Belonging everywhere… and nowhere

When you live in different countries for several years and you get used to bonding with different cultures, learning to adapt to other ways of doing things, all of a sudden, you find yourself belonging everywhere…and nowhere.10388113_10154344439710624_2908008728183063952_n

After finishing high school, when I was 18, I started changing countries at least every three years. I moved from Romania to Hungary where I spent one year in Budapest, then I moved to Italy, Milan where I lived two years consecutively before moving to the US in Los Angeles for a while, and then back to Milan again. Three years later I found myself all packed up with a decision to move back to my home country – Romania, but to the capital city, Bucharest. I stayed there 2 years and a half, and just when I thought I have settled down, life decided to send me on one more cultural exploration: Switzerland (Lausanne), where I have been living for one year now.

I have for sure taken from each culture many positive aspects, and every country shaped me to eventually become who I am today. I have learned a lot of things all these years from different people with very different lives and backgrounds, and at the end of the day each of these cultures left a mark on me…which yes, makes me unique in my own way, but which also makes me fit everywhere…. and nowhere. I realize that understanding how life goes and feels in different corners of the world, makes me think that wherever I settle I have a piece of heart and mind somewhere else. I am not truly complete in any place anymore and there’s no way I will ever be, because there will be something of value I have left in another place: be it people, be it a way of living, be it a system, be it nature, and the list goes on.

It’s funny how living in many countries can be both a blessing and a small curse, allow me to be a bit dramatic (I learned this from Italy by the way:))) – drama is passion after all an Italian would tell you). The idea is that living abroad means living with a little compromise on something for the rest of your life. There’s always a some small thing that worked a bit better somewhere else. I am sure people who changed countries can identify themselves with that…

So, there you go, this is the epiphany I had today, living in the most civilized and organized place on Earth, surrounded by wonderful scenery and nature, where people live the good life (Switzerland), but missing crazy nights out from Bucharest, a “more accessible” health system where I could get priority like in Eastern Europe – I am a spoiled brat with that I know (call me crazy), missing the always good weather and sun from California, the real shopping streets of Milan, and the delicious Italian food and good sushi, the vibrant life of a Latin country, and of course people…people from all the other places I lived in…because in every place there were people settling in my heart…it always happened, and for that I am grateful. I have met so many wonderful people from so many different countries that are really close to my heart. Having lots of people I miss makes me think how lucky I am! 🙂 The destiny of a continuous traveler…

Yes, I am an Adrenaline Junkie!

I am a walking contradiction in the sense that I love both adrenaline, but also I fall fool for romantic things. It may be connected to the fact that I like living everything with passion and intensity, so then pumping up some adrenaline just comes naturally.

Therefore, I thought I would mark down my top five adrenaline sweethearts in Europe (subjective view of course, and also from what I have experienced and I am aware of). So here it goes:

1. Sky diving in Interlaken – the mountains and the lake view is absolutely breath-taking. I believe Switzerland is one of the best places to jump with the parachute if you ever want to do it or go paragliding because the scenery is something spectacular indeed. (pending for me)
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2. Ride Europe’s tallest/longest/fastest rollercoasters (completed all of them)
a) Shambhala coaster in PortAventura – Barcelona (tallest & steepest slope) – you just have to try this one! It is unforgettable – truly unique freedom experience!
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b) Silver Start Mercedes Benz in Europa Park (longest/steep slope) – breathtaking coaster!
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c) Blue Ride in Europa Park (fastest start: goes from 0 to 100km in 2.3 seconds) – simply awesome feeling I would describe it!!!
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d) Hollywood Tower in Disneyland Paris (best free-fall coaster)
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3. The 007 Golden Eye Bungee Jump in Ticino, Switzerland, next to Lago Maggiore (pending for me) – this is the one that I am most nervous about, but it is a must-do! My friend, Ella, told me about it and since then I am building up courage to do it 🙂
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4. Fly pulley/Zip line (pending for me)
There are two spots I would like to try: one is over a valley near Lake Como (www.flyemotion.it) and the other one is over a village/valley and it is 1440m long (it is called Volo D’Angello: http://www.latitudeslife.com/2011/11/volo-dangelo-adrenalina-pura/)
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5. White Water Rafting (pending for me)
Some people naturally feel more comfortable on the water than they do on land and that is me :), so white water rafting on fast flowing river rapids is something that I would really want to try. Some best fast flowing waters are in the Alps. During the spring, as all the ice starts to melt quickly, the rivers rapidly fill up creating quite a torrent. For some of the most breathtaking settings for white water rafting, Switzerland is no. 1 for sure:)
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So this is my short term adrenaline fav list so far! I hope to cross off the list what’s pending in max 1 year! 🙂 Would you be up to any of the adventures above?

Redefining unconventionally romantic places: the hidden chic village of Yvoire

I planned this summer to discover as many picturesque hidden places in Europe as I can. I have this guilty pleasure of drinking a coffee or sipping from a glass of wine somewhere with a breathtaking view. It just calms me down and makes me feel very peaceful.

