me, less than 1 minute away:

img_20161018_2143331

I have never seen anything like this anywhere else I’ve been in the world.

I remember a few years ago, that during some protests, the French were burning vehicles, so I showed my housemate the pictures and asked her if it was part of an on-going protest. She said she’d never heard of it or seen anything like it before. Then again, she is new to this side of Paris.

The pictures I have posted are just a few examples. I’ve seen many more these past few days. I will have to do more research. But again I ask the question: are these examples of protest? Art? Or just the result of inconsiderate people having “fun” destroying others’ property?

France Day 13 part 1 – WEG Endurance (Sartilly)

Neither of us wanted to get up early enough to see the start of the race. It would have required us to get up at around 4 or so, and that just wasn’t going to happen. After all, how would we eat breakfast? 😉

We were worried we wouldn’t find parking, but surprisingly there ended up being plenty. When we arrived, we weren’t sure where we could or couldn’t go. The place was abuzz with action. Because the horses clearly don’t all go at the same speed, and we were a couple of hours into the race already, all stations had action happening at them. There were horses waiting to get the signal to start off again. There were horses coming in for their cool down. There were horses getting cooled off, horses at the vet check, horses getting their soundness tested, and horses enjoying a hearty snack. They also had vendors, but only 3 food vendors. The line for the fry truck was over an hour long.

When I filmed the clip below, I had no idea who I was filming. I just thought it would be cool to film a rider walking his horse to the resting area. It ended up being of the winner of the endurance competition! What luck!

The following are some clips of how the event went. After finishing a lap, they would come back to the main area. Here are some horses coming back.

The next step was to cool off the horses. This was achieved with ice water. It was imperative to get the temperature and heart rate down in order to pass the vet check.

If the vet check was passed, then they would head across the grassy area where the big screen that showed the rest of the competition was situated.

Then they would cross over to the rest area. That is where I saw the Sheikh and his horse. Then they would go to the resting area for a set amount of time. Here, the horses would receive food, massages, farrier work, or whatever else was needed to make them comfortable.

After the set time is finished, the horses would get tacked up again, and they would head over to the holding pen.

Once in the holding pen, they would walk around until given the signal. Then they would take off and complete the next lap.

It was a sad day, this day. A Costa Rican gelding died during the first lap. It sure made things a bit sombre. Rest in peace Dorado…

France Day 10 – Bayeux

It’s amazing how much I don’t remember when there isn’t something to jog my memory. Although this was the first day that we had tickets for the World Equestrian Games, my traveling companion had no interest in going because it was the first of two days for the qualifying rounds. I don’t care enough about sports to care either way. As long as there is something to do, I am satisfied.
It’s a good thing we didn’t go anyway, because it was raining, and I’m sure we would have been miserable. The arena isn’t entirely covered, so we would have been soaked. We decided to go shopping in Caen instead. I was totally ok with it because I still didn’t have an adapter, and I hoped beyond all hope that this would be my chance.

When we got to the mall, I saw a giant electronics store, akin to Best Buy or Futureshop, so I immediately said “Can I go in there first? I want to look for an adapter.” She agreed, but sat in the car and waited for me. I was so unbelievably excited when I found adapters that would work for me! I bought one that was supposed to be interchangeable for the whole world (although it ended up being that you could plug anything from anywhere in the world, but couldn’t plug it in everywhere. No matter…), and one that had two USB ports. Almost halfway through my trip, and I was finally extremely relieved.

DSC_0573

Hard to see because of the rain, but these are street lamps.

Back in the car, she drove us about 100 meters to the mall entrance. We visited pretty much every shop. I bought a few clothing items. Then we went to a grocery store and she bought more snacks, and I got an extra bag so I could throw stuff in to take home.

My traveling companion had made dinner reservations at an excellent restaurant in Bayeux, so we headed there. We arrived quite a bit early, so we explored the town cathedral. I found it more intriguing than the Notre Dame of Paris, and not having quite so many people helped a lot.

