black and white photography

Paris in black and white edition: 2 by Jessica Lee

 I came back from Europe a few months ago, and I have all these pictures of Paris which I don't know what to do with, so I figured I might as well share them with the community.

I spent two weeks in Paris practicing my French, getting ignored by the French, then eventually taking a bus to Brussels.

Actually, the story is a little longer than that. Let me explain.

Paris is magical to me because it gets romanticized in basically every movie we see about this city. Examples: Midnight in Paris, Amelie, Moulin Rouge... Even if the plot isn't very romantic like The Da Vinci Code, the background scenes of Paris are gorgeous. To finally be in a place which is hyped universally by almost everyone in my network/media/influences was wonderful.

When I first arrived and saw the architecture, I was floored and fell in love with the city.

Then, after seeing my wide-open bag, a hostel staff warned me about pick pockets, and my fondness towards Paris died down a little but I was still enamoured with the city.

I love the smaller streets, the smell of fresh pastry wafting through the air, being able to find a specialty cheese shop on almost every corner and of course, all the rich history that seems to swallow you into its world. You simply can't be in a place like Paris and not imagine all the generations that have lived on these same streets.

But of course, a walk through Paris though beautiful, is sometimes lonely when you're only one. Parisians have a reputation of being snobs, which I found out unfortunately is mostly true.

There was an incident when I was trying to ask questions in French at a post office, and when my French vocabulary wasn't strong enough to get my question across, the clerk, who was in her late twenties, just ignored me and went back to reading her book. It wasn't until I was rescued by another customer who spoke both English and French that I got the answer I needed.

If you want to learn about customer service, don't go to Paris.

Anyway, I digress. Please don't let me stop you from going to Paris because of that one incident, in fact, I recommend going just to see what it's all about. I actually met a very funny and nice Parisian man in my third go-around to Paris, so no not everyone is a snob.

One of the reasons I love Paris so much is because it has so much art and culture, not to mention history. Like a difficult novel, you may not like it, but it's good for you, just so you know what it's like, so you can be informed and have an legitimate opinion on it.

You may have noticed I haven't mentioned shopping yet.

Well, I'm getting there. Keep in mind, these photos are only representative of the first few days I spent in Paris.

I mostly gravitated towards food on the first couple of days, which by the way, Parisian grocery stores have the best selection of brie. It's less than two euros for a whole block of cheese! In Canadian dollars, that's around $3. In Canada, good cheese starts from around $6, so you can imagine my excitement when I discovered cheap good cheese in the grocery stores.

Dining out was slightly more expensive than back home, but I still went out a couple of times just to see what it was like. Disclaimer: I also gained a couple of pounds specifically from Paris, I think. I am blaming the croissants, but they are the most delicious thing in the world when they are still hot from the oven so I have no regrets.

I will be posting more photos from Paris as I edit them in the next few weeks. Hope you enjoy them!

Bruges, Belgium, in black and white by Jessica Lee

On the weekend, my friend Guilhem and I went to the medieval-looking town of Bruges, Belgium. It's a beautiful town, but unfortunately, there's not much to do there.

The main attractions would probably be 1. the palace 2. the folklore museum 3. the beautiful architecture and 4. maybe the shopping, as that's what most people were doing.

I don't enjoy "touristy" towns where bad gimmicky shopping is a pastime. I also don't like being surrounded by too many tourists. I heard that after the movie In Bruges (2008) came out, the town was suddenly flooded with tourists- which can be a good thing for the economy, but I imagine slightly annoying to the residents.

Here is the main square:

Bruges has this nice canal, much like in Venice, which would have been nice to explore on a rowboat. They had a speedboat tour, but I tend to not go for pre-rehearsed, mass-information-directed tours; instead, I gravitate towards smaller, improvised tours which can allow for unique moments to happen.

I think my favourite moment in Bruges would have to be the hot chocolate we had near the end of the day. Belgium is known for it's good chocolate, and the place we went to, Bitter Sweet, was no exception.

We were brought two cups of steamed milk and told to place our dark chocolate tulips in the cups. The tulips would float, then sink to the bottom and melt into the milk. It was fun, and absolutely delicious.

Bruges would be a fun place for a day trip. I wouldn't recommend more than two days here as the cafes and chocolate shops (great as they are) will probably get old fast. The town is more suited for slow travel, as in taking the time to walk around and discover places, as opposed to a bigger city where you're always stimulated by different attractions and rushing around to get to places.

Here are more photos of the trip:

Driving, coffee and a comedy festival! by Jessica Lee

Today's photos are all going to be black and white!

Because everyone needs a little excitement in their lives...

And it's always good to try new things as long as you're not harming anyone or yourself.

Or so I was taught...

Today started off slow with us leaving the house at around 2 pm.

Tom and Scott (the other housemate) had some script writing to do (they are filmmakers) so I sat around and played some guitar, did a bit of reading and did a little writing.

And then I was bored out of my mind sitting around waiting for them to finish so I grabbed the car keys.

(This is what I was talking about when I mentioned excitement in people's lives)

It was the first time I had driven an Australian car where the driver is on the right side of the car and the roads are on the left side.

It's completely opposite back in North America.

I think I did pretty well. We didn't crash into everything and everyone is still in one piece.

This is Lachlan and Scott in the backseat of the car.

What can I say? They are just anxious people.

After driving around the neighbourhood for a while (I drove through roundabouts!), Tom took over again and we went to the city.

We headed to a cafe called Pellegrini's, which was recommended by two guidebooks (Lonely Planet and Rough Guides).

I was a little disappointed.

The food was just average.

Don't get me wrong, the food (I had lasagna and a mocha) tasted great, but it wasn't worthy of being mentioned in both books.

It seemed like to me one guidebook author just copied the other. There was just too much hype for a regular mom and pop store.

Back in Toronto, we have so many options comparable or even better than the cafe we were at.

From this day forward, I am going to rely less on guidebooks and more on my own intuition.

And maybe more on Urbanspoon.

But then again, I like to discover indie cafes for a less-crowded atmosphere where I can read in silence.

I wonder if all these people are locals who actually enjoy this place or just tourists fooled by the guidebooks.

After fuelling up with carbs, we headed to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

It was great for laughs, but not spectacular until...

Tom got picked by the comedian to be a part of the show!

We were all so proud of him (and also laughing our heads off).

Here he is second from the left doing a disco dance:

I have always wondered how performers decide how to pick people from the crowd to be volunteers.

Tom says they pick the good looking ones but now that I think about it, I think they just pick the ones who are silly enough to allow a performer to order them around to do ridiculous things with people laughing at them.

(Of course I am just kidding Tom. I think you are really cool. Please drive me to the zoo tomorrow! Yes they definitely pick the good looking ones!)

Since he was feeling good about himself, for dinner, Tom made me Australian "tea". That is what they call dinner in Australia according to him.

We had Kangaroo meat, a balsamic salad with feta cheese and also Australian beer. It was a pretty good end to the day.