Last weekend I went to Yvoire in France, at the Leman/Geneva lake, and I discovered this old small medieval city that seems like part of a fairytale. It has small coquette houses, chic little restaurants and cafes, antiquities shops, art galleries, a small castle and a beautiful lake side and port that simply took my breath away. It is something particular and honestly really romantic for a stroll or a romantic dinner. I was in love with the place, with the view and with the atmosphere, and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for something different and particular.

Below there are a few photos of my day in Yvoire, mostly taken in the afternoon:

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A touch of a sandy beach and real waves… in the Alps!

Apparently the surroundings of the Geneva lake and Alps do not cease to amaze me in the French part of Switzerland. I honestly believed life in Switzerland is dull, especially in summer. Well, I am being proved wrong every weekend. Besides the fact that Cote D’Azure is reached within 5 hours by car, Provence in 3 hours by car, the Italian Riviera in 4 hours by car (and I refer to car rides as this is how you can leave unexpected somewhere), and besides the amazing views on the lake you have from Geneva and Lausanne, and Mont Blanc shining in the scenery, there is this mixture of Alpine and Meditarean climate, mountains, pine tress and palm trees, that makes life here simply…amazing.

I grew up with a love for the water, the sea, the beach and summer.  In fact once moving to Lausanne, in the Alps this is was on of my worries during the summertime – where would I enjoy on a weekend basis the sea, like I did in Romania. So imagine my surprise when we decided to go for a Saturday stroll on the French side of the Geneva lake, on a sunny day, and we spotted from the car a multitude of kites from kite surfers in the sky. So we followed the trail and ended up on a sandy beautiful beach, and a warm windy lake with…waves! – this is Excenevex Plage in France (a small town right before Yvoire – another wonderful place I will write about, on the Leman/Geneva lake). The scenery below made my eyes pop like a little kid’s in front of candy…or Disneyland. 

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The beach, the kites, the sand, the joyful chocolate Labrador I took care of these days…

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Towards the end of the day…

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I was hyped! This small golf mimics the seaside incredibly: a lot of young people, kite surfers, beach volley, football on the beach, beach bars, music. There are parts of the beach sectioned off for swimming as well as pedaloes and another one for other water sports, such as kite surfing. And what is particular and amazing is the fact that this all happens at the base of the Alps! I think nature was very generous on this area! So there you go, all I needed for summer, an hour drive from Lausanne, and 20km away from Geneva. 🙂

This pretty particular spot lies between Thonon les Bains (near to Evian) and Geneva.  It is close to the pretty village of Yvoire, a medieval coquet village, with a scenic port side and small chic restaurants perfect for a small romantic get-away… I will write about it soon because it deserves its own post!

 

Why I am a fool for Sunsets and Sunrises…

I have this weakness around a sunset or a sunrise on a beach, be it ocean, be it sea, be it lake actually. There is something about the power of the sun going up or down in the water that leaves me breathless every time.

I love looking at sunsets and sunrises –  it takes me away from the hustle and bustle of life.  Also reminds me how lucky I am to see such amazing beauty. The power of such views by the water helps me truly feel grateful for the blessings I have been given in my life.

Also, a sunset or a sunrise can turn me in such a romantic fool. As cheesy as it may sound, I melt in front of a sunset or sunrise with my loved one next to me, on a silent beach, and two glasses of wine or champagne. This is what I find truly divine!

When I was little, all I wanted to see was a sunset at the ocean, and then somehow life brought me to Biarritz – which is a town on the West Coast of France at the Atlantic Ocean, and I felt in love. I found this bench on a high rock there, and it was the first time as a child when I enjoyed the silence slightly broken by a seagull or the sound of the waves, and the beauty of that image. It was my favorite place for many years, and I insisted that my parents passed by Biarritz during our summer vacations in Europe so I could just sit on that bench at sunset again. I am not at all melancholic in front of a sunset, but it makes me feel alive. I feel this great vibe going through my body, and it charges me with a lot of positive energy.

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My second favorite place for a sunset is California – Newport Beach. My father took me to the Newport pier knowing I would love the sunset over there…and yes…it was amazing. The power of the water and the colors of the sky during the sunset help me meditate, help me think of things in a very calm manner. It is my spot to solve my thoughts and to recharge with strength no matter whether I am at a high or low point in my life at that moment. I guess for me a sunset is like a show: the breeze touching my skin, the sound of the water and waves that breaks the silence and the beauty of the scenery laying in front of my eyes in the most amazing colors.

The pier in Newport, at sunset – my other favorite spot
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This year I discovered another amazing sunset in Boracay Island, the Philippines. It was somehow different from the other two, but I had to see it every evening from the White Beach. This sunset, compared to others made me feel in love: with life, with family, with friends, with people. It somehow fed love to me more than anything else, and this is why I remember it.

