Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Europe - The Good

Dearest Suparna,

 Early in our trip we started compiling a list of the things that were really great, and the things that were not so great. Since we basically spent the day traveling (and doing other things that aren't so memorable), I thought this would be a good day to write about the good (the bad will come later). So here are a few of the things that have been amazing on our trip:

Public Transportation: It's hard to believe that essentially everywhere we have been (especially London, Paris, and all of the Netherlands) has had significantly better public transportation than anywhere in the USA. The public transportation systems here make even the best systems in the US (e.g., New York, DC, San Francisco) look pathetic. Not only are the systems here much cheaper, they are much better connected, and far more frequent. I wish that the USA could get it's act together, because clearly Europe has figured out something that we have not been able to.

Ease of Travel: Related to public transportation is just how easy it is to get around. It's been very very easy to figure out all of these new systems even though we often don't speak the local languages. And having bus, train, bike, and airplanes at our disposal, there is always a good option. Of course, my favorite of all has been the bicycle system in Paris. 

Long Days: When we came to Norway and the sun basically never set, it was amazing. We could be out at midnight enjoying the day and having a great time. And everyone else was doing the same. Even in other countries where the day wasn't quite so long, having sunlight until later in the day made it much easier to stay out. And pretty universally folks in these countries stay out and enjoy the night life much more than back in the USA. It was lots of fun.

Safety: We've traveled through many alleyways and other streets very late at night, but it always felt very safe compared to the USA (e.g., Berkeley). Having that sort of safety is priceless. Even in Barcelona and Paris where people warned us of pickpockets, we didn't have any trouble and it generally felt very safe. 

Friends and Family: We met so many amazing people: Julie, Alf, and Victoria; Uttara, Lucia, and Hugh; Chris; Bawa and Emma; Bua, Phuphaji, Gayti, Paul, and Seren; Nayana; Ridhi and Hanna; Shruti and Dan; and Rahul and Gayatri. Many of these visits were unplanned, but I'd say that's pretty much spectacular for reunions around the world. 

Hearing so Many Languages: I'll never forget when we landed up in the UK, and almost felt confused by hearing so much English. One of the best things about this trip has been being surrounded by so many different cultures, languages, and types of people.

Unlimited Texting and Data (for Free): Other than a few hiccups at first to get the service working, having unlimited texting and data from T-mobile has been so awesome. It's allowed us to keep in touch with Whatsapp and also use Google Maps and Yelp liberally. We also downloaded a whole ton of cool local apps (like 9292 in The Netherlands, and Velib in Paris) that made our trip much easier. I guess I can be a techno geek after all.

Good Beer: Germany definitely had the best (and cheapest) beers. Getting my "hef" on at 0.5L for 2 euros was pretty much delight. And the brown hef was something amazing that I've never seen in the USA. The Belgian ales we had in The Netherlands were also fantastic. Many of the other countries left something to be desired in their beer selections, but overall it was great. Definitely the beers here are not so hoppy compared to the USA, which is nice.
Fries + Peanut Sauce = Heavenly: Thank you to The Netherlands for inventing this, and thank you to Uttara for sharing it with us. What an incredibly delicious idea. I want to make this when we go back home.

Fake Meat: For the most part Europe wasn't that friendly to vegetarians, but there were a few exceptions. One of the best was the fake tuna that we ate while on the beach in The Hague. The vegan butcher...if only it served the USA. Also, Un Monde Vegan in Paris had the biggest selection of fake meat I have ever seen. Wonderful!

No Sunburn: Other than a tiny amount of sunburn the day we went out to Sitges, I didn't get burnt at all. I guess being so white and coming back to the place of your heritage has advantages, right? I didn't even put on sunscreen anywhere that we went, other than the beach.  

Mostly Clean Bathrooms: Most places we went the bathrooms were nice and clean. The only time this was a downside is when we were waiting for the self-cleaning toilet in Paris. It must have taken an entire minute to clean itself after each use. When there are 10 people in line ahead of you, that doesn't make for much fun.

Bathrooms in Trains: After the disappointment that most public bathrooms could be here (being hard to find and charging money!) having bathrooms in trains was a delightful addition.
This is just a few of the great things we experienced. It's wonderful to appreciate all that Europe had to offer. And of course the new adventures and time we spent together were priceless. Until next time!

Tumhaaraa hamesha,
-Daniel

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