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Displaying items by tag: Antoinette Marie

Thursday, 23 August 2012



There are books you read and never think about again and then there are books like Wild. After the first few pages you know this is the kind of book that’s going to change how you view yourself, the world around you and your future. I had no idea the adventure I was about to embark on when I picked up this book and it never stopped until the very last word. 


Growing up in the country I have a certain love for trees and mountains but never have I wanted to spend over a thousand miles hiking and camping with bears, mountain lions and rattlesnakes. Cheryl Strayed does just that. Does she know what she’s doing? No, but that’s the beauty of it. She learns with each step of the way. In the beginning the steps are small as her backpack is large – so large in fact that she calls it Monster. She has packed everything in her backpack except possibly the kitchen sink, though if there was room you get the sneaking suspicion she would have packed that too. She even packs a large box of condoms, for those just in case moments. Along the way she meets strangers who become friends.  They meet up at campsites, dine together, help her determine what to keep, what to leave behind (she still keeps one condom, a girl can’t be too careful) but by morning she waits or leaves early enough so she’s walking alone; never wanting to share the experience with anyone but herself and perhaps the departed mother who is always with her.


With each chapter I shared in her desire to reach the next post office to pull out the envelope (she pre-packed boxes filled with dried fruit, food and odds and ends she needs to make it to the next destination) with a twenty dollar bill in it to buy a lemonade Snapple and possibly a cheeseburger. I felt her unease with the two men she encounters in the forest to the man she meets at a Grateful Dead reunion and spends the night and day with only leave him behind and continue her journey.


Wild is the story about a girl who is lost within herself; as Cheryl Strayed describes it in the book, “a hole in her heart.” She loses her mother at an early age to cancer at the same time losing the stepfather who had become a father to her. Her stepfather slowly separates from her and her siblings after her mother dies leaving the author alone in the world. Within weeks of losing her mother, she cheats on her husband which leads to another separation, eventually leading to divorce. 


The book takes you on two paths. The one she’s traveling on through the Pacific Crest Trail and the path that leads her to this moment. She does it with such ease and flawlessness you don’t notice the change until you’re caught up in her past world, holding onto each word, whether you’re holding your breath, laughing or crying. Every moment is subtle but poignant. She leads you through the death of her mother, the boyfriend she finds and does heroin with, the horse her mother owned and now has to put down, until we’re right there at the bridge with her, eating an ice cream cone. 


By the end of the book the hike is coming to an end and like the author, you want to take it slow, relishing in every word, trying to catch every glimmer of self-realization until you discover it’s over and you’re a changed person for reading the book. Whether or not Cheryl Strayed (Strayed being a last name she chooses but not her actual last name) decided to walk the PCT again the book doesn’t say but as I wake up the next morning from finishing its last lines, I’m inclined to pick the book up and start reading. As there are so many parts I feel I missed the first read through and I am ready to experience and be consumed by again. 


Wild, Cheryl Strayed, Knopf, 2012

©Antoinette Marie

Published in ink
Monday, 09 July 2012

A Journey of the Soul

A few years ago I stumbled upon a book from Shirley Maclaine. While I don’t always agree with her spiritual preferences, I am always intrigued by what she believes. I decided to read her book and was amazed I had never heard of such a walk before; the Camino, a spiritual and physical journey in Spain. In a past life I have studied different religions trying to find the answers to life and the after-life. This walk intrigued me. 

People from all over the world come here for the journey of inner discovery. The Camino is a pilgrimage to St. James, one of the twelve apostles in the bible. He is supposedly buried under the Cathedral at Santiago de Compostela. The pilgrimage started in the 9th century with only a few thousand people a year taking the trip but has grown to over 200,000 a year. 

       The pilgrimage can be as long or as short as you like. The starting point is your choice but the most popular trek is 500 miles and can be completed by foot or bike. By bike it will take approximately three weeks but if you’re like me and want to travel by foot it could take up to six weeks. The task of walking 500 miles seems daunting but at the end the reward will be overwhelming. There is a saying “stop and smell the roses” and I believe it applies here.


