The Fabulous Familiar

Taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary...

Monday, April 19, 2010

Oh, Memory Lane




It is hard to believe that this time two years ago I was free traveling around Europe with 4 good girl friends. Life has gotten busy, we've all gone different directions, but we all still carry with us the memories of Spring 2008. We got together for supper last night, and it was this wonderful time for me; it was a reminder of the journey that started it all; the journey that is one of the puzzle pieces making me who I am today. It broadened my worldview, widened my heart and gave me a thirst to travel the world.

Though I don't make it quite past the Wal-Mart these days; perhaps Little Rock if I'm feeling really adventurous, the spark in me for adventure has still not gone out; it may be a little fainter than it was when I was hopping trains in Paris at 2 a.m., but it is still very much there.

Many of you may have followed my blog "It's All Greek to Me" (www.ashtonreely.blogspot.com) while I was traveling. After getting it published, it has become one of my most treasured items; I still go back on occasion and read from it and relive the memories of my semester abroad.

Because I am talking about free travel, however, I decided to pull some quotes from the free travel portion of my adventure journal. Though pulled out of context, I hope they can still provide some humor of some kind.

Amsterdam:

"I was very proud of my first free travel purchase: peanut butter. From what I had heard, it was a must for every backpacker-- it was cheap, fit in your bag and would keep you from starving. In all my peanut butter excitement, I forgot to put it in my checked luggage. We get to the airport first thing and this mean security man goes, "Who has a jar?" After a minute, I confess that I have in fact smuggled peanut butter. He inspects it like it is a bomb and I tell him that it still has the seal and has never been opened. "This is not allowed!" he firmly states. "That is my only food supply," I manage to muster. "THIS IS NOT ALLOWED!" he repeats, this time dramatically pulling over a garbage can and tossing it in. With that one kerplunk, my food was gone."

"For those of you who have visited Amsterdam, you know that it has a magic all its own. First, this old man comes up, leans over and proceeds to yell at us in an unfamiliar dialect. I am pretty good at picking out languages, but I'm almost certain his was original--a result of large amounts of marijuana. Shortly thereafter, another man came up, gave us an evil look and grumbled, "City trash!" Never having been referred to as filthy street rats before, we began to look around and re-evaluate our situation."

"When we thought this train station experience couldn't get any more bizarre, this man who was clearly crazy marches in with a newspaper, shouting things while pointing to an article. He was speaking another language, but it seemed that he was attempting to make some type of political statement-- either that or he couldn't figure out the day's crossword puzzle. He began tearing his shirt in distress."

Germany:
"As corny as this sounds, when we walked in I couldn't help but feel like I was a part of something. These hippy, Bohemian college students, many with eclectic clothing and dreadlocks fascinated me. Here we were, 5 happy-go-lucky girls on our own for the first time (ponytails instead of dreadlocks, t-shirts and jeans instead of mismatched skirts and beanies)-- yet we were a part of this adventure too."

"I found out the hard way that even though I should cherish every new sight and experience, I should also take time to look down every now and then. I was so busy looking at the amazing sights of Berlin, that I missed a sidewalk restaurant sign and totally took it out with my shin. I had to limp all the way to the bus!"

"We boarded it and soon were on our way to Munich. It wasn't long into the train ride that I discovered a rather large hole in my jeans. Apparently, they had seen their share of Europe and decided they couldn't survive any longer. Already being short on clothes, I mourned the loss of another pair of pants. I thought maybe I would keep them, but a bending over incident later in Rome did them in. Because of this, I was ordained with the nickname, "Breezy."

Salzburg:

"We were soon greeted by our rather chipper tour guide, Peter-- a fruity older man who operated as if he had just consumed 5 energy drinks."

"While we were walking back to the bus, I saw a little girl (who was on the tour with us) holding her dad's hand. As she swung his hand back and forth, she sang every word to, "I am 16...going on 17." She must have been like 4 years old! My heart was touched because that was about the age that I fell in love with this movie."

Florence:

"When we finally walked in the museum, I began to fumble with a map expecting to have to search for this little David statue somewhere amidst all the others. It was then that I looked up and *Ahhhhhhhh* (imagine me saying this with arms open wide as if I have seen something descend from the heavens)-- there he was. He was the highlight of the room. There is no way you could have missed him! His platform alone was as tall as me and he stood a good 8 feet or more above that! He is truly the ideal male form. Every muscle (there are some I now know exist that I need to get workin' on!) is in place and even the veins that run through his arms are showing. He has an Adam's apple, a clavicle and even his neck is realistic!"

"He is the only statue I have ever seen that has spectator seating behind him. On a scale from 1 to 10, I don't know how wrong it is for 5 girls to sit on a bench and stare at a statue's tush for long periods of time, but put us on that list. Guilty as charged!"

Switzerland:

"Lacey bought some shirts from this store called, "Blackout" and they gave her a billboard-sized bag for promotional purposes. Later, Lauren got inside of it. A guy that worked at the hostel tried to pick her up in the bag and ended up dropping his keys inside. He went around looking for them before we realized where they were. We all got a few laughs out of it."

"As we sat at our table, we looked across the room and saw a basket that said, "Left over bread goes here. For the stray dogs of Interlaken." You know you are getting to the end of free travel when you have started envying the stray dogs of Interlaken. Danielle kept talking about going over there and getting the bread out of the basket. Though I was all for it, I pleaded with her not to do it-- we were NOT going to stoop to that level."

Paris:

"Our cart split from the rest of the train that was going a different direction, but something went wrong with the train that was supposed to attach to us and take us the rest of the way. We sat, cramped together in a lone cart on an abandoned track until the problem was fixed an hour or so later. It seemed like a scene from a horror flick. Luckily, it ended well-- not like an Alfred Hitchcock film."

"My FAVORITE night of the whole trip is when we laid in the lawn in front of the Eiffel tower waiting for it to light up. It was so beautiful and romantic. The only thing that risked ruining the atmosphere were the annoying guys that sell plastic, light-up Eiffel towers. They won't leave you alone! One guy kept bugging us and we firmly told him, "No!" He pathetically said, "Why not?" and Danielle, not missing a beat, goes, "BECAUSE I'M LOOKIN' AT THE REAL THING!" We laughed so hard and looked over to find this guy, who apparently understood us, laughing as well. He continued to laugh at us the whole night. He was cute in this gruff, world traveler kind of way. I should have talked to him-- it's Paris, the most romantic place on earth, for goodness sakes!"

Ireland airport:

"We spent the night in the Dublin airport, awaiting our flight back to Amsterdam. An annoying lady got on the intercom ALL NIGHT LONG making an announcement about how unclaimed baggage would be destroyed. We kept a tally on Lauren's arm and I think it ended up totaling close to 40."

There are a bazillion more where these came from, but these were some of my favorites. I will definitely never forget my semester abroad; and the people I met along the way. I hope to return someday and add even more quotes to my crazy collection!

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