Monday, January 19

I Went to Europe for 2 Weeks Last September: A Practical Guide w/ Instagrams

Locations: Geneva and Montreux in Switzerland, Chamonix and Avingnon in France, with some day trips to places like Gruyères, Marseille and Nîmes. 

Fuck Ups: Had some issues with my legal married name (a hyphenated monstrosity; feminists, amirite?) not matching my passport, which had my old, unmarried name but also part of my new name so it shouldn't have been a problem, logically, but whatever. Kiah was told that if we had a copy of our marriage license it would be No Big Deal but this was a Goddamn lie.

Stuff I Packed: I did a lot of research about what I should pack clothing-wise and I'm glad I did. First, I packed so well and so little that I only filled half of my carry on, thus leaving room for stuff like this metal cicada we bought and a kilo of candy. Second, I didn't want to look totally out of place and like a tourist. The moment I started speaking horrible French the jig was up, but still.

1 pair black jeans
1 black and white striped sweater
1 chambray button up
1 slinky white dressy blouse
1 grey and white striped t-shirt
1 black and white striped skirt
1 pair denim shorts
1 nice evening dress
1 black cardigan
1 moto jacket
1 pair red Converse sneakers
1 pair nice flat black sandals
1 pair fancy flats
2 pairs of socks (white cotton for sneakers, red wool for plane ride)
2 bras
5 pairs undies
1 white tee for layering/pajamas
1 silk scarf

+a basic amount of makeup to do a simple easy face all the way to a really made up one (a good eyeshadow palette is essential; mine includes a shade for me to do my brows plus others for my eyes including eyeliner), a perfume roller, toothbrush, a razor, some jewelry, bobby pins.

Stuff I Shouldn't Have Packed: shorts/skirts - these made me comfortable on a couple of hot days but I didn't really wear them - women in France really do the tomboy thing and I saw very few women in skirts let alone shorts or anything that came above the knee; my dress - I've still never had a chance to wear it and that's maddening but it just seemed so out of place most days; the striped tee - never wore it because it felt too under-dressed.

Stuff I Should Have Packed: tampons because I got my period immediately after entering the airport because life is awesome, menstruating is awesome; a bathing suit because people swim in Lake Geneva apparently and also we visited the Mediterranean; a pedometer (there were a lot of days we just wandered aimlessly and we Google mapped one and estimated we walked 8 miles; would've been cool to know for sure); shampoo - I bought some French stuff and it's lovely but it was also $15; sunblock - I read it's better in Europe but it also costs 1,000 euros so; a little art kit to sketch/paint; more socks; a water bottle - Geneva had all these fountains labeled potable and non potable so you could fill up everywhere - SO NICE!

Stuff I'm Super Glad I Packed: my silk scarf saved my shitty hair a lot and became a precious item in my bag; tweezers; perfume - holy crap Europeans are into smelling good; a face illuminator - my skin got kind of cruddy in the second week and Benefit's Watt's Up helped me look a little brighter and definitely helped when I was tired/a little hungover; my chambray button up - seriously my best clothing purchase since I first bought black high waisted jeans in 2010; lots of stuff to read - lots of car rides, train rides, slow evenings, lazy days where a good book was just necessary AND I think having them on this trip cured my grad school reading hangover.

Misconceptions I Held Before: I thought Europe was going to be totally inspiring and poetic and that I'd write a novel by the time I got home - nope. It was beautiful and I cobbled up some rough drafts of a few poems, but mostly I was just exhausted by how picturesque everything is. Have you ever known a person who is 100% kind and 100% beautiful 100% of the time? That person is great mostly but holy crap sometimes you just want them to relax. That's how I felt at least once a day. And French people are actually really kind and helpful, if anything they're a little pushy when they're busy.
The biggest misconception I had was that international travel would be scary and overwhelming. I always used to say that I had no real desire to travel and I realize now that was an attempt at masking my fear. International travel is scary and overwhelming, but it's not terrifying or soul crushing. It's stressful, like anything else. After this trip I came to deeply regret missing the opportunity to study abroad as an undergraduate and all the other little opportunities to teach abroad that sit in my lap now are even more tempting.

"Truths" I Know Now: Everything else they say about French people is true. They are very lean, almost spindly. Older women like to be topless on the beach - super cool! They are a very intimate people typically, very whispery. I thought I could practice French by listening to conversations in public, but everyone speaks so quietly that it's hard to overhear anything. German tourists are out of Goddamn control. I'm not trying to be a jerk, it's just true. Cheese making sounds fun but it stinks - probably should have been able to guess that, though.

Books Read: The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham - perfect for the trip as it's about Americans in France; The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll by Jean Nathan; The Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison.

Should Have: Had a drink at the H.R. Giger bar (we did visit the museum though; super weird, super cool, saw a little German girl cry); eaten more cheese; drank more wine; eaten more gaufres; had some frites; visited more art museums.

Best Stuff: Good wine is like $6 a bottle; Steven Universe on the plane - my new favorite show!; this amazing sandwich I ate 100x in Switzerland: a pretzel roll with salami, butter and a gherkin; doing something totally new with my favorite dude; seeing props from Alien - one of my top 5 favorite movies; laughing and laughing and laughing with Kiah at this Russian version of MTV; Lake Geneva at sunset; several hilarious toilet mishaps (Americans, amirite?).

Worst Stuff: French food is kind of totally boring and I really missed Mexican food after a while - God Bless the USA; getting lost in Marseille - not the lovely seaside town W. Somerset Maugham books promised me; missing my pets; missing my bed.

Next Trips: Iceland, Greece, Japan, Thailand, Puerto Rico, Belgium - but for 7-10 days at a time (2 weeks is so long!). I would like to plan each a year in advanced so I can practice the language a little before going - having some basic French in my pocket was SO helpful. Also will be bringing my best dude. This trip was fun because of my travel partner and besto. We had such a good time together and I hope to make fun of local customs and use bathroom appliances incorrectly with him all over the world.

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