Thursday, July 19, 2001

07/19/01: Well, as you know by now, I'm back. It is Thursday, we returned on Tuesday night. It was a long and arduous journey. I am easily frustrated when all I want is just to get back, no hassles. Tuesday morning in London, I took the tube to Heathrow airport. However, being unevenly weighed down by bags and such, when the train lurched and I wasn't sitting yet, I fell completely over, in slow motion, three different levels. It was pretty pathetically funny. At the airport, we lounged about in the...lounge. I bought some duty-free goods, the perfume that I've liked for awhile, called, likely enough, Champs-Elysees. Yum. We had to jump through like six steps at the Vancouver airport in order to get to the flight to Seattle, what a giant pain in the ass.

Oh, and Monday was Chicago (the musical) in the West End, just a few blocks up from Trafalgar. We sat in the front row, which made it even more interesting. The show was fantastic! I thoroughly enjoyed it. The two female leads were incredible, and the dancing was great and marvelous. The chorus men were gorgeous and fabulous. No one wore much of anything, which only made me appreciate all the more what incredible shape these people are in. Wow, wow. I love the theatre, I must go to more productions. London is the perfect place, they have theatres coming out their ears, and productions are way numerous.

So now I'm in that anxiously depressing state of remembering that I am now at home again, and things haven't really changed at all. I struggle because I want things to be different, I know that I have definitely changed, but those new bits of understanding don't have much relevance in my current everyday life. So banal. I hate this part. Boo hoo.

Monday, July 16, 2001

Get a load of this. This is a quote from a newspaper in Skye called the Visitor. A direct quote, I am not making it up. Remember that in the UK jumpers is the word for sweaters. And also, pants means underwear and trousers means trousers. Just for fun.

"However, the single-track road and the frustrated local are minor inconveniences compared to the hazard presented by sheep. Let's be clear on this one--they are not to be regarded as cuddly, friendly, woolly jumpers with a magnetic attraction for car bumpers. Treat them as devious, plotting assassins hired by some crooked breakdown merchant to force cars off the road. In short, they are a menace."

07/16/01: Boo hoo, tomorrow we go home. Oh well, I know that it will be a relief to be back again and to have my own bed back. Plus all my clothes and a washer and dryer. That will be good. And I can't wait for some pickles and frozen pizza and other junk food. But the European junk food is so much better than the stuff at home. Like, no chocolate gelato anywhere, and crepes, when available, are way expensive. Boo hoo.

Last night we went to a show called "Art." It was funny. Tonight we are seeing the musical "Chicago." It has been quite awhile since I've seen a musical, I miss the theatre.

Today I wandered around a bit, to the Tower Bridge, through Regent's Park, and then around Oxford Street. Holy cow, the Mecca of the London shopping experience. It was amazing. You should be very proud of me, I have not bought books in almost a week. It's a struggle, I tell you. I just keep reminding myself of the books I already have to carry back, and how darn heavy they get. But I'm gonna get bored! I figure I'll buy a book at Heathrow, for entertainment on the plane. Even though they show three movies in a row on the long flight. That's okay. Books are good.

The other day, I met up with Sara Patterson from last year's Paris group. Hi Sara! We had fun. :) I'll put up that pic when I get it. Oh, and I'm going to scan in all my good photos from this year (hoping that most of them turn out well!) and all my sketches too. It'll take awhile, but I figured I'd let y'all know.

So I'm bored. Don't have anything else to say. I guess this is it. I will add on one more bit after I get home, just to record that.

See you all soon!

Saturday, July 14, 2001

Still the same day, but now I shall bring us up to speed. We got to London yesterday evening. Drove from Skye back to Inverness yesterday morning, and spent some time shopping and looking around. It's a nice town. Got the flight back to Luton, and after the coach dropped us at Victoria we got a black cab to our B&B. It's off our maps, so we're only vaguely aware of where we are.

This morning we just finished seeing the National Gallery. Love that place. Love the van Gogh, Michelangelo and da Vinci. Incredible, wonderful, amazing paintings. Genuises all. Sigh. Planning to visit the British Museum next, I believe, and a show sometime this weekend, perhaps tomorrow or Monday. That will be exciting; even though one of my main objectives of going to London last summer was to see as many shows as I could, I saw nary a one. Too frugal for my own damn good. We are definitely seeing one this time, though, and there's great ones to choose from.

