It’s 11PM in Seattle. I’ve been up since about 6:30, having gotten about five or six hours sleep last night, after being up for 26 hours the day before as we made our way from Munich to London, London to Chicago and finally Chicago to Seattle. It was an awesome, wonderful trip, although it is so nice to be home to enjoy this month of holiday festivities.London was a bit quick – we were only there for three nights, and we spent much of that time seeing my friends. It was fantastic (as always) to spend time with Kate and Richard, and to get to have a bar night with my LSE friends. People are doing really interesting things – working in a jobs that they may or may not have seen themselves working when they were at University. Even though there are occasional Facebook status updates, chats, or even the occasional transatlantic phone call, it’s just so much better to have real conversations in person. Austin and I spent time strolling the city, but we didn’t do many tourist-type activities. The trip was too short though, but I know we’ll be back.. As long as I have friends living there, I’ll visit as much as I can. It’s rough that it’s so far away though, especially now that I’m in Seattle as opposed to NYC. After London we took the Eurostar down to Paris and stayed in the second arrondissement. The hotel was mostly great – when we couldn’t sleep because of noise from a bar (not the hotel’s), they moved us to a nicer room a few floors up. We did a lot of walking (a LOT of walking), so it was great to be able to come back to the hotel and relax in a good room before heading out again in the evening,
It was lovely to have a big chunk of time in Paris; we were there for six full days and nights. That meant that we didn’t have to shove a bunch of things into a day, and could enjoy the city and go on adventures. We went to the Musee D’Orsay one day, the Louvre another. We took our time, enjoying long meals and for the most part not racing around. Other than some pretty standard travel-related stress, it was such a relaxing time. And the city is just so gorgeous, that even when I found myself fretting over travel plans or concerned about why my credit card didn’t work somewhere, I was able to just look around and enjoy the scenery. Plus, the fact that I was there with Austin made it that much more fun. The food in Paris was great, as expected. Most evenings we’d stay pretty close to the hotel, as there were tons of options available. I was excited to be able to have champagne at every meal; Austin sampled many different red wines throughout the week. I tried macaroons where I could, and thoroughly enjoyed the Laduree ones, which are alleged to be the best in Paris. The lemon ones there are amazing, and I would eat oh so many more if I could get ones like that here in Seattle. I was able to enjoy a few baguettes with ham and cheese, which just taste better over there. But with all the walking we did every day, I rationalized that I needed the fuel. One of the coolest things we did on the trip – or anywhere else, frankly – was a private tour at Moet Chandon in Eperney, about 90 minutes outside of Paris. They make Dom Perignon champagne, and we were able to get the private tour thanks to someone Austin knows. I learned so much about how champagne is made (did you know there’s a group that decides what percentage of the grapes in the region can be harvested each year, to ensure low supply?), and saw tons of bottles in various stages of the aging process. Afterwords we got a private tasting of the 2002 vintage. Oh man, was it good. So, so good. We made sure we had plenty of down time, and during that time one thing I did notice was how much I value good information. We would watch one of the three or four English-language channels on TV and Al Jazeera English’s news coverage was consistently excellent. During the ridiculous raid of the Occupy Wall Street camps (Bloomberg, what were you thinking?) Al Jazeera had regular updates and video footage; it was hours before CNN International even picked up the story. Stories on other stations were also so much more in-depth than what I feel I see here. It’s unfortunate, but will at the very least get me watching Al Jazeera English online regularly when I’m interested in getting more about a story. After our week in Paris we took an overnight train to Germany. That was an adventure for sure. The cabins on the trains are fascinating from an engineering and design perspective – two bunks (a third can be pulled down if needed), the bottom of which converts in to seats. A tabletop stored on the wall that you pull off and attach to a couple of recessed spaces on the wall. A corner unit with doors that open up to a mirror, sink, and towels. A lock and key so you can leave to use the restroom (or the shower!). Neither of us slept well at all, but it was such a fun experience. Travel and hotel all in one! We arrived in Munich super early, but luckily our hotel room was ready! After a nap we explored the town. I’d visited with choir the summer after high school but could really only remember bits and pieces. The highlight was the Deutches museum, which is basically is a massive science, industry and engineering museum. It was fantastic – we spent four hours there and if we hadn’t been tired could probably spent a couple more. We also went (twice) to the Hofbrauhaus, and I discovered I could actually enjoy sausages and sauerkraut. Because the holidays are near, the Munich Christmas markets were just getting started, which was a nice bonus for someone like me. Plus it meant we could get such traditional Bavarian fare as … burritos. As an fYI, German burritos, not so bad, actually! Overall the trip was wonderful and left me relaxed and happy. It was a long time to be away from home and work, but I think it was just the right length – we were ready to come home but not dying to leave, and not sad about leaving either. I had a wonderful time and feel so fortunate to be able to do these types of things, especially with someone as easy to travel with as Austin.
I am, however, happy to not be going to an airport again for a month.