Although law school is doing its very very best.

Actually, it’s going reasonably well, and I’m taking a break from the fantastic world of assault and battery to let those of you who may still be checking this that I’ll be putting photos up at some point. I’m not really sure what the point of that is, since I think most people who read this are also friends with me on the Facebook, but the posts might look a little nicer illustrated. Plus, I’ve been working all day and I need some sort of break. Backpacking this is not.

I’m going to freak out and buy a plane ticket to somewhere at any given moment.

I did visit Mississippi and Memphis on Labor Day a while back, which resulted in some good times though. About 20 of my closest friends showed up at our friend Emma’s house and proceeded to party so hard we broke it. Her entire house. Also, for the record, the African mosquitoes have NOTHING on those from Mississippi. NOTHING. I still have the scars.

Who thinks a backpacking trip through the various ‘stans are a good idea? Anyone want to meet me in Tashkent???

I am in Vienna. I have not eaten a vegetable since last Thursday. Grooves has taken her role as hostess quite seriously and now I am both spherical and shaking from sugar tremors. I left the unicorn the Friday before last and have since been through Paris and Budapest. I stayed with my friend Simon in Paris, who, despite suffering from the aftermath of a terrible flu-like disease which I cant be blamed for seeing as he had it before he saw me…just saying…was a wonderful host and let me stay in not one but two lovely apartments. This brings the grand total of apartments Ive stayed in in Paris up to a grand total of four, which is quite a bit, considering. Generally people visiting me in NY get welcomed to a slighty undersized couch in a living room without windows. Plus, he drove me all over Paris on the back of his motorbike! I´d never been on a motorbike before! THEY. ARE. AWESOME. The perfect way to see Paris! I want one. I really really do, only, what happened to my friend Mo in Greece would probably happen to me as well. Mo managed to get himself hit by a bus. Typical.

Anyway, Budapest with Chaney, Mo, Tom, Brandon, and Sean was surprisingly low-key, considering the fact that there was a 24 hour liquor store across the street from our apartment. They had all been there a day before me, so when I arrived three hours late on sunday due to the French tendency to blow up peoples unattended luggage at airports, they were not at our apartment building. searching for them got slightly complicated when I realized I didnt know which apartment ours was, since none of them had numbers. After standing in the courtyard yelling “CHANEEEYYYYY” failed to solicit a response, I made friends with a guy doing some maintenance work who gave me a bottle of water and a stool to sit on. Then I made friends with a lady who had a rather impressive garden going on her balcony, and she let me stow my backpack there when I decided to troop off across Budapest in search of my friends. However, I had just stepped outside when I noticed a piece of paper jammed in the front door with my name on it. Telling me to meet said friends at a bar down the street. So it all worked out. Mo and I ended up wandering Budapest for hours, since Chaney and Tom were sickeningly and adorably in love, and Sean and Brandon tended to do their own thing. We did fail miserably to find Hungarian Jazz, but Tom, who apparently can play any stringed instrument did have a little jam session with three drunken bum musicians outside our liquor store…. I had a great time in Budapest. We ended up playing cards in our apt until the wee hours most nights. We discovered schnapps. I got sent out for bacon and returned with a massive slab of pork belly. Mo didnt get hit by a bus. We saw The Book Of Eli….dont ever see that movie. Its awful, even by my standards. We mostly succeded in doing laundry.

Getting to Vienna proved a little difficult. Mo and I had tickets for a 3 oclock train, to meet the others who had gone up the day before. So at 5 to three, after bumming around the station for about a half hour, having utterly failed in our plans to make the museum of fine arts earlier, we ask a ticket guy where to find our train. He looks at our tickets, shakes his head, and tells us that we are at the wrong station, and that we are meant to be at the one across town. Naturally.

We did get to Vienna (obviously) on a later train at the right train station, and played more rummy, which I lost at. Possibly because I got a little sauced. We spent our last florins on beer, wine, bread, and cheese, and I consumed almost all of it….what, hauling my pack around Buda made me hungry and thirsty. It was raining in Vienna and our neighborhood had little going for it but strip clubs, but we attempted to meet up with the others, but failed, probably due to lack of phones. We took the metro in to the city centre and walked around the big gothic church, had a snack, and went home to watch music videos.

