New York, New York by Jessica Lee

Ah New York. The place where people go to chase their American dreams.

I landed in New York at the end of my European tour in February. This was my second time visiting, and though I could see why many fall in love with this city, I knew it just wasn't for me.

Maybe New York and I started on a unfavourable terms this time around because it was frigid and I was already thinking of going some place warmer.

Nevertheless, I was drawn back to this big city to see if I felt the same after so many years. I first visited the big city when I was 15 over winter break with my mom. It was mostly a shopping trip. At 15, I was impressed by the big buildings, flashing advertisements and all the bright lights. There were also American and international brands in New York that I saw in magazines which I couldn't buy in Toronto.

When I got back to Toronto with my luggage full of new clothes, friends and classmates would compliment me on my finds. New York was cool simply because it wasn't available in Toronto. Now that I've taken up minimalism, New York isn't as exciting anymore.

Regardless, I still found things to do. Breakfast first of course, at Clinton Street Baking Co.

I had been craving North American-style pancakes since eating nothing but crepes and pastry in Europe and Morocco (I know, what a difficult life), and these blueberry ones were perfect. I added a side of maple bacon and hot maple butter apple cider, and it was exactly what I needed.

Then I had a stroll around Manhattan.

I spent most of my time in New York in museums, but also wandered into some shops. Some of the merchandizing in the stores here is absolutely incredible, comparable to art galleries; and the best part is that it's free to see.

I wandered to Central Park, but it just didn't live up to the hype of what I had been expecting.

Check out this cool, curved building.

And of course, the iconic yellow New York City taxis.

Then, I headed to my first museum of the day, the Guggenheim. I loved the architecture, but the exhibition wasn't really my cup of tea.

Later in the night, I headed over to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMa).

In between all of this, I took a few subway rides during rush hour. I have to tell you this story of how I squeezed myself into a packed subway car and my bag was sticking out of the door so the door wouldn't close, but I didn't know it was because of me. And this bloke said "Miss, you're holding all of us up." And I thought this bloke was so rude because of his tone when he told me, but it's probably just what New York is usually like.

I was in Montreal last summer and someone threw away all my unopened food that was labeled in the communal fridge of the hostel I was staying at, and I was pretty ruffled because I didn't get an apology from the front desk staff. Some guy asked if I was from New York because of my attitude.

I've travelled around the world and dealt with some rough situations, but I'm not sure if I would last a month in the harshness of New York City. Growing up in Toronto, people were pleasant and generally nice to me and so I've developed assumptions that people are kind - which is generally true. I imagine the lifestyle to be either like the movie Inside Llewyn Davis, where I'd be shuffling around in the cold in a thin jacket or like the movie Frances Ha, where I'd be constantly worried if I was going to make the astronomically high rent that month. 

I'm visiting New York City again next weekend. This time, I'm hoping to spend time in jazz clubs and visit neighbourhoods such as Greenwich Village, West Village and walk the HighLine. Maybe my opinion of New York City will change. I guess we'll see...

A Parisian Cafe, Montmartre and Sacre Coeur by Jessica Lee

Today, I'm bringing you to the Jewish Quarter of Paris, le Marais.

One of the things I love most about Paris is the sophistication of the food and the cafes. I spent the day with fellow traveller Carmen from Australia, sipping hot chocolates and tasting a cheesecake souffle at a cafe that didn't allow computers. It had an old-time charm feel, sort of like that movie A Midnight in Paris. There were several blatant signs around the cafe that said "p'as d'ordinateur portable", and of course there wasn't any wifi.

Sometimes, I feel like I could stay in Paris forever because of the cute little shops and well-taken-care-of buildings, but with that comes a certain feeling of coldness in not quite fitting in with the locals because of a) the language barrier and b) the Parisian snob stereotype is sometimes true.

Despite that, I think anyone can appreciate the many years of history and the culture developed in this old city.

We wandered around the area for a bit, then hopped on our bikes and went north to Montmartre and the Sacre Coeur. They filmed Angels and Demons and also Amelie in this area, so it was strange feeling to be in places where I thought I had been before but hadn't really.

Paris: la vie en rose by Jessica Lee

I have so many photos to share from Paris. There's no way I could share them all in one post, so I'll go slow. Maybe a couple for each day.

When I flew into Paris, it was night. I landed at Charles de Gaulle airport and took the RER (train) to Gare du Nord (major train station).

I remember walking to my hostel, which was expensive for a hostel ($30/night), but also really fancy. I got lost somewhere along the way, but it brought me to so many beautiful scenes. I realize I spend a lot of my time lost when I travel. It's frustrating most of the time, but there are some moments when I discover something really cool that's off the beaten path.

I've pretty much accepted that I am not good with directions in a new city unless the city is like New York, where the streets are all numbered and the city is laid out like a grid.

In Europe, many times, streets are laid out like Pentagons (Paris, Barcelona), and it's slightly difficult for someone used to grids (like North Americans) to navigate. Anyway, I digress.

