Archive for the ‘france’ 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.

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:

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.
  • fotos, france, tout ça…

    Thursday, November 29th, 2007

    I thought I linked last night to my “france” set on flickr, but apparently I didn’t… it is here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/erleichda/sets/72157603311042965/

    Some photos of/in Blois:

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    From the steps in the center of town, named after someone named Denis Papin.

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    The cathedral, which has very pretty modernist (?) stained glass windows.

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    La Loire in the evening light.

    The young expat community (i.e. Robin’s friends):

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    (cherry lambic is tasty)

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    Le lendemain matin, after a frost.

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    Robin saw me off at the train station with her bright yellow bike.

    …And since then:

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    The view of the Seine, and Paris in the distance, from the park in St-Germain-en-Laye.

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    My hosts, Sylvain and Liliane, dans le jardin at the Rodin Museum in Paris this morning.

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    My favorite thing about museums is getting to see other people interacting with art. I liked the Rodin Museum also because not everything is presented against a plain white background (I mean, some of it is in the garden, like so). More on this later on in this entry…

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    Is that hot or what? I think it was a model for part of Rodin’s chef-d’oeuvre, “La Porte de l’Infer,” but I already knew that all the interesting, sexy people are going to hell or are there already…

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    Saw this on my way to the Centre Pompidou after lunch, when we went our separate ways for the afternoon.

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    The square outside the Centre Pompidou, from the escalators inside.

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    This installation was part of a temporary exhibit and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t allowed to take this photo, but it was so cool and I couldn’t resist. It was called “Forest Without Leaves,” I think.

    Okay. So. Museums. Museums are cool. Sometimes by virtue of seeing a painting in real life, in real size, you see something new or different that it’s impossible or difficult to see in a reproduction. Sometimes you see things you wouldn’t have seen otherwise even as a reproduction ’cause you wouldn’t have thought to look. Or you’re not the type to look at art (especially modern and contemporary art) in books and such, but you go to museums anyway for the chic cultural experience, and you see something and have some epiphany, big or small, and you are changed by the experience. Inspired. Whatever. All this is REALLY GOOD.

    But sometimes, especially if you are pretty well-educated and cultured and all that, or maybe if you’re particularly uneducated and have no idea how to look at what you’re seeing or no real interest in looking at it to begin with, museums can be SO BORING. That’s why I think museums should be more like theatre. Curators should be like directors… I mean, they kind of are already–they put works of art next to each other in a way that allows them to inform each other, be in dialogue with each other, complement each other, look awesome, whatever. But if directing was just putting pretty actors next to each other, theatre would be pretty boring too. It doesn’t HAVE to be, of course, and the actors are often powerful and beautiful, but even the best script can be improved by artful use of set, lighting, costumes, etc. And Shakespeare has been redone in such a myriad of ways because each production tries (and ocassionally even manages) to illuminate some new aspect of the work. So why boring white walls in museums? Maybe visual artists are afraid of people seeing their art in a context not precisely of their choosing, and so for simplicity’s sake that context has been frightfully standardized…

    In conclusion, well, I heart installation art, and also I like museums and theatre both for the interaction of art and audience one finds in those media. Contemporary art museums are especially good for this because they tend to include works that are more interactive. So today I took pictures of people in the museum. Yeah.

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    No people in this one, but shadows… and I love Alexander Calder’s work.

    Oh, and I also found this hilarious series of photos by Man Ray titled “Mr. and Mrs. Woodman”… see here, here and here (kinda not work safe). Reminded me that I’d meant to mention the strangest room at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona, which was full of erotic sketches more or less contemporary with his blue period. They were definitely explicit and I think most of them had pretty predictable titles, but my favorite was this picture of a couple having oral sex, with their cat on the bed, and the title was “two figures and a cat.” Heh.