       There are options of where to stay. I plan on staying as the pilgrims before me did, in hostels. I’ve never been the type to use a sleeping bag, I’ll always opt for the hotel but here I want to get the real sense of beauty and discovery. I don’t want to miss out because I lack the discipline of not being without a pillow made of down. 


       I’m not sure what has drawn me to take on this journey. I’m curious of the people I’ll meet along the way; all coming for different reasons and different walks of life. I know I’ll be packing light. The idea of carrying a backpack with everything I’ll need over 500 miles is one of the few things I won’t be looking forward to but I know I’ll have a journal and a camera to record every feeling, every moment. I don’t plan to bring food as the hostels will have some sort of cooking facility or I’ll stop at one of the restaurants along the way, all being very affordable.


       There will be some pride and self-respect when I receive my “pilgrim passport.” A cardboard pamphlet I’ll carry throughout my walk. Every day I’ll get it stamped and at the very end hand it in - getting my certificate stating I have completed the Camino. I wonder if I’ll be a changed person, having found something I didn’t know was missing inside me. Will I have the same experience as Shirley Maclaine, having out of body experiences and interacting with Adam and Eve? Probably not. Will I have an experience I couldn’t have anywhere else. Absolutely. There are many places I want to travel but the Camino isn’t just another place on the map for me. For whatever reason, this is something I have to do, something I’ve been drawn to do ever sense I read about it. As every spring passes I am reminded of what I should be doing and what I’m not doing. Walking the Camino. 

Published in blog
Saturday, 30 June 2012

Forever Paris

ParisFor those of us not familiar with the ins and outs of Paris, this book will take you on one small adventure at a time, making sure you don’t miss the little things. It’s a small pocket-size book, but what it offers within its pages is invaluable. 

The book is in two parts. The first being maps or walks around the city; there are twenty-five in total. Most consist of five places you will visit all within the same area. The only thing required are good shoes and the desire to spend a leisurely day walking the neighborhood. Each map is based on a person and where they visited on their own adventure in Paris. As you travel to each destination you can read a small anecdote about the place you’re visiting. It could be a burial site, a secret rendezvous or the author might suggest coming back in the evening to have a drink and watch a show. Each place has its own story to tell. 

The second part of this book is a small essay on each person that a walk is based on. I found this to be fascinating and full of information. The author takes you through the lives of Picasso, Julia Child, Ernest Hemingway and of course Marie Antoinette and so many others. The book is chock-full of small gems about the people that have traveled through Paris. Not too many travel books can keep my attention from the front cover to the back, but this one has just the right amount of research, personal opinion and direction. 

If you find yourself in Paris and are not sure where to go or what to do, this book will be a wonderful guide in helping you discover places not always on the beaten path. You’ll discover where Monet painted, Coco Chanel’s apartment, and so many other spots unique to Paris. The city will come alive and at least for a day you will walk in the same footprints as those before you. 

