Arriving in Quebec City days earlier we had sought something unique and unfamiliar, to capture the sense of discovery in a foreign land despite our relative proximity to home. What we found was something else, not the detachment of internationalism that we had expected, but a uniquely Québécois appeal. Leaving behind Quebec City’s francophonic charm for the modernism of Montreal then seemed bittersweet, having breached the apex of our northern venture, it seemed we were being drawn back toward the familiar, and everything ahead was literally, figuratively, and culturally closer to home.
There are some things that Americans do really well, like deep frying and covered wagons, but our ability to cheer on our sports teams of choice has scarcely improved since Prohibition. Four syllable chants of “LET’S GO, (CITY) (TEAM)!” and “DE-FENSE!, (CLAP), (CLAP)” have turned us into the remedial math class of the fan kingdom. Everyone knows that Koreans have our number when it comes to standardized testing and four-door sedans, but now they’re also sticking it to us with our own national pastime.
Just as we were beginning to feel like Carmen Sandiego we missed our ferry to Santorini; changing the clock one hour ahead is a small detail Carmen would have never forgotten. With 8 new hours to kill, these ACME gumshoes were lucky to come across an Internet café stocked with an array of reassuring amenities: Internet, food, showers, luggage storage and interesting company. The owner and his staff took a shine to us as soon as they saw our defeated faces stumbling into their place. As welcoming as the cafe was, we felt like we were in the Twilight …
CASABLANCA, MOROCCO- When I first arrived in Morocco at Casablanca’s Mohammed V International Airport, I felt as though I had fallen into the pages of Baghdad Without a Map. Aside from the airport’s deteriorating exterior and ragged runway, the terminal itself was dimly lit, and no one really appeared to actually be working. A lone security guard sat in a corner, far more interested the day’s periodicals than the arrival of Royal Air Maroc flight 961. I waved my customs documents at any official I could find, but no one seemed impressed – or willing to respond in English. After about half an hour, I retreated to gate 15 to await my flight to Marrakech.
Where else would I start my first day in Paris? After taking the train from CDG into the city, I directed myself straight to the Arc de Triomphe. Of course, I lamented kicking things off with something so touristy, but after watching no less than eight Trafalgar tour buses pass by, I congratulated myself on being the wayward solo traveler that I was. After a few obligatory photo ops, I realized it was about 10 a.m. local time. Breakfast in Paris? Not yet. It was still about 3 in the morning Bart Standard Time, which meant it was still drinking time.
It’s been raining hard in Gdańsk all day, so I’ve had to change some plans. For now I’m now holed up in a coffee shop trying to get caught up on some emails. I have to admit, Gdańsk is still charming in the rain. And it’s nice to people watch out the windows.
Arriving in Gdańsk was easy. (“First time to Poland?” “Yes.” Stamp. “Have good stay.”) Even the bus ride (about $1.50) from the airport was simple enough, considering the stops were neither announced nor properly marked. But I found the hostel, took a quick nap, and headed out to explore Old Town.