quick hit on travel

Two things relating to airplane travel from my flight Amsterdam – Newark and Newark – Washington DC:

-first of all, it’s weird to sit next to someone for eight hours straight in cramped quarters without even exchanging names. Although I don’t think the guy next to me spoke any languages I speak (admittedly, that are only two) so it’s not like communication would have been possible in the first place.

-the second flight took place on a tiny plane that seated only 25 passengers, and one yapping dog in a pressurized cabin in back. The women in my aisle had been on the same flight earlier from Israel, and I noticed something: they looked vaguely Jewish, but mostly American. It’s this quality of effortless optimism and selfconfidence – optimism and selfconfidence perhaps born from the sense of American exceptionalism instilled in them from birth. But whatever it is, it’s especially noticeable in girls – and I don’t have it. (in case you haven’t noticed, I’m more the semi-awkward cynical type.) It would be interesting to know if I used to have the kid-sized version or if my Dutch genes have always prevailed..I should ask my parents sometime.

More observations may follow later…

from washington to washington

I leave tomorrow for a two-week trip to the United States (where else, right?). First, I fly from Amsterdam to Washington, DC, with a nine-hour layover in Newark (and the opportunity to go into New York for a brief, brief visit!). After five days there with friends, I fly to Seattle, Washington. I plan to spend my seven days there surrounded by book stores, coffee houses, museums, and nature. And whatever else crosses my path…including hearing This American Life’s Ira Glass at Benaroya Hall! And then I’ll get on three different planes to get home again: one flight from Seattle to DC, one flight from DC to Munich, and the last one from Munich to Amsterdam. (Yes, I know, this trip is very environmentally-unfriendly of me. Sorry about that.)

from the Capitol

to the Space Needle

Sounds fun, right? I can’t wait! I might post something while I’m gone, but you should expect some lengthy travel-writing from me when I get back – complete with pictures. No travel blog is complete without pictures.

london, baby! in bullet points

The highlights of my brief, brief trip to London:

-it was weird to be in a country that speaks English, but not quite my English. An elevator is a lift, real estate is to let instead of for rent, and people move homes instead of just moving. I was also very conscious of my American accent and how it marked me as an outsider.

-connected to that is the feeling that I was almost home, but, again, not quite. I saw so many things that connected me to the years I spent in the US (food products, cultural icons like Paddington Bear, the language) but at the same time London had a very obvious European vibe. Plus, people drive on the wrong side of the road. There’s nothing like feeling almost at home but then almost getting run over because you automatically look left instead of right before crossing to make one feel like an outsider.

Paddington bear!

and Dr. Seuss!

and all the food I know from home!

-Harrod’s has to be the most decadent place on earth.

The Pet Kingdom - where dogs go for 2,500 pounds and ever unnecessary accessory known to man and beast can be found

I really really wanted to eat several of these.

-watching the World Cup game between the Netherlands and Brazil was quite an experience. We watched in a pub near Leicester Square with the expectation that we would lose the game. You can imagine our reaction when all of a sudden, we were winning. Holy cow, that was an exciting match! One friend was so excited she pretty much kept bouncing off her stool, while the other expressed the sentiment that it was nice that we were winning but she felt bad for the opponents. I totally got what she meant and it leads me to the conclusion that we’re just really not competitive.

-The changing of the guards was impressive. Not so much because of what was actually happening in front of Buckingham Palace (there were too many people and I was too short to actually see much) but because it was an illustration of the power of touristic attractions. Because so many people come to watch it, it continues to be a hot attraction. Even when most people don’t even know what’s going on (ourselves included. We were so unprepared).

-3 days is too short. We had time for two museums (the Victoria and Albert Museum and the National Gallery) but could only spend about 20 minutes to half an hour in each. I definitely need to come back.

-We spent the last day on Portobello Road in Notting Hill. We had our morning coffee in a cafe that was serving more cocktails than coffee by 11:30 AM. The barkeeper actually sighed when I asked for three cappuccinos and he had to put his cocktail shaker down. Then we ate lunch on this beautiful upstairs terrace – some kind of Asian restaurant that served really good fish and chips.

the view during lunch

me in front of Books for Cooks, where I got to spend a lovely 20 minutes looking at all the cookbooks I one day will own

Obviously, I need to come back.

So I’m on the east coast, on the fifth day of my roadtrip. Boston, New Hampshire, New York, Washington DC, Philadelphia. I felt a bit ridiculous dressing the first morning, because next to the heavy sweater and jeans, I also put on tights, socks and two pairs of leg warmers. And boots. Then I got my coat (fleece jacket next to outer shell jacket), my hat, and my gloves. I felt like a marshmallow man, but I was nice and warm all day. Thank God for North Face!

I had my second and last final today, on Jewish history. It did not go terribly well, but it did not terribly bad either. I would say ‘damn those Jews’ except that they’re a theological error already so they don’t need any more damnation.

yes, yes, I know, very un-PC of me. That’s what Berkeley finals will do to you.

On a happier note, I am done for this semester and have a glorious amount of days off, as spring semester doesn’t start until February 2nd. And I’ll be using my time wisely: I’ll be traveling around the East Coast (Boston, New York, Montreal, Washington and Philadelphia). Is there a better way to end a study-abroad experience?