travel

Never Through With A Rendezvous

For the past six mornings I’ve been waking up sad. Today is our last full day in Strasbourg. It’s bittersweet because I know that, realistically, I will probably never come here again. Never say never though. A year ago I had just started my first semester of college after graduating high school 12 years before, and now I just completed a study abroad program in Strasbourg, France. I had never heard of Strasbourg until this program. I feel like it’s my own special secret gem. There’s a fluffy old man who I’m pretty sure I’ve seen more times with his shirt off than on, always standing out on his balcony, or looking out of his big french windows, I will miss him so much. This past week we had a 15 page paper due, as well as a series of essays for our final, but we did manage to have a lot of fun. Basel was great last week, except on the way back, our bus never came! A series of Flixbus’ came but not ours. One of the bus’ was going to Strasbourg but it wasn’t our route because our names had to be on the passenger list because we were crossing the border. This really nice and helpful guy who was traveling on our route talked to the bus driver for awhile and helped translate from french to english and german to everyone who was waiting and we were able to get our names on the list so we could take that bus back to Strasbourg. What a relief! I was so impressed by this helpful man I sat next to him on the ride back. He lives in Zurich and was only visiting Strasbourg for the weekend for a wedding. I got to practice my french with him a little bit, and he was nice enough to not make feel like a total idiot, which I’m sure I sounded like.

 

Wow Iphone pictures are shitty. I took the best walk this weekend, the more I roam around here the more I realize how close everything is and how beautiful everything is. One of the BEST way to get to know a place is by walking around. We also went to a random carnival and got our asses kicked by some next level rides I was not expecting.

Our farewell dinner is in a couple of hours. I did my last load of laundry that I’ll probably do for the next 2 and a half weeks (pee yewww!). Tomorrow afternoon I’ll be waving a white hankerchief out of the window on the Flixbus (if it actually comes) sobbing and whispering au revoir français! Merci beaucoup, À plus tard.

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Close Encounters of the French Kind

Well, not that close yet. Voulez-vous coucher avec moi, ce soir? Did i mention i took French last semester? The struggle was real you guys. Luckily reading it is easier, so I’m okay at restaurants and the grocery store but if someone dares to ask me a question, I cowardly mutter “un peu français” and go hide under a bridge where i belong. I never hear people speaking English here in Strasbourg and its oddly refreshing. Last weekend we all went to Paris and  I heard more English than french, because of all the tourists and it was kind of off putting. People here can speak English a little but every menu, street sign, label, is in french so its good practice for me. We are roasting here, its been over 90 degrees this week, still a break from Austin, which is probably in the 3 digits by now. There is even comfort in knowing I won’t encounter a flying roach. I keep thinking about this one episode of I Love Lucy, ( I want that sentence to be on the program at my funeral by the way, ahem) where shes in France and goes to this restaurant and gets escargot and she doesn’t know what to do with the little tongs so  she just puts them on her nose, she also asks the waiter for ketchup. I get my life from that show still. That scene sums up most of our groups behavior in Strasbourg. Tonight was Fête de la Musique. I’m used to hearing live music, but all the music here was so diverse. Literally every 5 feet there’d be someone playing African music, then Brazilian, Indian,  salsa dancers,  techno. More than what I expected which has been the theme of this experience.

There’s a bus, much like Mega and Boltbus that’s really cheap, so me and one of closest friends here are going to Basel (which I keep mispronouncing as basil) tomorrow. Its in Switzerland, on the border of France and Germany. Tomorrow will be a nice break after spending most of the day in the library writing a 15 paper due in a few days….Basel!

 

 

PNW Life

Portland, how I have waited so long to be inside you. Not only because I will meet my traveling partner and finally see a few more brown people but me and Hilary need a break, we had a mutual agreement that she wanted to stay still and I need to not be operating heavy machinery for a few days. Before I left Eugene I noticed there was a software update on my phone, I figured I’d get it over with while I ate bacon pancakes at The Original Pancake House. After 100 years went by and it was over I couldn’t swipe my phone at all so I tried turning it off using only the top button, the only button I’ve ever used to turn it off, then I realized that you need to swipe to confirm shutting it off. Of course all the information I need is on my phone so I just started driving to Portland not knowing exactly where my hostel was. Like most of this trip the shortest distance driving days have been the most trying. As soon as I got here I went to the Apple store where the guy working shut my phone off using the top AND bottom button, somebody give this man a raise immediately. Finally I can go check in to my accommodations for the night. After circling the neighborhood multiple times I finally let Hilary be. I almost had a headache from the annoyance from my phone and parking but I loved my room and I went to a lovely grocery store and indulged in the hot food section as one should who has been traveling. I realized I really like going to grocery stores when traveling because your money goes further, it’s quicker than a restaurant, and much heartier than fast food. Clean clothes ladies and gentleman! I finally have them! I may or may not have been considering commando life but not anymore! I had intentions of taking a walk or being social in some capacity but I was beat, I talked to my friend Amy on the phone for awhile and watched Real Housewives of Dallas and I was out. The next afternoon I picked up my friend Lauren from the airport and we checked into a lovely airbnb. I know I said the airbnb I stayed at in LA was the best airbnb ever but this one in Portland you guys was the cream of the crop. Adorable as fuck, fully equipped, and right next to adorable coffee shops and little boutiques.

We went to Cannon Beach the next day where I’ve been wanting to go for years. When I saw a picture of this place years ago I couldn’t even believe it was in the US. It is so amazing, an adorable beach town with a huge rock in the sand. I don’t live for the “Goonies” movie like some people but it’s most known for that. I liked how foggy and chilly it was and there were so many sand dollars on the beach!

Later that night we had tickets to see Charles Bradley at the Crystal Ballroom. Lauren told me about him years ago when she saw him at a music festival in Atlanta. Originally we were staying at the Crystal Hotel which is conveniently right next to the venue…..that was until we realized our reservation was for 2017…..whoops! Luckily we’re in a city that accommodates a lot of travelers so we stayed at the luxurious Palms Motel instead, all I need is a comfortable bed and tea in the morning and I’m good. The Crystal Ballroom is beautiful, Lauren decided she’s getting married there, to who is TBD. Charles Bradley’s energy is immediately magnetic and so very loving. He reminds me your favorite uncle in the most non creepy way. I thoroughly enjoyed the show and was so happy Lauren gave me a rose petal from the roses Charles was giving out. On our way to Seattle the next day we went to see the second tallest waterfall in the nation, Multnomah Falls which also  has the shittiest parking, but it is free!

Finally made it to the Evergreen State, traffic was annoying of course, hostels are unpredictable of course but I am elated to be in Seattle, Washington because I love big cities and even more so when I have a good friend there! Tonight me, Lauren, and Casey, my home skillet from the first state, my home state of Delaware went to see the funniest comedy show! I was crying and choking at some parts of it which I know  usually isn’t something most people enjoy but I swear I had a great time! It was at this place called The Comedy Underground and the headliner was what’s his fucking name I forgot. After almost letting a homeless man into our hostel I’m about to get ready for bed, our room mate Katherine is from Houston and she is the loveliest, she reminds me of of of my aunts except really into astrology and she curses. Okay  866 words is so obnoxious of me GN.

Going deeper in the beaver

Just realized I need to catch up on Kimmy Schmidt among all my other shows, traveling almost makes me forget how much of a no shame having-snack eating-brain cell depleting reality tv-couch potato I truly am, almost. Heading out of SF I had almost forgotten that I’d be going over the Golden Gate Bridge on my way out of the city! It was really cool you guys, cool enough to risk my life by taking a video , yolo amirite? I went to Muir Woods National Monument which is only 12 miles north of SF, I was surprised how close it was. I watched this documentary last year called “Mile…..Mile and a Half” about this group of ppl doing the John Muir trail and ever since I’ve been curious about him, I love his nature quotes so much that I even have some of them hanging up in my room.

