WELL: So, general thoughts on the European experience:

*Frankfurt reminds me a lot of Washington DC, in that both are company towns, except the company is the European banking industry and not the American political establishment. Everyone speaks English. The Mexican food is surprisingly good.

*Flying RyanAir from FF to London was like being on the Knight Bus in Harry Potter--no assigned seating (interesting sidenote: you could tell the Americans/Britishes from the Continentals because the former were the ones who, when asked to queue up to get ready for boarding, actually got into a line; the latter were the ones moving seats out of the way and elbowing as needed to get to the front of the line), so there was a mad dash across the tarmac to get seats. Upon entering the cabin, the pilot informed us that we had five minutes left in our window to get airborne. Flight was, uh, a bumpy experience.

*Dr. Johnson was right: whoever is tired of London is tired of life.

*Note to the bartender at the Long Island Ice Tea Shop: when most people make a margarita, it has more than three shots of tequila and two ice cubes. For your future reference.

*Camille's friend Brittany gave me a very helpful hint for getting by in London: pretend all the prices are in dollars, not in pounds (you'll go mad thinking about how much everything costs otherwise). Nevertheless, it did occur to me fifteen minutes into our showing of Mean Girls in Picadilly Circus that I'd just paid 18 dollars to see the film.

*Anecdote for those who favor socialized medicine: one of Camille's dear friends, with whom we stayed, has appendicitis the week before we got there. But, since it's not immanently threatening to burst, she got put on a waiting list to have it removed. If she's lucky, she'll get to have the procedure in five months or so.

*Much love to Brittany for being a fabulous travel companion in London and Allison for personally overseeing my intoxication on the last night in London.

*Point-counterpoint: the people at Notre Dame de Paris when I visited were loud and very much into taking flash photographs of everything; at St. Paul's in London, everyone was very quiet and subdued when inside, all the moreso when services and concerts were being held. Benefit of charging a cover, I guess.

*Taking Eucharist at St. Paul's, I had a "whoa! that's not water in there!" moment.

*My complaint about the Louvre: when you have as excellent a collection as they do, you think they'd do a better job of presenting it. Two main faults I saw:

a tendency to just throw things up on the wall ('we have fifteen Titians? Eh, just put them up anywhere"), especially vexing when they were mixing Ren.-Mannerist-Baroque paintings rather freely, and the aforementioned Titians, which got pared (rather randomly) with vaguely contemporaneous English portraiture.

the terrible problem of many of the paintings being washed out by a combination of aritificial lighting and skylighting: nothing worse than only being able to see the bottom third of an Annibale Carracci.

But, then again, they had Rembrandt's Supper at Emmaus, which forgives a lot of sins in my book.

*Dijon: ugly stereotype moment: I was in a restaurant, and the woman serving me asked what I wanted to drink. I asked for a Hoegaarten, as the sign for them was prominently displayed. She said she didn't understand; I thought maybe I had Englishized the name, so I tried again. She nodded, went behind the bar, and pulled out a Coca-Cola, motioning to ask me if it's what I wanted. Because, you know, I'm an American, and that's what we drink (similarly annoying was whenever I was asked if I wished to conduct a conversation in English after beginning it in French).

*That being said, the second Troesterian proverb: Elijah was fed by the ravens; I was fed by a nice old French barkeeper.

*When spending seven hours on trains yesterday to get from Dijon back to Frankfurt, in poorly ventilated cars when it was 85° or so, I was reminded of my favorite sketch from De La Soul's Three Feet High and Rising:

Please listen to this simple De La style I'm gonna sing
It's strongly directed to all the misery you're bringing
Now I'm not all about dissing someone else personnel
But there's no quota on your odor
That's right, you smell
Now you might feel a little embarassed, don't take it too hard
And don't make it worse by covering it up with some Right Guard
Before you even put on your silk shirt and fat gold rope
Please take your big ass to the bathroom
And please use
(A little bit of soap....

*I think any claims to cultural superiority the Germans might wish to level against the US can be effectively turned by noting the extreme popularity of a giant dancing cockroach and purple hippo who makes lewd gestures in that country.

*Never in my life have the skills I learned from my Orienteering merit badge come in so handy: I frequently went without maps and just used landmarks to navigate. My crowning acheivement was getting back to the place Camille and I had dinner when I got to FF by remembering how we got there step by step from the one time we'd done it two weeks ago. Woot woot, as OGIW might say.

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