Monday, December 18, 2006

Italy, Tea, Jet-Lag and Me!

(There are photos at the end of this; please bear with me.)

On my last day in London I went to the National Portrait Gallery and saw, next to a photograph of the British model Lily Cole, a quote of hers that really summed up my experience. This is surprising, given that Lily Cole's main talking point is Kate Moss, but nevertheless it was roughly this:

"Happiness is not about being lucky. Happiness is about realizing how lucky you are."

So very true! I had the incredible fortune to spend three months in one of the most historic and fascinating cities in the world; I was able to spend casual weekends in places that many people only dream of going; I was exposed to an entirely different culture without having to alter myself at all. But it was not until I stepped back and realized how unbelievable my experience was that I truly became happy in London, and really began loving the city for what it was. That was my biggest area of growth: not expecting a city to be what I wanted, but appreciating it for what it actually offered. And London offers so much.

I took it as a huge compliment when Pontus told me that I was the most open-minded American he knew. Though I almost never encountered any outright hostility (even in France!), there is still a stigma in Europe that Americans are unwilling to accept any culture but their own. After getting to know many of the Americans on my trip, I am sorry to say that the stigma is not unfounded. Sure, there were times when I wanted to shake Queen Mary administration and yell "DO YOU NOT REALIZE THAT IT IS 2006?!" but I never expected, or wanted, everything to be like America. If I had, why would I have gone abroad?

My last week in London was wonderful, and spent partially in Italy. Saturday was the Singalong Sound of Music with Michelle, and it was exactly what it sounds like:

Then Rich flew in, and we spent a few days doing things I had yet to do, like going out for a meal that cost more than 6 pounds and tasted better than dog food, and really exploring Covent Garden. The phenomenon of Europeans putting carousels everywhere manifested itself:

We travelled to Italy for Tuesday and Wednesday, where Rich got to have the amazing experience of staying with my aunt, uncle, and cousin, who live in the mountains by Florence in the most beautiful home. They have hosted me once already. More amazing food and dessert in Florence, and even more carousels:

Finally we had a great night in, exchanging presents with my flat (check out my amazing "Sweden" hat, courtesy of ---who else?--- the big Swede himself) and saying goodbye to everyone:

And just for good measure, one last pretty scenery shot of London:

So now I'm home. In my own bed. My parents made Thanksgiving dinner last night and it was life-alteringly good. I'm thrilled to be back, although there are times where the Americanness of it all is startling (like yesterday, when a 40-year-old Jewish American Princess with a Lilly bag was hassling the poor zitty photo guy at Costco). London was an amazing experience, but now I'm looking forward to being back in Evanston with some of my favorite people on the planet, not spending 20 dollars on a subpar sandwich, and watching Maury at my leisure.

So there's "my British tour diary" in a nutshell. On the internet. Seacrest, out!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bravo, Al! So glad you had fun, but even happier that you are home. See you in 3 days!!

8:35 AM  
Blogger Nell Minow said...

Welcome home, sweetie! It has been a blast accompanying you via the blog! Lots of love, Aunt Nell

1:04 PM  

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