It's been 2018 for a few months now and I haven't written about any music festival goings yet!? I know you're burning for an update so I'll give you one! Or, for those of you who are new to my website, I have been writing about food truck findings and local music and events for a few years. Work life balance is important, ok?
I was in Europe for a whole month and I am so grateful for the time could take away from my busy entrepreneur hustler life. I managed to spend some time in Paris, Stockholm, Northern Sweden in a region called The Dales and my hometown of Belgrade, Serbia.
When I come back from vacation, I feel a bit of a need for an adjustment, especially since I always insist on travelling for over 2 weeks at a time. Why spend the money and the energy crossing time zones if not to really settle into the new environment and really enjoy!
I usually attend Ottawa's 10 day music festival, Bluesfest, but this year I missed most of it. I had to decide whether to end my Euro trip early or risk missing some artists I would potentially want to see. Sadly for me I missed Brian Adams and I say sadly because for some reason my husband and I are newly obsesssed with the nostalgia of his music. At least I got to see Beck!
It was pretty jarring coming back despite looking forward to getting back to work and my own bed. Europe has a fearless freedom when it comes to artistic expression and live music. First of all, it always seems like you can find ANY sort of music or party in Belgrade. It is infamous as a party city for a reason. I find the people there always down to stay up late - seriously you can find vinyl only, r&b, live rap, etc and party on one of the many barges until 5am.
One place in particular that was incredible (cocktails, servers, atmosphere... everything!) was on Kalamegdan called Boho. On your way to the popular cliff-side fortress during sunset, you can see so many people just chillin with a picnic, open beers living their best lives. I can say that one of the most dissapointing aspects of Canadian culture is our really dated prohibition style laws when it comes to alcohol at events. Can we move on from that, please? It's true, Serbs do like to drink (and when you try one of the many fruit liquors called rakija, you'll know why), but I really think it's time to revisit some of the laws.
Speaking of which, I was surprised to find out that Sweden, in all its forward thinking ways, has extremely stringent laws to alcohol. Taxation of its sale in restaurants and bars is very high. It's much much more affordable to buy a bottle and drink it your own damn self at home. Boooooringgggg.
You take your bestie's advice and let her plan you both a Booze Cruise (as she calls it) across the Baltic Sea to Riga, Latvia. All I knew up until that point about Latvia is that their luge team tied Canada at the 2018 olympics.
Uhh, it was amazing.
I mean.. Latvia was cute and all:
(Actually this last plate was at a really great restaurant called 3 Pavaru that was really interesting. This dessert was insisted upon being tried because my friend loves anything onion and, yes, this is an onion cake with black garlic dehydrated sheets and black sesame. It was pretty cool! We also went to an open air ethnographic museum ala Upper Canada Village. It was perfect timing because there was a festival going on so many visitors came in folk clothing with songs prepared. It was really beautiful.)
But THE CRUISE was a sight to see. If you missed following my InstaStories, that's your fault. You get a li'l cabin that sleeps 4 with sheets, towels, a window (thank god) and a shower for the 18 hour trip.
How did I feel health wise during all this travel? To be honest, I was real nervous since I was to get my moooooontime. My health problems usually cause so much anxiety because I never want to cancel on anyone and seem like I'm not interested (don't worry, I'm working on that mental aspect, too). TMI ALERT I also didn't want to IBS in this tiny cabin with my peeps. So embarassing.
BUT I can happily report that it wasn't THAT bad. On the way there I was pretty much lying down the whole time but in Latvia the next morning, with some hobbling and frequent sitting in pain, I could still explore the city. Maybe a lot of it came from psychological willpower, but I'm hopeful and optimistic in thinking my functional medicine has been working.
After a day and a morning of exploring Riga, Latvia, I got to REALLY enjoy the booze cruise.
Ok, so Latvians (as per my brief encounter of them) seem to like to take these as a way to get together. I saw many open doors to rooms with free flowing liquor and homemade snacks nacks in tupperware. So cute. And despite only sleeping 4, these tiny rooms were filled with maybe 10-12 people at a time. These cruises not only have sleeping quarters and a DUTY FREE shop where said alcohol is purchased (my Swedish friends who were with us bought some booze for home too) but there are SO MANY EVENTS. Can I please mention the 2 level auditorium complete with a 6 piece live cover band, gambling style giveaways and a GAME OF THRONES THEMED CHOREOGRAPHED DANCE TROUPE?
I also may have witnessed one of the most enjoyable karaoke nights in my life in the boat's 'pub' and a no bullshit back massage from the strongest women I've ever seen.
Food-wise I had amazing buffets every morning. So many varieties of herring, which is a sweet pickled fish in different sauces (think juniper, curry mayo, dill), breads, eggs, juices (damn right I had lignonberry juice #ikeavibes) and cheeses were really great to sample. I tried to stay as keto as possible but it seems like traditional food in Northern Europe veers on the sweet side so I opted for experiencing tradition over worrying about my ketone levels. I didn't feel 100% the whole time obviously but it could've been worse! Amen for strict laws on GMOs and pesticide use. I didn't look too deeply into it but I know that Europe in general is much more apprehensive about using factory farming techniques so intensively.
Pass the Aquavit! Sweden's Midsommer festival photos below:
Swedish hospitality (and food and cool Steam Hotels with delicious strawberry ice cream & almond shortbread pictured above) was on point. And, yes there's an ABBA museum and, yes, it's amazing. There's a thriving vegan food scene there and general health and wellness (think endless lakeside strolls and public / private saunas that are docked on brackish waters in the city centre) is ingrained in the culture. Lots of people are mindful of their health and fitness it seems.
So what was it like coming back? Surprisingly I actually lost weight in Europe even though I had grains sparingly, drank alcohol every now and then and ate a bunch of stuff I generally avoid in Canada. Eating similar things in Canada has contribued to some bloating and overall discomfort, sadly.
Vibes-wise. Well, what can I say? Jeez, I haven't even talked about Paris' arts and culture but what's to say. It's famous for a reason. I think Canadian laws need to relax a bit when it comes to its safety and boozing laws. Things feel very sheltered here in Canada and so it's always great to go to Europe and get re-inspired to not get overly distracted by 'food trends'. Good food is food that is the most unfucked with, quite frankly. There's a reason why these cultures have thrived for so many years! I know that's a bit of a generalization and that no nation exists without its problems but I just see that good, fresh and affordable food access in countries is essential for survival. The less processed food, the better! And it doesn't hurt to have live music as part of it too...
Thanks for reading! Please enjoy some fab photos taken by my main man of our 4 day adventures in Paris: