Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Till Next Time

Who thinks 7 weeks is a long time? For me, it felt like I blinked and it was all over. My last few days in Europe visiting Travis went by so quickly, and it felt like I was completely ambushed by the fact that it was all over. I left London on Tuesday, and so now I am back in Atlanta, heading back to Athens in the morning. It is hard to comprehend that I am here, that now I actually have to find a job and that I have the daunting task of deciding where I can live when my lease ends in 25 days. No place to live, no job, and having a deep desire to go back to Europe- not the greatest combination.Besides all of these emotions and tasks that are being put in front of me at the moment, I learned so much while abroad. It has been an amazing experience for me, and one that has truly changed my perspective on life and how I should approach it. One of the greatest lessons I learned is that you should not put yourself into a situation where you will struggle. That doesn't mean to not take chances. The point I am making is that you need to enjoy the actual life that is put in front of you. Not the one on the TV screen or in front of the computer. Get out, do things, meet people, and soak in every moment you can. Take the time to learn about others, different cultures, and what you want for yourself. I know that I may be getting a little deep, but I really found out that I was being lazy with my life and not exposing myself to what personally affects me. I am completely guilty of sitting around my apartment all day. If I should sit anywhere, go to a park, read, and people watch. It is amazing how sitting out in the sun and grass can brighten your day and relax you in whole.
I did exactly that the Friday I got to London. Travis was at work, so after a failed attempt to find the park nearby, I sat along the Thames River while the tide was low. I sat out there for hours, with the breeze blowing and boats lined up against the bank. It was one of the most relaxing times I had. I didn't have to think or stress about my day, but just enjoy the place I was in. When Travis got back later that day, he cooked tuna filets for us and we listened to each others music choices all night. It was a great night in. We were planning on going to Windsor palace in the morning, so we didn't want to get too crazy. We headed out Saturday in the late morning. After a train ride, we started walking around the castle and grabbed some pictures. The entry to get into the Palace was pretty steep, so we decided to walk around the town and see what it offered. This included me finding a book store where I was directed to the children's section so I could buy the last 2 books of the Hunger Games trilogy. We ate at this great restaurant on the river, having calamari with fish and chips, and a few beers, before heading back to Putney. That night was my London club experience. We were out dancing till probably 4 am, and I was having such a great time! The dance and clothing choices were completely different for me, but the drunk girls around me got on my nerves just the same as any other place. Most of them cleared out earlier though, thank goodness. But they weren't even close to spoiling my night.

You know how I talked about learning to relax and just enjoy? Sunday was just that, and I guess so was Monday. Sunday we grabbed some food and took the Vespa to Richmond Park for a picnic and lazy Sunday. We found the perfect tree half way up a hill next to the horse trail and spent all day "resting our eyes", eating, and talking. I also kept gawking over all of the dogs that would walk by, especially the huge yellow lab with a tennis ball. That night we watched movies on his computer, including "The Prestige" and part of "Into the Wild". Monday I again was left to find entertainment for myself, and I did by finding the park I had previously missed in the area. I read most of the book "Into the Wild", which helped me understand the movie so much better when we finished watching it that night. It was hard knowing that in the morning I would be leaving, and no 8 hour bus ride was going to be able to bring me back easily. Coming back to London would involve a whole lot more.

A long day of travel was not made any easier by saying our goodbyes and knowing that I was leaving Europe, which I had somewhat considered my home for almost a full two months. The tasks ahead of me will be great, but I know everything will work in the way it is supposed to. I just hope that what I want now will be available to me in the future. Europe was nothing short of amazing, and I encourage anyone still reading this to take advantage of every travel opportunity they can. I hope that I will be able to write about more experiences like this one in the future, but for now I think this is a chapter at its end.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Au Revoir for now Paris

I am now writing to you from London. It is official. I have left Paris, and I have no where to go back to if wanted to return at the moment. It is a strange feeling, considering it was my home for the past 6 weeks. My final two days in Paris were spent touring a little more of the city with Taylor, doing errands to get ready for my leave, and walking everywhere to just soak in the enormity of where I was and where I had lived.

