Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Le Quatorze Juillet in Ardèche

  July 14th is a day of national celebration in France- la fête nationale! Fireworks, parades, parties- it's a big deal. Why the 14th? To commemorate the Storming of the Bastille (which is why maybe you've heard of "Bastille Day", however here in France it is simply "la fête nationale" or "le quatorze juillet"- July 14). La Bastille was the former main jail of Paris. During the French Revolution, it was taken by the revolutionary troops on July 14 1789 and became the symbol of the people’s revolution. In Paris, the day is celebrated with a huge military parade on the Champs Elysées and by nightfall nearly a million people gather for a concert and fireworks near the Eiffel Tower.
Being a national holiday, many businesses close so lots of Parisians choose to take a long weekend and escape the madness- which is exactly what I did this year...and, well, last year too. This year I went South to the Ardèche region with my boyfriend to celebrate a friend's birthday and spend a few sunny days enjoying pool-side barbecues and kayaking the Ardèche river.
Ardèche is a beautiful area in thAuvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of south-central France. With a few stops along the way, it would take our caravan of friends about 6-7 hours to arrive by car from Paris. So I packed my fav sunhat, SPF50, and new bikini (and all the insecurities that came along with it-more on that later) and off we went!

Determined to take photos but refusing to spend 90euro + on a high-end lifeproof phone case, the day before kayaking I was thrilled to find the perfect little waterproof clear, tactile bag for my phone for only 10euro. It worked perfectly..aside from fogging up a little and giving a weird hazy blur to most of the day's photos.

The Pont d'Arc! The famous Pont d'Arc, a natural arch of more than 30 metres high, carved out by the Ardèche and classified as a Great Site of France.

  • Confession time. When this trip was first planned, I immediately began thinking of all the ways I could avoid wearing a swimsuit. A few months prior I had bought my first bikini in years but hadn't built up the courage to wear it. Now I was faced with Summer in the South, swimsuit-required activities? Umm hi is it too late to cancel? Can we go skiing instead? No? Shit. I stressed about this up until and including the moments when I got undressed and went for a swim -I'm stressing now at the fact that I'm actually posting these photos and this little confession- but you know what happened? Absolutely nothing. It wasn't the end of the world - though it was initially 100% terrifying- and after a few minutes I actually felt comfortable and just enjoyed myself. In a bikini. For the first time ever. Or, at the very least, for the first time since those initial, self-confidence-crippling years of puberty. As a blindingly pale teen it was all too easy to hide under t-shirts or just skip pool parties all together with the excuse of not wanting to get a sunburn. (Oh what's that? You have SPF900? Mmm no, sorry, better not- don't want to take any chances!) I remember getting called out once for wearing a t-shirt over my swimsuit..in an indoor pool..at night. Not even teasingly, someone was just genuinely curious about my odd choice of attire. My point is, those crippling insecurities about my body (and the unhealthy mindset/behaviors that accompany them) have followed me for over a decade now and it feels so frustrating and embarassing to have so much anxiety over something it seems like so many others do without a second thought. For nearly a year I've been working on figuring out myself again and what I want and who I want to be (Reply hazy, ask again later) but in that moment, I decided I wanted be someone who wears a bikini. It was so simple yet...not. And this probably sounds like absolute madness if you're one of those folks who can just casually strip down and frolic on the beach, but bear with me. Here was this simple thing I could take control of and use to stand up to myself and all those years of anxieties- and I did it. And I lived to tell about it. And honestly I'm still surprised I did it, but even more so I'm proud of myself, and that feels good. And I feel silly and way too vulnerable sharing this- but I know I'm not the only one- and it's not just bikinis. Pick up an instrument, start writing again, go for a run, wear that bold red lipstick out of the house- those seemingly little things can be huge and so profound. Start small and stand up to those self doubts and anxieties and then be SO proud of yourself for it! You don't even have to tell anybody. I didn't, until stumbling my way through this rambling confession. I'm learning to love myself, even just a little at a time, and -this part is important- realizing it's not selfish. It's not always easy, but it is worth it. I'm certainly no expert but y'all if you're not already, give it a try and be good to yourself.

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