I guess I should go, but I will be in touch now that we are back in a proper city. Sadly, today is Day 32 of our 35. A week from today I will be at home all adjusted and working as if I never left.
07/14/01: Oh la la. It's been a long time. We left Paris nearly a week ago, and had a very long travel day (6am to 11pm) to get to the Isle of Skye, Scotland. Got to take the Eurostar in the Chunnel, that was exciting. At Waterloo Station in London, Sara was unfortunate to be the victim of theft. Her bag, with many possessions and souvenirs, not to mention passport, was taken at some point. It was very sad. However, we had to continue our journey, to Luton airport, and flew to Inverness (which is a great word, with an accent). Rented a car and drove for almost three hours. Drove along Loch Ness for a bit, which was fun. No sightings, though. Saw several ruins of castles along the way. Visited with the Molly and Crispin branch of MacLeod's at their hotel, then continued to our bed and breakfast in Carbost, on a westerly peninsula of Skye. The isle is practically waterlogged, there are streams, lakes, rivers everywhere. Thus it's very green and full of plant life. They've had to begin reforesting in many places, but mostly the countryside is green rolling hills. In the 1800s I think, after they began clearances of the island, they imported sheep. And they are still there, in large numbers. They wander all over the place, pastures and roads alike. Oh, keep in mind we're driving on the left side of the road too, and many are single-track roads with passing places. It was an interesting experience, especially with Mom at the wheel, who is good friends with speedy driving.

So the highlights of those four days, let's see. The first full day we began by visiting Dunvegan Castle, ancestral seat of the Clan MacLeod for many centuries, continuing to this day. The current Clan Chief, John, lives there. The MacLeods were quite the bigwig muckety mucks around there for a long time. Sometime around the 14th century, they acquired the Fairy Flag. According to John's video narration, three things are known about the Fairy Flag. It dates from the 4th to 7th centuries. It is from the East, the Holy Land (Syria?). It wins battles. So it's quite the prized possession of the Clan.

We also visited Portree a couple times, the biggest town of Skye. On the map, everything was listed that we saw on the roads, but most of the 'towns' consisted of a few houses. We're talking seriously small populations here. But it was a lovely place. Oh, and Portree was enjoyable. All the road signs on Skye have both English and Gaelic. Some of those Gaelic names are impossible, but all are beautiful. Portree was Port Righ, and other names were Drynoch and Drumnadrochit. Fabulous.

Also went to Armadale, the estate of the Clan MacDonald. The castle has not been kept up and now is just a few walls. However, it was also much newer than some others, built in 1815. The estate is 20.000 acres! Wow. These Clans remain pretty powerful, if only in property holdings. Armadale is in the south of the island. One day we went up north, all the way round the top peninsula. Visited a town called Uig, and went to Kilmuir for the Skye Museum of Island Life, which was fascinating. Went to the nearby cemetary to see the gravestone monument to Flora MacDonald, who helped save Bonnie Prince Charlie from the English.

Saturday, July 07, 2001

07/07/01: Hey, I found the Paris branch of EasyEverything-yay! I sort of found the one in Rome too, one night walking around. I love this place! Sigh.

So it's the last day here in Paris, as you may have noticed. I am just wandering around looking at things and visiting things for the last time, like Gibert-Jeune, a colossal University Bookstore of Paris, only better, of course. :) And I will go to Champion (the supermarket not the clothes shop) one last time, later today. It feels weird to be leaving already; last year I had so much time and there was absolutely no rush. Hmm.

It has been raining, no, monsooning, the past few nights, along with thunder and lightning. I wish it was a little nicer, it's no fun walking in the rain. Dancing, yes, but walking, nope. Of course I do have an umbrella, but I have forgotten it more often than not.

Oh. Yesterday evening we walked from the Place de la Concorde, past the Madeleine and to the Opera and the big department stores. They're still expensive, even with the fabulous sales. Really nice jewelry and I was very tempted. But alas, too frugal for my own good. Damn. After that we had dinner at the Frog and Princess. At last a real salad.