 

After the nature binge I headed to Napa which was only an hour away. The ride there was beautiful, I’m not a wine drinker but I really find the process of wine making interesting. There are rolling hills full of vineyards, I didn’t take any pictures there surprisingly though, instead I binge watched Martin at my hotel and uploaded pictures. I definitely feel like I need to return to Napa in 15 ish years with my friends sponsored by one of their ex husbands who they a got a lot of money from in the divorce because Napa is expensive as hell! I did purchase a bottle of Rosè for my friend Lauren who’s meeting me in Portland.  I had no real place of interest after Napa so I literally just looked at the map and chose this town named Chico because it sounds cute. When I got there I realized it’s a college town so it was kind of lively. I ate like a cave woman at this BBQ place and saw a movie at this tiny independent movie theater where the front row was old couches, loved it! Outside of the theater I met this nice older hippy man who told me I should go to Ashland, OR so that’s what I did the next day. The drive to Ashland felt like forever, I know 3.5 hrs is nothing to most ppl but my home state is the size of a paperclip, 3.5 hrs to a Delawarean is like a trip to Nepune….and back! The place I stayed was fucking beautiful! I thought I just booked a regular room but they gave me a suite. Huge comfy bed, 2 nice flat screens for me to watch ‘My 600 lb. Life’ back to back and a little patio for me to shut the blinds and ignore the ppl outside, luxurious. I saw a Charles Dickens play that I didn’t love, I should’ve known but I was aching to see a show and although I didn’t totally love the show the theater was beautiful and I’m always happy to support anything creative. I bought a lot of cd’s for this trip from thrift stores and today I listened to this Chris Rock comedy album, so fucking funny you guys!!! I’ve never listened to a comedy album before, it’s from like 1999 and there’s all these OJ jokes and that song ‘Champagne’ is on it which I loved back then!! Made it to Eugene! I can’t say that without thinking of the T-Birds in Grease saying “Hey Euuuugene!!”. Ahem so yeah, the Simpsons are from Springfield, OR.

There’s a college in Eugene so it’s a little bit bigger than Springfield but they’re both small towns. I lost count over how many Final Destination situations I was in on my way here with huge trucks full of tree logs ready to smash into my front window. Everyone in the state of Oregon drives the speed limit too which is shocking and it’s only 65mph on I-5 which is a major highway, in some spots it was only 50, definitely not in TX anymore where it’s 80. Also in the Beaver State they pump your gas for you just like in NJ. I found this divey gay bar that I’m going to watch the Drag Race finale tonight, smooches! PDX tomorrow!

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SF Buttquake

A customer at work 2 weeks ago randomly gave me a gift card to Starbucks, I never go there but I knew I’d come across a few thousand of them on my trip so I gladly accepted. Of course this morning when I went to use it it wasn’t there, how convenient. Also the guy who took my order thought I wanted iced tea instead of hot, at 9 am.  A nice customer found my gc on the ground and gave it to me, also the barista did end up making  me a hot tea………that burnt my tongue for 2 days.

I decided to stop in Santa Cruz for a little bit before going to SF. It’s a decent sized beach with corny boardwalk rides and games that I love. It reminded me of the beaches I grew up going to like Wildwood, NJ and Ocean City, MD. I also found a goldmine, my favorite brand of postcards, Lantern Press! I get too excited about paper. Even though SF was only an hour away it took awhile to get there because there was so much traffic. I’ve never driven on a highway with so many lanes and we barely moved for a long time. Once I did the unimaginable which was getting into the city and out of the car it wasn’t bad. I had the pleasure of staying with a former coworker and the sweetest dog ever.

I haven’t been here in almost 4 years and I stayed in a neighborhood further away but this location was perfect. It had everything I needed, a coffee shop next door, Trader Joe’s a few blocks away, tons of street art, and trans prostitutes working the corner nightly. I was happy to give Hilary (the car) a break for a few days. I didn’t even have to take the Bart, I walked everywhere. All of the touristy stuff people are too cool to do I love, I couldn’t wait to see the bridge or have a savage seagull swoop down and take a chunk of my lackluster crab cake, that actually happened. The first time I came to SF I only walked near the bridge but this time I wanted to walk on it, it was a lot further than it seemed because it’s so big but it’s worth the journey because it’s so iconic.

 

The graffiti gods are always looking out for me, I just always find the best street art everywhere I go. I’m used to it now. The Mission neighborhood is saturated, it reminded me of Toronto with alleyways behind houses full of murals, it’s like a free museum.