Tuesday was somewhat of a tourist fail on my part. Taylor and I got to the Arts et Metiers, which houses many old inventions in communication, transportation, etc... We saw some neat things like one of the first Apple computers, printing presses, and so on, but it turned out to be quite boring for both of our tastes. Taylor had seen it before, and although inventions are neat, the museum was hard to connect with since everything was in French and there was really no story I could follow behind the different objects. I think that I could grasp what great feats these objects were, I would have appreciated the museum much more. One thing that was neat was seeing the statue of liberty inside and outside the museum. It is such an American icon, that people forget the French were the ones who gifted it to the United States.

With the first attempt at fun for the day not panning out, we headed to Centre Georges Pompidou to visit the Musee National d'Art Moderne. This turned out to be the second problem of the day- it is closed on Tuesdays! After another wave of frustration, we both got a Gyro baguette with fries on it in St.Michel, ate in a park, and did a little bit of shopping before the rain began. It was later in the day, and I needed to head back to get ready for dinner and discussion at Dr.Cooney's apartment as a final class lecture alternative.

The 5 of us arrived in the small apartment area, with an elevator that could only fit 2 (which Wyatt and I took) and the most spectacular view of the Eiffel tower! Dr. and Mrs. Cooney were located on the 5th floor, and their balcony had a straight on view of the tower with terra cotta roofs and pipes atop classic parisian housing architecture sitting in the foreground. After a few glasses of wine, quiche, melon and prosciutto, brie, baguettes, and much more, we were all having great conversation and sharing some of our memories of Paris and future plans. For me, I can never answer the second part. I have no job, no place to live, and no idea of what I am doing when I get back to Atlanta. My life is completely up in the air right now, but I am excited to figure it all out and start living the post-grad lifestyle. We all said our goodbyes and headed out after hearing thunder rumbling outside. On our walk home it started to rain. Just a light, cool rain that soak us enough to not be uncomfortable, but actually a relief from the high heat Paris had been experiencing. Walking home in the rain in Paris was amazing. I didn't care about getting wet, or that people around me were dodging the bullets from above. It was beautiful and a perfect ending to my day.

Wednesday was my last full day in Paris. I met Taylor for lunch and got a Croque Madame, then headed off to do errands. It included buying things from Harley Davidson, a street vendor by Notre Dame, and something else at a Vintage store. I can't say what all I bought yet since they are presents for people back home. One final trip was planned for our group, and it was a boat ride on the Seine. We loaded up and headed out. We got to see all of the views of Paris that were along the river from a completely different perspective. I was so tired by the end of it though, and I still had all of my packing to do for leaving and my trip to London the next day. After about 4 hours, laundry loads, and some expert clothes shoving, I managed to fit 5 bottles of wine, 3 coffee mugs, 2 suitcases of clothes, multiple books, all of my electronics, and a good amount of shoes in 2 suitcases, a carry on, and a bookbag. What a feat!

Everyone left the next day. It was bitter sweet. Everyone was ready for it, but no one wanted to leave the little family we had formed. Jason and I were planning on taking a taxi to Galienni where the eurolines bus to London was, but poor planning ahead lead us to taking the metro across town to get there in under an hour. It was practically impossible, but somehow we made it. Getting onto the first metro, I actually got stuck in the doors as they were shutting, having one bag on, one bag off, and my body wedged between the two closing doors. It was so scary, but I managed to pry the doors open and throw my second bag on. Switching trains proved to be a whole other disaster. The metro has NO elevators or escalators, and I was dragging bags up and down who knows how many stairs, sprinting through the hallways, and having strangers help me since they saw I was struggling. We somehow made it with a minute to go before 12, our departure time.

After 8 hours and still not knowing how we got on the bus, we made it to London Victoria station. I met with Travis there, and again had a problem getting bags up and down stairs while taking the tube to his home. He wouldn't let me carry them, and I felt so bad since they were about 50 pounds a piece. But, he did it, and after a shower that made me feel like a new person, we ate at a great burger place GBK. I got the Jamaican and he got the Kiwi burger, which was loaded with pineapple, beets, and an egg. I had never seen anything like that! My burger was so good too, and very different from the completely carb based diet I had been on in Paris. Coat and Badge, a pub in Putney, was our last stop of the night. I ordered a Pimm's cup, which was a great cocktail that was semi mojito/fruity/Caipiroska in style, but a perfect summer drink.

So, I have all day in London by myself. I think I am going to head to a nearby park in shorts and a tank with my current book "The Season of Lillian Dawes", and soak in some of the sunny day. I still have no idea where the past 6 weeks have gone, and I hope the next few days in London fail to fly by so quickly.