Julianne’s Blog

this is my blog. this is the only blog there will be.

California dreaming 22 January 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 6:06 AM
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I feel so lucky to be able to live my life the way I do. I’ve been traveling for over a year now and I’ve seen some amazing things. Now I am “settled,” if that’s what you call moving between two amazing cities on opposite sides of the country. But most wonderful of all is that I get to do it all with an incredible man. He loves me as much as I love him, and we make each other blissfully happy. What more could anyone ask for?

the dancing bears

Their colors may fade and one of them has been decapitated, but those bears just keep on dancing!

We’ve been having a great time together in Los Angeles and have developed a lovely routine. Every Tuesday we go to a nearby theater for a movie and $1 popcorn. That night a few of Jason’s friends come over for gaming, and I work on sewing projects in the bedroom. Often when we have local errands we walk, as much for the exercise as a chance to observe the fabulous greenery in the warm California climate. Many yards feature native plants that I’ve never seen before, but there are also the largest geraniums I’ve ever seen. I love identifying as many plants as possible, and I always take samples of the different lavender species I find. We cook some delicious vegan meals and find cool things to watch on the 62″ TV. Throughout the week we meet up with friends and usually see Jason’s brother Jeff, along with his two wild girls, Arden and Eryl. Sunday’s main event is ultimate frisbee in El Segundo, the town Jason grew up in (his dad was even the mayor!). This is followed by lunch at Veggie Grill, where we get amazing vegan nachos, mac&cheese, and kickin’ wings with ranch sauce.

Buying bulk at Costco with nieces Arden and Eryl

We spent our Christmas at home together, laying in bed and laughing with the universe. After a nature walk through the empty streets of Mar Vista we joined some friends and family at a theater to see Sherlock Holmes. New Year’s Eve was also spent in the dark quiet of the apartment, but the next night we visited the Griffith Park Observatory. I’d never been to an observatory before, and although it was crowded and we didn’t have much time there before it closed my mind was sufficiently blown.

One of our most exciting days was our venture to the Fashion District in downtown LA. Jason’s been telling me about it for months and finally the stars aligned for our visit. There were tons of stores selling ready to wear clothes, from tackily fabulous satin and sequin gowns to T shirts in every color, but of course the main draw for me was the fabric stores. Not only were there so many fabrics I’d never seen in stores before, but also they were cheap! We went in less than 10 stores but the selection seemed endless. I was gleeful when I got a few yards of two different lycra jerseys to make dresses (one of which I’m wearing now, look for it on MadeByJulianne soon) and some stretch fabric that will make up to some faaabulous new pants once it’s properly dyed. We also got supplies for our current craft project: Mardi Gras masks! The most memorable store was Michael Levine, where Jason got some corduroy for new pants and I pined and panted over the amazing array of cotton prints, all fantastically out of my price range. Another day, my pretties, you will be mine…

In two weeks we will neatly arrange our things in the back of the Volvo and head east. There’s talk afoot of stopping in Las Vegas for some fun times, and then it’s on to New Orleans. We’ll be there in plenty time for Mardi Gras and the Endymion parade, and we’re staying put until my birthday at the end of March. I’m planning a unicorn themed birthday party, so mark your calendars for 27 March! I’m excited about getting back to my city and seeing my friends again, but it’s strange to think about leaving this place that has become my new home.


Flunching in France 7 June 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 8:21 PM
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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.

Bern, Switzerland

Bern, Switzerland

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.

Gigi and Jason grilling pizza

Gigi and Jason grilling pizza

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.

We all had a picnic under the Eiffel Tower

We all had a picnic under the Eiffel Tower

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.

The labyrinth!

The labyrinth!

Girly love in the labyrinth

Girly love in the labyrinth


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.


Another weekend, another spontaneous festival with Germans 9 May 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 10:47 AM
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They say that Germans are magnets for other Germans, and damn if it’s not true. And it’s great that I show up on that Ger-dar, not as a full-fledged German, but as I say, I like the Germans and they like me. Not like those Spanish…
Yesterday I had to move to a different room in the hostel, to the last free bed, because of course even when I arrive at the hostel without a reservation I don’t know how many days I’m staying, so I usually only pay one day at a time (which sometimes means I don’t have a bed, but also this confusion sometimes results in the receptionist forgetting to charge me). In my new room was a hung-over German who immediately invited me to party with his friends for the day. My plan was to spend the day reading in the park, but this sounded good too. This was 11h00.

