Slipping into a seat next to the giant window that framed my journey through the untouched Croatian countryside, anticipation was all I felt about the picturesque scene to come.
Riding the Rails
The train lurched forward begging to leave the city to race through the emerald forests that line the peaks and valleys of Istria and Dalmatia. Winding tracks, wrapped the river and bent though rolling hills. Random red poppies peeked from the sides of ruined walls.
Climbing high into the white marbled mountain tops, it revealed a myriad of lush green hues that painted the blue sky landscape. Like a rollercoaster, the train swooped downhill, rounding corners, seeking out tunnels as it raced from one valley to the next. The melody of the rails passing beneath rocked my traveling soul.
Each valley revealed a hidden Croatia. A sea of red roofs – a signature trait – topped what looked like miniature toy towns. The clickity-clack and rocking side to side lulled me in a deep relaxation as I stared off into the endless forests. Cottonballs danced upon the highest peaks forming what ever shape my imagination chose. The red dirt along the real embankment seemed to match the house tops – perfect for that random mans backyard garden of vegetables to thrive. The odd fields of lavender would sway in the wind as the train rushed past.
Church after church tucked in each village served as a reminder of the once Roman influence that ruled the land. Remnants of the 91-95 war still lined the tracks in the form of stone rubble and bullet holes in the walls of some train stops. Farm after farm of varied crops led the way into the train stops. A black lab chased the train as it pulled into Gračac, as if it was his job to greet the passengers at the station during the 10 minute break in their journey.
But, no matter the how many towns or villages the train traveled past, they only let me see a glimpse of their secret world. I truly appreciated every moment.
Then again, the train car is it’s own world. Filled with people you know for only 6 hours. They become part of your story and you become part of theirs. Like Kevin (Aussie) and his wife Reiko (Japenese) married for 38 years, who like me are touring Europe by train. He had never been to Europe She had Eurorail over 45 years ago when she went on a two year adventure with her best friend. We chatted about life and the beauty of the landscape for hours. I shared my life they shared theirs. For those 6 hours, our paths crossed and our stories joined.
While trains in Croatia may run slowly up and down the coast, it offered up an unique side of Croatia. A train ride can be a time of solo reflection or engagement with others. The choice was mine.
Busy with settling into international life, I have had little time to post. Where to even begin? I travelled to Sri Lanka in September, but then there was Paris.
Without being to presumtous, most girls dream of traveling to Paris. My dream began as a little girl reading the book Madaline. I read it over and over and over again. I wanted nothing more than to see the Eiffel Tower for myself.
Growing up, my mother worked for a woman that travelled to Paris yearly. She would return with the most beautiful dresses and gowns. The tiny little fashionista in me longed for the day where I would travel to Paris myself to purchase my own dresses.
Well it finally happened. I made my dream come true. I spent six glorious days seeing the sights of Paris at Christmas time. I was overwhelmed by the amount of things to see and do.
There, we decided to hop in the extrodinarly long line to go to the top. It was soooooo worth the wait. We went to every level. The best part was we were at the top as the sun set over Paris. Just breathtaking.
Speaking of breathtaking, the wind was something fierce. A sheer force to be reckoned with at the top of the Eiffel Tower, but sooooo worth it. After snapping a few photos, we returned to the less windy floor, one below, to watch the sunset. Then took our time to decend the tower.
After the tower, we strolled through the Christmas market waiting for 6 pm to see the Eiffel Tower illuminate. And just like that, Violá, the tower lit up. I stood there in awe at its beauty. For a first day in Paris, I think this was the perfect day that fulfills my childhood dream.
The next day, I saw most of Paris via a hop on/hop off bus. It’s a great way to get your bearings in a new city. I find sometimes, that you want only a picture of a place and other times you want to stop and experience it. After the bus, there was a river tour that took us along the river Seine. On the way to the boat, there was a graffiti chalk wall with buckets of chalk. I couldn’t help but leave my mark.
The last stop on the boat ride was the the Champs Elysses where the Noël de Champs Elysees Christmas Market spanned three city blocks. It was filled with vendors, more food than one could possible eat in a day, and hot mulled wine. HOT MULLED WINE!!!!! It was just wonderful strolling the illuminated streets in the cold with hot wine. It truly felt like Christmas. Of course, I purchased a few unique items. Also, another addition to my international ornament collection that I started this year.
