2017 has been a year so crazy and full that it’s incredibly difficult to summarise it in a few words or sentences. It wasn’t one coherent story, it was more like hundred wild stories without any structure or logic. It has been a loud, overwhelming whirlwind of so many feelings, ups and downs, tears, kisses and personal growth. It was by no means an easy year but why should it. Looking back now, it feels a little as if I’ve constantly been on a journey, never quite sure what I was actually searching for and then slowly realising that there is no quick fix for the big questions. So I guess that means I’ll be carrying those over into 2018.
In case you’re slowly getting confused with all the different locations I’m talking about here, or if you just recently hopped on the … ehm, blog train, listen up: After a month in the US and Canada, we’re now set in sunny France (although in reality I’m sitting in a small fifth floor room in rainy Brussels with lots of tea) and judging from the photos, it’s been a pretty good summer. We checked out Montpellier, a stunning old town with a bunch of cute and inexpensive boutiques, candy-coloured roundabouts (I may or may not have jumped on one with a happy squeak) and those French houses that I could spend hours photographing. Another stop was Carcassonne, a place that I embarrassingly only knew because of the famous board came, which is probably the most charming and touristy place I’ve ever come across. That’s what Americans mean when they can’t believe how much history there is in Europe: Century-old cobbled alleys, cathedrals that must be aching from all the emotional baggage and of course, crêpe stands. We’re in France, after all.
The South of France has turned out to be the perfect destination for a long, relaxed road trip. Why? Because now and then, you’d coincidentally get into small towns like Narbonne or Gruissan that are casually located between the sea and the Pyrenees. Oh dear, even the sound of these names instantly makes me wanna start using French as my primary way of communicating with the world. Where were we, yes, the trip, I’ve switched off my signature see-as-much-as-possible-in-12-hours mode and actually started to breathe in sun, the smell of fresh baguette, blue skies, the salty seaside air and the beautifully French laissez-faire style. Now these few days of over-indulgence and charming drives around in awe hopefully charged enough batteries to make us power through the year.
Southern France is such a feast. I love how you can even see from the colours of the photos how hot and dry it was during summer. There’s something about these small villages that are like parallel universes where nobody bothers to update Twitter or Instagram feeds, where the highlight of each day is a huge five-course lunch, accompanied by a bottle of Burgundy. One thing that struck my brothers and me as ridiculous or unfair though was just how “easy” the vineyards are designed: We grew up harvesting grapes every autumn in Western Germany and oh, it was such a hassle to climb up the hills in the rain and carry dozens of carriages of grapes up to the truck, which would then finally bring everything down back into the valley where the rest of the family would get cracking and make wine. Whereas in France… there are no steep hills, landscapes are conveniently flat and the climate way “better” than anywhere else. So it doesn’t come a surprise that the wine there is arguably a lot tastier! I guess this is just to say that if you plan to get involved in the fabulous wine business, then don’t go to the Mosel valley but head to the Provence instead. Nothing like a bit of career advice on a photo blog, huh?
Are you up for a little trip up the French Pyrenees? No no, you don’t have to walk, a cute yellow train will do the job for you. While the rather ancient carriages might already be enough to get excited, there’s also a stunning scenery ‘rushing’ past at a very chilled pace. So why not hold your head out of the window, close your eyes and let the wind mess with you hair? When it stops after about two hours, you could either go back right away because it’s all about the journey right, or you could get off and explore an old village that’s totally still stuck in the Middle Ages (no joke!) hence incredibly charming. There’s one grocery shop, a boulangerie, a patisserie, and a tiny pizza place that closed down and… barely any people walking around. Perfect for the type of escape that your thoughts revolve around during rainy days in the office, right!? Now go, hop on the train, it won’t wait forever!
Yep, sadly that’s about everything I know in French. One of my resolutions for 2013 has been to brush up on the language (I studied it in school for five years and barely remember anything… Oops!), but somehow the only French I’m constantly saying, or, perhaps more appropriately, shouting, is PARCE QUE JE PEUX PARLER LE FRANCAIS OUI OUI! Not sure if any Parisian Mademoiselle would ever say that but anyway, my first stop on a three-week trip through France, Germany, Norway and other European beauties has been Lyon. It struck me as a much smaller, cleaner and friendlier city than Paris. Especially the historic city centre is such a stunner! I was lucky enough to have had a whole morning off where I did the one thing that never fails to put a smile on my face: Having the camera catch whatever I found intriguing … and as for Lyon, there’s been a lot.
How often did it happen to you that you took a casual Sunday stroll through your city, aiming to find something that you haven’t noticed before? Right, if you’re a little bit like me, that happens quite frequently. What doesn’t happen quite so often is that you suddenly stand before a scene that you usually associate with another country.
When I saw the both luxurious and rustic sailing boats in St. Katherine Docks, just across the street from Tower Hill, I couldn’t believe that such a little oasis of peace really is part of London and not of St. Tropez, which I reckon does also get a little greyish in winter.
So after having encountered a few sleepy boat owners who just had a brunch in the chilly morning sun, some families taking their weekly walk or the odd tourist with a heavy camera, it drew me back to to the area around London Bridge and the like. That was when swarms of drunk santas were singing, dancing and invading the city that suddenly didn’t quite feel like a remote French seaside town at all anymore. Oops…