Tuesday, July 28, 2015

No Longer Allergic!

I'm back in the United States of America. For the foreseeable future. It's very bittersweet. Like, if you looked up "bittersweet" in the dictionary, there would be a close-up picture of my face as I stepped on the plane that took me to Moscow*. And beside that photo would be a GIF (because this dictionary is interactive and on the Internet, apparently) of animated rainbows dancing. Guys, I'm so excited about the Next Step. Super pumped. Ready to roll. It's going to be amazing (and hard... adulthood is not as simple as clicking your red heels together; it's more like a long and treacherous journey down an apocalyptic alternative reality version of the yellow brick road--let's be real). Like, whoa.

But I miss Nice! Fancy that! Let's take a moment and look at what I thought of Nice before I even got there:

"So, I'm a little nervous about moving to Nice. Nice has 147 days of "strong sun" and 64 days of "weak sun" annually. That's 211 days of sun. I'm used to a 164 days of sun! I will have to deal with 47 extra days of sunshine! Oh my! What am I going to do?!"

I may have been a little too preoccupied with meteorology. I have gotten rashes from the sun before, so my worries were legitimate. Besides this, though, I had no idea what to expect from Nice. I had no sense of the place. No inkling of what I'd find when I got there. No expectations. Which is cool, I guess. I was free to experience the city without prejudice. 

Now that I've lived there for 8+ months, I definitely have a sense of the place. My sense is that Nice is always going to be something different. People come and go too quickly there. Businesses fall apart and go up in days. The turnover of tourists is remarkable. These are integral parts of Nice's identity. In some ways, it's good that I'm leaving Nice when I am. The delightful pocket of Nice I experienced last year no longer exists, which is very sad, but is also the nature of the universe. Change. C'est la vie and all that.

I want to take a moment, though, to appreciate my Nice. The Nice in my head--the Nice I'll always remember. Here's a poem:

Allergic to the Sun

When you move to a place without 
expectations, and with an apprehension 
for the sun, you will fall into friendship
with the bars and the people--with the 
people, for a night and with 
the bars, for a lifetime. 
This is the inevitability of the Côte d'Azur.

Do not be alarmed. The sea will sooth
your browning skin. The rocks that
make up the plage will leave gray 
dust on your clothes--reminders of good 
times gone by. Ghosts of smiles.

The street names will remind you of
dreary Paris, but the light and the 
colors--weapons Matisse harnessed to 
revolutionize his craft--will awaken 
in you a fidelity to a place you never

thought you'd call home. Here, you
work, and you play more than you work,
and that is the nature of your stay, and
you don't mind. The government does
its best to dishearten you, and you

laugh at it, because that is all you can
do. You laugh and file the paperwork, joke
and then pray. You go to the beach with friends
who laugh and pray with you. You sit beneath a
brilliant sky and wonder at how this 
became your life. And as you sit you realize 
you are no longer allergic to the sun.

Whoop, whoop! There it is. Nice won me over, guys. 

Anyway, I want to give a huge shout out to all the lovely people I met who made my Nice experience what it was. You guys basically won me over, so there you go. I can't wait to see some of you again--either at a Nice reunion, or a chance encounter, or during a trip to a new corner of the world. You're also welcome to come find me in the U.S. I will feed you delicious Annie's Mac n' Cheese and we will drink fantastic craft beer. Deal?

*My trip from Nice took an epic 2 days in which I traveled via overnight train to Paris; Orly airport to Moscow; Moscow to JFK; airtram to Grand Central where I had beers with Olivia and Max!!!; Metro-North train from Grand Central to Waterbury; and my dad's car from Waterbury to home.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

From Scotland With Love

Guys. Scotland is gorgeous. BBC Radio 1 is perfect. Scotch eggs are delicious. There are sheep everywhere! And used bookshops for charity! And wonderful beer, and people, and fun!

I arrived in Scotland a week ago. Grant picked me up from the airport and we drove to a picturesque town in the highlands, Pitlochry, where we met Natalie. That evening we listened to live bagpipes, traditional Scottish music, and saw trad dancing at the town hall. I had my very first Scotch egg (a hard boiled egg encased in breaded meat) and loved it. The next day started off right with a full Scottish breakfast--including black pudding! We went out to Blair Atholl where I had my picture taken with some highland cows! (Mad horns, man!) We rested mid-day with high tea whilst watching Wimbledon. (At that point, I realized how insane these stereotypes were getting, but, when in the UK...) The next day I saw Blair Castle. The Ballroom is ridiculously decorated with a bunch of deer heads and random swords and it's pretty amazing. It has a huge wooden floor and I imagined I was out of time at some sort of contra dance-viking-fusion party. For dinner we went to The Old Mill Inn and I had haggis. And I loved it. The next day I relaxed and wandered around Pitlochry. It's pretty small, but cutesy. I got a poetry anthology at the train station secondhand bookshop for £1. After Natalie got back from work, we went to Gregg's for lunch. Hooray for cheap, hot food! On Friday we walked a path to Scotland's smallest distillery and went on a whiskey tour. It was cool to see how whiskey is made (and to taste some...especially on a cooler, rainy day). After lunch, Grant, Natalie, and I headed to Inverness! On the way there we stopped at the Battle of Culloden Memorial where Natalie told us the story of how Bonnie Prince Charlie lost Scotland to the English in in 1746. That night we got delicious pub food and went to a place called Hootananny where a group of 20-something guys were playing live traditional Scottish folk music (read: jigs and waltzes...it reminded me of Pine Lake so much). We made friends with a pair of older gentlemen named John and ? who've been to Belarus. They had some incredible stories. We ended up staying in the most lovely, chill hostel. In the morning we had free tea/coffee before heading to Primark where I got some new shoes (my old ones were wrecked from hiking through wet grass). Before heading out, Natalie showed us this AMAZING secondhand bookshop called Leaky's (which, let's be honest, belongs on Diagon Alley). Then we did some serious touring of the highlands, guys. I actually can't believe we got this all in--Urquhart Castle, Fort William (and Loch Ness, of course), the set of the Great Lake and the Hogwarts Express from the Harry Potter movies near the Glenfinnan Viaduct, and Glencoe. We did all of this on our way to Glasgow, where I got to meet Natalie's friends and get a taste of the Glasgow Uni neighborhood and Glasgow bar scene. We had a DELICIOUS American-style brunch at TriBeCa restaurant the next day before touring Glasgow University campus (which is essentially Hogwarts). Later we got refreshments on Ashton Lane and watched the crazy tie-breaker between Federer and Djokovic in the Wimbledon final. And then we headed to Linlithgow where I took a much needed shower, relaxed, and enjoyed a lovely evening with Natalie and her parents.

On Monday and Tuesday we're volunteering at the charity shop and seeing the Linlithgow sights and then on Wednesday I'll get to see Edinburgh before heading off to London. So much is happening and it's all wonderful and I'm just really glad, happy, and thankful. I can't believe I'm here. Shout out to Natalie for being a tour guide/host goddess; Grant for driving and being patient and up for anything; Sarah & friends for hosting Natalie and me in Glasgow; and Natalie's parents for being the sweetest people ever. Okay, I'm done now. 

(No pictures at the moment because my computer charger doesn't work in the UK but stay tuned!)