Thursday, December 10, 2009

Trains, Planes and Euro-mobile

Europe has those fast trains, budget flights and free bikes in the big cities. It has fancy eats and metrosexual men, the thinnest ladies and the most polite children. Europe has a declining population and accelerating immigration. And this past month it hosted the most foreign of elements - a couple of senior Hymans.

Lendog and Harlene arrived in Rome after a bumpy flight, ready to take on some Roman
history and complain about the dominance of flour-based nourishment. They were pleasantly surprised by how much the city had going on.

The Hymans went from Rome to Pompeii down south, then up to Bologna. They started with BC and worked their way through the Middle Ages with medieval Tuscan towns and on to the Renaissance in Florence. They kvetched their way around Florence and then traveled north to Verona and Venice where art, architecture, food and friendly Italians left them utterly charmed.

Two weeks of Italian discovery left me exhausted and ready for an escape. I headed to London thinking I'd visit friends there and in Brighton. After both friends cancelled on me, I met some new folks and caught up with a girl friend I'd met in Buenos Aires at a speakeasy birthday party in London. Spent a rainy weekend in Brixton with bands and no access to my bank account while I had to miss a flight waiting for Western Union to open. Two days of airport later I finally made it back home with a trip to Paris at the end of the week.

Paris and London are not shabby but not that different from NYC where you are excited about being there and at the same time terrified by how expensive every bit is. I got to a small town in Provence, outside Lyon, and was glad to get to relax without the $ stress. You feel me.

How was I in Beaujolais without worrying about budget? The family I lived with on a college exchange program moved to a town in wine country, right out of a fairy tale. If you've seen the movie Chocolat you know the setting. Stone walls and church bells and cobblestones, I only had a day there really but it left an impression. And the big house the Gannes bought and fixed up doubles as a B&B/ painter's retreat.

The last night of excellent eating was topped off by hours of wandering through Lyon's Festival de Lumieres, where the city's historic architecture becomes the screen for projections and soundscapes fill the squares. In France, I saw people I love whom I hadn't seen in more than a decade. The last time I saw Thierry from Paris, he was getting thrown out of Las Vegas strip clubs for not tipping. Now he has a wife and daughter and is president of this non-profit that brings French school children on trips to Africa.

Happy Holidays and goodbye Euroland. After final exams I sell my bike, say ciao to the guitar and the Italian guitar player and head to New York.