DSC_0575

It was pouring rain, and at the time we didn’t know that it was open. So I found a nook from which to take a picture of the courtyard.

DSC_0583

I love this ceiling!

DSC_0587

Inside the church.

DSC_0600

View of the church after dinner, when the rain finally stopped :).

We checked the time, and figured we should be able to get in with our reservations a little early, which we did. When we sat down, we started dripping. We were so soaked from the rain that it was making little puddles underneath us. Happily, the restaurant people didn’t mind. We then ate the most delicious meal I have ever had in my entire life. I was in absolute heaven. I never take pictures of food, but I had to have a visual memory of this delectable delight.

DSC_0592

Impossibly delicious.

Le Pommier was one of my two favourite restaurants in all of France. I enjoyed it so much that I convinced my traveling companion to eat there for our last meal. I cannot even begin to express my joy at this meal.

DSC_0593

Impossibly perfect dessert.

Despite me usually being a chocolate fanatic, I decided to go with the “pomme surprise en chaud et froid” because why not. Pretty much I got it because I understood all the words, but had no idea what they meant. I needed to satisfy my curiosity. It ended up being the best decision ever. I am angry that this restaurant is in France and I am no longer in France. There is no way to adequately explain my pleasure in this entire meal.

Afterwards we walked a bit around town and I thought it was a beautiful sight.

DSC_0594

Magical!

I LOVE FRANCE! J’aime la France! Me encanta Francia!

France Day 9 – Saumur to Arromanches

Unlike when I was in Paris, I was not quite ready to leave Saumur. It had snuggled its way into my heart. Alas, it was time for the next leg of the adventure! We finished our last breakfast at the B&B and headed off.

DSC_0488

The breakfast room at Le Patio.

DSC_0493

The castle I never got to go inside at Saumur, and our B&B.

I had really wanted to enter the castle of Saumur, but my traveling companion had no interest in doing so, and I didn’t find the time to do it on my own, so we compromised on going to Le Chateau de Villandry. That way I could see inside a “castle” and she could see something she’s more interested in: gardens. This little detour was quite a bit out of our way, but totally and completely worth it.

DSC_0565

Le Chateau de Villandry

Le Chateau de Villandry itself is apparently one of the nicer old buildings on the inside. The owners have spent a fair bit of money upgrading and staging it so that it looks nice. At least that’s what my traveling companion said she saw on her travel sites. I don’t trust those travelings sites.

DSC_0500

Possibly the most uncomfortable sitting room ever.

I thought the building, though large, was extremely inefficient in its use of space. I started to imagine all the things I would have done to modify the spaces if I had been there when it was originally built.

DSC_0502

A giant room with a table that seats 6? What is this madness? Also, the colours make me want to puke, and what on earth kind of malformed palm tree is that?

Clearly I would have used it for dancing.

It made me sad that the building was built on top of an even older castle that was mostly razed to build the “new” one. Only one corner of the original building still stands.

DSC_0547

I’m sure you can tell which corner is the oldest part of the building.

The gardens were magnificent. Although also an inefficient use of space, they were beautiful and works of art. Truly remarkable. Honestly I wouldn’t want this kind of garden, but it’s a nice thing to visit. Some people enjoy doing this kind of thing, and I can respect that. If it were me, I would like that to be a field with my horses and gardens throughout. One day, when I have my own castle…

DSC_0530

3 types of gardens and a moat. So nice!

So there were food gardens, a decorative garden to be seen from above, a water garden, a lavender garden, a maze, fruit trees designed to grow along the wall. It was a really creative and amazing place to be in.

DSC_0504

Cool kitchen I would like someone to cook for me in.

The kitchen was pretty superb. I think it was the nicest set up by far. They had real food in the kitchen. That made it extra legit.

DSC_0548

Fancy gate!

