Once in a while, I miss Chicago.

I left Chicago one week after my ex-boyfriend told me, “I love you, but not enough to move to Toronto with you. And that, to me, means I don’t love you the right way.” Days before, you could not have separated us (he asked me if I judged him when he picked the stems off vine-ripened tomatoes before bagging them). It was too easy for us to be that way and moving was just the hurdle to flag the inevitable. We broke-up that day, and I departed alone with orders from the U.S. Border Control to do so by the end of the month.

Those last days packing and preparing to leave were torturous. My half empty apartment and everything about Chicago represented our relationship – did I just accept and leave? Of course. If this was tough enough, then that was enough of us. I chalked it up to a ‘bad fit’. Nevertheless, I cried a lot. It was the first and only time I lost my appetite for food. I needed to grieve more, but had to get across the border first. Arriving in Toronto, I told myself that there was nothing left for me in Chicago and it was only a reflection of our good times together.

For months, I had nightmares and the ringer for long distance calls made my heart race. It wasn’t a secret; I thought about us all the time. The radio annoyingly announced Chicago’s weather, hockey results, baseball scores, and of course, Obama’s race. And then there was also the matter of finishing my thesis, based on ethnographic study in Chicago.

I returned to Chicago to graduate, and even spent some time with the Ex. I considered telling him (but didn’t) that this trip was to ensure for myself that I wanted neither he nor Chicago in my life. I was wrong, then right, wrong again, and I’m now only 97% over us and that’s ok. He was the romance of my youth (we sped on bikes down Magnificent Mile through the rain, jumped into Lake Michigan fully clothed, made ketchup from scratch). It was too sweet, I’d gorged myself full of every beautifully in-love moment. Actually, just before his revelation, I was on a diet to prep for more feasting in Toronto. (By the way, I am noticing the food-conflict analogy running through this post, as I’m sure that you have.)

On the other hand, Chicago – before and after him – bored me. It was everything I saw on TV. Once I’d become accustomed to seeing outlandish stereotypes in real-life, I felt that I understood Chicago. I was jaded once again and told him so. He said, “those things you liked about Chicago with me are still here, as they’ve always been in you.”

He was right, though I’m not sure about our friendship.

This is my list of things I miss about Chicago:

  • Bike-friendliness, and especially the lake side bike path in the early morning
  • Seminary Co-op and Gerstein Library at UChicago
  • Race reversals in Hyde Park
  • Intelligentsia coffee and garbage cookies, as they are served at both Istria Cafes
  • Abundant and less-expensive cheese choices and alcohol… and cigarettes
  • Multi-grain demi-baguettes at Medici and sunflowered bread from Red Hen
  • Brownstones (and architecture, in general)
  • Blommer’s aroma at the oddest times
  • Outlandish and gawdy stereotypical characters and neighbourhoods

Europe in Summary… next!

August 17, 2007

Though I was really good at posting about my Europe backpacking adventure initially, life happens… I fell behind. Since I’ve returned home, I’ve been already to Chicago to find an apartment and Nova Scotia to see friends and family.  Now I’m in Toronto again and frankly, relieved not to be travelling again – for at least a little while. Having said that, sufficient time has passed and I’m now ready to finish recounting stories of backpacking Europe (and may be slightly annoyed if you’re still asking about it hereafter).

The format will be different from previous posts though…
On the most obvious front, it’s because I don’t want to type it (the laziness really hit once I got home). Less obviously, perhaps, are the wavering thoughts I’ve been having about the point and meaning (I thought and wrote about that during my trip as well and may post about that eventually, depending on how much I need Sheila teasing me about my random thoughts). Moreover, there are lots of other things happening awaiting my attention (i.e. i ought to be doing something besides this).

Thus, here is the flash summary of my 7 weeks in Europe:  

  • London – posted already – stayed with Pinger
  • Paris – posted already – stayed with Matty et David
  • Barcelona – posted already – 2 nights in my first hostel ever
  • Sevilla – posted already – 1 night
  • Lisbon – posted already – 2 nights
  • Madrid – posted – 2 nights
  • Milan* – posted already – 3 nights
  • Paris* – very short (due to train delay) transfer point; don’t think I would’ve made it between the stations if I hadn’t already had: a) a metro ticket, and b) a vague understanding of their metro map – 25 minute transfer point
  • Brussels* – can’t remember if I posted about this – anyhow, I had a waffle, which was enough brussels for me – 3 hour day-trip
  • Rotterdam* – posted already – 2 nights
  • *Milan – Paris – Brussels – Rotterdam = best value for 1 day of travel on my Eurorail Pass