    I was actually kind of rushed by the end of my visit because I told L and S that I would be back in St-Germain by 7 or 7:30, and I wanted to see the lights on the Champs-Elysee before I headed back:

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    il faut cultiver notre jardin

    Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

    Salut mes amis,
    I am behind on this blog but feeling lazy about it right now, so here is a bullet-point update:

  • have passed the halfway point of this trip. Was feeling pretty homesick for a week or so, am (just) now (just) kind of tired. I’ve been staying with various people for a week now, and it’s been lovely not having to pay for a bed and all that, but I actually kind of miss hostels. Being a guest is tiring even when your hosts are friends.
  • I have started acknowledging that I am not going to get to all the places I want to see, and that the Swiss Alps and Copenhagen and places like that are not going to be fantastic in December, and Greece will be hard to get to… and so I am crossing them off this (not literal) list and adding them to the list of things I will do/see when I do this again. ‘Cause I will do it again. In the spring. With a traveling partner. And again. Before or after Thailand, Nepal, India, the rest of the world, all of the United States I haven’t seen…
  • also I hella miss Portland.
  • anyway Bonnie, Scott and I spent a day visiting Villefranche-sur-Mer and Monaco. Villefranche-sur-Mer is a really, really cute coastal town with a hidden covered street and a chapel decorated by Jean Cocteau which was unfortunately closed when we were there. Monaco looks like it should all be in miniature. There are pictures up on flickr. Here, I’ll share some of my favorites and you can go look at the rest if you’re interested.

    Villefranche-sur-Mer…

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    (strangers at the train station)

    Monaco…

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    (yeah, so I miss my boyfriend)

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  • left Grasse the next day for Blois, where I spent a night on the floor of two assistant friends of Robin’s who piled blankets and blankets and more blankets on top of me; it was wonderful. Also Robin and I went out for this amazing chocolat chaud that’s kind of like hot pudding or custard. SO GOOD. (Portlanders, Robin says the gelato place across from Powell’s has stuff like it in the winter… il faut qu’on va quand je suis encore là.)
  • took the train to Amboise the next day, where I visited the chateau (Clos-Lucé) where Leonardo da Vinci spent his last three years. It was kind of kitschy–for example, this model of his “helicopter” invention, turned kids’ play structure in the accompanying park (you could make it spin, but unfortunately, no lift-off)–

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    Amboise was mostly a totally abandoned tourist town, but it was pretty, especially the Loire when I first got there (at 9ish)…

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  • in the evening Robin and I went out for crepes, savory and sweet. Last night we got Chinese food and I ate dim sum, which was great.
  • yesterday I mostly just got things done that I needed to get done–I slept late, bought face wash and toothpaste, bought a belt (mine broke in Granada), bought a pair of cute sneakers (I need to write a eulogy post for my poor, poor boots), drank tea and ate a pain au chocolat, read Candide in the cozy local library.
  • I finished L’Alchimiste but kept thinking about Candide and how “il faut cultiver notre jardin,” so now I’m rereading that (ouais, en français). More if I weren’t feeling so tired and scrambled…
  • last night the power was out in the area surrounding Robin’s home (about a half hour’s walk from the center of Blois). It was creepy as we walked, but then it became quiet, dark and beautiful. We could see the stars.
  • Now I am staying in Saint-Germain-en-Laye (at the end of an RER line from Paris) with some old friends of my paternal grandparents (my grandfather worked for Exxon and worked all over the world, but I think he met this couple when they were living in the states and the husband was also working for Exxon). They are very nice and I have already met five of their grandchildren, including two amazing twin boys who are learning how to read right now (can you imagine learning how to read quand votre langue looks like français??? Mon dieu!!!). Also, beacoup des bisous! I want to start habitually kissing my friends in greeting when I get home.
  • tomorrow we’re going into Paris and on Friday I’m going to Koeln. I am really excited for it to be December because all of Europe is suddenly going to be lit up like a Christmas tree. At least, here in France they have been hanging lights all month but have yet to plug them in. Plus, Brook says there are six Christmas markets in Koeln alone.
  • “je suis voyageuse” (but currently stationary in grasse)

    Friday, November 23rd, 2007

    Grasse is lovely.


    My fabulous hosts making the shape of France with their hands, yo.


    I did laundry and hung it up to dry comme ze French do!


    My fantastic hostess with tasty things for dinner.


    And limoncello for dessert!