Forever Paris, Christina Henry de Tessan, Chronicle Books

©Antoinette Marie

Published in ink
Sunday, 27 May 2012

Scavenger Hunt in New York City

      The world is a big place with wonderful sites but not many cities have the wonderment and magic as New York City. Whether it’s the history of the buildings, the Italian food to die for or the fashion, it is a city not to be missed. When I received the invitation to participate in a scavenger hunt throughout its streets I couldn’t resist.
      Eataly, an Italian marketplace, was hosting the event. Located at 200 and 5th, the stunning market boasts some of the best gelato you will ever have. You can purchase imported Italian chocolate, tea, meats, pasta of all kinds and fresh bread. It has many different restaurants each specializing in a main dish from pizza to fish. My favorite is situated in the middle of Eataly and has high top tables without seats. You can order a wide variety of cheeses, wines and other appetizers. There is something about being part of a group, holding a glass of wine and dipping bread into olive oil over enlightened conversation that keeps me captivated.
      As soon as I read the email for the scavenger hunt, I saved the date, signed up and prepared to have a wonderful experience. When I arrived the day of the event I was given an Italian picnic basket complete with a book of questions for the scavenger hunt, water, chips, a token for a mozzarella and tomato sandwich, gelato and espresso. Before I started my adventure I couldn’t resist but try the sandwich. It was smothered in olive oil and sea salt. Every bite was better than the last one. While I wanted to stay at Eataly all day I was ready to see the city.
      The scavenger hunt was made up of twenty questions, most of the clues answers’ could be found within a in a ten block radius. I ventured into Madison Square Park where I had to find statues and count buttons on the coats all the while making sure I wasn’t impeding on the movie that was being shot on the opposite street. Or making sure I didn’t bump into people who were waiting in line for the Shake Shack. A place that sells, according to the locals, the best burger you will ever eat. Leaving the park I walked past a museum that has everything and anything you’d want to know about sex. It wasn’t part of my quest but I did take a slight detour.  I proceeded on with my adventure finding a plaque on the side of a building for Washington Irving only to keep going to the Armory to solve more clues.
      The other part of the hunt took place in midtown Manhattan where I searched Radio City Music Hall for a dog in one of the gold sculptures; then counted the squares above the Barrymore theatre. The hunt ended at one of the greatest tourist attractions, The Empire State Building. I have never been inside but the quest sparked a new interest in me to not only know about the attractions but to see them. Like many people who have lived in the city, I have yet to venture to the places tourists go thinking this makes me an elitist, when in reality I am missing the highlights of New York.
      The scavenger hunt lasted six hours as I traveled through the city. I took a break midway through the day and went to Lombardi’s for some of the best margherita pizza New York has to offer. Afterwards, I walked to a nearby pastry shop and had a marshmallow chocolate cupcake before finishing the hunt. I could have opted for the full nine hour forty question hunt which I know I would have enjoyed but this way I still have the map. I didn’t use my token for gelato and espresso. This only means, I will have to go back and do it all over again. I can’t think of a better way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon than finding new places to visit in one of the most magical cities in the world.


Published in blog
Saturday, 19 May 2012

Swimming with Sharks

    Ever since the movie, everyone has a bucket list. Mine, well, is long enough to last me three lifetimes but I’m determined to finish it. A few years ago while taking a few moments away from life and its hectic calling I was watching the discovery channel.  This beautiful man, perhaps beautiful isn’t the correct word but what he was doing was.

    He was swimming cage free with a Great White. While some may find this terrifying, I was fascinated. I was so fascinated I watched an entire week of “shark week.” By Sunday night I was determined to swim with sharks, not any shark but the Great White. I wasn’t sure how I was going to accomplish such a feat but I was sure I was about to find out.

    As I did research I realized this wasn’t going to be easy. How does one tell their family and friends I want to be up close and personal to the most feared creature on Earth? I found it’s easy as no one believes you, except for the other crazy friend who wants to do this adventure with you. I searched the web for the best places but what I found, chances were I wasn’t going to get up close and personal for less than three grand.

    My new number one bucket list idea came at the same time I was moving to Southern California. The idea of taking out the credit card for a day with sharks wasn’t high on the list even though swimming with one was. I decided to stifle my desire and make a three day drive across country to my new home. Unbeknownst to me my crazy friend who was also making the trek had something up his sleeve.

    Southern California was everything I thought it was going to be; palm trees lining the streets, gorgeous beaches and of course the well-known Ferris wheel in Santa Monica. I was mesmerized by the people I met. Being from the Northeast, I was enthralled by the slower pace of life. I was able to enjoy day to day living in a way I never had before.

    After a month living in the Northern hills of Hollywood my roommate said to me he wanted to take a road trip to La Jolla, California. We took out the GPS and away we went. Three hours later I was looking at a beautiful beach in October. The beaches back home would be too cold to even think about getting into the water at this time of year but here, a bathing suit and some sunscreen and I was ready to go. Only he wasn’t quite ready to get into the water.

    He led me to a place that sells snorkeling equipment and a wetsuit. I looked at him and wondered what was he thinking? I can’t get a suntan in a wetsuit. He smiled at me and said just you wait. So I did. At his command I put on the wetsuit, watched him pay for a pass and walked out of the shop with snorkeling gear in hand.

