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Late Spring To-Do List
Thursday, October 27, 2005
God DAMN, these people can drink! Or, several days abroad
So. The highlights for those of you who don’t want to wade through a travelogue: love this country, love the people, and am totally in love with this conference. If there’s been a single panel that hasn’t totally held my interest, it’s been, literally, a single panel. That’s the nice thing about a small conference devoted entirely to a single author: it’s like being in a master class. I've felt as though I've actually learned quite a lot. And, oh yes—my talk went very well. I got the impression that I discomfited a couple of people with my somewhat revisionist take on a much-loved work, but by and large the response was really positive. The only scholar whose opinion I actually care about was very complimentary—and an awesome guy, to boot.
To back up a bit: I arrived in European Capital about 2 in the afternoon on Tuesday, and, after dumping my things at my hotel, I spent the rest of the daylight hours tromping around the city. My conference is in nearby University City, but I deliberately booked a flight early enough to allow me a look-see around the capital first. I visited one of the city’s main museums, but otherwise just walked up and down, hitting one of the central squares and getting the lay of the land. It’s absolutely charming, is what it is, and reminds me bizarrely of Oxford although the architecture is not remotely similar—I guess it’s all those three-to-five story buildings and everyone cruising around on junky old bicycles.
Went to bed early and slept for 11 hours, having only gotten about four hours of not very good sleep on the plane. I didn’t intend to sleep for quite so long, but dawn comes extraordinarily late—around 8.15 a.m., I’d say—and when my alarm went off at a pitch-black 7 a.m. I just couldn’t bear to get up.
I thought about going to see another museum before I checked out, but I didn’t really have the time, so I just walked around a bit more, stopped in at a café, and browsed in a few stores. Then I made the epic mistake of deciding to walk to the train station. It looked to be about a 30 minute walk, in a roughly straight line from my hotel, and I figured hey: I’ll get to see more of the city and not have to figure out the local transportation system.
Now, I pride myself on my sense of direction, and as I say the train station was almost in a direct line from my hotel. However, the streets themselves do not run in direct lines—most of them are aslant. I looked at the map, figured out about where I’d have to jog over, and I wasn’t too worried: I’d seen pictures of the train station and knew that it was HUGE, and architecturally striking, so I figured that even if I approached it from several streets over I’d be able to see it and orient myself. But after about 35 minutes, I wasn’t seeing any train station. I checked my map and discovered that somehow, in taking a slanting street here and a slanting street there, I had completely turned myself around and was back off at a diagonal even further away from the train station than my hotel was.
This wouldn’t have been that big of a deal—the weather was gorgeous and my small suitcase rolls—but I kinda had to be in University City, in my suit, ready to give my talk, in just over two hours. So I charged back up the map, shouldering past tourists, sweating fiercely, and this time finding signs that directed me to the train station. I managed to figure out the timetables AND the ticket machine, even though both were in a language that I don’t understand and I kinda guessed about which buttons I was supposed to push, got up to the right platform, and eventually made it to University City with about 30 minutes to check in, change, brush my teeth, and get over to the university. Phew!
My hotel here is lovely, though rather bizarre. The room I'm in is enormous, and reminds me of the master bedroom in someone's great aunt’s house: textured wallpaper, French provencal furniture, a chandelier and tulip-shaped wall sconces, an enormous wardrobe and a lovely vanity with a velvet slipper chair. There’s also a strange collage-like thing of a 1960s chanteuse I’ve never heard of, made up of her album jackets and some necklaces strung up decoratively inside. Oh, and did I mention the gnomes? There are five, count ‘em, FIVE garden gnomes scattered around the room, four sitting on the deep, low window ledges and one (most disturbingly) atop the wardrobe. You don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night and see THAT, is what I’m saying.
And yes, we’ve been drinking heavily. Last night featured four glasses of wine at the reception, a beer with dinner, and then another glass of wine and another beer at the hotel bar afterwards. Tonight was a bit lighter—three glasses of wine at the reception, a beer at dinner, and a beer afterwards. One of the other keynoters missed my talk, but I’m completely in love with her and her husband, who have turned out to be deeply interesting and unusual people—and, not insignificantly, my major drinking buds.
God. Is it any wonder I don't want to go back to teaching next week?
link | posted by La Lecturess at 4:57 PM |
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