Tag Archives: the grand voyage

Reflections on the holiday.

One year ago I was alone in Dublin. I’d cracked a harebrained idea to go to Ireland for Christmastime. It was great–I had a beautiful hotel room to myself, I was responsible only for my own happiness, and I went to Christmas Day service at Christ Church Cathedral–mostly to hear the “bells of Dublin,” a nerdy desire which I’d wanted to fulfill since I was a tiny child. You see, my family only listened to The Chieftain’s The Bells of Dublin for the entire month of December for every year that I can remember of my upbringing. So, because of this (and in spite of the loneliness, the mild harassment I encountered at the airport, and the convenience store Christmas dinner), the trip was wonderful. Shoddy footage is included below. You can tell from my quick pace and errant cinematography that I was very ashamed of the fact that I was clearly carrying a digital camera in front of me, which was clearly recording every pace I took, looking like an unabashed tourist on Christmas Day. Shame on me.

Oh well. I’m glad I have it now, though re-watching it is a little painful, every time. I should have just stuck to my guns and embraced my tourist status. Maybe then this youtube clip would be respectable, respectable like the videos your grandparents make when they tour around Europe and come back with epic, epic slideshows to share with you. And if I’d been that confident, maybe I would have been brazen enough to make another clip of the beautiful church choir that sang throughout the service (SIKE). Anyway, I value this little nugget for its humor. There are some photos, too.

Anyway, needless to say this Christmas has been very different. Very homey. Family, old friends, and certainly lots of time spent in the kitchen cooking up a storm with my mama. I’ll post a menu with some nice macro photos later on. In the mean time, I offer you a photo for comparison’s sake.

Who knew reindeer could be so sassy?

Dublin shots:

St. Stephen's green.

Quaint refrigeration--part of Christmas dinner + the view from my room.

Somewhere along the south side of the Liffey.

Draft horses near Grafton Street.

Clearly missing rugby--the pitch at Trinity College.


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I’ve been in Paris for all of four hours and I already

a. have received a recommendation for which apartment building to move into when I come back.

b. have received an offer from the sweet receptionist (who “only works nights”) to hang out and show me around town here. Hmm.

Things can only get better, I think.


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Natale per tutto del mundo.

Hi guys.

Happy Christmas! Supposedly the Pacific Northwest has gone to hell in my absence. Snow, you guys? Seriously? How could you let this happen? Why didn’t you ask the clouds to wait?

Anyway, I’m in Dublin right now. It’s been quite fantastic. The airport-to-hotel coach driver kicked everything off nicely by singing along to the Mariah Carey Christmas carols that would issue frequently from the local holiday radio station. Then, when I discovered that I had the sweetest hotel room waiting for me, well. I was fit to be tied, as it were.

I’ve been out to a few pubs, heard a little music, been blown away by the shopping district and Irish families out in full force for last-minute shopping. I met the executive of Burger King’s Irish franchise (“Martin”) and his posse of other kind gentlemen, all out for a drink (“Kent,” “John,” and “Ginny”). I went to church today at Dublin’s Christchurch Cathedral and heard the infamous bells of Dublin peal forth in celebration (terrible video footage soon to be posted). St. Stephen’s Green is absolutely beautiful and the people have been delightful and friendly. I have my small room with a view, a large white bed, and Virginia Woolf. This has been quite a nice Christmas.

Tomorrow I fly to Paris. Hopefully to see Wells and Charlie and Gina, among other outstanding, worldly monuments. It’s going to be fantastic.

T-5 ’til you-know-what. In the mean time, you’re all in my thoughts. Try to convince the snow to stick around a little longer, would you?

Peace and grace be with you. Baci.


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And just like that.

I’m in Berlin. School’s finished and I’ve said a lot of goodbyes in the past two days. Not much to say yet except that there was lots of snow on the ground on the way here and lots of tears before I left. I don’t have an internet connection at the hostel, so yet again I’ll have to save the real update for later. Tired. Really tired. Curious about what’s to come. Really releieved that I’ll be coming home, and soon.

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Or, better known  to some as “Brenna Conquers Western Europe.”

