Archive for the ‘europe’ Category

slow growing

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

On Monday my parents were in town and I met them for breakfast. This meeting had two purposes: one, coincidentally, for each of the main themes or what-have-you of this blog. They brought me my bike (which was temporarily lost by the airline that flew me and it home from France a few weeks ago), and they agreed to get me (using their frequent flyer miles) plane tickets to India in the fall. I’ve got some stuff to say about both these things (mostly the second), and in the course of that will probably get to some of the less easily articulated themes of this blog (blah blah blah odyssey blah blah growing up blah choices priorities youth blah).

Part One:

I biked all over Provence for a week with my dad and my brother and some other people. It had its ups and downs (quite literally of course). I’m sure I will post some pictures eventually, including a great one of me and my bike completely surrounded by red poppies. I came away from the trip much less afraid of Portland’s hills (hey I was like climbin’ freakin’ Alps, man) and in pretty good shape, all enthusiastic about biking to Multnomah Falls and biking to the top of Mount Tabor every week or every day or something… so of course the airline lost my luggage.

So I rode a lot of buses and walked a whole lot too. Once I tried to borrow my boyfriend Andrew’s bike, but the 2 or 3 miles ride from his house to mine was enough to demonstrate very convincingly that bike fit actually matters a helluva lot and there is a lot more to it than standover height.

So after breakfast on Monday my parents drove me and my still-boxed bike to my former place of work, that is, the bike e-commerce business that my dad co-owns and runs, and there I put my bike back together, all by my happy self, and then I got on and rode it home in my boots and a sundress and oh the bliss of that first pedal stroke. The joy and efficiency. It was beautiful.

I should say “once and future place of work,” which leads me to…

Part Two:

I am going to India in the fall! With my boyfriend, whose praises I will resist singing except to say that he’s awesome and I am really excited that we’ll be traveling together!

…My parents are a little less thrilled. They’re worried about my safety, about money, about my joblessness and laziness and lack of ambition and other things. At breakfast we talked about a lot. I was pretty sure I had the money thing under control, and my slow but steady theatre work is beginning (very very slowly, but it’s happening) to generate some actual income. I felt okay with my figurative wandering. Remember those posts about that happy center I’ve found this spring? That stuff justified, for me, the fact that I kinda look like a slacker right now.

For awhile I was going to look for a job after I got back from Europe. Then I was busy with the play I was stage managing through March. Then I was going to France and figured finding a job that would give me that time off would be impossible or nearly so, so I thought I’d look after I got back from France. Then the kind folks at a certain large regional theatre in Portland offered to pay me some money for the same stuff I’ve gladly done for them twice before at their yearly summer playwrights’ festival, and I certainly couldn’t say no. And besides I was beginning to make tentative, hopeful, lovely plans with Andrew while we read through guidebooks to India together. Who would hire me when I already knew I’d need two weeks off in July and I might skip out entirely come autumn?

My dad. At the job I happily quit last fall before I left for Europe, swearing I wouldn’t work there again. The job I happily quit the summer before that… and the summer before that.

There are some compromises I am not willing to make (giving up travel, giving up theatre) and so I’ll make some other compromises instead (working at V__).

But I wanted to bike to Ashland with Andrew and we had vague plans to go backpacking and he was out of a job until July anyway, so when I broached the subject with Dad I asked him if I could wait to start until July, but oh by the way I need two weeks off in mid-July… he said, “start when that’s over.”

And for a couple weeks Andrew and I slept late and made food and wandered the city a bit and watched movies and hung out and cuddled my cat and didn’t plan our trip to Ashland or go backpacking, and on Monday when I asked my parents for tickets to India, they said, “why aren’t you working? What are you accomplishing now? How will you afford it? Shouldn’t you be writing plays or devoting yourself totally to theatre if that’s what you want to do, instead of taking off for months at a time? How come you don’t write in your blog anymore?” and, because sometimes they are right about things, when we got to V__ I asked my old boss, “can I work here again?” and he said “when can you start?” (I start tomorrow, 8AM.)

And now I am writing this blog entry.

