I think part of it is that, in Vienna, I wanted to write about shared experiences, because I knew my friends who were there were also looking and writing their own accounts. When I was alone in Spain and Italy, I had no real way of reflecting on what I was doing except to write about it, and I also knew I had to be sole curator of the memories I was making there; if I didn’t write it all down, I would probably forget some of it happened, in light of the overwhelming body of experiences I’ve had.
However, in Paris, I had travelling companions which meant I wasn’t as likely to forget anything, and that I suddenly had to share duties on deciding what we would do with our time. It was often trying, when it came to deciding what we would do, since I could spend most of my life in art museums, street cafes, and sitting on park benches, where my parents get bored quickly with art museums, and just have a different operating pace than I had grown used to in Spain and Italy. After all, in the Mediterranean, you just don’t do things fast. There’s a relaxed pace because it’s often too hot and humid to do it any other way. Paris and London are a different breed of city, to be sure, and my parents were coming directly from Canada, which is, to say the least, not a lot like the Mediterranean.
Travelling with someone is quite different from any other experience you can have with someone. I still live with my parents, though I’m definitely reaching that point where I would like to move out (I just need a little more impetus to undertake something so expensive when there’s nothing really wrong with living at home right now). However, living with my parents isn’t really like travelling with them at all. The combination of the stresses of public transportation, sharing very small spaces, and the delicate balance between seeing everything and actually relaxing on vacation makes for a complicated dynamic where we didn’t always get along.
If this sounds like I’m complaining about my parents, don’t mistake it: I’m really not. Travelling with anyone is hard, particularly when you feel obligated to do things together. In Vienna, there were enough of us that if you wanted to do something, usually at least one other person wanted to go with you, so the rest of the group didn’t feel obligated to go just so you wouldn’t be alone. With the three of us, there was an obligation to be together most of the time, and I’d just spent the last three weeks on my own, so it was an adjustment, to be sure.
Anyway, by way of a short recap, in Paris, I saw and did most of the things you might expect: we went to the summit of the Eiffel tower, we spent most of a day wandering the Louvre and saw the Mona Lisa, we walked through Notre Dame and saw the view from Sacre Cœur’s bell tower, we went to l’arc de Triomphe and wandered down the Champs Elysees, we went to the Pompidou centre and my parents sat downstairs when they were tired, while I pored over modern and contemporary art (from Picasso to Kandinsky to Schwitters to Duchamp, all the way up to modern and political stuff, like the work of the Guerilla Girls about the art in the Met (in NYC, that is). I may have to write something entirely separate, just to deal with some of what I saw in the Pompidou), we went on an evening boat ride on the Seine and got mooned by a girl who had emerged from the throngs of young Parisians who hang out on the banks, we went to Pere Lachaise cemetery and saw the graves of Orson Wells, Edith Piaf and Jim Morrison, we went to the Musee d’Orsay and saw amazing impressionist works and Courbet’s L’Origine du Monde, which I would kill to be able to hear people’s responses to...and we sat in street cafes and drank wine and espresso and ate croissants. We rode the metro lots and lots and lots. I bought at least a dozen CD’s, some entirely French and some by French bands with mixed French and English lyrics.
In short, I had a pretty great time.
London, well, again, it was another entirely different type of city. In London, I was fortunate enough to get to go to quite a few theatre productions in the west end because my parents love musicals. We saw Avenue Q (absolutely bloody hysterical. Funniest musical ever written), Priscilla: Queen of the Desert (really funny and interesting, especially if you’re as interested in the performative aspects of gender and orientation as I am), We Will Rock You (I love Queen music, but I hate bad writing so much more. Don’t do it, folks. It’s god-awful), Les Miserables (glad to have finally seen it, but having Nick Jonas in the cast for a 3 week run made for an awful audience of squealing, misbehaving girls instead of the usual audience), and Grease (honestly, I think the movie’s better). We also went to the Tate Modern museum (meh), the London Eye (not worth the money), walked past Buckingham Palace, saw the vault in the original Hard Rock cafe, celebrated Canada Day in Trafalgar Square (because the Canadian Embassy is right beside it), drank a lot of cider (because I still don’t like beer), shopped, did a walking tour through Soho to a bunch of places where the Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Clash and others did their thing, cruised down the Thames in a big boat, went to the top of Tower Bridge, shopped some more, took the tube a bunch.
In short, it was also a pretty great time.
So now, as you’ve probably figured out, I’m home (and have been for a couple days now). I’m trying to adjust to jetlag. It’s 7 hours time difference, so the first night I slept at home, I got a little less than 4 hours of sleep, woke up at 4am and watched Golden Girls reruns. The second night, I was able to sleep until 6amand the third night until around 8, so I guess it’s getting better and I’ll probably be back to normal (whatever that is), within a few days. I start back at work the day after tomorrow, and then some of my family come to town for the Stampede. I thought I’d be bored with all the time I’d have here, but not yet, anyway. I’ve felt busy pretty much since I got home. I’m still unpacking and putting things away, along with fighting off a cold I got the day before I left London. I haven’t got much of a voice right now, but I am getting better.
I’m finding the adjustment back to be a little weird. Being in a mall for the first time in almost two months was really weird, as was walking through a food store and seeing names that now look unfamiliar to me. It’s weird having a coffee maker and a fridge and a microwave and a tv that plays shows I can understand 24 hours a day on about 50 channels. It’s weird knowing that I can understand the packaging on any product I see at a store, or I can talk to people anywhere and assume that they will probably understand me and have at least one thing in common with me. I don’t know. I keep having moments of weirdness. When I had to move my calendar from May straight to July, it seemed completely impossible that I could have been away. Some things feel so familiar, so immediate, it’s like I can’t have been away at all, but I think that’s to do with living in one place your whole life. It becomes so familiar that you perhaps can’t forget it. At least, not in a matter of weeks or months.
I had an interesting moment when my Mom was speaking to her own mother, and started saying how she’d been to more countries than her mother, and now I’ve been to more than her. I’ve been to 10 countries in 23 years (though, to be fair, a full half of that was this trip). It’s done amazing things for me, to me. I still haven’t reflected the way I need to, but hopefully I’ll find the time soon to do so. And to put my pictures up on facebook.
“I want someone badly/To burn in here with me”
-“I Want Someone Badly” by Jeff Buckley