Souvenirs

Souvenir, French for memory. A recreated, remembered retrospective that relives only in your mind.

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Remember that time we went to New York City, just the four of us, the first time we’d been just us in so long, and remember how we saw old friends, and danced all night at that bar mitzvah, and saw Something Rotten twice, and walked the High Line park, and drank all that wine at the French wine bar, and Moothor hugged that actor at the other wine bar?

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A recent discussion on Facebook made me think about the souvenirs we buy during our trips, the trinkets from vacation, the gifts for other people. Why buy anything at all from these places? The cheap tourist stuff is probably made in China, and what good does a magnet from Puerto Rico do anyone? What’s the point of a souvenir? Continue reading

Six Reasons to Spend Six Weeks Abroad

In America, it’s uncommon to hear of people taking really long vacations or trips lasting more than two weeks because most companies in the US don’t offer much paid time off or allow people to work remotely. In Europe, things are a little different. Spain and Germany give their workers 34 days of paid vacation, Italy and France give 31, but in America only 25% of workers are guaranteed any paid time off. Add in the fact that many companies are still scared to let employees work remotely, and you probably don’t hear, “Guess what? We’ll be gone for six weeks!” very often or at all.

Justin and I feel so fortunate to be able to say those exact words. “We’ll be gone for six weeks!”

In less than a month, we will be embarking on our Euro Adventure 2016: six weeks, five (planned) countries, four booked AirBNBs, three train rides, two carry-on bags, and one month-long home exchange with a lovely Dutch couple. What the heck are we thinking?! Continue reading

Road-tripping around France

August 20, 2005. I was 20 years old, had 6 years of French under my belt, and got to fly international first class (!!!) avec mon père to Paris. Two full semesters studying abroad. I’d been planning this for years. A full year abroad was the whole reason I stayed in-state for college, letting scholarships cover my tuition so my dad would fund a year in Europe.

My dad was going to be with me for two full weeks. As he’d been to Paris a dozen times, and I’d been twice before (and had 10 whole months ahead of me!), after getting my apartment all set up, we decided the best use of our time would be exploring other parts of France. So six days into my year abroad, we rented a weird yellow Peugeot and hit the road.

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Bad Schwartau

In elementary school, I used to tell people that Schwartau was the shortened version of my real last name, the Ellis Island version given to my ancestors when they immigrated to America. My real last name was Schwartauburgerhifinfiner. My friends believed me, for years. But it’s not true.

My real last name is Schwartau.

Growing up, I knew that it was

(a) German

(b) hard for people to say

(c) harder for people to spell

(d) the last name of very few people in America (according to this site, only 107 people in the US have this surname, and this site confirms)

and (e) also the name of a jam and jelly company in Europe

Every year for Christmas, my dad would order hundreds of jars of Schwartau jams, from the mini to full size, and we’d give them to everyone: teachers, neighbors, friends, the accountant, their lawyer. (Try the wildberry, so tasty!)

Never once, as a kid, did I think I’d get the opportunity to visit the town that birthed Schwartau jam and, maybe, my family: Bad Schwartau. But in 2009, my dad made that happen. Let me share with you our Bad Schwartau adventure, in pictures.

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The Last (and Worst) Time I was in London

As we’re planning our 2016 European adventure, we’re talking about all the places we are interested in visiting — for me, Paris is always a must see, but not so much for Justin. At the top of his list is London.

london wakefield york 048

London is a beautiful city, with a rich (and bloody!) history, full of people who speak English and a theatre scene that can’t be missed. Yet, every time I hear the name of the city, my heart starts to race in a panicky way and my mouth goes a little dry. I haven’t been to London in over a decade, but the last time I went was one of the worst travel experiences of my life.

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