So I haven’t done much planning for my trip to Europe next month (which I originally talked about in the last post, and will be writing about more, both before I leave, and then every day while I’m gone). As I explained last time, I want it to be fairly spontaneous — I want it to feel like a once-in-a-lifetime event, and since I’m going to be by myself for most of it, I want to take full advantage of not worrying about making sure someone else knows where we’re going. If I want to spend the entire day just people watching in a Paris cafe, I want the freedom to do just that.
But of course the flip side of that is that I worry that I’ll miss some things. I mean, of course I’ll miss things (there’s no way I can possibly see everything I want to see, even in a month), but I’ve certainly gone out on adventures before, even when just getting used to a new neighborhood that I’ve just moved to, and not realized that just two streets over there was a street market which was awesome, or a pizza place which would turn out to be a classic. The first time I walked up to Chicago’s Andersonville, for example, which later became one of my favorite neighborhoods, I didn’t even find the actual main drag.
So I am planning just a little bit. So far, my planning has taken the form of a list, just a wish list, of sorts, of places I’d like to go, and things I’d like to see and do. This is of course not at all complete, and every time someone recommends something to me that sounds good (or I find it recommended in a list online), I’ve added it here. So far, here’s what I have for the places I plan to visit:
things to do in london:
-221b baker street
-have a curry
-have a chinese
-go into the country for a few days (Yorkshire)
-shoreditch – pubs, nightclubs
-greenwitch from embankment station
-st. Paul’s cathedral for the view
-work/write in a cafe
-Cimetière du Père-Lachaise
-stroll the seine
-go into the south of france for a few days
-grunewald (forest park)
-Anne Frank house
Some of those things, as you can see, are pretty common. Of course I want to visit the Louvre in Paris, and yes I should probably see Big Ben at some point. But some are way more experiential. I want to drink bier, not beer, in a German biergarten. And I want to not just eat some indian curry in London, but I want to actually “have a curry,” as I understand they say there. I have no idea what I’d find, for example, in the south of France, but I know I’ve heard it’s good, and I think I’d like it there. I don’t even know if there is a spot along the Seine river where you can actually stroll it, but man I want to find one, and do it.
And the other thing that really strikes me about this list, so far, is that it basically sounds like fantasy. I might as well have written “Visit Hogwarts” or “Explore Rivendell” on here for all that these places mean to me. When I was a kid, I discovered the works of Arthur Conan Doyle in one big book, and I read that book about fifty times, marveling at Holmes’ adventures told in Watson’s past tense prose. Obviously, 221B Baker Street is probably just a tourist trap these days, a meaningless little loft where they charge you too much to see a fictional person’s apartment, but for me, just the name of that place has a huge meaning, and it’s amazing to me that I’ll get to see it in person, after reading and thinking about and dreaming about it for all these years.
The Globe Theater is another one — Shakespeare for me, is, well, Shakespeare, a legendary name attached to what probably isn’t even a real person, whose writings literally shaped the language to their own classic ends. To stand in the same square block where he actually stood? Unthinkable to me.
The age of the place throws me off as well — here in the US, the oldest buildings you’ll find anywhere are barely 250 years old. I’ve stood in Independence Hall, and smelled old wood and mold in various old houses on the East Coast. But something like Westminster Abbey was built in 1245 — that’s almost eight hundred years ago, four times as old as any building I’ve ever been in. Imagine the meaning of a place like that, the history! That’s a church that I’ve never experienced before, a whole social era that I’ve never seen with my own eyes. There are an estimated six million people buried in the Paris Catacombs. That’s twice as many as live in the city of Los Angeles itself, and nearly half as many people as live in the entire LA area. These are things that can only exist on a fictional level in my mind right now, like great stories in old fantasy books, and I’m going to see them for myself.
And finally, I don’t mean at all to make light of the Holocaust and World War 2 by suggesting that they’re not real to me — obviously these are terrible events that are a frighteningly real part of our history. But I’ve only experienced it through films: The Sound of Music, Saving Private Ryan, Schindler’s List. What will it be like to stand in those very places that those things really happened in? I have no idea.
But I do want to go and see them. So now, I type them in on this little list in my text file. And for now, they mean almost nothing to me — a reference to a film I once saw, or an author I really liked as a kid. In less than a month, I’ll be there, and see these things. And even I couldn’t tell you right now, just what they’ll mean to me after that.
Posted on Wednesday, March 14th, 2012 at 1:48 am. Filed under general.