And the next morning Mo went off back home and I got picked up by Grooves, who is a member of The Party. Wonderful to see her again, especially because she seems to be intent on making sure I try every single Viennese pastry before I leave. We saw everything I wanted to see in Vienna–such a good sport on the tourism front, this girl. Plus, she took me out dancing at this club called Die Fledermaus, after we consumed about a bottle and a half of Martini. Met up with friends of hers, who, after three rounds of tequila shots, told me “Yeah, youre all right. Youre dancing to 80s Austrian music youve never heard of!” Well…yeah. Grooves got hit on by some guy whose pick up line was “Hey, why arent we kissing?” What a champion.

My trip is coming rapidly to an end and Im glad to be spending the last few days with someone I had such a wonderful time with in Africa. Last night we went to the Africa Festival, which is happening right now in Vienna for the next week or so…it was so odd to see all the souveniers I saw through seven countries all housed under tents in a big fair space. But great to listen to some music and reminisce with a friend who misses it as much as I do. We talked about how weird it was coming back to Europe…I wonder what it will be like coming home. Because the next time I write, itll probably be from New York.

I dont know how I feel about that.

Grooves, youre the best. I have now decided that whipped cream is not, in fact, overrated. Thank you for correcting me.

Three weeks with the unicorn has flown by…I’ve settled pretty easily into rural French life.  This has been made easier by the fact that Franz seems to survive mostly on tea, cheese, and dark chocolate.  He is, however, quite adamant about never eating the same thing twice for lunch and finding ways to use the massive quantities of fruit his garden is producing.  Yesterday we had raspberry and apricot tart (home made bien sur and in trying to find the circonflex accent to put over the u I have just made this entire post italicized and cant figure out how to change it back.  Good god, so much for trying to accuracy in my French.  Let this be a lesson to myself.) and today, since it is raining, we are making peach compote.
The crazy Frenchman Jose left about a week ago, thank goodness, but not before leaving both Maria and Franz detailed letters under their doors about how they could improve themselves by using such and such methods of psychotheraphy.  Oh and they got stickers too.  I didn’t get a letter, either because he hates Americans (Franz told me that when I cut off one of Jose’s speeches to go watch the World Cup final with Maria he spent the next hour complaining about American youths…I just… yeah young Americans are really disrupting world culture with their CRAZED LOVE OF SOCCER.  Oh wait.) or has decided that I am mentally sound.  Either way, I’m offended.
Maria stayed for an extra few days though, which was nice.  We visited Rouen, where they have a really freaky massive effing cross in the spot where the British bruleed Joan of Arc.  And a museum of iron work, which was actually pretty cool.  Old locks and keys are fascinating, and no I’m not being facetious.  After Maria left, Franz and I visited Honfleur, which is a very pretty and very touristy town by the sea and has some of the most terrifyingly kitschy art galleries I’ve ever seen. 
Sidenote:  I had an ice cream cone in Honfleur.  Salted caramel and marron glace.  It will haunt my dreams.
We also drive around to look at antiques and old Manor houses.  I’ve been getting all these lessons in 17th and 18th century French decorative arts from my unicorn.
 Speaking of unicorns, Franz doesn’t know it, but he cracks me up: 
1.  Like most unicorns, instead of walking, Franz either skips or prances.   He also holds his hands out at a 45 degree angle from his wrists, palms to the ground.
2.  He doesn’t drink alchohol because the fumes hurt him if it’s too strong (spirits), or he thinks it just tastes like rancid juice (wine). 
3.  He wears only black in the country and only white in cities. 
4.  He wants a garden with only white flowers.  There’s a bed of the most beautiful poppies with red and orange and pink flowers and one of my jobs is to pick all the colors out leaving only the white.  I put them in a vase every day and leave them on the kitchen table while we eat lunch, but Franz makes me take them toomy room at night because the reds are “too violent” and will disrupt his sleep if I don’t firmly enclose them in my own chambers.  Seriously.
5.  When he was a jazz singer he used to paint his face like a cross between a cast member of Cats and cracked-out mime.
6.  He is firmly convinced that he has a perfect “upper class” British accent when he speaks English.  However, he also loves to mimic “vulgar” British accents like cockney, and also believes he does this perfectly.  I do not have the heart to inform him otherwise.
7.  The other day, he interrupted his sentence declaring that he didn’t like men who were too “pouffy,” to tell me that he couldn’t possibly help me open the jam jar I was struggling with because his wrists were too delicate.
He’s great.  Oh, and he wears short shorts.  Beh oui, he’s French after all.  
Paris in a couple days, where I get to see my old friend Simon!  And then, in what will possibly be the most dangerous segment of my journey, I head to Budapest with distant acquaintances Chaney and Mo. 