Friday, July 06, 2001

07/06/01: Last night we realized that we had a lovely view of the Eiffel Tower from our room! That is, it is lovely if one stands on a chair and looks over a big tree. But we can see enough to see the lights and the fun sparkly light show at nighttime. So pretty.

Mom arrived safely this morning. We are all going to go shopping and perhaps to a cemetary or two. The weather here has been questionable, lots of thunder and lightning, and rain.

Tomorrow is Saturday and will be our last full day here in Paris. Sunday morning we leave for Scotland. If we can get our Chunnel tickets, of course. They are in Paris somewhere, we just have to find them, in a matter of speaking. Not like a big game of Scavenger Hunt or something. That would be great fun, though. I should enjoy that. Our time in Paris has gone by surprisingly quickly, considering we haven't done anything of great consequence. But that just makes me all the more determined to return here and stay for as long as I can. Someday. Hopefully sooner rather than later, I'm impatient! Oh. My. God. The men. Italian men have a horrible reputation, so I thought things would be pretty bad there, worse than Paris last year. However, there really wasn't too many problems. Some random icky people saying ciao at you, but hey it could be worse, I hear in the South of Italy they'll grab you. Anyway, so yesterday afternoon I took myself to the Luxembourg Garden, to sit and write postcards and such, because it's quiet and very pretty. So I sat on a chair and began writing. I was there perhaps half an hour, maybe less. And in that time, no less than THREE gross men significantly older than me sat in the chair nearest me and began talking at me out of nowhere. There I sat, alone yes, but clearly occupied, not looking up or around and merely minding MY OWN FREAKIN BUSINESS, and these men took it upon themselves to strike up conversation out of thin air. Not much of a conversation, mind you, all three asked me the same questions. Where are you from? Why are you in Paris? How long have you been here? Do you like it? One asked my name, and I said, huh, no. Then he got a little testy, but hell what do I care. The first two left of their own accord, because yes I answered the questions they all asked but then promptly returned to the postcards, trying to show that I was not interested in talking and that I was otherwise employed. But they pressed on with the stupid questions! I chatted a little better with the third man, who was the oldest, but also the most polite and unrude. However, it had begun to rain so I got up to leave. The man, who I would guess was around sixty or so, asked what I was going to do, if I wanted to get something to drink. Oh, and all of these conversations took place in French, except for some of the middle guy because he was straight harrassing me. And this was creepy, some buddy of his was pacing around behind him as he shot stupid questions at me. Ew! What is up with these people? The interesting thing is that I believe all or most of these men were not actually French. Nor was the Rome guy Italian. All of these men were Arab and/or North African (ie, Caucasian). Last year the men that gave me trouble were all French-speaking African men. Apparently I have stages in which I attract clearly unwanted attention from different sorts of men. EW! Do I look that stupid, naive and gullible? I do my best not to smile at people to not give them mixed messages but they forge ahead anyway.

Okay. Trying to calm down. Breathe.

I still love Paris and I still want to live here. I love just walking around and seeing whatever is there to see. I like to shop here, especially with all the sales. I love the beauty of the city, with the buildings, churches, old stone streets, tree-lined boulevards, produce stands and lovely bakeries/pastry shops on every corner. What's not to love?

Thursday, July 05, 2001

07/05/01: Well so much for that. Tuesday, our plans did not go according to plan. The Louvre is closed on Tuesdays, which we should have had the sense to look up. We thought maybe we'd go see the Musee D'Orsay instead, but there was a huge line, so skipped that too. Decided not to go to Versailles yesterday.

It is Thursday now. Wednesday we did go to the Louvre. And I went shopping and got a cute new outfit if I ever decide to go out in the evening. Went to the Champs-Elysees just in time for a typical Parisian downpour, then went shopping and saw another movie. Tuesday night Sara and I saw Tomb Raider, and last night all three of us saw Return of the Mummy. Stacey, you were right, it was incredibly silly and implausible. But oh well. :) Today Maureen and Sara braved Versailles, and I met up with Kathleen from last year and her friend Marlow. We have walked around several districts, and though the gelato place was sadly not open, we did find some heavenly fruit sorbet. Tasty.

