Wednesday, February 06, 2013


I opened my eyes, blinking twice as I tried to snuggle into my warm, borrowed bed and return to sleep.  I frowned when I could not, turning all my attention to my head and deciding that, yes, it did indeed ache. 

With a sigh, for my body has not served me particularly well on this European jaunt, I rose to acquire tablets, swallowing them with some Coke Zero I had leftover from my train journey.  I returned to bed for mere moments before hurrying to the bathroom to begin what ended up being about 120 minutes of illness. 

I have thrown up in places somewhat exotic, I decided.  Seoul, looking out over the Korean city as I dipped my head over the air conditioner to try to cool my fever-heated head.  Montreal, using the bathroom phone to beg for medication that would stop my misery.  And now Paris, perched in an adorable room with slanted ceilings and throwing up salmon tartare and gambas with risotto that I'd eaten to be polite the night before.  (French food is not my forte, I'm afraid.)

 The spasms would ease for blissful moments, giving me a chance to clean the bathroom and myself, to try in vain to swallow another tablet, before returning to misery until my eyes watered pitifully and sides ached mightily. 

I managed to alert my colleagues that I would miss the morning's meetings.  Finally was able to climb in the shower and wash.  Then tugged on the dress - forgiving and lightweight - that I'd planned to wear to the office and climbing back under fluffy covers to sleep fitfully once again. 

There is - for me - something visceral about travel.  Life reduced to the basic needs - to sleep and eat and breathe - while surrounded by someplace strange and wonderful.  That my body responds with sickness in some cases (5-10%, I'd estimate) should not surprise me.  Nor does it when my left calf cramps after carrying luggage a mile across Paris between train stations.  (Worth it.)  When I gulp (still) water with more appreciation than I'd have for the finest of wines.  When I'm dazzled with delight and subsequently felled by migraines and vomit. 

There is another constant - much as I love spending time here, sorting out accents and apologizing that I don't speak the local language - I'm always ready to return home. 

Sunday, February 03, 2013


I decided, clinging to the handle of the gondola with both hands as we ascended both smoothly and alarming little dips, that even my meager adventures may be overrated.  

"Fifteen minutes," my friend chirped as our boat docked and we set off on our walk to our up-mountain transport.  I followed dutifully in hiking boots I'd borrowed from her, stopping short only when facing one of the steepest hills I've ever seen.

"I thought we were finding this dangling glass box to avoid climbing the mountain," I offered, head cocked suspiciously at the climb ahead.   

"Katie," she scolded in her elegant accent, tipping her head toward the senior citizens moving up the sidewalk, some of them dragging luggage.  I recalled my embarrassed terror when hiking with Friend, seeing tiny children scampering down hills that had me clinging at trees.  

Huffing and puffing enough to blow a house down, we arrived at the station, 15 sharply-uphill minutes later.  We proceeded to climb in a box made mostly of glass that rapidly fogged as humans crammed into it. 

"Happy thoughts," I whispered to myself, remembering the morning.  On the ground.  Which was flat.  Surrounded by quaint buildings bearing international flags.  Under the covering of a wooden bridge while icicles dripped from its eaves.  The photo of me there - leaning around a nearby pillar - looked so brilliantly happy even as the snow fell softly around us.   The swans shared space with ducks, gliding smoothly through the inky water - clear and clean up close but ill-illuminated under the snow clouds that hovered above.
"We could walk up to the top," PrettyHair said when we climbed about a million stairs on our safe (thank God) arrival up the mountain.  

"Absolutely not," I replied, though I promise I was the epitome of a lovely guest other than in this story.  So we caught a crowded train that made its way up into the snow cloud.  We wiped condensation from the windows with our sleeves, admiring the snow clinging to the trees and making calculations of 2 meters into feet.  (The snow was deep.)  We watched the skiers laugh as they juggled their gear in the small space.  And after a couple of stops at adorable little structures we could barely see through the cloudy windows and falling snow, we arrived at the final stop near the summit.  We climbed on the path and looked at each other, peering for a walking trail.  (I find walking downhill more acceptable than up.)  I found myself drawn toward the safety of the train though, having almost fallen in the 10 steps I'd taken.  So we boarded again amidst giggles at our failure but decided that experiencing the top of a mountain as it was shrouded in a snow cloud was rather worthwhile.
It cleared as we descended - sharply but steadily.  And we caught glimpses of blue sky as we boarded another boat bound for PrettyHair's house.  

"I had the best time," I told her, beaming over our coffees and pastry as we moved along the lake once again.  And it really is stunning here - I highly recommend Lucern.  And the boat and mountains beyond. 

Saturday, February 02, 2013


There is something awakened within me upon seeing new places.  Even when miserably jetlagged and crampy, feeling grimy from the lengthy flight and tired from lugging my luggage from train to train to uphill sidewalk, there's a certain spark of... discovery? adventure? novelty? to encountering cities nestled upon lakes near the Swiss Alps. 

It leaves me - just for a moment - breathless.

I've come early to Europe to meet a friend who is hosting me at her lovely home overlooking the city.  I dutifully followed her from the airport, arriving to coo over the elegance of her living space before freshening up while she made a lunch of bread, cheese and fruit.  (Oh, the bread... And cheese... And fruit...)

We set off to explore the city - beaming at the sunshine when it sparkled and reaching for umbrellas during the light sleet.  I took photos - admiring architecture and floral arrangements and breathing in the scent of chocolate - in what is undeniably a charming locale.

Tomorrow, I climb a mountain.  (By train.  But still!)