Saturday, July 9, 2011

Back to the States!


Past- 2? 3?- weeks have been fantastic. Spent another couple of nights in London at the end of my time in England; did some touristy things (saw the Tower of London, London Bridge) and watched a lot of Prison Break (for some reason).
Then, finally, off to Berlin! I hadn't realized, but it had been two months since I had seen Mwanzaa. In retrospect, I'm not sure how I managed to make it through for that long. Most of my time in Berlin was spent indoors; lots of days I/ we didn't leave the apartment before 1 pm. Nice and relaxing time. Got to hang out with Carlie a bit more (one of Mwanzaa's friends on the study abroad program, also a vegetarian). We didn't end up going clubbing or really "out" at all while I was there (went out for lots of meals, of course, but no partying in the evening). We did attend the gay pride parade (called the Columbus Street Day Parade, or something, in honor of Columbus Street in NYC where the pride parade is). Fun; nice, relaxed atmosphere, and lots of pretty outrageous costumes.
Then we went to Paris for 4 days. (You know, the usual). We stayed 3 of the 4 nights in this really nice little studio apartment in Oberkampf, which we got a pretty good price on. I definitely preferred doing a short-term apartment rental over a hotel; it was nice to have a space that really felt like our own to come back to. I also did a lot more walking that I had really ever done when studying abroad; it was interesting to see the proximity of areas that I was familiar with, but had never walked between. We were only about 20 minutes on foot from the Marais, so we went down there and got falafel at L'As du Falafel (of course). Also went to the Centre Pompidou, Louvre, and we made sure we got to the Cluny museum to see the exhibition "L'EpÈe" (The Sword). Had crÍpes, LOTS of pastries, baguette sandwiches, and some generally delicious dinners. I forget how much I like Paris when I'm not there by myself.
After Mwanzaa headed back to Berlin on Monday, I headed to play some ultimate with the team I had played with when I studied abroad and at the beach ultimate tournament this trip. Their season is mostly over, so we just had a scrimmage (after some pretty intense warm-ups). I met a girl, Clare, who is studying abroad, and who goes to Smith; we chatted for a while. Spent that night and last night at Justin's studio apartment (he's on the Ultimate team, the guy I got to know best when we were at the tournament in Italy). Hung out with him, Clare, and some other English-speakers at a bar last night. Meeting new people is really fun when a) I'm not anxious about my ability to speak the language and b) they're open and friendly (and c) when we have a mutual friend there). Fortunately, all these criteria were met, so it was quite a fun evening.

And now, here I am sitting on the plane on the runway at Charles de Gaulle Airport! And not only that, but in seat 2B- Business Class! When I was booking my tickets for France, I was using frequent flyer miles; I discovered that for 75,000 miles I would have an Economy ticket both ways, but for 80,000 I could fly back Business Class. Which of course, I went for. So far, it's been nice- got to go to the short lines for Passport Control and Security. Unfortunately didn't have enough time to visit the lounge (I likely would have if I hadn't had to spend an hour going back to the apartment where Mwanzaa and I stayed to pick up the pair of eyeglasses I had left there...). On board, I've already had a glass of champagne, but the real advantage is the leg room- even with legs as long as mine, I can stretch them out fully in front of me, which is basically impossible on any other flight or train ride I've been on (at least, since I've been above 5'6" in height...).

Will update this post after with the rest of the niceties offered to me.

Live-blogging style (as requested by Dan):

2:55 pm The mixed nuts are served in a ceramic dish, and they've actually been warmed.
3:06 pm A small tablecloth on my fold-out table before the meal is served.
3:15-40 pm: Meal consisting of: Appetizer of shrimp with quinoa and a carrot ginger soup, Salad (a real one, with olives and feta cheese), Main course (the weakest- basically pasta with fancy-ish tomato sauce; the other options looked tastier but all had meat. The woman sitting next to me remarked that it "wasn't the best pasta she's had." I refrained from pointing out that it was pretty damn good for airline food; I kind of think she hasn't flown Economy class maybe ever). And finally dessert: cheese (3 kinds), fresh fruit, ice cream, and lemon tart. Don't worry: it's all been photo-documented.
Also they served wine, though they did card me, which I found amusing- apparently American drinking age applies when you're headed to America?

Part II:

I can see why people like to travel Business Class. This seems like an obvious statement, but it made more of a difference in how I felt during and after the flight than I would have thought. Usually I find flying pretty draining; this was more like a train ride in that it wasn't stressful to be in that setting. I also had never realized that airline stewards/ stewardesses are really more like servers in fancy restaurants; it was clear that a significant part of their job description was making people in Business Class feel really taken care of in the same way that you would expect in a place you've paid a lot to be in or where you're paying a lot for food/ drinks/ etc.

Got picked up at the airport by Mwanzaa's parents (as usual; really nice that they've done so for me several times). Spent a few hours with them at their house, then headed home; crashed out. One day at home (opening mail, sorting through various things in my room, unpacking, re-packing), and now I'm down in DC for the weekend, seeing some friends from my trip to Israel, and meeting my nephew for the first time tomorrow!

This will probably be the last update for a while- for some reason, it feels odd to blog about traveling in the US (or at least to places I've already been). But we will see.

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