So we tumbled out into the main square where there just happened to be a huge festival celebrating Krakow’s students. We grabbed some beer, a brand called Redd that mixes beer with juice for some delicious mixes, and met up with the other Germans. About this time German-Boy-Robin (Herr Robin to distinguish him from all the other Robins I have) and I thought to introduce ourselves. When the other Germans found out that I had visited their hometown Regensburg (remember the mushroom cafe?) they were delighted, and the day began.

We spend a couple hours at the concert in the main square, where the city’s students had decked themselves out in some silly costumes. It was like Mardi Gras on Frenchman Street, but smaller, daylight, more sober (sorry guys, but I believe NOLA can outdrink every other city in the world) and no drugs. Then we grabbed some spicy kebabs, which Herr Robin complained about for the next 12 hours, met up with a giant brick wall of a Dane, and hopped a bus out to Nova Huta, the communist district of Krakow. There, behind the Real Hypermarche, in an abandoned airfield, was a huge concert. We grabbed some more beers, got some new sunglasses, a 18″ hotdog, and settled down.

My new friends

new shoes!

I saw a band called Lady Pank, which seems to be Poland’s answer to the Rolling Stones complete with a creepy Mick Jagger, and then a German punk band called Die Toten Hosen, or the Dead Pants. Boy, did those Krakow students love those bands. I’d never heard of them before, but apparently they are each countries’ most popular group.

At this point it was about 1 am and I was still wearing the sundress I’d set off in at noon. I was cold and exhausted. We grabbed a taxi back into the city center and then did what all hip European kids do on a Friday night: McDonald’s. And boy, were those nuggets tasty. There were 2 police stationed in the McD’s making sure no one laughed too loud or sat on the counter, and it is my opinion that their power made them crazy. Too much authority. About 2h30 I got into my bed. Herr Robin and I had parted ways; he was heading out to a club. Crazy Germans.

So in a couple hours I take a bus south to Budapest. I’ve got my last 15 PLN (about $5) to spend. I already came across 2 shirts in the perfect shade of yellow, and I’ve been looking for a perfect shade of yellow T shirt in my size for months, so now I have 2. It’s a sunny day, the tourists are clogging the streets, and I’m going to eat a mango gelato and watch it all.

Also, I am so pleased that I got my brother the perfect birthday present from Poland…

Other things that make my life possible: travel spacebags, Diva cup, USAA bank which allows me to make unlimited international transactions, including cash withdrawls, for no fees, lightload towels (although now I want the beach towel!), and Rick Steves.


Polska Kielbasa is my favorite sausage. 5 May 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 7:29 PM
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Last night, on somewhat short notice, I got on the night train from Prague to Krakow. Just like when I went to Germany, I was able to have a compartment all to myself. I was really excited about finally heading east, into the unknown, and as the train pulled out of the station I closed th hall curtains, opened my window, and cranked up the iPod. Creedenc, the Allman Brothers, and Neil Young was a perfect combination, perfect for the landscape, and the moon was bright, and I sang out the open window to the passing Czech towns.

My hostel in Krakow is another gem! Also super cheap–40 zloty is less that $13 a night! It is right on the Kosciol Mariacki, which is the largest medieval square in Europe. Also in the square is the Cloth Hall, which is filled with stalls selling tacky Polish suvenirs, and of course I love that. I walked around the Jewish Quarter this afternoon, or what used to be the Jewish Quarter. There aren’t any more Jews in that ghetto, or really anywhere else in Poland. I just read Maus, and in a couple days I’m going to go over to Auschwitz, so it’s going to be pretty heavy. Until then, my knee still hurts and I’m thinking about getting a massage, because I need to walk! Also, I am terribly frustrated by the lack of suitable underwear in this city–I need new drawers!

