The End

I’ve been putting off this post since forever. Or at least since I got back. I want to synthesize all the experiences and feel ready for it to be over and feel totally settled in my life back in the US. But you know what? Life doesn’t work quite like that. Though the semester has started, and with it, good things and bad, a new place to live, revisiting an old city of mine, old friends, old places, it feels new and like a return at the same time.

I did so much in Europe, and now that I’m back, I’m not going to say that I feel like a whole new person, but I do feel like I’ve entered a new part of my life. In which I’m more of an adult, a little more confident, a little more sure of what I want. An emphasis on “a little” but still, it makes a difference. I understand more about how I want to be treated, what kinds of people I want to meet, and what kinds of people I can laugh about and not take too seriously. I learned a hell of a lot about people on this trip.

And also about places. I’ll never watch a movie set in Paris or Rome or wherever and not look for the places I’ve been. How it feels to walk on the street alone in London and how it’s different from Copenhagen or Barcelona. How I love cities but I love countries too. The crisp air in Bath, the dampness of the Czech mountains and caves, and riding my bike in the driving rain or wind or sun or dark in Fredensborg. And I’ll try my best to cherish it all.

And before I do a photomontage, I just wanted to thank my loyal readers and my drop-by-once-in-a-while readers. This blog made me feel really good about my writing, made me want to put off this last post. Which is why soon enough I’ll be starting another blog. Because Wanderlust was only ever going to be my abroad journal, for me and for you. Here’s a little map of where my readers come from– this map makes me happy. Thanks to my abroad friends for helping this map be a little more colorful. And thanks also to the abroad strangers who did the same thing. And thanks to my non-abroad friends and family for making the US such a standout.

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START THE PHOTO MONTAGE: The best of Wanderlust! (stay tuned, there’s a little something at the end)

IMG_1989Grafton, MA, USA

IMG_2211Humlebaek, Denmark

IMG_2532Odense, Denmark

IMG_2742Fredensborg, Denmark

IMG_2755Ugerloese, Denmark

IMG_3259Rome, Italy

IMG_3284Barcelona, Spain

IMG_3375Barcelona, Spain

IMG_3783Wiltshire, England

IMG_4252Cesky Raj, Czech Republic

IMG_4430Hilleroed, Denmark

IMG_4537Fredensborg, Denmark

IMG_4628Fredensborg, Denmark

IMG_4653Berlin, Germany

IMG_4796Berlin, Germany

IMG_4842Essen, Germany

IMG_4909Dortmund, Germany

IMG_4914Paris, France

IMG_5234Paris, France

Thank you to everyone I met, everyone I re-met, everyone who gave me a chance or taught me something or extended a hand or supported me. Thanks to people who smiled, who were concerned, who were patient, who played cards, who shared a beer or a laugh, who asked me for directions or who gave me directions or who showed me something wonderful. Thank you to people who ate the food I made, who made food for me, or who shared their company over a meal or who shared their company on a train or plane or platform or waiting room or airport terminal or theatre or their home. Thank you to the people who shared their children, their parents, their brothers and sisters and their grandchildren and grandparents or their friends. Thank you to the people who I visited, the people who I’ll revisit, the people who will come visit me, and to the people who I met who I’ll never meet again.

It was one hell of a ride. Thank you.

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Paris: Sacre Coeur, Moulin Rouge, Picasso, et moi.

Paris. It was a long time ago now. Even though I got back just over a week ago, so much has happened. But let’s leave that for another post. It’s PARIS TIME. C’EST LE TEMPS DE PARIS. (Oui, je parle un peu français.)

So Paris began with an overnight bus trip from Dortmund, which wasn’t nearly as horrific as I’d expected. Sleep didn’t really happen, but it meant that I arrived at my hostel at 6am. A little too early to go sightseeing and WAY too early to check in. Day one I spent all by myself, mostly wandering. I went to Sacre Coeur, a beautiful (but not Europe’s most beautiful) cathedral, which was delightfully close to my hostel. Wandering down a lot of streets full of semi-sketchy formal-wear boutiques (it was weird), I ended up feeling overwhelmed and hungry in Le Galleries Lafayette, which is a big big big department store. I even cracked and went to a Starbucks in the store (my first American chain restaurant since going to Europe).

The view from my hostel room!