I love cool doors and gates. I think this is so awesome because the castle’s property goes right onto the town. I’ve been saying that I want to live on a farm in the middle of Vancouver. I found a plot of land that is perfect – a little small, but still good. I like the big city living, but I need my farm. Sorry… less about me and more about the travels!

DSC_0538

Wild garden!

This was my favourite garden. As awesome as the perfectly manicured gardens look, there is something that innately appeals to me about this. It makes me want to run through a meadow and frolic with other fawns.

DSC_0501

Le Chateau de Villandry family

It was really special that this family put up photos. As much as it is a museum and a place to tour now, it also used to be a home. My imagination starts to run wild with stories of what could have been the past.

DSC_0528

View from the keep.

After enjoying a crepe and sandwich at the little cafe on site, we headed off to Arromanches.

The scenery was spectacular during the drive. I finally started to see more of the kind of landscapes that I was expecting from France. As we headed north, things began to change. Suddenly there were few trees, rolling hills, and some buildings left destroyed by the war. The architecture started to change too. My traveling companion said the designs of the houses and the little yards were more reminiscent of the English countryside than what we had seen so far in France. I thought it was all just spectacular.

It was getting late when we finally arrived at our B & B in Arromanches. Having just been in a spectacular B & B in Saumur, we were more than disappointed in our new accommodations. Truth be told, if it was just me in that room, I wouldn’t have minded, but the water in the shower cycled from burning hot to ice cold every 10 seconds or so. There was no room to turn around in the bathroom (they made it under a stairwell, so you had to crouch to get to the toilet, and you couldn’t stand in front of the sink if the door was closed. There was no room for my “tidy” traveling companion to put all of her stuff, no wifi, and we were going to have to share a bed. It also smelled really bad. Honestly, I’ve traveled to so many places, that none of it would have bothered me if I had been alone. She, however, was completely dissatisfied, and she complained. So we ended up getting a better room, with two beds (yippee!) and a bathroom we could turn around in. No water cycling problems either, and wifi to boot! Sometimes it is beneficial to complain.

Can I just say how beautiful Arromanches is? The view of the ocean lit up my soul in a raging fire of joy.

DSC_0570

France Day 8 – Saumur

When we woke up in the morning, I felt horrible. I had major cramps, I was incredibly sore from the ill-fitting tack from the two days prior, and it was raining. We were supposed to get up really early and go on a 4-hour trip with the ponies. I didn’t want to go. I told my traveling companion that. I said she was welcome to go without me, but I didn’t want to go. Somehow she convinced me to go anyway. When we got there, however, she decided she didn’t want to go anymore, and so she made up some random excuse about why we couldn’t, and we left. I felt guilty leaving, but the decision had been made, and that was that.

When we got back, my traveling companion went off to the market to buy some souvenirs and gifts. I had a hot bath to try and ease my cramps. It was awkward, because housekeeping came into the room while I was having a bath. I didn’t know who it was, so I uneasily said my traveling companion’s name, and the lady mumbled something in a surprised voice and quickly left the room. I was a bit unsettled, so I got out of the bath and snuggled into the bed to relax and read my book.

I was feeling a lot better by the time my traveling companion came back, and when she showed me the stuff that she had bought, I knew I wanted to go check it out as well. Thus commenced my first real shopping experience in France. We went to the market, that was mostly closed by this time, and I bought some local soaps. We then went and perused the shops for clothing items. We each bought a top at different stores (we have completely different styles despite our closeness in age), and then I requested to enter the lingerie shop, as most of the bras I was wearing were 4-12 years old. I despise shopping, and I despise bra shopping even more.

I grabbed a few that I thought were my size and tried them on. A giant disappointment. Not even the French bras looked good on me. My traveling companion had seen the bras I had taken and insisted that they were the wrong size. She then helped me find a bra that fit, and I was excited, because it looked like a bra looks on the models and the people in the movies. I always thought my body was deformed before. Just a side note: it’s amazing what a well-fitting bra can do. Whenever I wore that bra when I got home, everyone told me I looked really good, and asked if I lost weight. I had lost weight, but only like 2 lbs… not enough to make a visual difference.

