2001.06.19, san francisco
it has been over a month since I last wrote, and I am feeling the weight of the unfinished owt series. at the same time, I am glad to have had the opportunity to readjust to home, family, and friends.
let me pick up where I left off. I left the torriani's house in bern early on thursday and travelled via TGV into paris. the trip was fast and comfortable: I love the way european trains make no clickety-clack sounds, and just seem to glide along. from the train station I took the metro to the apartment of some older friends of my parents, who had offered to put me up. another friend, catherine, had stayed with my family when I was young, and she came into town for the evening for an art opening.
after a quick stop at the louvre, we went to the opening. it was interesting, but nothing spectacular: I enjoyed the late-night trip to paris' chinatown much more. this is not really a chinatown like we have in america or throughout asia, but it is well known for having a lot of good chinese and vietnamese restaurants. the pho was really good, and we did a little bit of night time sightseeing on the way home. after hearing some stories of my trip, catherine began to say 'there are some more japanese girls for you, oliver' whenever she saw some pretty girls.
the next day I did a bit of napping and writing, before my living situation sort of melted down. things were a bit more... 'structured' than I was accustomed to after two months travelling. the rule of the household was that I had to speak french only. this was fine and good practice for me, though I was rusty and needed things repeated sometimes. what I did not understand was that were also a large number of unspoken rules, which I only learnt when I broke them. there was a big misunderstanding happened when I asked if I could have my host's local dial-in information so I could connect to the internet from my laptop: I was just short of accused of trying to steal secrets. later I was accused of having been on drugs.
I decided to go out for some more sightseeing, and then decided not to go home that evening. I got in touch with a friend, damien, and we hopped between restaurants and bars until the sun came up. I got some nice dawn photos, and had a great time marred only by an over-insistent guy who did not want to believe that I am not gay. in one irish bar, I met brijean langan: she is the first langan I've met that I am not somehow related to.
the night that I was there, nantes won the french championship: the town went crazy! I don't think san franciscans go crazy for sports like this: it was like a spontaneous yellow and green halloween.
the following day we drove out to the coast. we were too far south to be in bretagne proper, but some of the village names were written in the local dialect which seems so close to welsh. we ate at a great crepery in an old stone inn. in general, the food in france was excellent.
heading back into paris, I decided to cut my time in france short and head to london: my friend mike was there for work, and I felt it would be more fun to be travelling with a companion. I dropped all of my stuff off at the gare du nord left luggage station and took a quick shower in the 'mcclean' there, then went to meet up with damien for another evening of carousing.
before my train left the next day, I was able to meet up with my friend flavien. he and his wife and children had just come back from their own world tour, and it was great to compare notes. I also felt like I had finally gotten comfortable speaking french again, and our conversation shifted comfortably from language to language without much effort. flavien helped me call to re-confirm my airline tickets: I had pushed back my return flight from london to san francisco by one week, or so I had thought. when I had called from switzerland the week before, the guy on the phone at KLM told me it was no problem, that it was possible with my ticket, and took my credit card info for the £30 difference. however calling in france and then to the head office in amsterdam, there was no record of the change in the computer. I had nothing to prove I'd spoken to anyone there. worse: I had a use-it-or-lose-it ticket, and was scheduled to leave london at 7:30 the next morning.
2001.07.20, san francisco
oy! it has been a month since I even wrote in my journal, let alone sent something out. this must change!
the eurostar train from paris to london is undoubtedly the fastest I have ever travelled on land. the clouds were streaming by as we travelled through the countryside, and the fields to either side of the train were a green-and-gold blur. a couple of brief conversations gave me the impression that french women are friendlier than english.
mike met me at the train station and helped me lug my now-bulging bags back to his apartment. curry seems to be the national dish of england, or at least london, and after dropping off the bags we went to a nearby indian restaurant. the food and (more shocking) service were excellent: I had pretty much gotten accustomed to being ignored by waiters. afterwards we went in search of a drink, only to be painfully reminded that all the bars close at 11:30.
I had only a few hours in london, and both mike and I were starved for a familiar face. we stayed up late talking and drinking the beers that he had had the foresight to buy. one week later, mike was starting his own european adventure and it sort of felt as though I was passing the baton in a relay race. it was really wonderful to see a friend (especially someone I've known since high school!) and I considered skipping my flight in fovor of another week in london; but I was also anxious to get home and so I got up at 5 after 2 hours of sleep, and made my way to the airport.
the flight from london to amsterdam was too short for sleep. I spent a bleary two hours in the amsterdam airport drinking five pints of beer and thus I remember almost nothing of the flight home. customs was a breeze, and soon I was sitting in the car with my dad and my aunt jane, driving home.
first impressions on returning: it is sunnier than I remember, and colder.
impressions after being home almost two months: the sun was a fluke, and it is still bloody cold.