October Bucket List

Hello. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Carol. For those who do, I’m Professor Trelawney.

October 2017 shall now and forever be known as the busiest and most exciting month of my life thus far. I met so many wonderful, interesting people, visited three new places I had never been before (Disneyland Paris, Dublin, and Edinburgh), and conquered my fear of roller coasters AND public speaking! Well, maybe not quite conquered, but I’m getting there. This month was all started off in the most mystical way possible. Being as it was the month of Halloween and the veil between the land of the living and the dead is at it’s thinnest, I decided to see what the spirits had in store for me. I went to get my Tarot cards read.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a firm believer in the accuracy of Tarot cards, tea leaves, or crystal balls. Going into this experience, I was mostly looking for a bit of fun. You know. Just see what could come from it. I understand there are those who really believe in that type of thing. For them, I say that this post is only a statement of what happened. I’m not crediting or discrediting the practice. After leaving the reader’s room, I am still not a believer. However, the session did give me some things to think about and answered some of my unanswerable questions. Without further ado, here is Carol B and the Tarot Cards.

I decided about mid-September that I wanted to get a Tarot reading. I had my tea leaves read before, but (again) because it was October, the month of Samhuinn and Halloween, I wanted to try Tarot. I started researching psychics in Brussels, but quickly realized I had a problem: they all speak French. My French is high beginner or low intermediate on a GOOD day! How on earth was this going to work if I couldn’t understand the reading?! (There’s an inspirational quote in there somewhere… “Life is like being told your fortune by a French psychic. The answer is right in front of you, but you won’t understand until you use Google Translate”… something like that.) This somewhat BIG dilemma didn’t stop me from trying to find the English needle in the French haystack.

My research brought me to a Facebook page called Brussels Holistic Readings Tarot and Oracles. The posts on the page were written in English, so I was very hopeful. I messaged the Page Admin asking the obvious questions: “Do you speak English? When are you free in October?” We exchanged a couple of messages and scheduled a reading for the first week of October. I know she was the real deal because she ended her Facebook messages with “Blessed be”. Legit.

I arrived at the reading (which was at her home) a couple minutes early and really thought about what I’d ask. I decided the four most obvious questions would suffice for a 30 minute-long appointment: career, life, love, and the future. Once I was satisfied with these topics, I rang the doorbell. Just as the buzzer went off, a panic overwhelmed me, like the bell woke up every insecurity and fear I had ever felt throughout my 23 years of existence. What if she tells me I’m going to die tomorrow? What if she says I’ll be poor and homeless within a year? What if the bogeyman kidnaps me tonight while I’m sleeping?! Some childhood fears never go away…)

The front door opened and standing behind it was Andi, my spiritual guide for the next hour or so. She welcomed me in and offered me a cup of tea, which I graciously accepted. As we waited for the kettle to boil, I took the opportunity to ask her a couple questions about herself and the art of Tarot card reading. Andi is originally from Connamara, near Galway on the west coast of Ireland. She realized her clairvoyant abilities when she was about 18 or 19 years old. The spirit of a deceased relative appeared and communicated with her (I didn’t ask what it was that the spirit said. It’s none of my business). From that point on, she became interested in using her abilities to help others. Andi was given her first Tarot card deck by a friend, as it is a tradition that you obtain your first deck as a gift (Christmas gift ideas. You’re welcome). She read about and practiced her craft for many years, which eventually lead her to Brussels. She felt an emotional connection with the city, like she was always meant to be in Brussels (sounds vaguely familiar… *cough, cough* me *cough, cough*), and so she packed up her things and moved from Ireland to Belgium. Now, she uses her abilities to give guidance to her customers, from career advice to healing a broken heart, not telling fortunes and seeing the future. She made a point to tell me that the cards are not an exact science. Each card can have multiple interpretations. Her purpose is to interpret what the cards say as they relate to one another in a layout. By the time she finished her story, the tea was ready and it was time to tell my story. The story hidden in the Tarot.

The session started off with the lighting of a candle and a prayer to God and the angels for guidance in the readings and to reveal his plan through the cards. I felt a bit more comfortable knowing God was the driving force behind the fortunes. I don’t know if I  could trust the Faerie Realm with my fate. Prayers were spoken, the deck was shuffled, and the cards were flipped one-by-one onto the table, ready to reveal my future.

Career

Apparently, even the cards had no idea what my future held in terms of future career! (Back to the drawing board) However, the Magician card was present and prominently displayed, which was interpreted to mean that I have all the skills and tools I need to find a successful career. (I’m a wizard, Harry!) Another shuffle revealed I might find something in counseling or advising, music, or a combination of both.

