April 20, 2015
…and I’ve been here for almost a month. (Right now I’m near the blue marker on the map above that denotes the location of Le Meije–the last mountain to be climbed in the French Alps.)
The same things that prompted my departure from Guatemala have since pushed me to France. I found a pretty cheap flight out of Austin, and the dollar is actually pretty strong against the euro right now. The latter details are more of a happy coincidence more than anything as this trip was not planned.
Similarly my specific destinations are determined more by circumstance. Berlin was the site of my layover before France, Paris and Lille contain friends of mine that I met in Guatemala, and Brussels and Grenoble (and nearby mountain La Meije) are locations chosen by said friends.
Recounting Berlin is a bit of a blur. I paid for the bus system’s day pass, but had to return to the airport twice to sleep on the benches there. I read that the best food here is the kebab, but I only ate a currywurst.
Photo: currywurst assembly line
I hadn’t done much research about Berlin, but many of my French friends [happen to be the ones best traveled and] constantly remark on just how great Berlin is: it’s a place of style, music, parties, and the greatest affordability as major European cities go. The rates of home-ownership here are low, but that may be attributed to the choice of the younger citizenry here. Also, the public transportation was excellent.
Photo: Berlin Central Station
Photo: empty metro stop Bundestag
Photo: everyone here walks fast
The falling snow may have hinted that winter is still present, but the lack of color in the clothing is incredible. The same abundance of blacks and dark browns would be echoed in Paris.
I came to France with the intent on living here and learning French. I’ve since learned that the U.S. tourist visa in the Schengen Area is only three months–and I’m coming to realize how close everything is here and how possible it is to move around. Plus, it was cold there when I first arrived.
Not that I’ve been to many more warm places. (Read: Lille, Brussels, La Meije.)
In Paris I’ve seen some of the sights, eaten some, and hung around–but only as a tourist. I don’t know what my relationship will be with the city, but I know I’m not done there yet.
I love Lille! It’s small enough where you can walk, there’s a metro, and on Sundays the market explodes with activity and the nearby bars’ patios are filled with people. (It’s said that Sunday is the only day where there’s sun.) Like many of the cities in France, Lille is complete with old buildings, fountains, sculptures and roads to top the culture off with a healthy dose of charm.
Due to the schools in the area, the citizenry of Lille tends to be younger. The nightlife is healthy and welcoming, but I don’t know what you call nightlife when it starts during the day.
Brussels, like Lille, is awash in strong Belgium beers. Frites are a popular item in both, but especially here, and the best are fried in duck fat. French-speaking Brussels seems to be a popular destination for French tourists, but there are also a myriad of languages peppering her streets. These streets are filled with people until the late hours of the night.
[Blurry] photo: after-hours food that’s difficult to recall
French city Grenoble sits at the base of the Alps. It’s possible to view immense mountaintops in the distance on a clear day while sitting at pretty much the same altitude at the rest of France.
There’s hiking to be had in the foothills that surround the town, and plenty to eat.
Next: hitchhiking to La Grave and foraging the Alps.
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