December 19

Celebrate the end with my classmates and fantastically strange, incredibly intelligent professors. Pack my shit. Get on a night train bound for Switzerland. All great escapes should start like this, I think. Switzerland is, after all, the best refuge.

December 20-22

Make a bleary-eyed train transfer in Spiez (near Bern) in the wee hours and spend the next several hours staring out the window at Germany as it flies by. I’m so hoping for snow. So so so hoping for snow. Arrive in Berlin in the early afternoon.

My hostel is right in the middle of the mitte district (ha), the district that sits closest to the east-west divide, but on the eastern side. It’s close to the Kreuzberg district, which is supposed to be a neighborhood with a high Turkish population and a lot of young, creative energy.

There will be touristy things that will need to be done, a lot of modern art to be seen, and quite a lot of intense wandering around (…biking around?) to follow. The other cheesy goal is to find a great old bookshop and a dusty copy of “Faust.” I might go and see the Berlin Philharmoniker while I’m there, too. I think Mahler 3 under Mehta’s baton is what’s on the calendar that weekend.

December 23-25

I leave Berlin on the morning of the 23rd and get into Dublin sometime in the early afternoon. My hotel looks gorgeous and is tucked a little farther out of the way, though not too far from St. Stephen’s green. This should be a quiet few days since most things will be closed starting in the late afternoon on the 24th and certainly on the 25th.

December 26-28

Paris. Paris fresh after Christmas. Paris, full of skeletal trees along the Seine, silhouetted against the grey sky and hanging mist. Paris, full of croissants in the early morning. Paris, full of… Charlie Allen? Well, maybe. There’s a potential run-in scheduled for the 26th, but our schedules might not match up. Beyond that, I have a lot to do in Paris.

On the night of the 28th I’m taking the Artesia night train (the fastest train in Europe! – I’m must admit, I’m quite excited about that part) back to Florence. I’ll get in to Florence early the next morning, stumble out of the Santa Maria Novella Stazione and try and find caffe e dolci as quickly as is humanly possible. Plans for that day include fetching my HUGE suitcases from my host family (oh my GOD taxis are expensive), poking around in the standard outdoor markets, visiting my favorite cioccolateria (the best in Florence — and, by God, I’d say the best in the entire world) to pick up sweet things for home, visiting my favorite places, and being generally sentimental. The next morning I have to get up at some disgusting hour, take a cab to Florence’s tiny, tiny airport, and get out of town. After that, I’ll pass through Amsterdam and Minneapolis (whinewhinewhine) and customs. The plan is to survive the longest day ever and (hopefully) slip right by any bad winter weather and onslaughts of other holiday travelers.

With a pinch of luck I should be back in Portland’s loving arms on the evening on the 30th, just in time to catch some shuteye before ringing in the New Year.

But for now I have other things to do. I have a paper to start tonight. And at this time tomorrow Leslie and I will be on another night train, hurtling toward Wien. WIEN! Even though we’ll be missing Immacolata here in Italy, we’ll be just in time to celebrate St. Nicolaus’ Tag with old men roaming around in saintly costumes, kicking off the official start to Christmas in Germanic style. We’ll find Krampus and growl back at him, eat Sacher torte and famed midnight doughnuts made by 90-year old legends, and perhaps stand in a line for nosebleed tickets at the Wiener Staatsoper. Then there’s Salzburg and quieter times to be had — we’ll visit the Dom and the huge, human-sized chessboard, and maybe even the shop we visited on choir tour that’s full of hand-painted blown eggs — yes, just blown eggs. Eggs hanging from fake trees and piled in huge barrels — and the shop even continues across the street in its annex. Yes, the egg shop has an annex. And THEN — we’ll be in München for two days. Sentiments will range from intensely sobered to not-so as we visit Dachau on day 1, then the Hofbräuhaus and a famed, super old billiard museum on day 2. Then we catch a night train back to Florence, stumbling through the station at 6 in the morning (6 IN THE MORNING), just in time to drink a lot of coffee and get our bums to class. What world-traveling badasses we are.


Someday I'll figure out how to rotate these things. Someday.

Someday I'll figure out how to rotate these things. Someday.

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