Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Stuff that Happened in Europe

So I graduated from college.
All things considered, it was a relatively uneventful occurrence.
What was a little more notable was that 24 hours after I received my empty diploma-holder to scattered applause, I boarded a plane with others in my program, on my way to a 2-week tour through Europe. Considering I created this whole blog the last time I was abroad, I figure the least I can do this time is write a little post about my European excursions. We traveled to London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Berlin and visited important World War II sites, so while it was not an altogether incredibly cheerful trip (at least academically), it was unforgettable. Here are some of the more memorable and entertaining anecdotes from those two weeks.
Stuff that Happened in London
- Of course I started crying the moment our plane touched down at Heathrow because I am just that embarrassing. I really tried to keep it together, but no.
- I went to a Spoons pub with Emily within three hours of arriving in the city. In my opinion, it was three hours too late.
- I was complimented on my restaurant suggestions not once, but twice. Expectations were pretty high for me to know my shit, and I did my best.
- I met a very cute fellow-teacher British boy, which was just kind of depressing, as it reminded me of the potential future of me being alone forever, as it will be impossible for me to teach American history here all while being married to an attractive, funny, intelligent British man.
- I led a few friends around the city one evening and I 1) took us in the wrong direction at least three times and 2) got us caught in the rain for hours. Here's the thing about that- during the four months I lived in London before, it rained when we were out probably just a handful of times. What often happened was it would rain at night while we were sleeping and by the time we left in the morning, it was cloudy and the pavement was a little wet, but it wouldn't rain. That was not our experience this time. Now, it can be argued that's just part of the London experience, and there's value to that theory. Though it's also true that that perspective lost a little of its validity for me when I left a puddle on my Tube seat and then couldn't wear my soaked sneakers for days following the nighttime excursion.

Stuff that Happened in Paris
- We as a group were on the receiving end of countless, "Ugh, Americans," looks.
- I sat under the Eiffel Tower at night with friends eating cheese and cannot recommend this activity enough. I wish we had done it last time I was there with friends, but it was February then and probably thirty degrees too cold. Hanging out for hours under the Eiffel Tower is really a warm-weather activity.
- I ate fondue (that included NO CHEESE much to my surprise) at a restaurant that serves wine in glass baby bottles because apparently beverages served in bottles don't get taxed. Besides losing hunks of meat in the pot and the constant threat of serious oil burns, it was incredibly fun and delicious.

- On our way to the beaches at Normandy, we stopped for a break in small village, and that place just happened to be Bayeux, where I stayed with friends in 2011. I never thought I'd be back in that beautiful town, and being able to see the cathedral there again, even from a distance, was pretty great.

Stuff that Happened in Amsterdam
- Rain. A hell of a lot of rain.
- Seriously, I didn't pack a sufficient rain jacket, boots, or an umbrella. .The rain was an issue.
- We were tossed around and sprayed as if we were being fermented while touring the Heineken factory, which was much more fun than it sounds (that I don't think that's saying a lot).
- I had my first Indian food experience over dinner with a few people in what one of my friends described as an, "Indian Restaurant Spaceship" due to the many gilded chairs, intricate decorations, and neon lights.
- I listened to a part of my favorite book set in the Anne Frank house right before touring the actual Anne Frank house and it was one of the most moving experiences of my life.

Stuff that Happened in Berlin
- We stayed in a hotel in what was formerly East Berlin (and the architecture and general morose atmosphere made it was clear it was East Berlin) that didn't have free wi-fi and there were many, many Communism jokes.
- I'm sure I made my former German 4 teacher proud as I told people how to say "Thank you" and "excuse me," and explained how this one weird symbol just means a double-s.
- I became thoroughly uncomfortable watching the American soldiers at Checkpoint Charlie pose and flex dramatically for paid pictures. I don't know if they are real military personnel or just paid actors, but that whole situation they have going on there is too weird and "tourist photo-op" for me.
- We went to some museums and stuff too, obviously. But all that's too heavy to discuss here. We all know how I like to keep it LIGHT.

So Europe's kind of the greatest and my only wish is that getting there was not such a major event. I'm thinking of starting a petition to trade the continent of Europe for Baltimore. I might even throw in Cleveland to sweeten the deal. Think it over, European Union. We all know you don't have anything else going on right now.