Friday, May 22, 2015

Some stray observations of the European variety

Oh hi.  It's me.  Just home from a trip to the Netherlands, Belgium, and France where I kept a tiny journal of some impressions which I include here.

* So many cyclists in Amsterdam!  And nobody wears helmets.  Not even the babies!  I found this oddly refreshing.

* Speaking of cycling babies--the parents just shove them into these flimsy contraptions on the front handlebars and away they all go.  I also found this oddly refreshing.  Sometimes I think our insistence on safety all the times breeds a culture of anxiety and fear among our kids.

* I'm still blown away by how multi-lingual the average Dutch person is.

* BTW if you add an "-en" to the end of a word, you're speaking Dutch.  Right, Louise?

* If you like the smell of grass, you'll love walking around Amsterdam.  Actually, the scent reminded me of the Avenues on a Saturday night.

* When did Mexican food become so popular in Europe?

*  The whole time we were in Brugge, Geoffrey and I keep quoting lines from the movie In Bruges, which paints a pretty good picture of what the town is like, including all the freaking swans and cobblestones minus Ralph Fiennes' barracuda smile.

*  There's Dr Pepper in Euope now, yo.  It tasted better in France than it did in Holland or Belgium.  I can tell you where to go to get cold cans.

*Not to trade in stereotypes, but . . . the French are a leetle more cavalier about certain things than say the Dutch would be.  We had reservations to stay in a b and b in the Normandy countryside.  Check in time was 7:00.  We were a tiny bit late because--you know--we were trying to find our way around in a foreign country.  When we got there, no one was there.  We waited at the gate.  And waited.  And waited.  And we all had to go to the bathroom.  And waited.  And we were hungry.  And waited.  And finally we started blaming each other for everything that had every happened in our lives.  And waited.  And also we blamed each other for everything that had happened in the history of the world.  And waited.  And . . . finally the owners showed up COMPLETELY UNAPOLOGETICALLY to let us in around midnight.  They'd gone out to dinner and had a nice time because you know.  Why not?   It was food and Friday!

* If you're reading this, Shelley, please know that I do love France.

* Frites!

* Waffles!

* I heard the word "dumbass" in our car a lot, actually.  Which is a fine word, actually.  I heartily approve whenever I hear it used.

* Ken Cannon loves himself a GPS.  Which, apparently, is why we had two.  One of them spoke in a British accent.  One of them spoke in an American accent.  Sometimes they disagreed about which turn to take.  It was like, "Shut up. This is my crib."

* Whenever I tried to say anything, both GPS-es interrupted me.  It was like, "Shut up, American lady.  This is our crib."

* Ghosts are everywhere on Omaha Beach.

* Guess what.  Europeans are as heavy as Americans are now.  Even in France.  We've rubbed off onto them, obv.

*  There were tons of military roaming the streets of Paris in groups of three, bearing assault weapons and watching the crowds.  I saw this in Spain in the 70s under Franco.  First time I've seen it in France.  Disconcerting, for sure.  Fallout from Charlie Hebdo, I'd guess.

* It's harder to tell nationalities apart now than it used to be.  Or at least it was for me.  When I lived in Europe for the first time in the 70s and for the second time in the 80s, you would have never confused a British teenager for a French teenager for an Italian teenager.  And, of course, the Germans were the ones wearing socks with sandals.  But now?  Wow.  Just hard to tell.  Throw a scarf on yourself and no matter where you're from, you look French-ish.

* Whenever I hear a siren in Europe, I think of the old Pink Panther movies.  Which I won't watch again.  I thought they were hysterical when I saw them.  Now they would just probably disappoint.


* So many churches.  So few church-goers.

* I'm kind of in love with French cows right now--all fat and creamy and ivory-colored.  Keep on rocking the free world, you French cows!

* Saw orange poppies begin to bloom in Flanders fields and felt ghosts there, too.

* Speaking of ghosts, felt the ghosts of my former selves there, as well.

Speaking of which, this trip was great.  I do not take my privilege lightly or for granted.  But I was beset by a certain melancholy.  I remembered the other times I've been there--as a student, as a young mother, as a tourist--and thought about where I was in my life and what I thought might happen in the years ahead.  It's sobering to realize how much time has passed for me personally.

I also feel this strange . . . I don't know . . . sadness about how much the world (I'm speaking of the first world here) has shrunk.  The tulip gardens in Holland blew me away.  But guess what.  The display I saw this spring at Thanksgiving Point was almost as awesome in scope and execution.  And I loved the waffles in Brugge.  But guess what.  I can get Belgian waffles every bit as good when I go to Brugge downtown.    And, seriously, I think you'd be hard pressed to find a kouing amann anywhere in the world as the ones you can buy (every day if you want to spend $5.00!) at Les Madeleines.  Don't get me wrong.  I'm THRILLED I have access to this things.  But still.

Having said all of this, there's something amazing about being in places where the structures themselves carry deep history in their bones.  Spectacular.

And if you made it all the way to the end of this post, I love you.  And I owe you lunch.


James said...

Great Post, Ann. One question I have is despite its popularity, is Euro-Mexican food any good? Is it Olamendi's good (not), Pedro's good (Yes), or Rio Grande good (which I hear is good, but I don't live in SLC, so I am not sure).

I love the line: "there's something amazing about being in places where the structures themselves carry deep history in their bones." Its one thing I love about historical places. They feel different. Its where the mind and body interact with each other to create a feeling. Psychosomatic, I suppose, but real nonetheless. History in the bones.

Lauren said...

When's lunch? I'll bring my selfie stick.

Louise Plummer said...

You had two GPSs and no selfie stick? I agree that we can get all the European foods and tulips here, but as James points out, those 16th century canal houses are filled with old ghosts, some of them ancestors.

How to speak Dutch. Put de in front of every noun and end in en. Yeah, that's it.

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Megan Goates said...

Lunch is totally my thing. Let's do it. Lauren will bring the selfie stick and we can wrest it from her hands and give it to some passing middle schoolers.

Omaha Beach IS full of ghosts.

I love the line here about the certain melancholy that comes from looking back at things and seeing time passing and realizing that it's fleeting. Well done.

Lisa B. said...

OMG! This post escaped my notice, but here I am now to say: yes yes yes YES to a travelogue post, with piquant observations and notes about cows. The world is smaller. I think Scotland, however, is pretty amazingly odd, in a wonderful way, and so is Ireland. I want to talk about all of this with you, preferably in a French cafe, where we could point out all the exemplifications of the observations, as well as the contradictions, comme les philosophes.

(btw, Google did NOT want to accept my French, which: screw you, Google, don't you know it's a cosmopolitan world now? where everyone can speak/write in beaucoups de langues, when commenting on blogs?)