Life

The cards seemed to agree that I shouldn’t worry too much about the future. I should enjoy the present while I can. Fate has a plan and everything will fall into place, but I must give it time. I’m young, I have plenty of time left, and many experiences to come. The future holds a lot of happiness and content. When I leave Brussels, there will be a period of little to no traveling, so I must make the most of the experience while I can. (Don’t need to tell me twice!)

 Love

Around mid-October, I will meet a man who will become very important to me. However, the relationship will end terribly, and I will be heartbroken (thanks, mystery guy…) From the heartbreak, I will find my future husband (THANKS, MYSTERY GUY!!)

Future

Again, my future will work out in the end. I will be happy and content. I will definitely have a family (although, I’m sure everyone I know could have guessed that), and I will have three children, with at least one girl (Andi was very specific about that number three.)

 

 

The session ended with another prayer. Then, the candle was put out and that was that. Andi helped organize many worries that I had about many different things going on in my life. I’m still not a believer of the paranormal, but I do appreciate the guidance and order Andi helped me find. I felt a strange sense of calm as I left the house. Sure, some questions were left unanswered, but some worries were put to rest, and that is a great feeling. You may not have Andi near you, but I would recommend going to get your Tarot cards read, especially if you need help sorting out your anxieties. It might just help take some of the weight off your shoulders.

Until next month,

Carol B

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What to do in Fouras, France

After leaving St. Maxime, I found myself back on the Atlantic Coast. As a life-long East Coast gal, I was unable to wrap my head around the fact that the Atlantic was now on the West Coast. Why is the sun setting on the Atlantic? It was weird.

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For about 2.5 weeks, I stayed in Fouras, France, a little town situated in the Charente Estuary famous for it’s nutrient-rich mud and seafood. When I first arrived in Fouras, I didn’t think much of it. It was, like I said, a small town. That was before I looked outside my bedroom window and saw the towering fortress that is Fort Vauban overlooking the beach. The area around Fouras is filled with old forts because they were the first defense against the British who sailed down the Charente Estuary, which led to Rochefort, a major navy base and arsenal. With that being said, I was very excited to be there!

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Within the next few days, I had done quite a bit of exploring and fell in love with Fouras. The small town way of life coupled with the rich history and culture made it hard to leave at the end of my trip. If you ever find yourself on the Western coast of France, here is a list of things you can do when traveling to this beautiful town:

  • Fort Vauban/ Regional Museum of Fouras

Right on the Grand Plage, the first thing you will notice is Fort Vauban. Probably the most well-preserved fort in the area, it now hosts the Regional Museum of Fouras.

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Fort Vauban from La grand plage

When you first walk across the draw-bridge, you will find the main keep/ museum to your left and some gift shops straight ahead. The different shops sell art from local artisans, postcards and mugs targeted at tourists, and gems. The gem store is filled with mystical materials like giant geodes, crystal displays, and small sculptures made from jade or polished stone. Off to the side of the gem store is a jewelry store with every kind of jewel you can think of: emeralds, sapphires, amber, rubies, etc. It’s fun to spend a couple minutes there, even if you don’t buy anything!

 

The fort is free to enter, but you must pay to visit the museum. From the bottom floor, you are taken through the history of Fouras. Your travel through time concludes in the present day when you reach the very top of the keep. On the roof, you’ll get the best view of the area, from La Fumée to the Plage Sud.

  • Spend a day at the beach

Fouras’ main beaches are la Grand Plage, la Plage Sud, and la Plage Nord (literally, the big beach, the south beach, and the north beach). The Grand Plage is (obviously) the biggest and most popular beach. The Plage Nord is big for sailing and fishing, while the Plage Sud is a quieter version of the Grand Plage.

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La grand plage

The tides on the beaches are very drastic; bigger than any tide I’ve ever seen on the Eastern US Coast! While the tide is out, however, what is left is mud. The mud is, apparently, very good for the skin, and is often used or replicated in high-end spas. On the beach, you’ll see people walking through the mud, lathering it on their entire bodies, and come out looking like a monster you’d see on Scooby-Doo. They, then, lie on the beach and wait for the mud to dry before using the showers (provided on the beach) to wash off the mud revealing their new, beautified skin. I didn’t try this mud bath because unfortunately, the showers weren’t working, but that didn’t stop some people from a free spa day!

If you have children, there is a beach club that is held on the beach every day except Sundays. They have trampolines, swings, a swimming pool (yea, a swimming pool on the beach!), and scheduled activities for different age groups. Just follow the Mickey Mouse flags and you’ll find the camp counselors/ supervisors. They will sign you in and your child can play from just about all day!