    This evening a friend of Bonnie’s, another English (language) assistant, was throwing a Thanksgiving dinner party kind of thing, which they asked if I could come to. She said yes, and I/we decided to make cookies for it, and ’cause I miss baking cookies. So we walked to the grocery store…

    The cookies turned out tasty but not exactly as planned, in that we couldn’t find brown sugar or chocolate chips (we used regular sugar and M&Ms instead) and we weren’t sure if the little packets of “poudre à lever” with pictures of smiling muffins on them actually contained baking powder (as opposed to baking soda or something else). Bonnie and Scott do have standard measuring cups and spoons, but their oven doesn’t even have the temperature in Celsius–just numbers 1 through 10, so there was a little guesstimating there. Then the cookies started to brown on the TOP before the edges, and remained pretty lightly-backed on the bottom even when we pulled them out. But they were a hit anyway, and I ended up writing out my recipe for the girl who threw the party (Marianne. Or Mary-Anne, or Marian, or je ne sais pas).

    She lives just outside Cannes, so we took two buses there and then ran into another group of English-speaking young people going the same place. There were SO MANY PEOPLE THERE! English assistants, some of whom were English and Scottish, Italian assistants, a Spanish assistant, a German assistant, French people, and plenty of people I never actually talked to because there were so many people! And Marianne had made SO MUCH FOOD! I ate so much chips and salsa (oh my goodness, I had no idea I’d been missing chips and salsa) before dinner was even served that I got pretty quickly to that Thanksgiving “I can’t eat another bite; I probably can’t even MOVE” point.

    While the food was for the most part traditional Thanksgiving fare (with guinea fowl instead of turkey, whole turkeys being difficult to find in France), the meal itself was kind of chaotic (lots of people in a small French house) and there was also lots of wine and baguettes. I tried to get people to do the thing where you go around and say something you’re thankful for, and it kind of worked, but people mostly said “je suis heureuse d’etre ici avec vous tous” and such, which, I guess, probably can’t be stated enough, so okay, that’s cool.

    People assumed I was an assistant as well, but when asked I said “je suis voyageuse,” which was fun to remind myself of.

    One girl told me she was sure, based on looking at me, that I was French, or maybe German or English–in any case European–because of my piercings and the way I was dressed (I was mostly wearing black, but with lavender knee socks and my beat-to-shit turquoise boots, and she commented on the colors and the boots). I thought that was kind of cool, and it made me feel better about not being super-elegant like so many European women I see on the street.

    Pumpkin pie for dessert:


    Meta-photo! (Bonnie and Scott are big nerds, which is really refreshing! I miss my geeky Portland friends…)

    paris photos

    Thursday, November 22nd, 2007


    Sacre Coeur at night. Si joli.


    Jesus, the cat I made friends with at the hostel.

    The Christmas window displays at the Galleries Lafayette department store were nuts! You have to imagine these as animatronic and with accompanying tinny music. Also, I kinda like the quality that the reflections give these pictures.


    At the Tuileries.


    The Louvre.


    This part of the fountains was empty, which made for cool reflections.


    Vélib!!


    We went to Notre Dame. Devin was impressed. I didn’t take any pictures because eighty million better pictures have already been taken. (You will notice that this argument had no effect on me in Barcelona, however…)


    Yow. That guy is… stuck.

    Then we went to the train station and hugged goodbye and off I went to Barcelona!

    good times and walls (the long journey to grasse, france)

    Thursday, November 22nd, 2007

    So I’ve finally made it to the French Riviera–I’m in Grasse at Bonnie and Scott’s cute little apartment on a hill. Bonnie is my friend from summer camp (I’ve known her since we were 10 or so, but hadn’t seen her in 5 or 6 years) and Scott is her fiancé. Getting here was a saga, but as Bonnie pointed out, being inconvenienced by a strike is part of the French experience.

    On Tuesday morning I went to the train station in Barcelona and asked for a reservation for the train to Montpellier. The guy behind the counter said, “no train. There is a strike.” “No trains to anywhere else in France?” I asked hopefully. “No trains. Go to the Estacio del Noord, there are buses.”

