Postcards From Europe in 50 words or Less

In Chamonix. Planning to hike the Tour of Mont Blanc, a 200-kilometer loop. Passed a hotel called Le Gite Vagabond. Tempting, but too expensive, so I slept on a bench outside the train station in the shadow of Mont Blanc instead.

gite le vagabond

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I am writing you from a train filled with Aussies. Paris to Lisbon, Portugal; a long ride. I was in Paris for a day. I didn’t know what to do so I went into a movie theatre and watched Spiderman.

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Dublin is as dirty a town as they claim, and as beautiful. I drank Guinness today and sang dirty old town with an old drunk. I watched cricket and noticed that cricket players are faster than baseball players.

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I got to Madrid hours before my flight back to Ireland. I lay down shirtless outside the airport, as I had done in Phoenix a few months before, and did nothing. Much hotter here than it is on the coast. The temperature rises, the people get colder.

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London is packed for the Olympics. My brother and I came over from Ireland to watch the Marathon. I retreated to a bookstore and read The Perks of a Wallflower and then napped in a park. Rolled up my jeans, took off my shoes and socks, watched Londoners get drunk.

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Somehow I made it to Berlin to meet my uncle, though I had no money. Strangers can be kind, when you aren’t in France. Here, I biked in the downpour, looked at portraits of smooching dictators and gorged on continental breakfasts. I took some food for the road.

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Got robbed in Nice. Took the train to Marseilles, hid in the bathroom. Spent the week trying to get a new passport. I sat in the US consulate reading the dictionary and copying down words I liked.

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Wish you were here in Portugal. Lonely and melancholy tonight. For the past week, I have bodysurfed in the day, slept on the beach at night. I don’t feel lonely while surfing, riding the waves; the loneliness comes when the sun sets, and the couples walk off hand in hand

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sunset portugal

beach life

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In France, most everything is forbidden, private, or impossible, usually all three. “Can I sit here?” “It is forbidden.” “Pourquoi?” “Dis table izze private.” “Can I climb this tree?” “No, it is impossible.”

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Hung out in Lyon with a gorgeous German woman studying abroad there. Saw a guy with a Redskins hat, he told me the Heat had won the NBA Finals. This news did not make me happy, but the messenger of the news did.

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Mark Twain wrote, “There is a friendly something about the German character which is very winning.” I agree. The difference from the French was noticeable the moment I crossed the border in Strasbourg.

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Met a group from Jersey (not the state) on a train. They were going to a heavy metal concert. I don’t like heavy metal music. They had a friend called Jim Beam. After meeting him I decided to go with them. I left the concert when Lynyrd Skynyrd was playing “Free Bird.”

train

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I feel invisible when travelling in the city. Not ideal for a life, good for a few days. Not a part of the city, not apart from it. In it, as an observer rather than a participant. An outsider by choice. I’m in some city, I forget the name, thinking of you.

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Got to Hamburg a little after 2 p.m. on July 3. Watched a horse race. Met a group of 12 or so. They welcomed me with sandwiches, sausages, and lager. The next day I told them I had to get to Berlin, had no money. They paid for my fare. Gratitude.

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Talked to a French bum today. Seems that all French bums have dogs, earrings, long hair. Renegades. Interacting with French people from the towns and cities drains me. But the bums are like mountain spring water from the Alps, refreshingly energizing, quenching that thirst for meaningful connection.

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A trekker named Bruno saw me trying to hitchhike. He came over to me, laughing at the pitiful sign I had made. I told him my story, he told me to come with him. I hiked for three days with him. I slept in a cave, he slept in his tent. We wondered where the french flies go at night.

bruno

bruno cavemen

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