So I’m just relaxing for a bit, then I will head to the restaurant downstairs for some dumplings and to taste some Polish flavored vodka. Oh yeah, it’s going to be a long night.


Viva Bavaria! 1 May 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 11:03 PM
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Well, I was planning on going to Prague today, but an irresistible opportunity came up late last night. After going out to a pub (and blogging) I was sitting in the hostel office with Ian, the friendly British employee, and Jemma, the blonde Australian backpacker. They mentioned this beer festival going on in a town about 1 hour outside of Nuremberg, and it seemed like a quintessential Bavarian experience.

So after changing my plans with dear Izzy, the three of us set out today. On the train we rendez-vous-ed with Ian´s giant German friend Chris (the third Chris I´ve met during my 4 days in Germany). We made a pit stop for some ice cream sundaes, and then continued on to our stop. From the train we could see the festivites under way–on top of a very big hill. A burg even. It was an agonizing 45 minutes up that damn hill, with not nearly enough shade or water, but finally we made it. Hundreds of Bavarians had congregated on top of this hill in the middle of nowhere, and there were tents everywhere selling beer, bratwurst and nearly every other meat product you could want, pretzels, and candy–including one man selling 4 different flavors of cotton candy. I have to say, the erderbeer cotton candy was delicious.

I do love cotton candy

So the four of us laid out on the grassy hill, enjoying the sunshine and cold beers while we watched the frolicking Germans and had no end of fun ridiculing the teenagers. There were giant pretzels, 18″ sausages, steak sandwiches, and any number of things to make you sick. Eventually it was time to go, to catch the last train back to Nuremberg, and we decided to walk to the town next to the one we started from. We happily set off down the hill, further down, further down… Still no train station… Just a few minutes left till the last train left… We started running… Faster… Still no station! I was out of breath and my knee, which had been hurting all day from walking, was really throbbing at this point. But we kept running, although I was in dead last. Eventually, around a corner, we saw the train passing, and then eventually stop, but I was still a ways off. I made the train with about 4 seconds to spare and just about collapsed into a seat. But we made it back to Nuremberg and cooked a yummy pasta dinner all together.

This hostel is actually booked full for tonight, with no space for me or Jemma, but Ian´s taken care of us. He set up 2 cots in a spare basement room, so we actually have complete privacy, and since these aren´t official beds we are both staying tonight for free! We´re using the office bathroom, which has the only shower where the water runs continuously without automatically shutting off after 9 seconds. And the bathroom is stocked with toiletries left behind by other travelers, so I finally got to wash my hair. In a bit we are going to fill up some buckets with warm water and rosewood oil and give ourselves pedicures while drinking some vodka&cokes.

It´s really great to meet someone so generous, and this has really been a perfect experience. Ian has traveled extensively himself, and he is happy to help me and Jemma without expecting anything in return. I liked Nuremberg yesterday, but after today it will always be a very special memory for me.


The Duke abides 29 April 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 8:13 PM
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The last week has been very eventful, and the internet here is free, so this is going to be a long post.

Long story short, after Madrid I went back to Le Vignaud. I wound up staying a little over a week, longer than I had planned, because there were 2 celebrations. The first was the 50th anniversary of Jason´s neighbors, Jean-Francois and Lucienne. They set up a large tent in their front yard and filled it with about 50 Frenchies, plus us American crashers. The food was in a separate tent and the wine was everywhere. It was pouring rain, and the tents dripped everywhere, turning the yard to a muddy mess. By the time the strawberry cake was served, a guitar had been found and the singing commenced. I didn´t know the words, but I could generally understand the songs and a good time was had by all.

The next day was the birthday of our American friend Gigi. She and her boyfriend Alex came over to Jason´s house, as well as our British friend Darren, and we made a party. Jason shucked and fried up some oysters, and we made some delicious poboys complete with Avery Island Tabasco sauce that we bought at Carrefour, the European Walmart. Apple pie a la mode came next, and suffice to say we all went to bed stuffed. The next morning we had biscuits and crepes for breakfast. It was quite a weekend for binge eating!

