Adios Europa

The least stressful way for us to get from Toulon to Barcelona was to take a train to Montpellier and spend the night so that we could catch the early train to Barcelona. Since our train to Montpellier left around lunchtime, I thought I would go to the store, pick up some goodies, and we could eat on the train. Unfortunately, after Adam had specifically asked not to be put in a compartment, we found ourselves seated across from two older ladies in…a compartment. It is rather uncomfortable to sit directly across from someone you don’t know for three hours. Inevitably your eyes will wander over to that person and she will catch you looking at her and you will have to pretend that your eyes were simply on the way to another nearby destination. Eating is uncomfortable since the compartment is deathly silent and every crunch from a cracker echoes loudly throughout the cramped space. Accidental games of footsie are common. Continue reading “Adios Europa”

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The French Riviera on a Budget

Sitting in our apartment in Florence, we were desperately trying to figure out where we were going to go next. We only had another hour of internet and we hadn’t the faintest idea. Venice? Still a little on the pricey side. Turin? What does one do in Turin? Genoa? Ditto. Milan? I don’t think so. Monaco? Cannes? Riiiight. Nice? Still a bit pricey. Fine. Let’s just go to Toulon. I don’t know why, let’s just do it. Continue reading “The French Riviera on a Budget”

From Jesus to Gelato

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Since I had just read a book on the Medici family, I was especially thrilled to visit Florence again. It’s always more interesting to visit a city when you know some quirky little intricacies that you can impress people with. And unless there is something seriously wrong with you, you have to love Florence. Each time I visit this gem of a city my love for it escalates. If you have even the slightest interest in the arts, Florence oozes culture from every side street and piazza. You can’t help but feel the presence of past greatness from the minute you arrive. And if you have the time (and some money), you can see more great works of art in Florence than you can probably handle at once. (In fact, one should be careful of contracting Stendhal Syndrome which according to Wikipedia is “a psychosomatic illness that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, confusion, and even hallucinations when an individual is exposed to art, usually when the art is particularly beautiful or a large amount of art is in a single place.”) I believe I’ve had something akin to this feeling in the Vatican. If I see one more painting of Jesus… Continue reading “From Jesus to Gelato”

Is This Where They Make the Little Hot Dogs in a Can?

It’s a chilly gray Saturday afternoon and I am standing at the window of our apartment in the center of Vienna, sipping apple-cinnamon tea and gazing out at the ornate old buildings across the way. Ahh. This is the life. There are lots of things to see in Vienna, but at the moment this is all I want to look at. What’s that? Why aren’t we in Turkey? Oh, right. We were supposed to pop over there after our stint in Romania. Well, the simple answer is that we were tired of being unsure and confused. As much as I loved Romania, I have never felt so ill at ease when I came to getting from place to place. It was isolating. We imagined that Turkey was not going to be better and perhaps it would be even worse. Besides that there were some other factors that came into play. First, we weren’t really going to be able to do anything in Turkey that we originally wanted to do. Adam had wanted to go to Ephesus and Cappadocia and I had wanted to spend some time exploring the rest of the west coast. But due to time and money constraints, the only thing we could do was go to Istanbul for a few days and then head all the way back through Greece and over the sea to Italy. We had no idea how we would do this or how long it would take. So instead we took the night train from Bucharest to Vienna and didn’t look back. Continue reading “Is This Where They Make the Little Hot Dogs in a Can?”

Romania: It’s Not Just for Vampires Anymore

It’s been quite some time since I have posted, but I just can’t quite get my feelings for Romania to come out right. My feelings for this enigmatic country are so complex that apparently even I can’t tease them out. But the show must go on…

I’ll start by saying that, not surprisingly, Transylvania is not like the stereotypical Transylvania of horror movies. First, it was sunny rather than pouring rain. Secondly, most places you encounter are cities and towns, not solitary castles on hills inhabited by mad scientists. And despite the fact that we were there on Halloween, we didn’t do anything special. Transylvania doesn’t rise up and collectively celebrate October 31st. I hate to shatter any illusions, but I think anyone would find that Romania is still worth visiting even if there are no regular vampire or werewolf sightings. Continue reading “Romania: It’s Not Just for Vampires Anymore”

Hungary Like the Wolf

I woke up confused in Hungary. What time was it? What day was it? What the hell country was I in? I finally pieced it together. I was in Budapest. As far as the time, that was another matter. We weren’t aware that daylight savings had taken place, so the watch said one thing, the computer another and the clocks in the hotel did not agree. It’s a good thing that we didn’t have a train to catch, only time to kill before we could check into our apartment. Continue reading “Hungary Like the Wolf”

The Weird Foreign Girl

Today as I was walking along the side of the road hauling a large plastic bag full of garbage, I realized as one person after another gawked at me from their passing cars, that I have become the foreign girl who carries weird things.  I’ve never really thought twice about carrying situationally  abnormal objects around.  I’ve worked for a long time in an environment where people can carry around just about anything and not attract much attention.  At a high school, people carry weird stuff all of the time—paper mache donkey heads, DNA models made of gummy bears, bags of flour dressed as babies—and nobody bats an eye.  But in another country where people will stare at you just because you are a foreigner, it doesn’t help to draw more attention to oneself by carrying a garbage bag or several rolls of toilet paper or a giant box of frozen pretzels down the street. But I also realized that I don’t really care if people stare at me.  Yes, I may be walking down the street at five in the morning wearing a backpack as big as me and a headlamp, but so what?  Continue reading “The Weird Foreign Girl”

A Love/Hate Relationship

After a closer inspection of our Eurail tickets two weeks into our train travel,  Adam noticed that for some reason we had first class train tickets, not the second class ones that we had paid for.  We were immediately seized with elation and regret.  What the hell have we been doing sitting in second class?  We also realized with a slight pang that our overnight ordeal in Paris could have been avoided had we known that we were able to purchase first class tickets.  But as Hemingway said, (and this will be the only time you will ever see me quote Hemingway), ˝Paris was always worth it.˝ Continue reading “A Love/Hate Relationship”

But I want an Oompa Loompa Now

We had about 7 hours to kill at the Hamburg train station.  Ordinarily this would be fine—Hamburg looked like a beautiful city to stroll around.  However, it just happened to be pouring rain the entire time, so we had to look to the Hamburg train station to keep us amused.

We had run out of toothpaste in Denmark and since we didn’t want to pay $20 for a new tube, we squeezed the very last drop out of the tube that we had so that we could make our purchase in Germany.  We also badly needed some shoe deodorizer which will come into the story later.  We made our purchases, got something to eat, and then had about 6 ½ hours still to go.  Continue reading “But I want an Oompa Loompa Now”