I am no longer alone with the unicorn.  Two other WWOOFers have joined us in our crumbling farmhouse: Jose, a 60 year old Parisian, and Maria, an Italian in her late 30s.  WWOOFers do tend to be in their 20s, but hey.  Maria is very nice.  We’ve been biking the 6km to the sea in order to find a place to watch the World Cup games as Franz doesn’t own a TV and the town we’re in–if you can call it that–has only one bar, and it closes at 8.  Which makes tons of sense. It’s a great little ride though, through the fields of wheat and red poppies, cows, wild roses, those farmhouses with the thatched roofs, etc.  And the sleepy little seaside town we head to also has only one bar/restaurant with a TV, but the owners are football fans and during the two games of the semi-finals the place has been full of either German or Dutch tourists.  The first game, I walked in while Maria was locking up the bikes and the owner asked me, increduously, “Are you Dutch, then?  You are very tan.”

“Non monsieur, en fait je suis americaine.”

“You can’t be American.  You are here to watch the match and you speak French.  You are Dutch–or perhaps, South American.”

…ok…that makes perfect sense.  Guess I’m rooting for Holland in the finals. 

While Maria and I get along quite well in our struggling French, Jose…well…Jose asked me what I thought the meaning of life was on the second day I knew him, and then tried to trap me into admitting that eating animals was immoral.  I told him that I didn’t care about his opinions on philosophy and that they’d have to pry the bacon from my cold, dead fingers before I became a self-righteous vegetarian.  (My French is improving.) In retrospect, that was a little rude, but Maria and I had been on a (mercifully) short drive with him to check out the beach and GOOD GOD.  I think he might have touched the steering wheel only when we were in danger of hitting something and instead used his hands to gesticulate as he TURNED TO FACE ME IN THE BACK SEAT while telling some damn fool story about his readings in psychotheraphy.

…Jose has actually just interrupted me.  He has given me a gift.  It is a sticker.  It reads:

L’être humain n’existe que dans sa relation à l’autre. 

Translation: Human beings don’t exist except for their relationships to one another.  Loosely, anyway.  He is so strange.  What the hell is this supposed to mean?  Where did he get this?  WHY DOES HE CARRY SUCH STICKERS ON HIS PERSON?

Mealtimes are always fun because they consist of me, Maria, and Franz all trying to head Jose off before he begins one of his 3 hour lectures on sh*t he’s learned in life.  Speaking of meals, I have some work to do before dinner so I’m going to get on that.  Imagine: Franz is letting me wrestle a 5M high, 100M long massively overgrown hedge back into a straight line, with an ancient and razor sharp pair of shears!  I realized yesterday that flip flops were not the optimal footwear for such an assignment.

Let the betting on when I lose a limb or finger begin.

So after back and forthing a bit between France and the UK (and being detained AGAIN in an airport.  Ask me about these.  They’re becoming a disturbing habit.) I’m all fixed up in rural Normandy.  For those of you who don’t know, this is the WWOOFing segment of my trip where I trade physical labor for room and board.  I am staying with a potter named Franz whose creativity focuses on Renaissance ceramics.  He has a massive, beautiful garden, a thing for only white flowers, and a very large farm house, of which about half is inhabitable.  Franz speaks lovely, clear French, gesticulates like a true Romance language speaker, is way too in touch with his emotions, and instead of eyebrows, he has a litle tuft of red-gold hair that juts out between his eyes.  I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s the personification of a baby unicorn.

He’s very sweet.

The place is amazing though.  It’s such a bizarre mix of beauty and ruin.   For example, the stones and red brick that pave the kitchen are broken in places, with the dirt coming through, but every piece of furniture within is a lovingly tended antique.  There is no working toilet, but the room with the shower in it is filled with alabaster statues and vases.  My room looks out into both gardens, has crumbing and faded robin’s egg blue walls, a little white table, and an upright piano that does not play but has incredibly intricate woodwork.  It’s fascinating.

I have to go pick blackcurrants now. 

Also: I have a French cellphone now, courtesy of my fantastic Uncle Marc, so if you want to call me (and you should want to call me, cause I miss all ten people that read this blog) email me.  I’ve retained enough sensibility not to post phone numbers on the internet.

Best Barge in France, possibly Europe

I’m in London now, squatting at Alix’s apartment.  I’ve been here since last Friday, when I came back to hang out with Alix and my friend Jimmy who was in town from NY for the weekend.  Great to see them both, and I’m having a great time being pachanko with Alix.  I never get enough of her, seeing as she lives here, and not in NY.  She’s disgustingly smart, and doing her PhD at Cambridge as a Gates Scholar.  Anyway, today we drank fizzy elderflower juice in an orchard!