    So I paid almost 30 euros to sit on a bus for 6 hours to Montpellier, because damn it Spain, I’m getting out if it kills me (and it’s looking at that point like it just might). There was a very frazzled phone call to my parents somewhere in here. The past couple days have been hard. When I got to Montpellier, the tram I took to the train station (with the help of a Spanish [I think], French-speaking rasta man named Alex) was covered in this bright floral pattern, and the seats inside were the same floral pattern in muted monochrome red. Later I saw a bunch of trams that were blue with white birds, so I think the pattern varies by line. Mostly, though, I spent my time in Montpellier sitting in the train station, waiting for the train to Marseille (as far east as I was gonna manage to get that night) and feeling stubborn. I wrote in my journal:

    “Remember how when I was first planning this trip, one of my reasons for it was that on every other trip I’ve taken, alone or not, I’ve been headed home about when I’ve started to get lonely and homesick, and so on this trip I wanted to get past that point and come out on the other side and see what was there? Well, the last few days I’ve been there… so far I haven’t quite figured out whether I need to tunnel through, find the doorknob, leap across, or what, if you know what I mean. It’s still a nice view from here, when I can appreciate it. I’m like a little kid next to a wall that’s just a little bit taller than me, jumping up and down to catch glimpses of the other side. I gotta grow up a little. And I gotta stop extending metaphors to ridiculous lengths.

    “…I suspect that there is really nothing beyond the wall except good times and then another wall, good times and walls. I think that probably has nothing to do with traveling, except insofar as traveling is making literal the metaphor of life as a journey…”

    I got to Marseille after dark. I’d asked my parents to look up cheap rooms for me, and I had the address of a place that would’ve cost me 30 euros or so, but when I finally found a map of the city, that address was way the fuck on the other side of town. I walked around for awhile looking for someplace that looked clean and cheap, until everywhere around me felt sketchy and my pack felt heavier and heavier and I kept thinking about Landon and Dan’s night in a Marseille gutter (heh). So I backtracked towards the train station and found a clean bed for 60 freakin’ euros, locked myself in the room and succumbed briefly to the temptation to feel sorry for myself. Then I watched some incredibly trashy French television (”incroyable talent!” or something like that) and went to bed.

    In the morning I went to the train station, saw no trains to Nice, walked across the center of town to the port, asked at a tourist info about buses, was told that since the strike is general, there are no buses, either. Bought some groceries (this was a Very Important Step towards feeling better). Walked back to the train station. Took the only picture I took of Marseille:

    Saw that in fact there WAS a train to Nice about four hours hence. Ate some food. Wrote,

    “Basically, I have been doing a really bad job of remembering Lesson Number One of this trip (that is, If It Doesn’t Work Out, Do Something Else). I have been terribly stubborn and as a result I have spent a lot of time in train stations and bus stations the past few days…”

    Then I wrote a list of things that have been nice recently:

    –at the station in Montpellier I sat on the platform across from a French girl and we grinned and shook our heads every time the PA increased the delay on the TGV to Paris by another ten minutes, and we giggled together when they announced that the TGV to Paris scheduled to depart an hour after that first one would depart soon and almost everyone waiting for the first one moved in a flurry to the other platform. (The two trains ended up leaving at almost the same time, I think.)

    –the trams in Montpellier

    –I bought a copy of Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist in French (because it didn’t look as trashy as most of the stuff in the train station newsstand, and I’ve heard really mixed reviews of it and was curious) and I’m reading it with no problem.


    (Unforgiving translation: the circulation of trains is very perturbed…)

    In any case, I eventually made it to Nice, where Bonnie and Scott met me at the station and we walked around and saw the ocean and these strange colored people lights (Bonnie said, “it’s kind of the only time it’s appropriate to say ‘colored people’…”)–

    And we ate a very tasty dinner at an Indian restaurant and took the bus to Grasse and they inflated their air mattress for me and today it’s raining, which is kind of nice, really, and I’ve just uploaded eighty bazillion pictures, which will all show up here eventually.

    Oh, and happy Thanksgiving, my American friends.

    whirlwind (barcelona, spain, via everywhere else)

    Monday, November 12th, 2007

    Oh my goodness, you guys! I last wrote in Amsterdam, which was probably only a few days ago but feels like a world away. I mean, hell, I woke up in the Hague yesterday morning. I fell wholly and unexpectedly in love with Holland. I kept going, “I love this country! I want to live here!” Then today on the train in the south of France I looked out and saw a yellow house, and I thought of Portland and had second thoughts. Traveling is about the going home, after all.

