Written Wednesday, December 30 – On the Amtrak Crescent (northbound)
Heading out of New Orleans, Louisiana 7:18 am
The Crescent leaves New Orleans in the morning at 7 am, so I made my way to the train station under cover of darkness. I hailed a cab at the hotel and kissed my mom goodbye. I emerged into the train station to find a long line. I found a comfy place on the train, moving several times to ensure there was a wide window view for the trip north. Altogether, the trip to Greenville, South Carolina takes about 15 hours if you take into account the time change between Central and Eastern standard times. We pass through half a dozen states on the way. Continue reading Northward on the Crescent.→
This is the laziest post I will be writing in this blog. Rather than actually sit down to recount what we’ve been up to, I’m just going to repost some tweets I’ve been making on Twitter about Taichung, and add a little bit more detail. It’s kind of like a social media sausage! Enjoy.
This was set up next to the park near our house recently. I don’t really understand why they have people playing the trombones, and it looks more like a Christmas exhibit, but it’s pretty cool anyway. After I took this picture, I saw a 50-something year-old man kneeling to take a picture of this sign from a lower angle. People love their photo ops here, which is why they put this here, I guess! Continue reading Tweeting about Taiwan.→
Written on the East Coast Line King’s Cross, London, England to Waverley Station, Edinburgh, Scotland Monday, July 14, 13h40
Two days ago in Paris, Steve and I embarked on the last leg of our trip, little knowing that it was going to take a good 36 hours longer than we had bargained for… since we’ve been traveling for about 10 months now, I had thought we were justified in giving ourselves a few pats on the back, being old hands at this travel gig, and getting ourselves from one place to another with a minimum of fuss. Well, hubris never pays. Travel mistakes this half of the world are more expensive to boot!
Our plan was to take a carsharing trip from Paris to London (Eurostar trains making the same trip costing well over 250 euro for the same privilege), and then catch a train in the evening heading up to Edinburgh, which would take us about 5 hours. This covoiturage (or BlaBlaCar as it’s called in other countries) deal is usually pretty good. You pay a pittance to travel in a carpool with other people, and go distances that would usually cost hundreds of euro on a train for less than 50. Our covoiturage trip was amusing enough, as we packed in 7 people in one minivan, and received strange glances from both the French and English authorities, but man if it wasn’t a circus show when we tried to make the Channel crossing. Continue reading Planes, trains, and automobiles.→
Summer is in full flower in Basse-Normandie, and it has brought the funniest weather I’ve ever seen. Murray and Julie joke that there’s no point to checking the weather forecast (or what the French call the météo), since it always has a bit of everything: we wake up to brisk and sunny mornings that quickly warm up to hot middays, and work through cloudy afternoons interspersed with drizzle against the windowpanes. It usually clears up in time for brilliant sunsets around 10 pm, and true darkness only descends after midnight. We’ve been keeping quite busy, with our animals and our work, but finding time somehow to admire the weather and the landscape around us. Continue reading The dog days of Normandy.→
This is truly an animal house. No frat brothers and no kegs of beer in sight; instead, the denizens are six dogs and two cats, and we are enjoying quiet cups of tea while watching the World Cup. Murray and Julie’s Normandy colombage house is incredibly cozy, and I’m just having a ball sitting here, sipping on some tea and trying to decide which of the dogs to cuddle with or the cats to pet. This is worlds away from where we were this morning, but still every bit as French (kind of) and lovely.
This morning, Steve and I woke up and promptly got about cleaning everything in sight and packing the rest of our things. Yesterday, I had already run errands to replace some of the household goods we had used and to mail off more postcards and a package. We had also done a farewell visit to the park and our favorite boulangerie. Before we knew it, we were on a train speeding out of Lyon. It was really hard to believe as the morning went on, as we carried our things out of the apartment, turned off the gas, and deposited the last of the trash, that we were really leaving. This is the second longest time we’ve spent in any one place, the only one longer being in Taiwan! It’s been hard to say goodbye to all our favorite corners… Lyon is not a must-visit place in France as far as that goes, but it is a most livable and comfortable and nice corner of the country. Continue reading Animal House.→
For the past week or two, I’ve been putting some heroic efforts toward recounting our journeys in early June with our friend Lele, but I’m giving that up for the moment to write a little about the past two days, because they were very special. France is made up of a lot of famous and romantic things, like the Louvre, love locks on the bridges of the Seine, and Roman aqueducts, but it has smaller, more intimate things too. My college classmate Sarah and her boyfriend Sam live and study in Cambridge, England, but they invited us to experience some of those smaller things this weekend. Sam’s family is French, from Haute-Savoie near the Swiss border, and his grandparents still live in the same town where his mother grew up, in Montchanin-les-Mines, or more commonly just called Monchanin.
