wanderlust

Photos: San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge and Hawk Hill by Jessica Lee




If there’s one thing you should do in San Francisco, California, I would recommend speeding up and down the hills of the city on a motorcycle, then going by the same way to see the Golden Gate Bridge. 

That’s exactly what my friend Alek and I did when I was there earlier this year. Alek took me on a journey across the Golden Gate bridge to Hawk Hill where we observed the view from above. 

The sensation of wind brushing past you as your adrenaline races, combined with blue skies, vast green hills and the change in scenery, and not least, the putter and hum of the motor engine underneath you; is more than enough to produce a wide grin from ear to ear underneath your motorcycle helmet; while you wonder what good thing you did in your life to deserve this amazing experience.















Photos: Quebec City part 2 and Montmorency Falls by Jessica Lee


I will let you in on a little secret. This isn't my first time visiting Quebec City. It's actually my third time.

The first time I was here was on a school field trip in grade 8- 10 years ago. I remember little bits and pieces; but mostly, I enjoy looking back in fondness, walking the same spots I walked 10 years ago and seeing how much I've grown and changed.


My priorities as a 13-year-old and now as a 23-year-old are dramatically different. I didn't get to see most of Quebec City last time because I spent a disproportionate amount of my free time shopping in the stores. 

I still love looking at cool stuff, but these days, I've committed to minimalism (having as little stuff as possible to enjoy my day), and since I've been to so many touristy places, I don't get sucked into the traps anymore.



These days, I like to experience the vibe of a destination, enjoy the food and admire the architecture. Maybe meet a local while I'm at it. I'm all about slow travel. Sometimes, I will sit down at a beautiful view for hours, or spend my day at a cafe reading a book.


We went as slowly as we could through Quebec City, given that we didn't have a lot of time. We wandered the city, headed to the Plains of Abraham, La Citadelle, and the most photographed hotel in the world, Chateau Frontenac. We stopped for ice cream and a beavertail, which is a Canadian fried dough pastry that is absolutely delicious and one of my guilty pleasures. Later, we drove to Montmorency Falls and topped off our trip with a little shopping at Simons, a Quebec department store.




This is me trying to recreate an old photo from the top of the Plains of Abraham where Britain and France fought years ago and ended up creating Canada. Not that they had cameras in 1759, nor that many buildings in the background, or even concrete. But it's really cool to know that you're standing at a place with so much important history.


The view from the top of the hill is also easy on the eyes in an understated way.


Back in the Old City, I tried to capture scenes of the city. This is what Quebec City looks like on a summer's day in 2014. Leisurely, relaxed, but full of bustling tourist energy.



















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.

Wanderlust by Jessica Lee


Sometimes I still can't believe I'm back in Toronto. I can still see scenes in Australia so clearly in my mind, it's like I'm there and not here.

I can still feel the sand between my toes at Whitsundays, or the cold breeze which blew my hair around my face when I was sailing the Sydney Harbour. I see orange-gold sunsets over the South Pacific all the time and can still hear the steady crash of the rolling waves along the Australian shores.

Sometimes in my daydreams, I am walking at night with a friend down the cobblestone path along the Harbour bridge. The street lamps are lit and they provide an eerie glow to the dark night, setting a mysterious mood. The cityscape is so clear from where I'm standing. As I gaze across the water, I realize standing in that exact spot is where I want to be right here and right now.

I open my eyes and I realize I've fallen asleep in a TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) subway car. The  familiar, automated voice calls out "Arriving at Davisville Station". I'm in commute on my way home. Usually from work, or sailing or the climbing gym.

My life in Toronto has picked up again really quickly. Though things have changed enough to keep me mentally and physically stimulated, the routine is still frustratingly similar to where I left off.

I've discovered I need to constantly experience new things to keep me happy and out of my comfort zone- which is why I've taken up swing dancing. It's no Australia or Indonesia or even Montreal, but it will do for now.

Since being here for the last two weeks, I've fallen back to the rhythm of my hometown. The first day back, I wasn't quite sure what to do on the TTC. I had just walked from an event at Harbourfront and was standing at Union station, waiting for a train to take me back home. As the train rolled into the station, I stood at the side of the door, waiting to get in. There was a crowd of about 10 people near each subway door, and there weren't that many people occupying seats.

Usually when a the subway door opens, it's a race between everyone to get to a seat. (It's even more spectacular to observe when the subway door opens and everyone rushes to get to the escalator.)

As I was standing there, not knowing what to do, eventually indecision of which seat to take led me to having no seat at all.

This didn't happen to me in Sydney because I rarely took the train, and when I did, there were always available seats; which is why the first few days I was back in Toronto, I just ended up seatless from being out of practice in the art of seat-grabbing.

Toronto as a city is generally more aggressive than the laid-back pattern of Sydney. I find that people in Sydney seemed friendlier and a little more considerate of other people. I'm not saying it's better to be from Sydney or it's better to live in Sydney because people are nicer. Aggressiveness and going for what you want is a useful life skill too. The two cities are just different in personality.

And maybe that is the point of living in different cities- being offered the chance to take in the best of what each city offers and choosing to learn and enjoy its distinctive characteristics.

One of my favourite writers, Paulo Coelho is from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a place I once briefly visited many moons ago. I only remember the scorchingly hot weather (33 C!), the dark, leathery skin of the locals who frequented the Copacabana, and of course the gorgeous waterline of the beach itself.

I wonder though- would the population think similarly to Coelho's sometimes unconventional philosophies? Do all people there follow their passions more so than people in North America where we are trained to go to university, get good grades, then get "good jobs" and eventually retire?

I would like to know all these things and more.

It doesn't look like I'll be staying in Toronto for long...