    We walked by the main beach and set our items down. He took out a waterproof camera and said are you ready? I was ready only I wasn’t sure what I was ready for. He grinned at me and said you’re going to swim with sharks today. I looked at him, looked at the ocean and back at him. I didn’t believe him. He laughed, grabbed his snorkeling gear and went into the water. I had no choice but to follow. I realized as the water touched my toes, the coolness of it, I would never forget this day. A wave came up and dozens of sharks were engulfed in it. It came crashing down and I wasn’t sure if I could go through with this after all. I took a few deep breaths, steeled myself and went deeper into the ocean.

    The sharks were all around me. I put on my snorkeling headset and looked into the water. They were vast and dark against the sand. My heart raced with wonder and excitement. I was still a bit uneasy but I didn’t care. I knew this was a once in a lifetime moment and I refused to let it pass by. No, it wasn’t the Great White but they were still sharks and I was still swimming with them. The shark I was in close proximity with was the Leopard shark. While they are sharks, they are harmless creatures having a small mouth and don’t actually chew their food. This fact didn’t curve my fear or give me the nerve for a good hour to actually reach out and touch one.

    The skin of a Leopard shark is smooth and wet feeling unless you’re petting them backwards. Then the skin is rough like sandpaper. Either way it was thrilling to have the opportunity to be this close. The Leopard shark wasn’t the only sea creature in the ocean. A sea turtle was only a few feet away from me. It caught me off guard as I stared at its descent into the deeper waters.

    I spent the entire day snorkeling with the sharks. I took so many pictures to remember the experience. I haven’t given up on swimming with Great Whites. I’m still fascinated by their strength and beauty. I still research where to swim cage free but my experience in La Jolla has left me feeling fulfilled. I plan on going back and visiting my new friends who gave me a chance of a lifetime.

(c)Antoinette Marie

Published in blog

      Summer is here and you’re itching to pack your suitcase and get away but not sure where to travel or your budget has left you unable to fulfill a dream of visiting Thailand or Spain or that place you haven’t yet discovered. If you’re looking for something more rewarding than going to an island getting sunburn reading endless romance novels there is an alternative. Not many vacations will leave you feeling as satisfied as being part of the experience with WWOOF.
      WWOOF otherwise known as "World Wide Opportunities On Organic Farms" is an organization made up of farmers throughout the world who allow volunteers to stay at their farms to help with various tasks throughout the year. It was founded by Sue Coppard in 1971. She saw the need and the opportunity for both the farmer and the volunteer.
      What started in the UK has now been established all over the world. The volunteer can choose from a vast assortment of countries. The possibilities of what you do and what you experience are endless. You may want to work at a winery in Italy or take care of sheep in Ireland or travel to Hawaii and tend to papaya trees. Each host has different needs and time frames. You can volunteer for a weekend or for a whole summer.  If you have family or want to travel with friends, it is a possibility. Each host will have their own set of guidelines and how many people they can accommodate at a time.  The first farm you choose might not suit your time frame, your needs or theirs but there are many farms in need.
      The first thing the volunteer must do is choose what country they would like to volunteer in. Most countries have their own membership and there is a fee. Remember to look at all the qualifications needed to enter and stay in the country you choose. You may need a passport, health insurance or other documentation. After joining there will be a list of hosts and what needs they are looking to fulfill.  Some countries will have a notice board for both the host and volunteer on there website. It is constantly changing and can be an ideal way of finding the right match. As you proceed with the process make sure you’re able to provide everything that is needed to enter the country as well as performing the tasks of the farm you will be staying at.
      This is not for the person who wants to get away and enjoy free accommodations and free meals, though they are provided. You must love the idea of learning and helping the community. This is for someone who has always wanted to be in the countryside but didn’t have the means or the way to do so. You will be earning your keep and discovering activities you might not ever thought you’d try or do. It will be a rewarding challenge, one that will stay with you for the rest of your life.
      You might even discover when you come home to familiar surroundings you miss the landscape and what you’ve experienced and find yourself signing up for a new adventure, meeting new people and learning new trades.
        To learn more go to

(c)Antoinette Marie

Published in blog

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