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The rest of the day was a bit of a blur. I had hoped to meet up with my friend Nancy but it’s hard to meet up with people when you’re just kind of hoping to run into them. So I saw La Place de la Concord, the jardin du Tuilieres (a big garden in front of the Louvre), walked along the Seine, saw Notre Dame, bought a book at Shakespeare and Company, and went to the Pompidou Center. It ended up being about 11 hours of walking with few breaks.

Sacre Coeur before climbing the stairs

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The view from the top– the highest point in the city is Sacre Coeur

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Dome at the Lafayette Galleries

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Tapestry at the Pompidou Center

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Robert and Sonia Delaunay pieces

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Start day 2. Taking it slow in the morning, I met up with Nancy and Deena at the start of a free walking tour (can’t speak highly enough of New Europe free walking tours), and we went on a long walk with a lot of other tourists, then sat and had a long lunch, before meeting up with the tour guide again and doing a walking tour of Montmartre, the trendy, arty neighborhood which is home to Sacre Coeur, Moulin Rouge, Picasso, et moi (it’s where my hostel was). Deena and I got a nice dinner in the artist’s square (a really cool square full of portraitists) and I went to bed.

Le Louvre est mon chapeau.

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Le lock bridge

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Nicole Kidman’s place of work

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Picasso’s apartment (above “The Laundry Boat”)

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Jour trois. I took another stroll through Montmartre in the daylight before heading into the city, the LONG way, stopping along the way to eat my apple watching old men do tai chi in a park, and and another to eat the best pain au chocolat the world has ever known (fresh and still warm). Then I saw the Arc de Triomphe, walked some more down back roads, and came upon the Eiffel Tower. It’s still way too surreal, but there was a lot of ear-to-ear smiling. Nancy and Deena and I had planned to meet at a McCafe near the Louvre before going, but we missed each other and none of us got to go to the museum. So we met up for dinner and then climbed the stairs up the Arc de Triomphe! It was a great view of Paris without the lines that the Eiffel Tower had. We walked down the Christmas market on the Champs d’Elysees, which was great and we had potato pancakes (when in France?)

It’s a little smaller than a typical Parisian lamppost.

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Is it just me, or is it a little crooked?

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Champs D’Elysees lit up like a French flag

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Day four, clearly time is getting away from us– it’s the last day of 2013! We met up in the morning south of the downtown part of the city, and waited in what we thought would be an hour long line for the Catacombs. The day crawled by as it rained and we waited for QUATRE HEURES, and I still managed to get a pretty substantial sunburn. Then we got into the tunnels under the city full of millions of human skeletons which was mad creepy but definitely really cool (except for the fact it was about 70 and humid down there).

Flash photography was forbidden.

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Then Nancy left to try to go to Hotel d’Invalides, and Deena and I walked to the Jardins du Luxembourg (SO PREETTTYY) which quickly became one of my favorite spots in the city. It had statues of ONLY women– French queens and influential French women (sadly not Eleanor of Aquitaine though). Tres cool. We walked through the Latin Quarter and met up with Nancy, and ate some foodstuffs served by a really rude French lady (when in France!) and walked over to the Eiffel Tower, where crowds had begun to gather– there are no official fireworks in Paris, but the Eiffel Tower sparkles on the hour every hour in the winter , so this night was no different. We did a lot of posing as Nancy struggled with some nasty food poisoning. At midnight, we shared a group hug at the base of the Eiffel Tower while eating Nutella-drizzled churros. It was quite the night.

#SparkleTime

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In the morning, I went back to the Luxembourg Gardens, did some reading and drank some expensive hot chocolate. We met up a final time in the afternoon and ate some tasty tasty crepes (mine was egg and cheese :)), walked around the Montmartre Christmas markets, then we- went to the metro Trocadero stop to go to the Christmas markets over there (last day!), I bought some final souvenirs before we said goodbye.

I was over it.

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In the morning I said goodbye to Paris as I headed to Orly airport, after which I went to London, and because British Airways wasn’t flying to Boston because of the storm, I was rerouted to Montreal, where I spent the night trying to to adjust to the time zone and relishing being an adult (first time in a hotel by myself). My flight wasn’t until the evening, so I sat around, packed again, and hung out at the crowded airport (everyone trying to get home). I luckily hopped on an earlier flight, and before I knew it, I was back in America.

So there’s good news and bad news. They’re the same. My adventure has come to an end, and this marks my second to last post. See you soon.