After all these years, I am now a European traveler.
It’s been kind of a strange few weeks back. Jet lag did hit me pretty hard — for a while there, I was falling asleep around 10pm, and waking up at around 7 every day, which actually wasn’t too bad (except that I’m usually a night person, and often have to meet people or go out after 10). But the most surprising thing about returning home after a month away was how quickly everything kind of fell back into place. The day I got back, I sat down at my computer here at home to do some work, and I was surprised at how everything felt. It was almost like I hadn’t gone away at all.
That next morning, I was in bed trying to get some extra sleep so I wouldn’t pass out at dinner, and I found myself forcefully trying to go through my memories, to keep in mind what I’d seen and what I thought about it. And this blog has been very helpful — it hasn’t been a chore to remember the fun I had, but I do want to try and learn as much as I can from it, keep it all in my mind as best I can.
A few people have told me that they really liked the blog, but just in case you haven’t seen it, I wanted to quickly round up what I did on the 30 days I was gone, from April 1 to May 1. I blogged every day (without exception, though Internet issues caused me to post some things a little late), and here’s what I saw and wrote about:
Day 1: I flew across the Atlantic Ocean, and saw the sun rise over Greenland. I pondered just how big this world is, and how, on this trip, I was traveling farther away from my life than I’d ever been before.
Day 2: I passed through the UK Border (had to explain myself to the guard, when I personally didn’t even know exactly what I was doing), found my hostel, and couldn’t help myself: Had to go out and have a beer at a London pub, just because I could.
Day 3: I set out into London, visited Parliament and Westminster Abbey, 10 Downing Street and Tralfalgar Square. I didn’t write about it, but this was also the first day that I went into a London supermarket, and was amazed at how both alien and familiar everything was at the same time.
Day 4: I visited Sherlock Holmes’ famous lodging at 221B Baker Street, walked through Regent Park, had lunch with a Tipoaa listener (fish and chips), and then went out for a terrific Indian dinner with a friend and his wife. We saw Bates from Downton Abbey drinking in a West End bar!
Day 5: I woke up early, took the train out to a very large mall in the English countryside, and rode with Tipoaa listener Harvey out to Oxford. We toured a few universities there, and then went back to his country house to have Moroccan lamb with his mother.
Day 6: We walked through Harvey’s town in the morning, visiting an old church and looking at houses that had stood there for hundreds of years. Then, it was back to London, and the Tipoaa meetup — we met at Oxford Circus, and did some bar-hopping, eventually ending up eating some very great teriyaki chicken just as they were closing the place down.
Day 7: In the morning (staying at my new hotel), I went out to meet new friends at Camden Market, eat incredible foods from stands representing the entire world, and then have beers with some of the UK’s best games journalists. In the evening, I took the train down a theater by myself, where I had a really excellent burger and chips, and saw a (slightly disappointing, unfortunately) version of Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband.
Day 8: My plan for this day (Easter, I believe) was to relax, and for that reason I didn’t go to St. Paul’s in the morning, probably one of the only choices during the trip I regret, though not too much. But the afternoon was one of my favorite parts of the trip: I took the train all the way out to Greenwich, and toured the town there and the Royal Observatory, where both time and space have been studied and measured for hundreds of years.
Day 9: Finally, on Monday morning, I got to meet up with my friend Turpster, and we toured the Tower of London together. In the afternoon, we meet up with some more listeners for drinks, and I stayed until everyone had left, then grabbed pizza with Harvey and headed home.
Day 10: I took the train down to Brighton, on England’s coast, and was surprised by how much it reminded me of Santa Monica, in Los Angeles. After visiting the beach, I spent the day shopping, and then had bangers and mash at a pub, one of my favorite dishes on the entire trip, before riding the train back up into town.
Day 11: I woke early and took the train down to King’s Cross, where I had an excellent ham sandwich that costed way too much, and then took the train to Paris. I got into my hotel there early, so decided to go into the city — and promptly fell in love. I had an excellent dinner at a little cafe there, and though I was exhausted from traveling all day, I couldn’t get enough of this city’s streets.
Day 12: This is really the day that made my Paris trip — I must have walked twelve miles, from the Eiffel Tower to the Invalides, up to and through the Musee D’Orsay, across to the Louvre and into the Palace Garden, and then to the Opera House, where I had one of the best steaks I’ve ever had. Quite a day.
Day 13: Another walking day, full of fantastic sights. I took the train into Paris in the morning, walked across the “New Bridge” (actually the oldest bridge in town), and then did two walking tours: One across the two islands in the middle of Paris, where Notre Dame, the Martyrs’ Memorial, and St. Louis’ church are, and then a walk through the artistic and beautiful Odeon neighborhood, where artists and writers worked and ate and partied. I ate so many good things, had such a great time.
Day 14: I saw the Paris Catacombs, where millions of humans’ bones sit in a dank passage underneath the city. I visited my first Paris graveyard as well, and then went north, to join up with a podcaster meetup and my friend Patrick.
Day 15: It was Sunday, so I went strolling along the Champs Elysees, past a rally for a French election, through international retail stores and past French fast food places, all the way up to the Arc de Triomphe. I stayed there a few hours, just so the sun could go down and I could get pictures at night, even as I froze in just a tshirt and my hoodie. And then, after a quick dinner of pizza (not cut!), I walked back home.