 

I was huffing and puffing up the steepest hill on earth when someone told me I was ‘hella cute’, just like a Cali person would say! How sweet and also accurate. I went to the Castro to get my life from the colorful crosswalks and and to see a man wearing only a gold metallic cloth over his penis. I read about him on Trip Advisor moments before. My main struggles while I was here was finding places to pee and charge my phone, also I couldn’t stop spending money on my friends kids but I got my credit card sent to my friends apt here so I’m good! I also was afraid that I was allergic to his dog but turns out my eyes are just bloodshot at all times.

Sigh, SF Heartbreak, you are so pretty and shiny and expensive, a little dirtier than I remembered but you know I like that. One of my favorite major cities in the US, you are amazing but the show must go on! I appreciate the real breakfast I ate, the countless amounts of human shit on the sidewalks, Octavia St (my gmoms name!), and those mesmerizing  clouds sprawled out across the sky, almost hanging low enough to touch.

up the edge

After getting to Santa Barbara late, well 9:33, ahem, I was so tired but Mrs. Doubtfire was on and the room at the Agave Inn was so cute and comfortable. The next morning I ate a very skimpy continental breakfast and went to do laundry. Santa Barbara is beautiful but I just thought it was okay until I went to Shoreline Park, it’s right along the coast and it’s breathtaking.

This was the most driving I’ve done in one day so far, I knew it would be a long one so I was really antsy to leave. I booked a room in Carmel, which is right off the coast, I didn’t know much about it besides that but it didn’t matter because all I’ve been thinking about is Big Sur. Surprisingly there weren’t that many cars on the road and the ones that were there weren’t riding my ass, definitely not in Texas anymore. I have been researching all of these little things I wanted to see along the way like Moonstone Beach. These are almost the same rocks I spend my hard earned money on at the Herb Bar and Natures Treasures in Austin, but here they are just washed up on the beach!

There was also this beach completely full of elephant seals, like hundreds of them laying there making human like groan noises and breathing heavily. Living the life!

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The ride going south is better because you get a full on view facing the coast instead of having to risk your young precious life turning your head a little, totally worth it though. The Pacific Coast is beyond breathtaking, just like I knew it would be. I felt like I totally left the earth. I got out probably 5 times to take some pictures and just be in awe.

My hotel in Carmel was right on Rt.1 and was like a cute log cabin and Grease was on! The guy working at the desk was one of the biggest talkers I’ve ever met. All I wanted to do was lay the down, I thought I was about to faint I was so delirious while he went on and on about Clint Eastwood and Pirates of the Caribbean but he did inform me of some worthy information about a state park 5 mins away called Point Lobos. I went there the next day and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. This fucking park you guys….. beyond everything in life. I was convinced that I was in another world.

I can’t even believe that I saw that, like I actually took those pictures, too much.

Here’s a title for ya

It’s after 12 and I’m still awake, does anybody know the number to Guiness World Records?? I think I’ve finally adjusted to PST. I was up early this morning, of course because I went to bed at 9:30, checked out of my motel and went to a little place called Crossroads. I met these 2 nice gentleman named Don and John who are in a band named The Village Idiots and they perform random festivals around Joshua Tree. John, the one doing most of the talking was really nice and funny, he was a total hippy artist dad type who looked homeless and loathes gentrification. After our lovely morning breakfast counter convo I was antsy to get to Cabazon, CA to see the dinosaurs from Pee Wees Big Adventure! Major bucket list material. I think I have a crush on Pee Wee honestly, he’s kind of cute sometimes and his independence and persistence gives me the vapors. I live for these nonsense road side attractions.