Last week I spent on my Uncle Marc’s barge.  I didn’t realize it, but I was a little tired after being on the move for over 2 months and not having to pack up my stuff for 5 days was quite the relief.  Also, some of you might not think it possible, but my godfather is even more of a foodie than I am, and since my Aunt Mary doesn’t drink, the two of us were going through our fair share of wine.  Nothing like a crisp white to temper the heat as you while away the time in the Loire.  Life is hard.  We had some truly amazing meals too.  Uncle Marc and I went to check out a market place in a nearby town and had the set menu at a place in the town square.  So for a little over 11 euros, we had: ham and melon (and not just any melon.  Those little sugar-sweet intense tiny ones the French love so dearly…I don’t even like melon that much and I was maybe a little too into them.) and perfectly cooked juicy veal escalopes in a cream sauce with mashed potatoes that probably had more butter inside them that even I want to think about.  Then there was cheese.  And of course, this being France, we just got handed a tray of about 8 cheeses with plates and more bread and just took what we wanted.  Was there dessert after that?  Cherry clafouti.  Oh, and a carafe of wine.  That too.  For 11 Euros.

I am not coming home.

The barge is lovely too.  It’s cozy, and filled with all these beautiful little antiques Uncle Marc has found in sales all over the place.  He’s got a neat collection of coffee machines too, and he gave me one!  (Mary made him put some of them in the garage, since he has ten of them.)  I hope I don’t break it.  It has these beautiful delicate glass globes and makes the coffee in this intricate way that involves hot water and a flame underneath the globes…I’m excited to use it.

Tomorrow is my last day in London, and then I am off to Yvetot, Normandy, where I will be working for this guy.

IT”S NOT THAT CREEPY. Ok, maybe a little, but hey, I dig the Renaissance.

I’m “safely” in Europe, now. Still being taken care of by friends though, because I am an idiot and managed to get my wallet sent to Wales accidentally. IT COULD HAVE HAPPENED TO ANYONE.

Anyway, I was in London for 2 days before heading down to Roanne, France, to tool around on my Uncle Marc’s barge. More about that later–suffice to say that my parents did a phenomenal job in naming him my godfather. He’s proof that hedonism runs in the family.

In London, I stayed at my friend Alix’s place, even though she was off to Wales Friday night. (Hence the wallet, which was in her fleece pocket.) She’s my best friend from high school and still entertains my visits even though I’m so clearly a mess. Her boyfriend lent me a bunch of cash so I wouldn’t be entirely bereft in France. This whole lending/borrowing money is turning out to be a theme on this trip. Thanks John!

Saturday in London turned out to be brilliant though, despite Japan’s loss to Holland. I got to see Iceman and Disco…WHO TOOK ME HAT SHOPPING SO I COULD GET A NEW INDY HAT!!! My devastation at the loss of my old Indy hat was shared by Iceman, a hat aficionado himself. We met, in the grand tradition of London rent boys, by the cupid statue in Piccadilly, and they took care of me all afternoon. They arrived with wine gums and cadbury eclairs. That would have been more than enough to render me ecstatic, both from the ensuing sugar high and the pleasure of receiving such a nice gift. But. They also bought me a new hat. In a Harry-Potter-esque store that had a stuffed cat, smoking a cigar and wearing a top hat inside. The cat is named Binks. Was named Binks? Doesn’t matter. It was fantastic. The hats are kept in these old boxes that the hat guy hat to pull down with this giant pike thing. And then the hat man steamed my new hat so I could have a jaunty dip at the brim and oh man it was so great and then we had coffee and they actually let me buy them a drink, and then we went to this absurdly wonderful restaurant and I really don’t deserve such good friends.

Now I’m just getting sappy.

Seriously though, one of the most amazing aspects of my journey so far, now that I’m midway into it, is how fantastic people are. Both people I knew before and people I met on the way…I mean, from the get go Jared (future husband) picked me up from the damn airport in Istanbul and showed me around for a few hours even though he must have had better things to do. Everyone on my overland was f*cking phenomenal, and I’m so glad I got to / get to see them in Europe too. (Grooves, early August. You promised pastry in Vienna. I’m coming.) I’ve met my match in accidental adventure travel in DJ Tash, the other half of Team F*ck Up. Without Diek, I’d be dead, and without Seanna, I’d have less of an appreciation for digestive biscuits, which are very important.

So I miss Africa, I miss all of you, and even though floating on this barge is tough, I still kinda wish I was barefoot in the desert (like Chuck) again.

I know, I’m such a little b*tch.