When anticipating a vacation, I am always completely delusional about what it will be like. I imagine myself with no time constraints, able to endlessly blog and sleep and explore, without ever having to choose between different activities. The reality, of course, is not that. There is always more to do than there is time, and vacations eventually end, thus tonight is my last night in Paris and I haven't blogged in two weeks. I assure anyone who hasn't been following me on Twitter that yes, I have been having a fabulous time, and yes, I have been eating ridiculous numbers of pastries.
This has been a really, really good trip. There have been moments when I have felt lonely, and more than once I have seriously considered going to a cat cafe for some feline attention, but overall it has been good to travel alone. The introvert in me had been craving silence, long stretches of time without having to answer to anyone, and the past three weeks have been exactly that. My mind has been able to wander wherever it wants, and I have had time to think and think and think about all the big questions in my life. It has been good.
And of course, I have seen things! So, so many things. On my last day in Caen, I took a tour of the Canadian D-Day beaches, and then I went to Dijon, where I slept a lot and drank wine on the couch and did a bit of wandering through the historic city. In Paris I have been all over the place: the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Shakespeare and Co, the Musée d'Orsay, the Natural History Museum, Sacre-Coeur, Montmartre, the Curie Museum, and the Army Museum. It has been delightfully nerdy, in both a scientific and a historical way, which suits me perfectly.
I haven't done as well with my French as I had hopped. I struggle a lot with verbal comprehension, and the accents are different from the ones that I am used to, so I have said "Désolé, je ne comprends pas" and "Pouvez-vous repétér ça, s'il vous plaît?" more times than I can count. (Actually, I have mostly just contorted my face painfully and made awkward sounds, which is the introvert's way of saying "I don't understand".) But I have learned new words, thanks to reading every street sign and countless museum displays, and my ability to understand written French is getting better quickly.
(Yesterday's word of the day was "ruche", as in hive, which I learned from this beehive at the Natural History Museum. Yup...I am a nerd.*)
There have been moments on the trip when I have considered giving up on learning French, as it is frustrating to see how far I still have to go before I will be functionally fluent. But then, I wander into a bookstore and walk out with The Handmaid's Tail in French (La servante écarlate), and I think that the learning will continue. I dream of living in Europe for at least a year in retirement, and if I continue to plug at it for the next 7+ years, I can hopefully be functional by then.
(Also, there is a cute lesbian in my conversational French group. Not that that's a reason to learn a language...)
So...that is my trip in a very small nutshell. I will try to post some more pictures, although I dread the volume of work that awaits my return to work, so I make no promises. There is part of me that is resentful of the fact that I need to go back to work, but mostly right now I am incredibly grateful to have been able to do this. I know how fortunate I am that this is my life.
*When I was a kid, my Dad used to play a silly game in which he would ask what letter a word started with, and when I would reply "B" he would scream "A bee! Bzzzzzzzzz!" and pretend that his hand was a buzzing bee. Since studying French, whenever I try to remember the word for bee, I will scream "Une abeille! Bzzzzzzzzzz!". Thankfully I have learned to scream this in my head when I am in public.