Day 16: This is the first day that I really stayed in on the trip — I did a lot of work, only took one short walk over to a mall to see if I could find something to keep me a little warmer. I did buy a sweater in France, but actually have never worn it, not even yet here in America.
Day 17: This day was also cold and rainy — I climbed the tower of the Sacred Heart Basilica, then walked down through the Pere Lachaise cemetary, full of famous graves. In the evening, I went home and tried cooking dinner with food found at a nearby supermarket. Let’s just say the bread I bought was the best thing I ate that night.
Day 18: This was the Louvre, which went from a sight I wasn’t sure I wanted to see, to one of my favorite visits of the whole trip. There was just so much there. I remember falling asleep sitting up in the middle of Near East Antiquities, just surrounded by art and history and culture.
Day 19: This was my last full day in Paris — for most of it, I worked in my hotel room. But in the evening, I went to the best restaurant I could afford, and ate wonderful food. That chicken! That souffle! One of the best meals I’ve ever had, and Paris, I will be back.
Day 20: I traveled to Berlin. This was the first day I entered somewhere that I really didn’t know the language — in France, at least, I knew enough Spanish to help me out with the romance languages. But entering that train station in Frankfurt, seeing the food and having no idea what it was, and reading the signs and not knowing which train I was supposed to be on, was a pretty phenomenal experience.
Day 21: This was the Free Tour, my first introduction to the tourist side of Berlin. I walked with strangers to the Brandenberg Tor, and then saw the famous sights: The Holocaust Memorial, Hitler’s bunker, Checkpoint Charlie, Museum Island. Afterwards, I walked through formerly communist Germany, and came to the realization that because of everything Berlin has been through, the city is almost younger than my own LA.
Day 22: I studied the Holocaust. I learned what it was and what it meant for its victims at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, and then went south to the Topography of Terror display to learn who the Nazis were and how they did what they did. It was a lot to take in on a sometimes tough day, but very important stuff.
Day 23: I visited Ku’damm, as they call it in Berlin, a shopping district with lots of pricey shops and interesting sights. I ate dinner at a Chinese buffet (my second on the trip — weird?), and had to have the proceedings of a mongolian BBQ grill explained to me in two different languages. Also, I ate Kangaroo meat! It was stringy.
Day 24: I took a train out to Wittenberg, to visit the hometown, house, and church of the founder of my family’s religion, Martin Luther. This was a quiet day in a relatively small town, but I walked in the footsteps of someone who’s shaped me and my life from across the centuries.
Day 25: I spent the afternoon visiting the Tranenpalast, the palace of tears, where Berlin has set up a memorial to The Berlin Wall and what it meant for citizens there. Then, on the recommendation of a tour guide, I went to a bar where they had 300 different beers available to buy, and I took a long, proper survey of the best beers Berlin and Germany had to offer. I don’t remember much of the rest of the night, obviously.
Day 26: On my final day in Berlin, I ate at a great restaurant called Max and Moritz, named after an old German folktale. I tried to take in as much as I could of local German culture, and that came with a whole lot of calories as well.
Day 27: I made my way to Prague, checked into the hostel there, and was very confused by the currency. The city was beautiful, however, and super warm, which at first was a nice change from the cold in Paris.
Day 28: This was probably my least favorite day of the trip — Prague was hotter than I expected, and more crowded, and either due to my bad planning or just the vibe of the place, I didn’t find nearly as much history as I expected. I did have a great dinner this evening — potato pancakes and dumplings with some really incredible pork — but the day itself didn’t win any points with me.
Day 29: This was my last full day before I headed home, and Prague was much nicer to me on the second day. I went to visit a castle and a cathedral in the middle of it, walked Prague’s streets and saw Frank Gehry’s Dancing House. I ate dinner over Wenceslas Square, and thought a lot about my trip and what I had learned from it.
Day 30: This was the first of two travel days — I first woke up in Prague, took the train to the airport, and then flew out of the airport on a tiny little plane back over to London. I stayed there in a hotel that was also an Indian restaurant, full of old grubby English guys, all watching a soccer match on the TV and grumbling into their beers.
Day 31: On the final day of my trip, I flew from England back to LA — I saw three movies on the way over (Mission Impossible, Chronicle, and Haywire), and played a whole lot of Junk Jack. I met my friend Rob at the airport, and we had In and Out before I headed back to my apartment at home.
Whew! I’ve been telling people that I haven’t found a good way to really compress my trip into just a few minutes of small talk, but I think that’s about as small as it’s going to get — obviously, I did a lot, and experienced a ton of things. It was certainly worth it. I definitely do want to go back to Europe, to visit Paris, and Greece, and Rome, and probably somewhere up in Sweden and the Netherlands as well — I didn’t get to make it to Amsterdam, unfortunately. But as I’ve said, I think my next big trip will be to Asia, to visit Japan and China and Hong Kong. I will have to save up money, so that might be in another year or two here.
And in the meantime, well, stay tuned. I have quite a bit more to do, even just this summer.
Posted on Friday, May 11th, 2012 at 5:05 pm. Filed under general.