  • Take a long walk to Fort Enet

Starting from the Grand Plage, it takes about 30 minutes to walk to la pointe de la Fumée, which seats Fort Enet, a fort built by Napoleon 1 to aid in the defense of Rochefort. On the way, you will see the Casino, some charming beach homes, la plage nord, and the oyster/mussel farms.

The only way to reach Fort Enet is when tide is at its lowest. Even then, you can’t go in because it’s considered private property. Unless you happen to be in Fouras the one day they offer a tour of the interior, you’re out of luck. I was able to walk around the fort and get a great view of Fort Boyard, so it’s not all bad if you can’t get in! The tidal pools were interesting to look at too. Lots of crabs and snails, mostly!

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Fort Enet

  • Sample Fouras’ famous mussels and oysters

If Fouras is good at one thing, it’s their seafood. If you visited Fort Enet, you would have seen the giant oyster and mussel beds along La Fumée. The nutrient-rich water as well as the warm currents make for great conditions for growing seafood! Fun fact: a majority of the mussels and oysters eatten in France originated in Fouras! One dish you must to try is moules-frites (mussels and fries). The mussels are cooked in a creamy, wine sauce and served in a bucket with crispy fries. It’s delicious! I haven’t tried the oysters (I don’t eat oysters… too slimy), but I have it on good authority that they are just as delicious as the mussels.

  • Visit the town market area

The life of Fouras lies in the main market road, Rue de la Halle. In the big building labeled Marché, there is a produce market that is open every morning from 8-12:30pm that sells fruits, vegetables, meat, and ready-made meals.

Next door is a huge seafood market with all the seafood you could ever want: fish, different kinds of shrimp, octopus, mollusks, and even shark! This, too, is only open in the mornings.

 

The shops along Rue de la Halle are quaint, meaning they just carry the essentials. There is a pharmacy and grocery store for toiletries, food, and medicine, a bookstore and beach store for entertainment, then there is a butcher, several bakeries, spice shops, cafés, and cheese shops. You know, the essentials.

For the kids, there are several carousels –manège in French– they can enjoy. Two are very old carousels from the early 1900s, but the modern carousel nearest the St. Gaudens Church is the crowd favorite. As the ride is going, the carousel operator dangles and swings a Mickey Mouse stuffed animal over the heads of the kids, and whoever catches Mickey gets a ticket for a free ride!

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  • Saturday night market

Every Saturday, Fouras comes alive with people as stalls and food stands are set up starting from St. Gaudens Church, and continues along the boardwalk. There are stalls for jewelry, clothes, personalized mugs, electronics, art, and food vendors. It can get crowded, however, so keep your purses closed and wallets hidden! Pickpockets can happen here too.

  • Attend a mass at St. Gaudens ChurchIMG_6800

In my opinion, the best way to see a church is to see it for the purpose it was used for. I understood absolutely NONE of the mass, but I followed what everyone else was doing and it all worked out. Honestly, there were some times during the mass when no one knew what to do. Some stood, some sat, it was awkward. Not Catholic? Don’t worry! You can take a seat and just observe. If you’d like to join in communion, just cross your arms over your chest and the priest will offer you a blessing. Whatever you do, don’t take the cracker! It’s not as tasty as you think, no matter where you are in the world…

  • Sail over to one of the islands off the coast of Fouras

I didn’t do this myself (ran out of time), but there are ferries that can take you to the neighboring islands like Île d’Aix, Île d’Oléron, and Île Madame. There is also a famous fort called Fort Boyard that you can sail around. Fort Boyard is the setting of a popular TV game show in France called Fort Boyard (original…). Unfortunately, tours don’t stop inside the fort because it is a popular filming location. In my opinion, it’s not really worth it. You can see the fort really nicely from behind Fort Enet, so it’s not necessary to spend money just to sail around it.

Tips for traveling in Fouras

  1. Unfortunately, not many people in Fouras speak English. Just as long as you smile and greet them politely, you shouldn’t have any problems. When ordering, the best advice is to just show your waiter what you want, whether it’s in a glass case or on the menu.
  2. When shopping at the market or grocery store, bring your own shopping bag. In the market, they don’t provide bags for you; in the grocery store, you have to pay extra for one of their plastic bags. I always traveled with a backpack so I wouldn’t run into the problem of forgetting to bring a bag.
  3. If you plan to walk all the way out to Fort Enet, wear sturdy rain boots or waterproof boots. The ground is uneven and slippery (wet rock and algae can do that) so be careful and wear appropriate shoes.
  4. Like I’ve mentioned before, the tide in Fouras can be shaky. Before walking to Fort Enet, make sure to consult a tidal chart to see 1) if the tide is out enough to explore Fort Enet and 2) the tide won’t be coming in for a couple of hours! The last thing you want is to be stuck at sea until the next tide. Best tip: if you don’t see anyone around the fort or if a lot of people are walking back to land, get out!