Oh, and the other day we went to Champion, the supermarket. I got lots of yummy food, and notably a melon. I was all excited to have melon again, and the next morning I cut it with a plastic knife, only to discover it was a plain old cantaloupe! I was terribly disappointed. Boo hoo.

Can't stay, gotta run. The girls are waiting for me. Mom arrives tomorrow morning!

Tuesday, July 03, 2001

07/03/01: Well here it is the first full day in Paris! Got a chocolate eclair this morning, you remember how I love those! And I'll get cookies and other goodies later at the store.

We went to Notre Dame this morning, not as early as planned but still pretty early. Apparently many things don't open before 10 am. Sadly, the towers are closed for two weeks starting yesterday! They're building a protective corridor or something, so no tower tour for us. Boohoo. But in any case, Notre Dame is magnificent. And ever cleaner. We are now at an internet cafe which has, wonder of wonders, american keyboards! Hallelujah! Gotta love that.

So let's see, it's still just the morning. We are planning a stop at the Louvre, and at Les Halles for some shopping. As some of you may remember, the entire city of Paris is ON SALE from the end of June to the middle of July. I'm all ready to spend some money! Tomorrow morning we will go to Versailles and get that 'out of the way,' so to speak. Other than that, we don't have too much planned just yet. I definitely want to go back to the Frog and Princess, but we may wait til Mum gets here on Friday so she can see it too. And then I can finally get a real salad. Yesterday we went out to dinner but all I had was a plate of frites, which, frankly, are getting rather boring. Time for some new food. Well, not really, but you know. I think I for one will be going to the Place des Vosges tomorrow, which I can't wait for. Also, we will attempt to secure free ice cream at the Champs-Elysees Ben and Jerry's store. We heard a rumor of this phenomenon last summer, so we're hoping it's still true. Plus maybe we'll see an American movie again too. There's a lot over here, Valentine is just coming out, and Tomb Raider, and even Crouching Tiger (which, obviously, is not american but whatever). I love seeing movies in English and reading the French subtitles. It's so educational! and fun!

Man, somehow this has gotten boring, hasn't it? And I promised everyone a better one than last year and now it's starting to be crap. I'm terribly sorry! I'll do what I can, but I have such a limited imagination, it's difficult to think outside the box.

Here's something interesting. On Sunday, in Venice, I just sat around various places reading, and of course there are pigeons absolutely everywhere. I was absently watching them bob around and all that, when I noticed that one of them was missing a foot! It was a one-footed pigeon! I never saw one of those before, nor did I imagine there were any. I found myself wondering about the life story of this little bird, and how it felt about not being a normal pigeon. Do you think the others disowned him, and he has to fend for himself, with his one foot and really short legs?

Monday, July 02, 2001

07/02/01: Yahoo, welcome to Paris. The exclamation point button does not work, or I would use it. Back to the joys of the french keyboard.

Last night I took the overnight train from Venice to Paris. I actually slept pretty well, and my body kept feeling as if in a train for an extra two hours, too. Interesting. So I got to the hotel at 9,30 and Maureen and Sara got here at noon. I led them on a short walk, and then we went to the ever-fabulous Gibert-Jeune and got stationery stuff, yay. I love new pens. Then I showed them Shakespeare and Co, and gawked at Notre Dame-so clean it practically sparkles-it is gorgeous. The other two are currently napping; jet lag sucks.

It`s so strange to be here again-I don`t feel like I never left, but I feel so at ease and comfortable. I keep forgetting I`m here and out of Italy. I also forget that we have a long time-nearly a week. No rush, there`s plenty of time for everything. Also strange to be not a lone traveler once more. I`ve had three distinctly different experiences so far: with mum in a tour group in greece, alone in italy, and now with relative-people in Paris. I do enjoy the independence of solitude, one has to constantly prove one`s mettle. I feel very proud for getting around Italy and doing so well, on my own. So we`ll see how I adapt. I think I move a lot faster than most people when traveling; this may be an issue.

Excited to get to a grocery store after all this time away to have my favorites--fresh bread; crepes; melon, etc. And you all get to hear about it again--bwa ha ha....