Alright, damnit, but I’m not going to write a book about it. A blog is bad enough.
TAKING A YEAR OFF
I am a walking cliché. 19 June 2009
Alright, damnit, but I’m not going to write a book about it. A blog is bad enough.
Parisian Pachyderms and Shiny Pants 12 June 2009
Since my visit last week to Paris, I’ve come down with a sinus infection. The same thing happened the last time I visited Paris, leading Jason to shrug and mutter “Paris syndrom,” as if that’s what I get for leaving the village. That’s basically the opinion of all the villagers (myself included), but luckily it’s not too bad. Gigi happened to have a pile of antibiotics to share, and the old lady Jeanine down the street (by the way, there’s only one street in Le Vignaud) gave me some tablets that she says will make anything feel a little better, and also help me sleep. Self-medication is always more fun when it’s done in a foreign language.
Some family members have been concerned about my future. About how I will Be An Adult. Honestly I’m not too worried about it, but to show that I am at least giving it some thought I have come up with a goal I’d like to accomplish by the time I’m 30. This was inspired by a dream induced by Jeanine’s mysterious meds. And, all my dear aged relatives, by the time I’m 30, in those eight years, I will ride an elephant. Don’t know where, under what circumstances, but that is my goal for adulthood.
The last time I rode an elephant was when I was about 4. I remember we were visiting my mom’s father, probably in New York, and while most of my memories are actually from photographs and I don’t recall what my dress looked like I remember how the dress felt. And I know that on that day I also rode an elephant.
Back to the business at hand, everyone will rejoice in the knowledge that I finally got new pants, and these are good ones. Incidentally, almost the same as Gigi’s pants. They’re fuscia sateen and when I skipped out to the bread truck this morning for my croissants the elderly neighbors didn’t much know what to say, although the various chickens milling about in the street were attracted. I’m sure they just chalked it up to the eccentricities of Americans. The old man across the street was feeling pretty chatty (or should I say the hue of my pants whipped him into a conversational frenzy), but the morning air’s sociability was thwarted by my utter inability to understand a sigle word he said. I felt like talking, but I didn’t feel like doing it in French. My brain just was not going that way; I guess I was too distracted by the bag of croissants I held and the baguette I’d stuck under my arm.
And speaking of Americans, Izzy just re-arrived in Le Vignaud, so now we are three. Gigi has gone up to England for a few days so I am holding down the Gueret fort, making sure her apartment maintains that nice lived-in atmosphere. It’s been too cold and rainy for bathing in the lake, so I’ve made good use of Gigi’s shower. And her place actually has a roof, so there’s no dirt blowing in or rain dripping down from that giant hole above the attic. So with my new pants and my clean feet, I’m starting to feel like a city girl again, the city of Gueret (which is funny for those who have seen Gueret; it’s like Metairie but it’s my metropolis). We’ll just see how the pants match the backpack.
Flunching in France 7 June 2009
I think I’ve fallen a little behind on what’s been going on lately. Some of those events will not be posted, but some of them are appropriate for my grandparents to read about.
After spending a couple days in Innsbruck I headed east to Bern, Switzerland. Nice city, but so expensive. I spent the next day in Interlaken at the country’s oldest hostel, which also happens to be the partiest place I’ve stayed so far. And I did my fair share of participation in that partying, spending the next day hung over in a hammock.
With some time to kill before heading back to France and some blank slots on my railpass, I shot over to Amsterdam for a day. It was great going back to that first city, to my first hostel, after five months of wandering. I felt triumphant and was amazed at how different the city felt in the spring. I was also surprised that I had no trouble finding my way around, and even when I wandered aimlessly my feet instinctively lead me back to familiar places. A guy who worked at the hostel remembered me from before. In a small sense it felt like going home.
Even better was the return to France. Before, Jason and I had been staying at his friend’s house while he worked on the one he was buying, but this time we were actually staying in Chateau Le Vignaud. Part of the roof was missing, and there was neither electricity nor plumbing, but it felt so good to be there. My first morning we went down to the lake and I took a bath while Jason washed clothes, filling a basin with lake water and soap and stomping on our clothes like he was making wine. I have to say, I’ve never seen his socks so clean. I got to spend some quality girl time with Gigi, in which we cut each other’s hair and gave ourselves pedicures.
Well, I’m going to have to really gloss over this part and hopefully fill in some details later, but then I went to Paris for a week where I met my dad, on vacation with his wife, her brother, and his wife. I think we all had a pretty good time and it was definitely nice to see my dad relax for a few days.
Now I’m back in Gueret with Jason, Gigi, and our British mate Dirty Darren. Last night Jason hit his head on a brick and probably gave himself a concussion. I had to hold him up and then set him down in a chair, and clean up the blood on his face. But it was getting dark, and there’s no phone, and I can’t drive his standard car, and I didn’t know what to do. I know when you have a concussion you’re not supposed to sleep, but I didn’t know what else to do with him besides help him upstairs to bed and hope he didn’t die in his sleep.
The next morning he was still alive so we drove over to Gigi‘s house. After I took a shower at her place, Dirty Darren came over and took Gigi and I over to the Giant Labyrinth, supposedly the world’s largest hedge maze. It took us about 45 minutes and a bottle of wine, but the three of us totally showed those Frenchies how it’s done. Afterwards Gigi and I played a rousing game of giant checkers, shared a crepe and the biggest stick of cotton candy I’ve ever seen in my life, and pet the ponies.
We needed a break at this point so we went back to her apartment and watched a movie. After 2 hours of a Bollywood movie (there were a couple bottles of wine in there too) we were all hungry, so we let Darren take us over to Flunch.
We’d been hearing about this place from Darren and his parents for months. Flunch is a chain of family-friendly buffet restaurants, and we’re pretty sure it’s an abbreviation of “fucking lunch” as in “I’m eating my fucking lunch!” Just like in the labyrinth, we showed the Frenchies the right way to Flunch. I’m not sure if we’re welcome back at this particular franchise location, but we all enjoyed our weekend.
Put your backpack on your shoulder 3 June 2009
One of my favorite souvenirs from traveling is my toiletries bag. The bag itself is stupid, but the contents remind me of so much. There’s the toothpaste I bought in Madrid, my Polish shampoo, the Slovenian mouthwash, the Hungarian dental floss, Austrian lotion, the French sunscreen. My wardrobe has also been collected from around Europe, but all those bottles in foreign languages really make me realize how far I’ve gone.
I was in Interlaken, Switzerland about a week ago, talking to some girls in the hostel. One of them said they’d been to Slovenia, and when I asked where she said the capitol city but she couldn’t pronounce the name. I was somewhat disgusted that she had spent 3 days in Ljulbljana and couldn’t even say the name. Way to make an effort to experience the culture. Well, the other girl told her it’s “lube-lee-on-yah.” I rolled my eyes but kept silent, until she elaborated that “J” is pronounced as a “Y” in German. German?! It was hard for me not to shout when I informed her that the 2 million inhabitants of that country speak Slovenian. It doesn’t much surprise me that these two modern day Margaret Meads were both American. If anyone ever wonders why Americans sometimes have bad reputations as ethnocentric ignorant travelers and citizens of the world, I feel like I have found a clue.
Americans really are invading Europe… MY Europe! I earned Europe. There were large portions of my time here that were not fun at all. They were cold, dark, and lonely. They were tight budgets and bad food. They were showing up in a new city at night and not knowing where I was going to sleep. But it was never a problem, because the hostels were almost never full. But now, I have to make reservations for weeks in advance! I don’t like knowing where I’m going to be in three weeks. I am not a tourist, I am a traveler, and there is an important distinction.