Still not convinced that Fouras is a must-see destination in France? Well, here are some extra pictures I took during my exploration, including some Bastille Day celebrations!

 

Until my next journey,

Carol B

July Bucket List

Hello. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Carol. For those of you who do, je m’appelle Carol.

This July, I took a big step. More like a leap of faith. At the end of May, after my second Disney attempt, I was contacted by a woman from an au pair agency. She asked if I was interested in becoming an au pair for a French family (wait for it…) in Belgium for (it gets better) a year! Naturally, I said, “I’ll think about it… yes”. After a couple Skype interviews with the family of three and the au pair agent, I had a job within 2 weeks! (Thanks GreatAuPair.com 😉 ) Officially, I will be an au pair in Brussels starting July 2!!

The family I will be staying with this next year is a French family living in Brussels, Belgium. They have an 8-year-old son who loves all things Lego, Star Wars, and airplanes. The father is a businessman and the mother is a dentist/ professional dancer. For the purpose of this blog, I’m concealing their names so they can maintain their privacy. They will now be known as Father, Mother, and Boy (so inventive, I know…) Boy and Father know English because 1) Father works with many offices around the world and 2) Boy went to an American school in Brussels for several years. Mother knows enough English to be conversational, but not a lot. I guess we can learn from each other: I’ll work on my French and she can work on her English.

June became a busy month after that. I had to get together some important documents for my work permit and permanent residence card (I’m going to be a European citizen for a year!! Woot woot!), buy anything that I might need before going abroad, and then wait. A lot of waiting… To pass the time, I visited friends from out of town, practiced packing my luggage a couple times (I had to make sure everything fit! Also, I was too excited to wait until the day before), and spent as much time with my family as I could.

The waiting did nothing for my nerves. I started creating best case and worst case scenarios in my head: is the family is as nice as they seem? Is Boy poorly behaved or not? Do I know enough French to make my way through Belgium? Will I meet some like-minded people and make friends with them? Am I ready to take care of an 8-year-old boy? Am I ready to live on my own? I’ve never been to Belgium before, so there was a lot of uncertainty and fear during the past month. All I really knew of Belgium was that it’s famous for its beer, chocolate, and waffles, it’s 6 hours ahead from Florida (Eastern time), and they speak French and Flemish. I did some research, but I wasn’t learning much. What I did find, though, was that Brussels is the home of several European governments/ agencies like the European Union, the European Council, and NATO. That made me feel a bit safer. They also have their own monarchy!

 

All I’m certain of in the coming year is I’m given two weeks holiday in December and April. During the school year, I’m tasked with picking up Boy from school, feeding him an afternoon snack, helping with homework, playing with him, and occasionally, putting him to bed. The mornings and weekends are up to me. With so much free time, I’m planning on traveling a bit (hopefully), taking some courses on writing and graphic design, and learning French (kind of important if I want to live in Belgium). Maybe I’ll take some fun classes, as well, like dancing or cooking. There are so many options! Don’t worry, I’m putting the family first; their needs come before mine. After all, they’re the reason I’m going to Europe in the first place!

As the day got closer, I began felling more emotions: excitement, nerves, fear, curiosity, sadness. The night before I left, I slept soundly. My room was empty except for two suitcases, but it still didn’t feel like I was going to be moving across the ocean to Europe. I had to keep reminding myself that it was actually happening: I’m REALLY moving to Brussels. I’m living the dream. For some reason, though, I didn’t want to let myself believe it was happening in case it all went wrong somehow. I’d rather expect the worst, but hope for the best.IMG_0925.JPG

I woke up the next morning at 4am for my 7am flight to JFK. In New York City, I spent a couple hours with Evelyn before the long-haul flight to Dublin. Luckily, I was in a row all to myself. First class at coach price. After three flights within two days and a full 24 hours of traveling, I finally landed in Brussels Airport! After spending about half an hour reporting my lost luggage (good news is it was returned with in a couple days!), I was met at the airport by the family, who displayed had a sweet “Welcome Carol” sign that Boy had made. I felt very special. I’ve never had a sign at an airport before, but I’ve always wanted one! When I got through the crowd, they greeted me as if I was already part of the family. My nerves were instantly settled.

The next two days were full of appointments and filling out paperwork for my visa. On the afternoon of the second day, I was whisked away to the French Riviera for a couple days of rest and getting to know Boy and his routines.

It’s going to be one crazy, thrilling year. I can’t wait. Send good vibes my way!

Until next time,

Carol B