On Friday morning, we took the TGV an hour north of Lyon, into the heart of Bourgogne (better known as Burgandy) excited about a short excursion into the French countryside, but unsure of what to expect. At the Le Creusot-Montceau TGV station, the train made a short stop before it proceeded on to Paris, and we got picked up by Sam and Sarah in the old blue Peugeot. Ten minutes away, we turned into a street in Montchanin by the impressive name of Impasse de Chateau d’Eau, and were welcomed by Sam’s grandparents. Continue reading Montchanin and the Chateau d’Eau.→
Written on the TGV Narbonne, France to Barcelona, Spain Saturday, June 7, 20h00
I am writing from the train once more. At the underground station where we are stopped temporarily, “Benvenidos a Girona/Benvinguts a Girona/ Welcome to Girona/ Bienvenue a Girona” scrolls across the display screens. We have crossed into Catalonia, the region of Spain at its northwest which some would say overlaps with French territory as well. I haven’t seen “Salida” on an exit sign since we left Chicago, and the signs in Spanish simultaneously convey that we are in a new country, but somehow echo memories of walking around Pilsen or Little Village in Chicago, where the Mexican community is the majority.
Outside, at first glance, the landscape does not look different. Our train has tunneled through the Pyrenees that divide the two countries, but it is still hilly and mountainous, with small villages and towns. Our train is full of English speaking visitors, some young college-age girls and some older English retirees. Steve and Lele both look tuckered out by our travels, and doze a little despite the bright evening sun. It is 8 pm, but of course, because we are traveling further west in the same time zone, we can look forward to more and more hours of sunlight in the evening. Tonight, I predict the sun will set around 10 pm. Continue reading Crossing the Pyrenees.→
On Monday, we took a train just an hour and a half south for a day trip to Aix-en-Provence, in the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur region of France. One of my favorite things about visiting Europe is that I get to see many of things I learned about in my six years of studying Latin in high school. I first learned about Aix, as it is nicknamed, as the Roman city of Aquae Sextiae, founded in 123 BC after a heated battle by the Romans against the Teutones and Cimbri, two prominent Germanic tribes. The city is geographically positioned practically on the Mediterranean coast, a stone’s throw from Marseille, and about 300 kilometers directly south of Lyon. We’ve been in Lyon for nearly a month now, so it was about time we got to see another part of France!
We boarded a TGV train at Lyon Perrache that left the city at the hazy grey hour of 6 am. We couldn’t really sleep very well, as the morning sun only got brighter on our journey down to Aix. Fortunately, I had given up on sleep and was raptly gazing out the window when we went past the Roquefavour aqueduct, which looks absolutely amazing, and managed to grab a non-blurry photo! It’s neat, though not quite as impressive as the Pont du Gard aqueduct, but we may get to see that! Next, we took a bus from the Aix-en-Provence TGV station into town, and set off on a long rambling walk around the city.
Written on the road Terminal 2, Charles-de-Gaulle Airport
Thursday, May 1, 2014
We have hours and hours to kill on our first day in France. We left Croatia before the dawn had roused anyone into the streets, but still there was an incredibly taxing line at the airport. However, a mere hour and a half later, we landed in Paris at Charles de Gaulle Airport, Terminal 1. Though old, it is very picturesque, a circular concrete structure four stories tall, hollow in its very center and transfixed through by two or three elevators which are encased in large plastic tubes.
Our train on the TGV to Lyon is at the deplorably late hour of 5:58 pm or 17h58, as I may well get into the habit of thinking. We arrived in Paris at 10:30 am. Even after going through immigration (which took a blessedly brief 15 seconds) and getting our luggage, it was barely 11 am, and we lounged around in comfortable white armchairs for an hour or so before exiting to take a shuttle to Terminal 2, where the TGV station is also located. We also paused to exchange the bulk of the rest of our kuna. The currency exchange was buying our kuna at the soul-crushing price of 8.68 kuna to the euro, which meant that our formidable looking 880 kuna came back to us just short of 100 euro, given the 6.5% commission rate they charged. Rats. Looking at the change in our hand and well aware of how much things were going to start costing us in France, we trudged onward. Continue reading Enfin, la France!→
Written on the ICN 522 Split – Zagreb, Croatia Saturday, April 19, 1:40 – 7:48 pm
Another country, another train.
This afternoon, we said goodbye to Split, Croatia’s second city. From the harbor, we could see Diocletian’s Palace, the Roman ruins that had captivated our attention for three days, as well as the large harbor, which boasted ferries to Brac, Havr, and other numerous islands in the Adriatic. On a clear day, from the Marjan Hill to the west of the city, you can see three or four islands on the horizon to the south, and a hundred miles or so beyond, the eastern shore of Italy.