Sunset on White Beach, Boracay
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I found this quote that partly explains my attraction to sunsets: “When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the creator.” ~Mohandas Gandhi. And so it is, because I cannot keep being amazed on the artwork that nature can create. I pause, and I forget all the other insignificant things that may have made me upset or created me discomfort – the fact that I can live to see such beauty means I am alive and lucky!

I believe that as human beings we all actually love the sunrise and the sunset. Each of these have their own significance to us. It starts a new day, marks a beginning. It keeps us warm. It boosts our moods and makes us feel happy. And ultimately it makes us want to get up in the morning and live another day. Sunsets and sunrises can be some of the most beautiful forms of art ever, painting the skies with their myriad of colors. I’m pretty sure that everyone keeps at least a few photos of the sunset/sunrise to remind them of romantic evenings, dreams or plans for the days to follow. After all, we are all emotional fools in front of nature’s beauty…

Country Chic for the sunny weekend

As finally spring kicked in, this weekend I wanted to take advantage of the nice weather, shining sun, the Geneva lake and explore the picturesque villages around.

A friend told me about this beautiful castle by the lake, next to Yverdon-les-Bains, the Grandson castle. So, Sunday was the perfect day to go see it. The castle was beautiful, with great views over the Geneva Lake and the Alps, a museum of vintage cars from the 1900s in the cellar, and a winery as obviously every castle should have. Luckily, we also arrived in Grandson exactly in time for the Carnival – as this is the season of Carnivals in the area, including the North of Italy. It was a very nice street event, a contest of costumes, music and local art. It just made the place seem like part of a book of tales.

Apparently all around the Geneva Lake and Fribourg area in Switzerland, there are a lot of castles overlooking the Alps, very well preserved that give the area a special fairly tale touch, more picturesque than I initially thought.

Below there is also the country style outfit I chose for the day: checkered Zara shirt, leather jacket and shimmer red jeans from Zara, Isabel Marant sneakers, H&M silver chain necklace, Chanel sunglasses and my beloved Prada bag I cannot get enough of.
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The cowboy checkered shirt showed up as a trend for SS’14. You can easily match it with skinny or boyfriend jeans, ripped off short jeans and sneakers, Converse shoes or even high heels if you go for the long jeans look. The shirt can be worn by itself or over a casual loosed fit t-shirt, and accessorized with a chain necklace or a funky bandana. Give the country look a chance in a chic way!

And here is a small piece of the beauty of Grandson and the Yverdon-les-Bains area:
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It was love at… second sight :) – Boracay Island, Philippines

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To be honest, going to Boracay Island in the Philippines was not my idea, and neither my first choice for the winter holiday, because I was not familiar with this destination. Last summer, I did not even know that there is a small Paradise on this island, but then I met someone who’s dream was to get there. Well, I thought to myself, if it is someone’s dream to go there… there has to be something really special, unique about this place, so I jumped in… the Dream, and honestly I wish I didn’t wake up! 🙂

This exotic small island ended up to be my best traveling experience so far, and I was lucky enough to have the chance throughout the years to really travel around Europe and the world, but this was something…else. It left a mark… of beauty, of love, but also of…appreciation to life. This place, won me over: the white and virgin beaches, the clear blue see-through sea, the cute picturesque romantic restaurants/bars on the rocks in the most hidden and secluded places… the duality of the island: no wind&windy beaches – for kite surf lovers… and the breathless sunsets and sunrises (yes, you can see them both from the island! – something I have never experienced before).

It was love at…second sight, because honestly when we arrived on the island, it was night, dark and there was a big cultural clash – after all, this was the 3rd world, and getting to your hotel/resort/bungalow means actually traveling locally – with your luggages piled up on a small means of transport on wheels, taking a small old wooden boat to the island, riding a tricycle… and passing through the villages… and seeing the reality of the real 3rd world and poverty of the local Filipinos. I was a bit shocked and started wondering whether this is really a dream island. We checked-in late in the night and then…the morning came…the sunrise….and the priceless view from my balcony. I have never seen such beauty before. It was different…it was virgin…it took my breath away. And then I knew… I love it!

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A thing that stroke me though are the local people, as poor as they are… they are happy, really happy, even though they may live out of coconuts and sleep on the beach…they are genuinely happy. And this made me think a lot of what do we truly need to be happy. We live in a modern world where we grew up being taught that money and material things will maintain happiness and our well-being, and this applies to all of us, as non-materialistic as we have been educated. It got to me how being with each other as human beings, enjoying our living…actually existing and seeing beauty on this Earth, is genuinely what should make us happy.

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Besides being a dreamy exotic place, there are so many things you can do on the island. We tried scuba diving, snorkeling, boat trips and of course Kite surfing. It is actually a famous place for kite surfers. I will personally include it in “my firsts” – because it is the place where I learned to kite surf :).
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All in all, if anyone asks, I recommend a holiday to the Philippines wholeheartedly! For me, the two weeks spent there were Paradise, and now, I pretty much got hooked to Asia and I look forward to discover it even more. So, I guess next on my list are Thailand, Malaysia and India. Let’s see where the road takes me 🙂