Amongst the “whirlwind” weeks of my life, this one is rapidly creeping to the top. A week ago, Kayla, Sara & I were sitting in our flat in London in EXTREME study mode as we neared our 2 final exams Thursday afternoon. But before I get to that… Let me just say
The final few days in London were amazing weather wise. Kayla’s aunt was in town and we went to the Kensington Palace Orangery for high tea, a treat I had promised myself I’d splurge on despite my constant fear of going broke. Well worth it. I spent as much time as possible outside, running & strolling around my beautiful adopted home as temperatures soared into the sixties, Hyde Park overflowed with life, and our backyard garden bloomed. I miss it already and hope to be back soon to share the secrets of London with loved ones from home.
After our exams, we headed back to the flat, drank wine & packed, and then were fed a wonderful buffet at a local wine bar & restaurant, the Troubadour (where Dylan played back in the early 60s). On Friday morning, I hopped on the Piccadilly bound for Heathrow with Ben’s Cookies in hand to deliver to mes amis in Copenhagen!!
After a flight & a train, I navigated the Danish street signs to a little hostel in the “Norreport” neighborhood of Kobenhavn to find HILDY SCHOTT, TEAL FRANCIS, & ANDREW BAIRD!!!!!!!
I was overjoyed to see my friends after so long & to gossip about CC etc.
I quickly discovered that Copenhagen is the most expensive city I’d ever been to, and after Andrew clued me in, learned that Scandinavia in general is just THE WORST. Apparently he’s been spending $8/9 per beer all semester in Sweden! Ooftah! As a result, we spent the majority of the weekend eating either falafel or danishes. Not really complaining.
We went down to the Little Mermaid statue at the waterfront at saw the Kastellet fortress.
We never found out what is so strategic about a star for defending a fortress…so if anyone knows, tell me. The mermaid was rather disappointing though.. very little… compared to us in this photo at least…
We meandered along the waterfront for a bit, walking through the city’s many beautiful parks & seeing “Nyhavn”, a district that is the most picturesque of the city’s many canals. We were blessed with a glorious, sunny (but cold, 39) day & people filled the outside seating of all the cafes along the canal. We were going to “fika” (or take a coffee break, according to Andrew, our dear ex-pat Swede), but there was quite literally not a single open seat along the entire stretch of Nyhavn. Here’s a picture
Hildy, Andrew & I also checked out the Nationalmuseet where the highlights were lots and LOTS of skeletons (some with creepy teeth & hair) from peet bogs and some viking schwag. Gotta love the vikings. We had a SOLID night out that involved a run-in with a Canadian named “Chris” who is 21 and going on a month long solo backpacking adventure throughout Europe. He heard our accents at the hostel and hit the town til late at night. He even ventured out with us the following day
Andrew peaced super early (we hope he made it home? I think he did? It was daylight savings time and we all forgot and pissed the hostel off and checked out an hour late). Then Teal, Hildy, Chris & I had the most delicious danishes ever before walking to Christiania. Here’s the Christiania “blurb”
Christiania, also known as Freetown Christiania (Danish: Fristaden Christiania) is a self-proclaimed autonomous neighbourhood of about 850 residents, covering 34 hectares (85 acres) in the borough of Christianshavn in the Danish capital Copenhagen. Civic authorities in Copenhagen regard Christiania as a large commune, but the area has a unique status in that it is regulated by a special law, the Christiania Law of 1989 which transfers parts of the supervision of the area from the municipality of Copenhagen to the state.
Among many Christiania residents, the community is known as staden (‘the town’), short for fristaden (‘the freetown’).
The people in Christiania have developed their own set of rules, independent of the Danish government. The rules forbid stealing, violence, guns, knives, bulletproof vests, hard drugs and bikers’ colors.
Famous for its main drag, known as Pusher Street, where hash and skunk weed are sold openly from permanent stands, it nevertheless does have rules forbidding ‘hard drugs’, such as cocaine, amphetamine, ecstasy and heroin.
It was so bizarre to just see men selling hash from stands at the side of the road. Food was also a bit cheaper inside the commune. And it smelled like weed everywhere. I’d show you pictures but photos are strictly forbidden, especially on Pusher Street. Here’s Hildy, Chris & I on a tree right at the entrance…
Big thanks to Ms. Adrienne Wood & Ms. Emmy Crouter for pointing us in the right direction twds fun things in Copenhagen. Teal & I were the last to leave the city & explored the meat packing district and found this bizarre surreal park with a palace in the middle & the strangest trees I’d ever seen. We ate a Dominos pizza at the airport, starving after non-stop walking all day, and apparently missing American grease… Next Stop: Paris…
More thank you time: Teal was such a wonderful host! She even had a mattress for me. We crashed after Copenhagen and a super confusing mess of public transport home from Charles de Gaulle, so I got up fresh the next morning to do what I could with one day in Paris. My French is pretty pathetique at this point (its been awhile) & I was feeling nervous, but wanting to try to use as much as possible. I snuck out while Teal was still sleeping from her flat at Parc de Monceau on the border between the 8th and 17th arrondisements (look it up, Paris is a snail of neighborhoods called “arrondisement) just a few blocks from l’Arc de Triomphe.
