It was my friend Sarah-Jane’s fourth grade birthday party and she had just received the Lizzie McGuire movie as a birthday present. This was at the peak of Lizzie McGuire’s success on the Family Channel (Disney Channel in the U.S.) and naturally, I had never heard of it. (Nothing against Hilary Duff, I hadn’t even heard of Britney Spears or the Spice Girls either.)
At this point, I had a brief understanding of Europe- I had seen an old VHS of Mary-Kate and Ashley Oleson in Passport to Paris, after all. Well, the Lizzie McGuire movie made me realize that if I wanted to be like the Oleson twins and my new hero, Hilary Duff, I needed to go to Europe. So, for the next few Christmases and birthdays, whenever my parents asked me what I wanted, I would say that I wanted to go to Europe.
Unfortunately for me, museums and historic buildings aren’t exactly synonymous to dirt biking, windsurfing and skiing in my dad’s book, so my European wanderlust was put on hold until high school where my years of anticipation had paid off.
My school was planning a trip to Dublin, London, Paris and Normandy during my grade 10 year.
It took a year and half of campaigning and saving every cent from my chores, but I was finally allowed to go for the adventure of a lifetime.
Of course, I documented every moment of my adventure in what I can only assume was the written inspiration behind Jimmy Fallon’s “EW” skits.
From my annoyance of the perpetually drunk Florida group to my almost first kiss in Paris to being exposed to men on a deck of erotic playing cards (my reaction, according to 15-year-old me: “EhmaGAWD EW!”), every memory is tucked into the pages of my Europe journal – Day 1 through epilogue.
Five years after my trip, I give you my most candid and memorable moments from my time overseas:
VERSAILLES – “It’s this old place where a king (or some dude in the monarchy, I honestly don’t give a shit) decided to build this majestic hunting lodge and decided to make it a hunting lodge on steroids. Don’t get me wrong, it was kind of cool to see, but that historical crap just bored me.”
(Considered minoring in history last year.)
NORMANDY – “If one word could describe this place, that word would be “surprises” cuz that was the entire day- one huge surprise. I wasn’t really looking forward to the D-Day beaches and quite frankly, I wanted to skip Normandy altogether. After visiting the museum and seeing the bombed barricades protecting Normandy’s coastline, we headed down to the beach. Jess and I had already eaten, so we collected some stuff from the beach and did cartwheels in the sand. I also found some sea glass there. As we headed up to Juno beach, we stopped at a bunker. Everyone was going on top of it, so I wanted to too. I kicked my legs out to push myself up and managed to get matching indents from the bunker on my shins. After we had visited the Canadian cemetery, we went to a field where apparently the majority of the bombing took place. This place was filled with half-destroyed bunkers and massive bomb holes in the ground. Half the area was roped off because there are some un-detonated bombs there still. Jess and I explored the bunkers- they were so creepy cuz all you could see was a doorway and blackness. If someone jumped out and yelled ‘Boo!’ I would’ve screamed.”
PARIS – Throwback to my days as an art curator at the Louvre.
DUBLIN – “It’s Ireland! Home of the short ginger leprechauns NOT tall sexy beasts!!!”
“Walking from the port [pictured above] to the Irish folklore event, I guess we were all talking loudly. Next thing I know, these three Irish dudes are walking to the pub we just passed, punching their brown paper bags in the air, chanting: ‘U-S-A! U-S-A!’ We yelled back: ‘Canada! Canada!’ Their response came in song: ‘Americaaaaaaa! Land of the freeee!’ I’m pretty sure that’s not the American national anthem, I’ve seen enough hockey games to know.”
That incident started our over-identification as Canadians for the rest of the trip. Once they realized you were Canadian, you were treated a lot better.
In Paris, the TV in my room was broken and wouldn’t turn off, so after waiting for 20 minutes to talk to the concierge, my friend Jessica and I explained our problem in French. When he demanded for us to speak in English, we did. When he didn’t understand, we re-explained in French. We were told to “pick one language.” It wasn’t until he realized that we were part of the Canadian group that his mood drastically improved and we were offered a new room, free of charge.
Note to self: Save time by investing in a Canadian flag pin.
Anyways, back to March 27,2015 for me: a 3,000-word history essay. While I’m writing about how the British Secret Service was created, I’ll leave you with a fun game to play on the cab ride home from your Friday night shenanigans (because my Friday night won’t be nearly as fun):
Try to say the name of this Welsh town:
And GOGOGOCH! Winner gets the pride in knowing that they know how to say “St. Mary’s Church in the Hollow of the White Hazel Near to the Fierce Whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio of the Red Cave” in Welsh. Just remember to tweet me @thefttourist after with your attempts! I’m hoping to learn how to say it before I’m 30.
Special shout out and thank you YouTube user ChickenJewel for the pronunciation (above link). I’m weirdly envious of your name, good sir.