Anyway, after our shopping extravaganza, we headed back to the B & B to get ready for the spectacle that we were going to in the evening. I never wear makeup, and I put on makeup. I never do my hair, and I did my hair. I had been looking forward to this event since I first saw the advertisement. My traveling companion wasn’t certain about going, but I was. It was a SHOW of HORSES AT THE CASTLE. There was nothing anyone could tell me that would hinder my desire to go. My traveling companion suggested doing the dinner beforehand since it didn’t cost much more than a dinner anywhere else would cost, and it was supposed to have traditional fare from the more ancient times.

When we got there, there were actors waiting for us, and they babbled on about whatever. I don’t speak French, but I was thrilled. The duke was a handsome fella with a real touch of arrogance, and the ladies were beautiful and pompous. After the duke’s speech (I’m guessing he introduced the scenario and the three women that he was considering marrying), two of the ladies came in dancing.

We were then told to find a place to sit. It was unfortunate because most of the places were reserved, and we could not find a seat that wasn’t already reserved. We tried to sit at a table set for 8 with only 6 people at it, but the people there wouldn’t let us. They said it was already too crowded. This was ridiculous because some tables of the same size had 10 people at them. We eventually sat down at a reserved table and decided to move only if we got in trouble. Whoever the table was reserved for didn’t show up. We sat with a couple from Belgium, and they were quite friendly despite the language barrier. We were soon served what we assumed were appetizers, but ended up being the entire dinner. Needless to say, we left hungry that night.

DSC_0473

Dinner. At least there was nutella! MMMMMMMMM!

DSC_0471

We were at the table on the left. They eventually moved us all to the end of the table closest to the centre.

Throughout the night, the duke and the 3 ladies came to our table and gave us their side of the story. Each of the ladies was supposed to “seduce” us into liking them enough to recommend them to the duke. The duke then told his side of the story, and what he thought about each of the ladies, and which one we would pick. One of the ladies didn’t even visit our table, one of them gave us her shpiel in French only, so I only understood fragments. I really appreciated that one of the ladies and the duke were able to perform in both French (for the Belgian folks) and in English (for us English-speaking Canadian folks) when they came to our table. It was twice as much work for them, but it made a world of a difference for us. We finally had a window into what was really going on.

Despite my (later) embarrassing answer to “Which is better: love or power?” (I answered that it depends). They all laughed me, but I assured him that in this scenario it would be better to go with his real love as opposed to one that would solidify his power. They then went on and continued to do dances, dialogues, monologues, and songs. It was very entertaining! I had a whale of a time, that’s for sure.

The duke’s character was very cocky and flirtatious. At one point he grabbed a young lady from her table and did one of those dramatic kisses where she was bent over backwards. I’m not sure if he actually kissed her, but it was quite a sight to see an audience member be that involved. In fact, at another point, all of the actors chose people from the tables to dance with them in front of everyone. There was no opportunity to be shy at this shindig.

I was just watching the happenings when all of a sudden the duke runs over to us and in English informs us that it was our lucky day and that we would have the privilege to kiss the duke. “Really?!” I asked, eyes wide. I couldn’t tell if he was serious, and if he was, where I was supposed to kiss him, and if he just meant me, or the both of us. My traveling companion hadn’t made a move yet. He smiled and said “yes!” and pointed to his cheek. So I leaned over and planted one on his cheek. My traveling companion kissed him on the other cheek at the same time. Honestly, it took a lot of courage for me to do that because I have issues of initiating physical contact with people.

I thought the night couldn’t get any better, and then they brought out swords. I was over the moon. This was the best day ever.