Mission do all of Paris in a day begins here… I walked down the entire Champs Elysees, stopping just past the Virgin Megastore (where I, obligatorily, stopped) and ordered my first meal in full French with no pointing or stuttering (I did speak really fast though because I had thought through exactly what I had to say so much before ordering, I was super nervous and just exploded out “Je voudrais le petit dejeuner s’il vous plait avec le pain au chocolate et un cafe creme”! So that is what I had… and this is the picture of it, ugly picture, not special food, but this was an important life moment for me …
I continued down le Champs Elysees, through Place de la Concorde (where the Obelisque is), and it was gloriously sunny so I could see down le Champs Elysees to l’Arc de Triomphe & then to the left over to le Tour d’Eiffel. And across the bridge to les Invalides… Phenomenol. I kept walking through le Jardin de Tuileries, but at this point I’d been in direct sunlight without glasses all morning & my eyes were killing me. I was at a loss as to how to fix it, when at the end of the gardens I ran into a street vendor selling cheap-ass shades. I took a deep breath then went off to haggle, in french. His first question, “parlez-vous Francais” I answered with a very confident “Ouais!” (this is more like yeah, than yes, and it makes me feel more comfortable with my french to speak slightly casual). I got him down from 10 euro to 4 and got the sunglasses…and managed to get the color I wanted… still with no English. I even said “d’accord” subconsciously a few times. So there’s accomplishment number 2 of the day. Here’s me, in said sunglasses, 5 minutes later in front of le Louvre (my apologies for my hideous hair, it was windy).
Adventures in Paris continued as I got hassled by gypsies trying to convince me to sign a petition as they supposedly waited, slash distracted me while someone stole shit. I resisted and this woman shook me violently as I refused to sign and i shoved her out of my way and jogged 10 feet past, scary… This was along the Seine right before le Pont Neuf, the first crossing to l’Ile de la Cite.. I headed into the Marais. Marais means marsh, because this was the swampy area by the river WAY back in the day, but today its a district that is traditionally aristocratic but that has been taken over by amazing little boutiques and fantastic falafel stands. Teal had pointed me this way & I really enjoyed walking there. Afterwards, however, I took the Metro up to “Pigalle” and started the march up Montmartre. Last time I was in Paris, this had been my FAVORITE place & I couldn’t wait to get back up the hill to see le Sacre Coeur & look out over the city. I sat in the 65 degree heat & sun, soaking up street performers & the sounds of an excess of high school Americans on Spring Break…ha. Win.
That night, Teal & I went to a bar in the Quartier Latin, le Piano Vache (piano cow), and planned to meet up with Lincoln Peek, another CC kid. I text Mariana from CC & my program to let her know and she happened to run into Lincoln so was persuaded to join us for a bit. We had some good catch up, nostalgia, intellectual discussion time & raced home before the trains closed. I felt like I’d succeeded at 24 hours in Paris….
Onwards & Upwards to Geneve. I made my way through some more meal ordering and even used the Conditionnel (for non-native French speakers, you’ll understand my excitement at successfully navigating this weird tense) to get directions to my train at the station (J’aurais besoin de was what I need to say…simplest conditionnel conjugation, but still…its been awhile) & took off to Geneva.
I’ve had the most amazing time here. Our family friends the Jagoes are such a generous, loving, welcoming family. George & Leslie met my parents in Boston back in the day before I was around and they now have Molly (13), Sommers (nearly 11), Garrison (9), and little Leta (6). They’ve lived in Mozambique, Madrid, & here in Geneva over the past 7 years with George’s work in public health. The kids are all at least bilingual with some residual Spanish from Madrid (and George’s mother is Spanish so its a language spoken amongst relatives etc). Being in the house & in their little community of houses about 15 minutes outside of Geneva is just incredible. So many languages & cultures around here. Geneva really is the international city, with the UN & the Red Cross & the WHO… People are from EVERYWHERE and speak everything..
The city itself is beautiful. It lies between the Jura Mountains of France & the Alps right on Lac Leman (what we call Lake Geneva). The town is built around the little waterfront area, where the worlds largest fountain, le Jet d’Eau, turns on and off throughout the day. Looking across from le Paquis, the northwestern side of the lake, you can see Mont Blanc behind le Jet d’Eau on a clear day. Today Leta, Sommers, Sommers’ friend Billy, and George & I took bikes down to the waterfront and rode through the botanical gardens, les Jardins Anglais, and le Parc des Eaux Vives. I saw most of the waterfront area & played a few MEAN games of tag. Successful…
I plan on “doing Geneva” solo tomorrow. Taking the bus into town & walking everywhere. Hopefully checking out some shops & maybe buying a Swatch or two for gifts… I feel so blessed to have a nice bed, good dinners (we had RACLETTE! last night, a delicious treat of melted cheese Hannah Jooo introduced me to in highschool), and a place to recuperate after a whirlwind of two months. I’m so excited for the rest of the week here and my exciting life in Firenze.
My apologies for the novel. Its just been the craziest week of my life.