    Anyway, after eight hours on two trains from Paris, I’m in Barcelona, home of Gaudi, Miro, and Picasso. I can’t wait to see it in the daytime. The hostel I’m at (one of those huge ones, but I’m a block away from a Gaudi building and there’s a gorgeous staircase) has free internet, but I can’t get at the USB slots, so I can’t share any of the eighty bazillion pictures I’ve taken out train windows and of Amsterdam, Den Haag, Antwerp, Brussels and Paris since buying myself a sweet new camera (merry Christmas to me). So (and ’cause I’m sleepy and telling you everything would take about a million years), here’s some highlights until I get a chance to do so:

    …hitchhiked from Amsterdam to not-quite-Den-Haag. A Canadian woman living near Den Haag with her Venezualan boyfriend (who works for Shell) picked us up after a whole bunch of Dutch drivers grinned and shrugged at us or gave us thumbs up. She told us that we were the first hitchhikers she’d seen in the three years she’s lived there. Anyway, it was exciting for me ’cause I’d never hitched before, and it was exciting to Devin ’cause the Dutch were so responsive to us! We stood on the on-ramp and giggled a lot. And got a ride through hellacious traffic to a train station where the ride right into the center of the Hague was only 2 euros.

    …met Caitlin, a Reedie friend of Devin’s who I didn’t know, and Lauren, who’s studying in Paris in the same program as Caitlin, at their swanky hotel. They were in the Hague for the Holland Dance Festival. We all went out to dinner and had a grand time. Wandered the city, which I liked almost as much as Amsterdam. Tons of culture, art EVERYWHERE, and this dance festival thing which may have been misleading (as far as the city in general goes) but which was awesome to see everywhere.

    …wandered in an extensive, forested park and found the coolest hidden playground ever.

    …smoked a joint on a very very windy beach.

    …saw a dance concert for 8 euros, walked back to the hotel talking about it.

    …woke up very very early to get on a train to Antwerp/Brussels/Paris. Had tea in Antwerp. Spent a few hours in Brussels, which was WEIRD. When we first got off the train, it was MAGNIFICENT. We walked a few hundred meters to a gorgeous square surrounded by incredibly beautiful old buildings and delicious waffle shops. Then we wandered some more and the incredibly beautiful old buildings remained, with the addition of trash and squalor and grafitti and, finally, in the dirtiest sketchiest park ever, a dude in a fucking SKI MASK, at which point I said “let’s go to Paris” and Devin said “yeah” and we went. There were also huge groups of chanting schoolkids everywhere wearing what appeared to be scout uniforms or something, which added to the vague post-apocalyptic feel of the whole city. Also my feet were killing me (the sad truth is that my beloved boots and I are growing apart. Tempers and soles are wearing thin) and I knocked over Devin’s bottle of chocolate milk in the train station and I needed some protein or something (after waffles for lunch, heh) and I was in a foul mood. (I got better.)

    …wandered Montmartre trying to find the hostel I stayed in when I was 17 by feel. Succeeded! And they had plenty of room!

    …wandered Montmartre some more, up to Sacre Coeur. Looked out over the city.

    …this morning we walked down to the Seine and through the Tuileries and around the Louvre. Then Devin walked me to the train station and we said goodbye. I wrote on the train:

    “There is a part of me that is already lonely, and part of me that will be glad to set my own schedule for the next little while. There is a part of me that still wonders why I am here on this train in Spain 5000 miles from home, and part of me that wants to keep wandering forever–the part of me that’s saying ‘Thailand next! Brazil! New Zealand! India!’”

    Well, I took this trip to travel alone, and get past the loneliness to whatever comes afterwards. Maybe that’s ridiculous when I’ve still got people to visit who I can’t wait to see. And anyway two weeks ago I was saying I had no idea why I took this trip. Which is true, but not in a bad way. I’m having a fine time. I’m confused by my feelings, which change as fast as I keep moving from place to place (Devin said, “we are so mobile! Tonight you’ll be in Barcelona and I’ll be in Dublin!”).

    There’s a train strike in France on Wednesday, so I’m in Spain at least until that’s over, unless it shows signs of going on for ages and I decide to take a 16 hour ferry to Italy instead of going back up through France to visit Bonnie and Robin next, which is my plan. Any advice on other cool places to visit in Spain? How about Portugal? I met a girl on the train today who’s living here who said Lagos is supposed to be really nice.

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