 

After I got my fill of classic Americana at it’s finest I headed to LA. It was only 2 hours away but felt like a journey because it started raining to the point where you contemplate pulling over and I couldn’t figure out how to turn on the lights in this nice car. All this bluetooth and high tech shit but where are the damn lights?? After pulling over and wanting to rip the manual to hell I was on the road again….with huge trucks surrounding me. “There ain’t nothing in my way except the traffic of LA” that’s a line from a Hilary Duff song, her Pandora station is so good! Oh and I named the car Hilary. After missing a few exits and left turns I made it to my airbnb in Venice Beach. I’ve only used airbnb a handful of times but this is the best one ever, the hosts were constantly in contact with me, their neighborhood and house is luxurious with so many amenities for guests and its right by the beach. I was starving so I walked to this cute little place called Lemonade, if I was like most people these days I would freak out over the name but I’m not so yeah, it was like a fancy little cafeteria where they charge you by the portion. I got brussel sprouts (my favorite vegetable), jerk chicken, broccoli, and some salmon avocado thing-it was great, I’m sure I looked like a cavewoman eating because I was starving and ate all my food in less than 10 minutes, I’m a growing girl okay. Beach cruisin’ time! I rode an actual beach cruiser to the beach. Of course I got lost and felt like Snooki in 2009, where’s the beach?? Oh just to my left, I knew that. I wholeheartedly love Venice Beach, one of my most favoriteist places I’ve ever been. I love the graffiti, the shady characters, the skatboarders, it’s just so fucking awesome to me. I went to Santa Monica and got a pedicure and a manicure, in true Natasha fashion I clumsily scraped the paint on both big toes but it’s okay, I’m not a fancy girl. I couldn’t stop buying things after that, 2 new pairs of vans, mugs for me and my room mate, cute things for my friends kids, froýo, etc. And here I am in one of my favorite places, I’ve been daydreaming about this for so long that I feel like I’m looking at a picture everywhere I look but this life is happening!  Good times.

I didn’t forget a title

This morning I got up very early again, around 6:30. I felt kind of bad for my hostel mates because I was up getting my stuff together so early but she’s gotta go! They made waffles in the kitchen which weren’t cooked all the way through but my long awaited cup of tea made up for it. I got some cash, ice, a case of water and one of those styrofoam coolers and went on my way to Joshua Tree. I used my friend Claudia’s gps to navigate me there, it was a bit stressful at first because even though it was almost 3 hours away I kept thinking I was going the wrong way. I only saw one freaking sign for it the whole way there, its a National Park for all the gods sakes! I personally need road signs made just for me though that say things like “Thumbs up Natasha, you are going the right way” or “Turn around idiot, stop pretending you’re in a music video and pay attention!”. So yeah, the gps guided me perfectly! Joshua Tree was amazing and awesome, not too big and intimidating but still very grand. I’d never seen anything like that particular landscape and I’ve always had an affinity for the desert, maybe because it’s nothing like where I’m from. Scraped my elbow almost down to the meat climbing down in between 2 rocks 127 hrs style so I’ll be nursing that for a few days, the universes way of telling me to go sit down somewhere. The weather was perfect and I even got someone to take a picture f me which is always a treat when you’re traveling alone, one of the only downsides. I’m at the High Desert Motel now, just watched Drag Race. I thought I’d be really excited about watching actual cable but it wasn’t as climatic as I thought, words spoken far too often. Its 8:45 and I’m spent.

 

 

 

 