Because I have failed to be productive for myself–because I have failed to establish my own productive routine–so I must submit to a routine made for me, at least in part. Next time, maybe, I will get it right. My parents aren’t right about everything and I know that some of the things I value aren’t what they value, and vice versa. But until I can tell them exactly what it is that I value, and until they’re not paying my health insurance and my cell phone bill, I gotta respect what they have to say (and I do).

It’s a tricky thing to wrap my head about–because of my lingering dependence on them, I don’t have the freedom to bum around Portland all summer… instead, I get to go to India. You know? I must be kind of an adult or something, at least a little bit, because despite their vague disapproval, they got me tickets anyway.

in summary

Monday, December 24th, 2007


Salisbury, England
Pennington, England
Lymington, England
Cork, Ireland
Dublin, Ireland
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Den Haag, the Netherlands
Antwerp, Belgium
Brussels, Belgium
Paris, France
Barcelona, Spain
Granada, Spain
Montpellier, France
Marseille, France
Nice, France
Grasse, France
Cannes, France
Villefrance-sur-Mer, France
Blois, France
Amboise, France
St-Germain-en-Laye, France
Koeln, Germany
Berlin, Germany
Prague, the Czech Republic
Vienna, Austria
Munich, Germany
London, England

My favorite photos from my trip–

or just view the flickr set here:

And here’s a quick link to all my Europe photos:

last europe photos

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

The biggest vending machine I have ever seen (in the Brussels train station).

Rue Mouffetard in Paris.

La Grande Arche at La Défense.

Big huge mirrored ball between the Arche and the Christmas market.

At Père Lachaise Cemetary:

(Is that straight out of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or what?)

Jim Morrison’s grave.

The cat I made friends with hangin’ out near Jim Morrison’s grave.

I followed the cat to this abandoned sepulture off the beaten track which someone had set up as a little kitty sanctuary. I loved it.

Oscar Wilde’s grave. There’s a little plaque saying “please respect the memory of Oscar Wilde and do not deface this marker,” but can you imagne Oscar Wilde being anything less than thrilled about all these kisses?

I gave him a kiss, too; it seemed like the thing to do.

This little street in London was completely lined with bookshops!

Brits like their personal space, I guess.

Three bridges over the Thames.

The Tate Modern and the Millenium footbridge.

The spider is a statue called Maman (”mom”) by Louise Bourgeois, who has an exhibit in the museum right now.

I think these birch trees are actually part of the “World as a Stage” exhibit I mentioned, but I can’t remember how or why.

The Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern, which is the big main entrance hall (and in my opinion a seriously awesome space), is often a site for installation art. This rift in the concrete floor is called Shibboleth and is by Doris Salcedo.

That’s it, guys. Here’s the view out one of the rear windows of my plane home:


Thursday, December 20th, 2007

Sorry, no photos just yet–too tired. Just wanted to drop a note to say I got home okay and I ♥ terry cloth towels. Have been surprisingly busy since I got back… some good things (a professional massage that my mom paid for, seeing my friends Ira and Erynn), some not-so-good things (taking my very sick cat to the vet). Tomorrow I’m going to Portland for the night to reunite with my boyfriend and my bike. After that, I promise pictures.

last post from this side of the atlantic!

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

Well, no USB port, so my last photo update will have to wait ’til I get home tomorrow at around 3pm Pacific Standard Time. Yow! Here’s the quick-and-dirty written update:

Yesterday I woke up in Paris and took the Metro out to La Defense to stare up at the Grande Arche and then turn around to wander the… yes… Christmas market that Caitlin had mentioned in passing the night before. Was fun, nothin’ special. Perhaps I am finally getting over the charm of Christmas markets. Good timing!

In the afternoon I went all the way across town to the Pere Lachaise cemetary to pay my respects to Moliere, Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde, and wander the endless pathways among tombs and tiny chapels (sepultures?) and such. It was really interesting to see tombs so old they are illegible or broken or covered in moss next to headstones put up in 2007 and covered in flowers… and everything in between. The place is huge! I even met a kitty cat hangin’ out by Jim Morrison’s grave.

Then I caught my train to London. Today I went to the Tate Modern and saw an exhibition called “The World As a Stage” that was theoretically about the intersection and relationship between theatre and gallery art, which sounds totally awesome and interesting, right?? It was kind of cool, but was also kind of obviously created mostly by gallery artists and not so much theatre artists, I think. I mean… it was a little opaque.

