Saturday, October 17, 2009

Paris...and after

It's been a year since my last blog. I don't know why I bother coming back, to be honest. Perhaps it's that indomitable (some would call it stubborn) human nature to see a task through to the end. That said, this was never supposed to be a task...enough about that though. Onto the task at hand :)

After Rome I went to Paris for a week. It was initially meant to be more than just Paris, to include Nice or Marseilles as well. Unfortunately my plans snafued. So I caught a train from Milan through Switzerland (where I spent a pleasant afternoon in quaint Bern), and on to Lyons, birthplace of the French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery. He is best known as the author of Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince), a fellow traveler. I was there for only one night though, before heading on Paris.

Le Louvre

I had been looking forward to Paris maybe more than any other stop on my trip; for almost as long as I could remember I'd wanted to visit it, and this was finally it, my opportunity. A friend of mine, Sophie, had very generously offered to put me up at her apartment for the week I was going to be there, and it proved to be a godsend, as my money was fast drying up.  What a great week though! Paris entirely lived up to my expectations. To see and visit all these icons of culture and history that I had read about and only seen in books and postcards for years! To finally climb the Eiffel Tower, marvel at Notre Dame, meander the halls of the Louvre, and wander the hills of Montmartre was without doubt among the highlights of the summer.

Sophie was quite amused at my passion for cafe au lait and croissants; she took this photo of me unawares

I wish I could talk more about the spirit of the time there, or any of the rest of my summer for that matter, but it has been a year, and all that remain are the events, the sights I saw. So I'll have to leave Paris at that.

After Paris I took a train to Calais, where I caught the ferry to Dover, and proceeded on to London. I had a good day there, visiting the British Museum, which is well worth the visit! Not only is it free, but it has a wonderful and really well laid-out collection of artifacts (many plundered...) and resources as well, like free guided tours for each section of the museum. Highly recommended.

Finally the last leg of my trip had arrived. I hopped on a train to Edinburgh which I am a bit embarrassed to say I had never visited, despite claiming half Scottish blood! I spent the better part of the morning looking around it, before reboarding the train for the trip to Dingwall.

                                                                                        A view over Dingwall and the Cromarty Firth
I don't feel at home anywhere in this world, but of the few places I feel a real affinity for Dingwall is one of them. It's a strange dynamic. I couldn't live there. I know I would grow to hate it. But there is a haunting, melancholic kind of beauty hanging over that valley that never fails to find me when I visit (Runrig's music really captures some of this, especially the song--ironically--Canada), from the fog rolling in from the firth to a sunrise seen from Knockbain road amid a pastoral setting of cows quietly chewing and birds chirping. I spent a relaxed and peaceful three weeks there with Mum, Dad, and Kirsty, before flying to Madrid to relive the glory days from university for a week!

I probably should have realized that it's a bit hard to relive your glory days in a place when all the friends from those days are no longer there. It was a bit of a quiet and lonely week as a result, but I won't deny it did my heart good to see some of the old haunts again, to visit the university campus, to walk some of the same streets again and have an incredible Madrid kebab again. The cool thing was being able to speak to the kebapci in Turkish!


Me in Times Sq., NYC
After my week in Madrid I flew to New York via Dublin, where I spent a day wandering the grounds of Trinity College, eating fish and chips (a disappointing one it must be said), and trying to experience all the Irishness I could in a few hours. In New York I was met at the airport by Brad, who I hadn't seen in two years, and by Nika. My time in New York was short, but sweet: the people I was visiting had already seen the sights so many times they would've killed themselves rather than see them again, so I didn't get to do all the touristy stuff, but to be honest I was alright with that. Besides, I really wouldn't have had the time to enjoy it. Instead I did have a really fun and relaxing time walking around, and managed to take in Central Park and Times Square, and got to chow down on some amazing Japanese and Egyptian cuisine. No one can deny NYC has incredible eating options!
 With Nika and Brad in NYC

After New York I flew to Montana with nothing but $46 in cash but some traveller's cheques still to cash. Imagine my horror to find out that without having a bank account at any of the banks in Bozeman I couldn't cash the cheques!! I was panicking at first, but thankfully a friend of a friend volunteered to get them cashed so I was set. After a couple of days there seeing some old friends and revisiting the university I finally flew down to Colorado to visit AJ and Marjana.

I ended up spending longer than I had planned in Cortez, CO, but it was a great time for some R & R. As well as going for a beautiful hike up in the Rockies and a surreal trek through the lunar landscape of Bisti park, I had some serious couch potato time: Marjana and AJ convinced me the show Friends really wasn't the devil, and so I finally relented and watched it. All 10 seasons of it!

                                        Hiking in the Colorado Rockies with AJ and Marjana

More than anything though, as in Scotland, it was the people and not the places that made the experience worth it. It was lovely just to spend a good length of time with family again. And although all good things must come to an end, they more often that not give way to other good things. So it was with some sadness, but also much excitement, that I finally started on my way down South, South, Argentina.


Kirsten said...

Nice! A new posting :) Sounds good little bro, but aren't you a year behind. I shouldn't say anything, I'm about the same.

Kirsten said...

Looks good, Andrew! Did you take all these photos, there are some magnificent ones. Love you.