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breeden
ursulav

Not dead yet!

Typing from Tours train station, waiting on a train to Chinon. Just had the single best chocolate croissant I've ever had in my life, at a little travel kiosk. So far France has provided some great pastries, an excellent grilled cheese sandwich, mediocre pizza and one rather dreadful omelet. 

I am going to write REI a nice note about the astonishing wicking/anti-microbial properties of their shirts, one of which I wore for approximately two days, including a one hour-flight, four-hour layover, an eight hour flight, an hour train-ride, another hour bus-ride, and several more hours of a death-march around the city waiting for our hotel to be ready and still did not wrinkle or smell like armpits. 

I will buy ten of them when I get home. 

Chartres cathedral is about a thousand years old and looks it. Apparently there is a point in my head at which stuff merely becomes Really Damn Old, because I was not noticeably more wowed by the 4th century crypt in the basement. Yup. That's old, all right. (I don't think I have any real ability to comprehend a thousand years. Anything over about four hundred all occurs simultaneously in my brain. Petroglyphs, Anasazi ruins, Chartres, Romans, Visigoths, Mayans, Erik the Red, Columbus, Pyramids, Beowulf, Caesar...I think on some level I may believe Jesus was stabbed in the side with a Clovis point by Vikings.) 

Not speaking the language is a strange and lonely feeling. I always get anxious in big cities by myself, but this is worse, because of a vague feeling that if I am attacked by a rabid mime, I will still be trying to navigate through "Excuse moi, un mime...uh...uh....je ne....uh...bugger....anglais?" by the time it chews through to a vital organ. (Fear of rabid mimes is not because I'm in France, by the way. I keep an eye out for mimes at all times. They're like ninjas who think they're funny.)

Everyone has been very nice, though, except the waiter with the bad omelet. Even in Paris. I don't know what to make of Paris. I might need a better keyboard to get into that. I can see why people hate it. I can guess why some people love it. The guards at the train station carry AK-47s. They are serious about their trains. 

Things unexpected about traveling---sudden intense affection for anyone who speaks your language. Regrettable condition of pay-toilets, many of which lack seats as I understand them. Smallest elevator on earth. Outrageously good food at travel kiosks. Unexpected cardboard cut-outs of the Pope and the Michelin Man. Didgeridoo player in the park. Large number of carousels. 

Anyway, three days in Chinon, then back to Paris and a hotel, then home. Having fun, got a dozen new birds and hoping to add more (common moorhen chicks are ADORABLE) but will also be glad to get home where I can communicate without hand gestures and plaintive looks. 


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I spent a weekend in Paris with my mother when I was 18 (my graduation present was a tour of Ireland, England, and Scotland, but while we were in London, Mom found this affordable weekend tour thing and absolutely insisted that we pop over to France), and I'm firmly in the "Paris is ridiculously overrated and kind of sucks" camp, while my mother is completely enamored of the place and still won't shut up about it. I wouldn't mind going back if I could do nothing but tour museums (we got about an hour in the Louvre, which was just enough to grasp that we needed about a week), but mostly I hated that all the architecture looks the same and all the bloody atrocities in French history get really proud, look-at-how-great-we-are monuments.

I liked London much better, especially for the points where it kind of feels like there's a broken time machine around, because you can turn a corner and suddenly there's a sleek, modern building next to a neoclassically bombastic one next to a little thatched cottage next to an art deco treatise.

A teacher that I had in high school once told us a story about how he spent some time teaching kids in, I think, Africa, and he rapidly discovered that time as we understand it doesn't have a lot of meaning for them. He would say "100 years ago" and it might as well have been "10,000 years ago" for all that the kids could comprehend. What he ended up doing was working backwards for their history lessons: "In your fathers' time, ___ happened. In your grandfathers' time, ___ happened. In your great-grandfather's time, ___ happened..." The kids had to relate everything to their personal family histories, and then they could understand how long ago things happened. I think that story stuck with me because it was my last semester of high school before I went off to study Anthropology.

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