Through the waves to the unknown

Oceania. Thousands of islands spread across the ocean covering a third of the world’s surface. I admit it’s usually as far away from my thoughts as it is in a physical distance.
I got intrigued by those faraway lands after watching Moana (great movie, seriously). I did a bit of internet search but little came out of it. So I forgot about it and just enjoyed the movie for its songs and animation.

Then, I met a friend for some coffee and gossip, and somehow the topic came up again. She said she had a museum card that allowed her to take one person with her to the exhibition Oceania at the Royal Academy of Arts. Such an opportunity, to see an amazing exhibition and don’t pay a penny, doesn’t come often so I jumped at it.
A short guide to the exhibition tells you that Oceania has been inhabited over 30,000 years ago. I can’t imagine how many stories, myths, legends, traditions or beliefs could be created in such a time. That’s why I think the exhibition felt a bit small for me. But I take into account that Oceania has been “discovered” by Europeans only 250 years ago.

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Ocean, sailing and navigating was a strong part of the Islanders culture. Especially the canoes, which were often featured in legends or even creation and death stories. They were often ornamentally carved, like the one in the cover photo of this post.

My regret regarding this exhibition is that they don’t explain much about the belief systems on the islands. I know, I know, it would be an immeasurable amount of work, but after seeing this two-headed dude I want to know what his role in the society and traditions was. And all I got was “Ti’i, God’s image with two heads”. Ok, but who is Ti’i? If you know, let me know.
Farther in the exhibition I found a sword I think that reminded me of Maui’s hook (from Moana).

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I had great fun tracing objects that I recognized or that resembled things showed in the movie. Honestly, watch it before or after seeing the exhibition. Great fun.
What I also learned was that most of the exhibits weren’t stolen from the local people, as it is usually the case. The culture of giving was highly important in the Islanders life. The making of gifts and handing them were full-blown ceremonies.

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At the end of your tour, I recommend spending some time to watch a movie about the meeting between the Europeans and the local people. I didn’t get so much from it but it’s nice to watch and it’s made like the camera was just moving along the coast of an island catching random situations. Not an everyday view.

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Thanks for visiting me and my adventures here! If you’ve seen the exhibition or know any other fascinating things that I shouldn’t miss out, let me know in the comments!
All best,
SW
Bonus: A song from Moana!

La vie en rose

Quand il me prend dans ses bras
Qu’il me parle tout bas
Je vois la vie en rose 

France has this unique atmosphere that it’s hard to explain unless you’ve been there. The chic and messiness, couture and leisure, wine and car traffic. I honestly can’t explain it.
I recently I got away for the weekend to visit my friend in Lille. For the first time, I traveled with Eurostar, at the average speed of 280 km/h… The trip from London to Lille takes 1.5 h. And you go under the sea. This is all hella exciting.
I spent my Friday wandering around Lille, which is not as big as I expected. I landed at the Lille Europe underground station, which is one of the coolest tube stations I’ve seen. Check it out:

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Afterward, I found myself in a cemetery, which, by looking at the map, I thought was a park. An honest mistake. It was beautiful though. With the golden leaves illuminated by the morning sun. I walked around the graves and mausoleums and wondered about life and death, soul and body, forgotten people and forgotten faces.

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I grabbed a croissant on my way to the old town and strolled to the old town. I passed old apartment buildings that sang about French glory and prosperity. The opera house is quite impressive, but I don’t have a good picture of it, unfortunately.
My friend gave me a tourist map with some landmarks highlighted, so my next stop was a cathedral on the side of the city center. I went there all curious and…

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This thing. Honestly. You walk around the city full of wonders and then there’s this. I nearly cried. I got away from it as fast as I could.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My nerves were soon soothed when I found this beautiful square right behind the monster.

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I had plenty of time on my hands so I tried to get into the house De Gaulle was born in (didn’t know he was from Lille), but they’re renovating it at the moment. I took a detour and went to investigate the Citadel, but all I found was a circus (?) and a small stream around. I could not find an entry to the park that apparently surrounds the Citadel.
I ate an awesome lunch in the main square with an obligatory glass of wine. I was in France after all.
I went back to my friends flat and took a nap waiting for her to finish her classes at uni.
In the evening we went for a dinner and I have to recommend the restaurant, La Petite Cour, that we went to. Fantastic food, wine, and chocolate cake.
We took a little walk around the city on our way home. There was an old warehouse, or at least it looked like it, that was turned into a nightclub and my friend wanted to check it out. We found ourselves crashing a random metal concert of some WhatsTheirName band from I think Ireland. First time in my life I wore sound stoppers during a concert. At the last song the band invited people on stage, so obviously I jumped up and went crowd surfing to end the show. Fun times, I tell ya.

For the next day, we planned to go sightseeing Lille, maybe visit some museum or whatever. Instead, we thought about going to Paris. You can’t say no to Paris. We got there quite late, around 2 pm, as it was a purely spontaneous decision, but we were in Paris!

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We went to Montmartre, Canal Saint-Martin, Bataclan, Place de la Bastille, Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris. We ate some Indian dinner and headed to Arc de Triomphe and from there to the Eiffel Tower.

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We got home around 1 am dead tired but happy.

Next stop: Bruges.

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We went there as a group of five. Bruges is even smaller than Lille. It is absolutely lovely with the canals cutting the streets and washing over the doll-like houses. We ate fries and waffles for lunch. No regrets.

The day was far from over and we felt done with the city so we went to the seaside.
Standing on the beach we heard the sea calling. We ran barefoot towards the waves and screamed when our feet sank into the freezing water. Childhood memories of countless summers rushed into my mind. It’s hard not feel happy and careless on a beach, no matter the temperatures.

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The weekend getaway ended with beer, a midnight walk around Lille, and a 6am train on Monday to London, because I needed to go to work.
Hands up who loves Paris! Hands up who loves Bruges! Hands up who loves Lille! What are your memories from those places? Let me know!
All best,
SW

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