In the evening I wandered into the carnival they’ve got set up at Leicester Square and watched the faces of the people riding the biggest ride, the sort that puts you at one end of a huge long rotating thing and flips you around a bit. A 40-ish Englishman struck up a conversation with me, which was okay, though I felt a little uncomfortable because I suspected he was flirting with me, and then somehow the topic of race relations came up–what?? (and before that it was religion??) and he kept talking about “colored” people and since the conversation was mostly one-sided as it was, I mostly just kind of winced internally and let him talk and then excused myself.

Hah, so then I went to see Avenue Q, and now, writing this, “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist” is stuck in my head. When I bought the ticket this morning I thought about seeing something, you know, more serious and British and all that, but I knew I’d have a blast at Avenue Q and I definitely did. And tomorrow I am getting on a plane.

I have been pretty clumsy and forgetful lately. In the past 24 hours I have locked myself out of my hostel room twice. The first time it was the very wee hours of the morning. I got up to pee, realized I’d forgotten my key, stumbled down the stairs without my glasses to borrow a key from reception, went back to the room, got my key, tripped over the bag of the guy sleeping above me, fell on my ASS, picked myself up, stumbled back downstairs to drop off the key, etc etc etc etc. I think this is another kind of wall, but it’s one I don’t mind so much, provided it doesn’t get me hurt or missing something valuable. When I was in Vienna I almost lost my passport; left it sitting somewhere and a nice Canadian girl came and found me in the hostel’s kitchen to give it to me, thank goodness!! And anyway, tomorrow I am going home.

very nice things

Sunday, December 16th, 2007

  • this morning when I walked past the Dom on my way to the train station in Koeln, the sky was blue, the sun was shining, and the bells were ringing, oh my god.
  • later Brook and I saw a woman carrying home a Christmas tree on the u-bahn!
  • on the train from Brussels to Paris, I grinned at a little girl wearing a jacket with bear ears on the hood and looking over her mom’s shoulder, and she gave me a brilliant smile back.
  • walking down a cobbled street in Paris generously festooned with overhead string lights on my way to meet Caitlin.
  • great conversation with Caitlin over hot chocolate and a tasty fruit tart.
  • every time I think about home, I get really happy.
  • every time I think about where I am, I get really happy.
  • berlin photos, part 2!

    Saturday, December 15th, 2007

    Christmas market + carnival–

    This was a static display from a little train ride that went past various fairy tales… elsewhere, Cinderella was sweeping ashes, Rumpelstiltskin was spinning gold, etc.

    The Reichstag–

    There’s a restaurant up on the roof; this was one of the windows as seen from the dome.

    This group of people who presumably actually work at the Reichstag were taking a smoke break together. I was up on the roof being sneaky.

    View off the front of the building.

    A group of tourists getting their picture taken on the steps in front of the entrance.

    The Pergamon Museum–

    The steps up to the Pergamon Altar (or what’s left of it, anyway).

    (Part of) the Ishtar Gate (of Babylon). Pretty cool, but Lexi, as far as things to take your breath away, have you seen la Sagrada Familia??

    I found myself taking lots of pictures of lions in the Pergamon…

    Like this one.

    Or this one (who looks to me like he belongs in The Wizard of Oz, though the audioguide that was free with admission said things about his “easy power” or something).

    And today I walked along the East Side Gallery, the longest remaining stretch of Wall (I think), which is covered in murals which are covered in graffiti–

    “we are recording our own history here now and i was here”

    When I went back to Ostbahnhof to get back on the s-bahn, this special Christmas s-bahn train was waiting at the platform, full of adults taking photos of their happy kids–

    But I couldn’t figure out where it was going or what the deal was. Maybe I should’ve hopped on!

    Instead, I wandered into a crafts market and a crazy flea market, and listened to these guys (I saw them last night too, elsewhere)–

    Coolest street musicians ever?? Maybe.