One of the main things I love about Paris is that everywhere you go, it's picturesque. You don't even have to be at the touristy areas such as Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, or Champ de Mars, to get a good photo. Everything is just designed elegantly. The whole city is photography-friendly with cobblestone streets, old majestic buildings and beautifully-dressed locals. And when you enter the cafes, the pastries are aesthetic as well.

My first day in Paris, I had to tell myself to calm down with all the photos I was taking. You know when you get too excited about something and sometimes stop breathing? That was me. But I love that feeling of excitement. It's one of the reasons I love travel so much. I love seeing new things and feeling that sense of wonder and joy. It's a feeling of realizing how lucky you are to be standing where you are, and wanting to share that joy with the whole world. I don't think you can ever get that kind of feeling sitting in a cubicle. This is why I travel.

Photos: Copenhagen, Denmark by Jessica Lee

I landed in Copenhagen, Denmark, as dinner time was just beginning.

I had just come from Reykjavik, Iceland, where the community was small and there wasn't much to explore.

Copenhagen was perfect in that there was lots going on, lights everywhere and people travelling about.

A rush of cyclists sped past me towards the lit-up city and I followed them in that direction, excited by a new city to explore.

The thing I loved most about Copenhagen was its gorgeous aesthetics. There were cafes on every corner and all the buildings were meticulously kept.

I didn't see trash on any of the streets. There were only friends meeting with each other and happy couples. I definitely fell in love with this city at first sight. I wanted to move here for maybe a year or so. Waking up each day to beautiful streets and charming cafes would be wonderful.

Copenhagen was still early in my backpacking trip and I had spent the past year weening myself off of shopping and needless money spending to save up for this trip, so I quickly grew tired of walking through the commercial centre, despite all the cool boutiques. I settled down in a cafe and just people watched.

Danish people are quite fashionable.

I wandered towards the main square and stumbled upon the Christmas Market.

There's a Christmas Market in Toronto (third last photo) which started a couple of years ago, and is based on these European Christmas Markets. I had gone, and loved it. But being in a European one definitely beat out the Toronto one. I think it has something to do with the old buildings and cobblestone floors around you.

It feels more authentic with European cuisines, rather than poutine. But if you're in Toronto during Christmas season, you might as well check it out because it's beautiful with all the lights.

Another thing I loved about Copenhagen was its walkability. I never took the public transportation because everything I wanted to go to was easily accessible.

The only downside about Copenhagen are its expensive prices. As the third richest city in the world, it can be difficult to afford to live there. I spent $8 on a hot chocolate, and it was normal pricing. A bar meal was $20 for bangers and mash. It was delicious, but you can definitely get better value in less expensive cities.

Will I try to move to Copenhagen in the future? Perhaps. Currently Sydney, Melbourne, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Rome are on my list for top places to try to live in (for reasons I will later explain), but Copenhagen ranks pretty high up there too.

More photos of my time in Copenhagen:

Romantic scenes between Geelong and Lorne by Jessica Lee

The Great Ocean Road is filled with picturesque places all along the coast. Driving by, I thought this would be the perfect location to shoot movies with dramatic or romantic scenes.

We stopped off at Geelong first, a little port town and had a simple pasta lunch with wine while facing the lake.

Then we walked along and explored.

There's a small amusement park by the dock inside the visitor's centre, which looked like fun. I can only imagine all the fun nights that were had as the sun was setting and the townspeople were meeting.

You can never look at enough shorelines. This was in Lorne, which is another seaside town a few miles further.

We arrived during "magic hour" and I got a few nice shots.

Check out that cool highway over the water.

Our van parked near the shore.

This beach, a little further down, I imagine would have made a lovely picnic spot.

The people of Australia sure are lucky folks.

Flying across City Hall by Jessica Lee

This week, I took the opportunity to experience the thrill of screaming my lungs out in front of my city while hanging on by a clip from a wire. It was fun.

Toronto's been a pretty cool city to live in for the most part, but last week, it got a whole lot cooler. Since it's the 100th anniversary of the Grey Cup, they set up a whole bunch of festivities, one of them being a zipline from City Hall.

This is what it looks like (you can sort of see two people hanging mid air):

Here is a closer look:

The zipline tower was set in between the two City Hall buildings so that all the office workers could watch you having fun vicariously while they did their work.

Here is what the top of the structure looked like:

A photo of my cousin and I: Notice how we look somewhat tense, well I do at least.

I mean I've done ziplining before, but this was a much longer line, being that it was the length of a football field (which is why it was set up for the Grey Cup).

Below is a photo taken right before we were told to just "walk into the air".

Toronto is actually quite a pretty city at night with all its lit up buildings.

And here we go:

The twenty or so seconds we were in the air whizzing across City Hall felt amazing. The view was great too. It was as if I turned into a bird. The cold air brushed against my face and adrenaline pumped in my veins. I forgot all about my looming exams and emails I had to send and lived in the moment.

Seeing the city from a different perspective is always exciting I suppose.

And in a matter of seconds, it was all over. Below is a photo of the guys at the receiving booth.

Toronto is a lovely that holds random events throughout the year, which is why it's great living here. I've been blessed with many opportunities just by proximity.