I was sad when it ended. Not only because it was extremely entertaining, but I was also hungry and disappointed that there wasn’t any more food. We then walked over to the castle wall and found some good seats. The show was absolutely amazing. It was the history of France with horses at every turn. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it thrilled me. There was singing, jousting, trick riding, dressage, music, light shows, dancing, war, celebration, and more! I would have seen it again in a heartbeat. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take pictures or video, so I have no documentation of it. But it was AMAZING!

DSC_0475

That concludes my absolute best day in France!

France Day 7 – Saumur

In the morning, we went on a 2-hour long ride in the countryside on more ponies. We had different ponies this time, though still with ill-fitting tack. This time, it gave me cuts on my legs. I chatted up a young girl who flattered me by telling me that my French was good. She was very cool because she was young, lived in Dubai, and spoke multiple languages.

The afternoon was our special field trip to Le Cadre Noir, which is the national riding school of France. It used to be strictly military, but now it is mostly civilian. Our travel company told us to just show up between certain hours, so we did. Unfortunately they were terribly mistaken. There were specific times for each of the tours, and each tour had a different language. It was a good thing we got there fairly early, because if we had arrived much later, we would not have been able to have a tour at all. We had to leave and come back at the specific time, bu at least we got the tour.

I had extremely high expectations of these stables. Although it was interesting, I was expecting a lot more. I was expecting to see fancy people practicing fancy moves on fancy horses. Unfortunately, because it was vacation time in France, most of the horses were gone. The place holds 600 or so horses, and there were maybe 50 there?

DSC_0434

Outdoor arena

I think what I was probably expecting was a super fancy castle-barn. Pretty sure only billionaires have those. One day I will be a billionaire and have one too.

DSC_0443

Crazy stall with automatic waterers and automatic feeders

I want automated stuff too. Or staff. Lots of staff. Competent staff that will be happy because I am kind and generous.

DSC_0445

Finally a real horse!

And lots of horses that will get spoiled by lots of people because I will run a program to help underprivileged peoples experience the awesomeness that is horses. And rescue horses. And working horses. I may be dreaming, but dreams do come true!

DSC_0451

Grooms’ alley. The thing in the middle is a conveyer. When they clean the stalls, they just shovel it straight on there and off it goes. Sure beats having to wheel it around!

DSC_0453

Where the conveyer belt goes!

And it will be a sustainable castle-farm-barn with lots of organic agriculture and bio-gas and compost and what have you. It will be the most awesome place ever! Ok, enough of what I will do in the future, and more about my actual experiences in France.

DSC_0457Part of the tour showed us the old tack they used with the horses. They have since modified the tack because it used to be extremely heavy. The saddles weighed 60 lbs or something.

Then they took us into the indoor arena where we hoped to see someone practicing. No photography would have been allowed if someone was practicing, so the following picture is disappointing.

DSC_0458

Indoor arena

DSC_0460

Painting of horses!

I am pretty much drawn to anything with horses. I can’t help it.

Upon leaving, I saw this beautiful parking job. No. No! NO! No excuse for that. I don’t care how empty the parking lot is. There is no excuse for this laziness poking my pet peeve.

DSC_0463

Never an excuse for bad parking.

Afterwards, we tried to find dinner, and all the restaurants told us they were full for the rest of the evening, despite being half empty. France’s definition of full, and my definition of full are completely different. My traveling companion said that maybe they were short staffed. I don’t see how that would affect the entire night of dining at multiple restaurants, but ok. We finally did find a place, but I wasn’t a fan of the food, and spent most of the time feeding it to the stray kitties. We even saved some food and came back later in the night to give it to the kitties, who were forever grateful.

DSC_0464Tontons was one of those places that refused us entry. The name always makes me laugh because “tonto” means silly/stupid in Spanish, and I hated my Tom Tom (GPS) so I would say my Tom Tom was Tonton. And in my head it all makes sense. I’m really tired, so if this is all over the place… too bad.