    Now, by the way, I’m in Brook’s cozy apartment in Koeln once again. I was standing in line at the Berlin Hauptbahnhof this morning, hoping to buy a reservation and a couchette or sleeperette supplement for the night train to Paris tonight (the night train from Barcelona to Granada, my only night train experience to date, was enough to convince me that next time I need to be horizontal), and worrying about it being full, and musing on my alternate options: “Well, I could take this other train that leaves at around one this afternoon, which is early, and I’d get to Paris pretty late tonight and not have a place to stay… I guess I take a train tomorrow and try to find a place for tonight… man, the night train is the only direct train, too, all the other ones I’d have to transfer in Koeln… hey waitasec! I don’t need no stinkin’ night train!” So I abandoned my place in line and called Brook, who said “yes, of course you can stay here tonight!” So here I am. She even saved me some dinner.

    Today was the start of going home. Paris tomorrow, London the day after, Seattle/Sammamish two days after that, Portland two days after that! I am gonna have me some fun on my way, though.

    cold & clear (berlin)

    Friday, December 14th, 2007

    Friends, either this is, as always, the natural fluctuation of my moods (those beasts I have occasionally celebrated, sometimes tried to pathologize, etc etc etc)… or else I have found the other side of my wall. You remember that wall? For me, it was a weeks-wide, very dense bank of fog. Just these last few days I have found myself close enough to its edge to know what direction to walk in, and now, over here… well, it’s not exactly sunny, but it’s clear.

    I’m back in Berlin. My hostel this time around is nicely located in Mitte, on the other side of Museum Island from Unter den Linden. Last night I walked to one of the Christmas markets I mostly skipped last time that’s right smack in the middle of and integrated with a carnival, and laughed to myself at the fantastic noise of screaming kids on rides mixed with earnest renditions of “Amazing Grace” played over speakers. I ate lots of candied hazelnuts. I walked to the Reichstag, where there was absolutely no line (despite every guidebook’s warnings) to get up to the roof terrace and the glass dome. I looked down, then I looked out, and felt my cheeks and nose turning red in the clear cold. Guys, I feel so good. Today I went to the Pergamon and then the Museum of the Wall at Checkpoint Charlie, which is really extensive… and interesting in that much of it is (written and photographic) material that was placed in the museum while the wall still stood, so it has things in present tense, like “to date there have been x number of escapes via tunnels…” It’s also charmingly disorganized and includes a large section about non-violent protest in the 20th century throughout the world, and everything is presented in at least English, German and French, and often Russian, and sometimes, in places chosen apparently at random, Italian or Spanish. By the time my brain was getting tired of picking out the English words, it was dark outside and it was evening.

    On my way there I found a bookstore with a nice little selection of English books, and despite my initial intention to only have one book at a time on this trip, I’ve been suffering so from lack of reading material since I finished Emma in Prague (I have read my guidebook so many times!) that I bought not one, not two, but three books. One of them is Anna Karenina, which I figure should keep me going for awhile. I also bought a book called Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search For Everything by Elizabeth Gilbert, despite the fact that one of the buy-me quotes on the back is from… oh geez… Britney Spears (who thought it was a “good read” and “[couldn't] get away from it”). To quote the author: “I wanted to explore the art of pleasure in Italy, the art of devotion in India and, in Indonesia, the art of balancing the two.” I walked back to my hostel (eating a pretzel and sipping gl├╝hwein on the way… god, I love Germany!), sat down and promptly read the entire Italy section (see, it’s a good thing I bought Anna Karenina too). There, alone in my hostel room, I giggled aloud over and over again. At least twice I had to close the book and giggle the giggle out of me. I cried a little bit too, because it’s kind of that kind of book. It is a good book for a woman, traveling alone, having just emerged from a fog, to read. So there. May Britney Spears find her way out of her fog, too.

    It’s okay that I’m going home soon. Maybe I am even feeling so much stabler BECAUSE I am going home soon. I am looking forward to my loved ones’ arms. You know that feeling your fingers get when you come in out of the cold, how they burn as feeling returns to them? Yeah, that. That’s something… ugh, my writing suffers from such vagueries!

    mais oui

    Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

    Today on the train between Vienna and Salzburg I pulled myself back to myself. I thought about all the things I have to look forward to when I get home, and how the future excites me, and how it scares me almost as much. I remembered looking forward to this trip in almost the same way, and I thought about how much I have seen and the lessons I have learned and the lessons I have begun to learn and the lessons I will have to learn a hundred times and the lessons I will probably never learn. I have been sleepwalking a lot lately, thinking about anything other than right now, right here–and that kind of stuff ought to be saved for the kind of 9-to-5 tedium I quit to come here. I’m sorry, guys. I am so fucking lucky–lucky to be here living out my romantic fantasies of lonely wandering down cobblestone streets, and lucky to have my amazing home to look forward to returning to.