  • Amsterdam – what else? – Largest food portions that I saw in Europe – 3 nights
  • Hannover – 5 hour transfer point
    • dude with the sausage grill strapped to his waist
    • tackeriffic wedding dance outside the train station 
    • licorice as long as my height and as thick as my middle finger
  • Berlin – 2 nights
    • mmmm…milchkaffees, breakfast buffets
    • friendly locals
    • huge, dull buildings made for long, often uninspiring treks
  • Munich – 30 minute transfer point
    • never left the station, but the bakeries inside were sooooo good!
  • Fussen to Schwangau – 3 hour day-trip
    • Castles (one of which, was supposedly the inspiration for Disney’s castle)
    • Running up hills with backpacks 
  • Prague – posted – 2 nights
  • Budapest – posted – 10 hour day-trip
    • Gased?  (the only explanation for getting robbed the night before on the overnight train)
    • Passport/ticket checks by Slovakian gunmen
    • Seeing, but not trying, the thermal baths
    • Euro-trash fashion
  • Prague – 5 hours
    • Airport welcome safe-haven with free internet, and all I can handle of Eastern Europe anymore
  • Napoli – 2 nights in Portici, cute town 15 min by tram
    • amazing antipasti
    • traffic that makes anything in Toronto seem tame
  • Pompeii – 4 hour day-trip
    • One of those things I really needed to see to grasp 
    • Cultural difference: literally throw garbage on the street with conviction
  • Rome – 3 nights
    • Covered virtually everything at night, without traffic in our own version of the ultimate Roma walk 
    • Campsite outside city saved Roma for me (greenery, quiet, and pool welcome escape from city)
    • Skipping the queue for the Vatican museums almost made it bareable – but still, way too many museums at one time
    • Human statue that pretended to #2
    • Crummy hostel operators
  • Munich – 5 hour day-trip
    • Happy to return to the magnificent bread bakeries at the station
    • Saw Octoberfest stuff, but don’t like beer or sausage when I’m sober
    • Glockenspiel was under construction
  • Araxos/Alissos – 1 night
    • Airport serves 30,000 ppl/year…that’s it!
    • Stung by jelly fish 2x – 1 night
  • Prathos – 3 hour day-trip
    • First Greek freddo (frothy iced greek coffee) – YUM!
  • Athens – 3 nights
    • Grey stray dogs
    • Met up with friendly, familiar faces by chance
    • Ran around the Acropolis
  • Barcelona – 2 nights
    • Huge pan of mussels
    • Drunken walk home alone
  • Paris – 4 nights
    • Got ‘stuck’ there (no worthwhile trains out)
    • Saw for the first time: Chinese characters for McDonald’s (muk dun oh) in Chinatown
    • Finally a trip to (Euro) Disneyland for C. (foodland was laughable – ny style deli, chicago hotdogs, texas steaks, etc.  curious about Japan’s Disneyland now)
    • Great runs
  • London – 4 nights
    • Pinger time
    • Rain
    • Ex-pat brunch
    • Day-night market selling anything and everything strewn on blankets


Glad-I’m-Not-American moment: “Whaddya mean you don’t take American money?” at the Pompeii ruins ticket booth 

Best Bakeries:  Paris (pastries) & Germany (bread)

Most Unique Shopping: Paris

Bang-for-your-buck: Eastern Europe (but don’t take the trains)

Architecture: Rotterdam (modern), Paris & Barcelona (historic)

Chinese-Moment:  “Yo, don’t you see we’re Chinese… we’re the bootleg kings” as yet another dude tries to push his DVDs on us.

Not worth visiting (but ok as a stopover for cheap flights): Milan

Smelliest:  Urine (Rome) & Flowers (Lisbon)

Backpacking Vibe: Lisbon

Most expensive: London

I’m-just-another-tourist: Match-box scam in Barcelona

Market: Barcelona (everything food) & London (everything non-food + gigantic donuts)

All-around: Barcelona

Could imagine living there (read: opportunities for anonymity or to shine, fast & slow paces, socialist, etc.): Paris

That’s about it…

oh, and only one regret really – i missed florence, venice, and the coast of france.  but next time i’ll go there first 🙂

Next trip: NYC.