So on Monday, after all these parties, Jason and I drove up to Paris, and I took a train to Munich. With my railpass I only had to pay €4! I was in a 6-seat compartment, but I was the only one there. I put up the armrests and laid across 3 seats, and it was comfortable. I arrived in Munich at 7AM only slightly blurry eyed.

I went on a free tour of the city, and the American guide was pretty cool. Outside the Frauenkirke he was telling us the legend of “The Devil´s Footprint,” which involved the Duke of Munich making a deal with the devil. Of course, the duke tried to cheat the devil, and when he found out Satan declared (in the words of Kevin the guide): “This aggression will not stand!” I laughed, but no one else did, and Kevin continued with the story, in which the Duke wins and keeps his soul. Once we were inside the church I saddled up to him and asked if the moral of the story is “The Duke abides.” This called for a high-five, my first in a Catholic church, but hopefully not the last.

So everynight in Germany has involved drinking. The first night I went out with some people I met on the tour for a beer house crawl, including the hofbräahaus, complete with the umpapa band. The next night I went to an Irish pub with a German guy I met at a Jesus street rally, where I heard “Blueberry Hill” played live by an ex-pat. And I did it all in my new orange sandals… Oh yeah, I dig Germany.

This morning I woke up in Munich and took a train to Regensburg, about 90 minutes away. It was a nice little town, and walking through a park some people at a picnic table offered me a drink. The Germans like to drink and they like to share. They also like mushroom cafes, and who could blame them?

The shroom cafe in Regensburg

After a couple hours in Regensburg I hoped back on the northbound train for Nuremberg. What a wonderful city! I have to say, I like it much better than Munich. Walking around town, you always see at least 1 church and half-timbered house. I met a Hare Krishna and found “American Store,” which sells mostly camouflage and Jack Daniels souvenirs. But I did buy a paper American flag. Later on, walking through the market, I found a gift for my mom. I can´t say what it is but Mom, you are going to love it!

The hostel I´m at in Nuremberg is pretty nice, and very friendly. I just went out with a guy who works here and 2 other girls, to another Irish pub (I do like the whiskey). Tomorrow I am going to do more Nuremberg sightseeing, then catch a ride to Prague to chill with Izzy for a couple days before going onward, eastward, to Krakow. It is turning out to be quite the adventure!


The humid air of Marseille feels like home 5 April 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 1:07 PM
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So Izzy just left for Milan after 4 days together in sometimes sunny Marseille. I’m on my own again. But it’s getting warm, and I even left my coat from Cesky Krumlov at the train station when I dropped her off. It’s strange how sad it is to leave something like that behind…

Well, I’m finally getting back into backpacking. After spending the last 7 weeks in France, tomorrow I’m starting a whirlwind 10 city tour before meeting my dad in Paris at the end of May. This is where my railpass comes in handy. First off is Barcelona, which should be lovely. I’ll be in Italy for the middle of April, and then Greece! Then follows Dubrovnik, Zagreb, maybe Ljubljana, Budapest, Krakow, Prague, and finally Munich. I don’t know how I’m going to handle it, but I am excited. Also getting tired and ready to go home, but then I remember that I don’t have a home anymore. So I guess I’m ready to make a home again.

Yesterday we went to the Callanques on the Mediterranean. Easily the most beautiful land I’ve seen in Europe. The walk took 1.5 hours through rocky mountains covered with wild rosemary. When we finally arrived at the rocky beach (where I ate a blood orange I found on the way) I was so excited to get into that turqoise water, and even though it was so cold my legs were numb it made sunning on the rocks that much better.

The day before we walked around the Vieux Port of Marseille and sat outside a restaurant and ate big pots of mussels. The city is strange, and I can’t help but be uncomfortable walking through some of the ethnic neighborhoods where there are only men on the streets. But still, I like this place and would come back, at least for the beach.

On the way here from Jason’s house I lost my wallet in Limoges, so I’m dealing with that headache. My new wallet is on a rope tied to my pants, but really I need a chain. At least I had another credit card and some cash stored somewhere else, so I’m not stranded. Also having parents looking out for me makes a huge difference!