    I was thinking these things and suddenly the ground outside the train was dusted with snow. And then there was snow in the air too. And then the snow was gone, and I sunk into my chair and felt homesick. But, you know, epiphanies are there. It snowed on and off, I slept on and off, I dreamed on and off.

    Here in Munich it is raining.

    I realized on the u-bahn a few hours ago that I left my favorite pair of jeans and a black skirt I’ve had for years and years in my hostel room in Vienna, draped over something to get the rest of the way dry. They both had holes in them… I guess you gotta let things go, sometimes.

    towards the light (vienna, austria)

    Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

    I always kind of thought that when I went to Vienna I would walk by myself down wide lanes surrounded by old buildings, and snow would gently fall from a darkening sky… alas, it’s just rain rain rain, but s’okay. Feels like home.

    Last night I did laundry (yay) and then left my not-quite-dry clothes draped everywhere and took the u-bahn into the center of town to see pretty lights and maybe a Christmas market or two. I didn’t find any markets (it was 9:30ish, though, a little late for them probably), but the pretty lights, very much yes–

    The big sculpture is a monument some king and/or emperor made to thank God for not killing him during the Plague.

    Today has been busy and full. In the morning I trotted around following Rick Steves’ self-guided walking tour between the Opera, St Stephen’s Cathedral, and the Hapsburg Palaces.

    Monument against war and fascism.

    St. Stephen’s. The roof burned down in WWII, and people who contributed to its rebuilding “own” each of the new roof tiles.

    Rick Steves says that this column is a penis, and that together with its partner (a vagina in theory, but it was covered in scaffolding. I dunno, it’s easy enough to say a column is a penis; I’m not sure how you’d make a column look like a vagina) they symbolize creation.

    Gothic pulpit (THAT’S THE WORD I have been trying to remember for weeks!) carved out of sandstone, with a self-portrait of the artist peaking out from underneath!

    When I stepped into the cathedral last night, it was mostly dark and closed-ish, but someone was playing this organ. It was lovely.

    In the window of a very fancy chocolate shop.

    The palace gates.

    Hercules kickin’ ass.

    Three different kinds of clocks–I have no idea what the top one is… anyone?

    I walked through the palace grounds to a Christmas market, where I bought an enormous chocolate-covered pretzel thing, and then went to the Kunsthistoriches Museum (I think I’m spelling that right), where I wandered huge grand rooms full of old paintings of naked women and suffering Jesuses. My enjoyment of that kind of stuff wanes the longer I am on my feet, so I left when I stopped having fun to go to Secession, a little art nouveau building that houses temporary contemporary exhibitions (heh) and also Gustav Klimt’s “Beethoven Frieze.”

    The frieze was a treat to see, and the temporary exhibitions were weird video installation art. I don’t think I have ever seen video installation art that wasn’t weird. Sometimes it’s good weird and sometimes it’s just weird.

    Then I went to Naschmarkt, which was almost like La Boqueria in Barcelona–I even found tasty tropical fruit juices. So, rockin’.

    THEN I invested a good amount of time and walking into finding the KunstHausWien (literally ArtHouseVienna), aka the Hundertwasser Museum. Have you ever heard of Hundertwasser? I hadn’t, actually, but Rick Steves’ description sounded intriguing. IT WAS AWESOME. Here’s my first view of the building when I finally found it:

    Is that a heart-lifting sight or what?

    I broke the rules to take this picture from inside the exhibition of Hundertwasser’s artwork, because this “tree tenant” and the pinwheel stuck in the mesh were just too much and much too charming.

    One of the tree tenants from outside.

    I also loved his paintings and graphic art. Here’s an example from google image search:

    There was also an interesting and sexy exhibition of photography by Lucien Clergue that I enjoyed very much. So, score.

    But really–every time I sit down for a few minutes I stand back up again feeling… sore. Physically, mentally, emotionally. I’m trying not to think about it too much.

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