I’ve always known that my ritual of drinking tea every morning and putting on lavender before I left was beneficial to my spirit but now I know it for a fact because I didn’t do it yesterday. I took a Lyft to the airport which was great and both my flights were on time which was also a relief, there was also a Popeyes near my gate so it was just a lovely morning all around honestly. When I landed in San Diego I got my bag and got in a cab to the greyhound bus station and since I’m on vacation I decided it was tīme I acted like it and tried to pay for it with my credit card….but it was declined. As I was calling Capital One I was looking at my card and realized that it expired in March. I literally never use my credit card except when I’m on vacation which sadly isn’t too often. I immediately started freaking out because you need a valid credit card to rent a car, I had already made a reservation to rent a car the next day after I got back from Tijuana. My phone was at 40% as I waited on hold for 20 minutes with the rental car company  but I hung up because I had to get on the bus to Tijuana and needed my phone to contact my airbnb hosts. Of course at this point I’m internally crumbling wanting to cry to my mommy or lay in the middle of the highway. The whole point of a road trip is to drive! The bus to Tijuana was annoying and weird, we kept stopping in these little shopping centers to let people on and off and they didn’t even glance at my passport. I got off at a different stop than I had originally planned because it was closer to where I was staying. Of course my phone didn’t work because I was in another country so I used a cab drivers phone. My host was f’n awesome. He was so lovely and gracious, we took a walk with his dog by the beach which wasn’t too far, he was very informative and helpful. I clearly like to do my own thing so I wanted to roam alone, he made sure I knew how to get back and I went on my way. I’ve been to random places in Mexico before but only when I was working as a flight attendant and once by myself to Cabo San Lucas when I had a week off, but its touristy there. Tijuana isn’t terribly nice, some people love it but I didn’t find it very inviting, I also couldn’t relax and fully be there because I didn’t know how the car situation would turn out.  I walked along the beach for awhile and went into a coffee shop and had one of best cups of chai tea that I’ve ever had and one of the worst turkey sandwiches. I walked back to the airbnb in a hurry because the sun was going down. There were a lot of men trying to stop me, I’m never scared to go anywhere but I was definitely uncomfortable. One man in particular tried to stop me but I kept ignoring him, I thought I was lost for a second but I made it back and as I was fumbling with the key to the gate a minivan pulled up with a man and a woman and a little boy, he told me that the man I just saw was trying to tell me that another man was following me all the way from the beach, he was trying to help me. I was horrified. Thanking all the gods I was safe indoors I went to bed super early, like before 9:30 early because I just wanted to wake up and go back  to SD to see about renting a car. Of course I got up super early as a result and was listening to ‘N Sync’s “Sailing” at 5:30 in the morning to clear my head. There was also no water so I had to wash my face and brush my teeth this morning with a bottle of water I’m happy I only took 2 sips of earlier. I don’t know why but I thought an uber could take me all the way back to the SD airport, like across the border. Greyhound was weird the day before and I just wanted to go, I confirmed with the guy as soon as I got in his car and we took off. I started to notice us going in circles but I didn’t say anything but then the driver pulled over and said he can’t go across the border because he doesn’t have a visa. SIGH. Have you ever just like really wanted to leave somewhere? Not like the usual antsy-ness like getting off work, the severe desperation of wanted so badly to go and not look back? That’s how I felt about Tijuana, Mexico this morning. The driver was nice enough to drop me off at the greyhound station in Tijuana, where I should’ve just gone originally. The line to get back in the US was a doozy but it was quick!

I was elated to be able to use my phone and take a $3 Lyft to the car rental place at the airport. I was nervous walking in but the guy at the counter couldn’t care less that I don’t have a valid credit card. All I had to was show him my return flight reservation and I was good. Well that was easy. I was out! So happy to be behind the wheel of car and nice one at that. I drove to my hostel and called my mom, relaxed a little then took a walk to a farmers market by the beach. While I was there this guy who was also staying at my hostel recognized me and we walked along the beach. His name is Reed and he’s been traveling by bicycle all the way from Washington. He wants to continue all the way to South America. I hope he does, he seemed to be in a discouraged state of mind, I had to remind him that he’s come so far so he’s obviously awesome and he can do anything. We were talking about the word travel and what it really means, he said to him its doing anything you don’t normally do, even in your hometown and he’s so right! We split up and I called a few peeps to let them know I was alive, got some tea from the farmers market as well as a blanket for this annoying person in SF and here I am laying on the bottom bunk of this hostel, geez almost 1,200 words. I’m sorry, get back to your lives just know that the corny quote “It’s not the destination, its the journey”…..its true….and I’ve only just begun.

 

 

This Close

So, ahem tomorrow is the day I leave for my road trip. I’m going to try to post at least every other day but of course that will depend on my wifi situation. As of tonight I have my first 5 nights booked, which is the most planning I plan to do, after that I’m going to wing it mostly until I get to SF. I was really stressed yesterday and most of today because no one was getting back to me on airbnb and I really wanted to have a place booked near Venice Beach and now I do so I’m going to try to sleep for a couple of hours and then use this uber app that I downloaded for the first time today and go to the airport! Next time I post I’ll be on the west coast! There’s a lot I’m nervous about, but it’s more than okay, my will and nerve to do this far outweighs any anxiety I could ever have. Hot pink toes.