Rodin’s Sculpture Garden
Another highlight was Rodin’s Sculpture Garden. For me, this was my favorite museum by far. The gardens are just delightful. It was a perfect fall like day to wander around the gardens with a cuppa tea and check out the sculptures.
The tiny Mona Lisa…✔️
For the next item to check off the “DO IT NOW!” list, I wanted to go to the Lourve and see the Mona Lisa. I saw it…check. It’s so small. What I found most amusing, people taking selfies with it. Sooooo……
The Lourve was enormous. You would need an entire day just to exploring it. So, I just checked out the parts I wanted to see.
Shakespeare and Company
Possibly, one of the most famous bookstores in the world, the Shakesphere and Company bookstore was most certainly on my checklist.
Featured in the cult classic movie Before Sunset and Julia & Julia this legendary bookstore faces the river Seine on the Left Bank just across the river from Notre Dame. Upon entering the 17th century building, you’re greeted by floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. Walking into the tight quarters is like stepping back into time. This place where 1950’s Beat Poets flocked, there is something inherently beautiful about being surrounded by all those books. As a lover of words, I was in my glory. Just hand me a warm Earl Grey tea from the coffee shop next-door and I would spend hours in this location.
Before I left, I couldn’t help but make a few purchases. One being my favorite childhood book, Madeline.
There are so many more moments to share, but these are stories you share when you speak of your travels to friends. There are even some that are only written in your travel journal for you to reflect back on years late.
Paris is well…Paris. And six days just wasn’t enough. But, I did go home with those dresses I always dreamed of. One day, I will return again.
When you become an expat, venturing out on your own can be scary. Call me a brave soul or adventurous or down right crazy. Whatever your thoughts, one can’t assimilate into a new society without bravery. So today, I ventured out on my own…without the GPS again.
A few people told me there was a pottery place in A’Ali, just past the pottery roundabout. (Seems logical) A’ali pottery, is located deep in the heart of Bahrain. I headed out not knowing what to expect. Luckily, arrived without issue. (I’m really getting good at navigating this island.)
I pulled off the road next to a random tent selling fruit. To the left was the A’Ali Mosque and just up the dirt like road was the pottery place.
I was fascinated when watching the potters at work in A’ali Pottery Workshop. They still use traditional methods that have been handed down generation after generation, firing their pieces using ancient kilns.
Here is what he made. They are banks for your loose change that you can’t break into. It’s tradition that once it is full, you break it.
Before leaving, the man showed me to the 4,000 year burial mounds that date back to the Dilmun Civilization. I’d say my adventure out alone was a success. I wonder what other secrets the Middle East island of Bahrain holds? I am sure I will find out.
The moment has arrived. I am filled with many emotions – excitement, joy, and a small bit of the nerves, but not much. The thrill of finally reaching the goal of living and working abroad outweighs any other emotions. This adventure will forever change me. I welcome it with open arms.
“All great things start from one idea,” has been a life motto for years. This whole crazy journey began with just an idea. The quote below has kept me focused to reach this moment.
In order to be, you must do. All great things start from that one idea.That one step. That one adventure. That one dream.
To adventure is to find yourself whole. To adventure is to have a story at the end of all this.
The places you see, the things you make, and the people you meet will fuel you forever.
Choose to see beauty where others see none. And strive for greatness, always.
We want to inspire you to do more, be more, to feel good lost and explore always.
This whole idea of flipping your life upside down to find your #LifeMeant has not been easy. But, like it says above, “The places you see, the things you make, and the people you meet will fuel your forever.”
Goodbye old life, hello #LifeMeant! My next post will be from Bahrain.
I will spend a fabulous week in England before heading off to my new life in Bahrain to teach at Riffa Views International School.
While working there, I will use all my time off to travel the world. September will take me to Sri Lanka. At Winter break, I will be in Paris to celebrate Christmas. From there, I will take the Chunnel from Paris to London to celebrate the new year London style. The world is now my playground.
Today, August 8, 2015, I begin the new chapter of international living. I can’t wait to share the adventures!!
Go find your #LifeMeant! It’s never too late!!!