According to my phone’s countdown app, it’s been fifty five days since the plane took off to Frankfurt.
Fifty four days since Kaeleigh and I were running around the Frankfurt airport having not slept in twenty eight hours, afraid we were about to miss our train to Stuttgart, relieved when we found out it was delayed twenty minutes. Fifty four days since Marilyn and Rainer welcomed us into their home with their arms open. I don’t remember much from that night (keep in mind, at that point I was running on no sleep in thirty two hours), except that the food was delicious, the shower was heavenly, and that I slept the sleep of the dead that night.
When we woke up to Marilyn’s knocking the next day, we didn’t know that later we’d be trekking up multiple hills, both in Harrenberg to get to a church and outside of Stuttgart to get to a castle. As it turns out, that many hills can cause the muscles in your leg to shake every time you stop and try to stand still. As it also turns out, there are Roman ruins in Germany, and you can go and walk around them. Germany, of all places.
I didn’t realize that sitting in the sun under a massive umbrella eating spaghetti ice cream with my best friend would be something we’d laugh about a few weeks later. Kaeleigh, the young woman who I met three years ago, and, at the time, had no idea she would become such an integral part of my life. So maybe the phrase best friend isn’t quite enough, but soul sister is cheesy. Heterosexual life partner is closer to the truth.
Fifty days ago we were on our train to Paris where we accidentally fell asleep at six thirty in the evening. Paris, where we spent seven hours in The Louvre and knew that wasn’t enough time to see everything. Paris, where the rainstorms come with the warning signs of darkening clouds and wind blowing the branches of the trees; rainstorms that soak you to the bone and flood the streets.
Paris. Getting into the Gare de l’Est and spending so much time in line I thought my back might break from holding up my backpack is something I look back on, and though I still cringe, I smile, too. Ordering a coffee and being understood and understanding was a feeling I’ll never forget. Waves of the French language came back, proving time and time again that yes, I did pay attention in high school.
Our day in Versailles where a new insult was coined during our walk around The Royal Gardens. “You obtuse orangutan” got thrown around countless times following that afternoon. We got caught in another rainstorm during our afternoon and took cover in the palace’s overpass. At the time, I was irked that we’d somehow managed to get caught up in yet another downpour, but looking back now, I was keeping dry in Versailles. Not only in Versailles, but the place where Marie Antoinette walked, laughed, and lived.
I will never forget the night following Versailles, when we got back to the hostel and fully intended only to have a drink or two with dinner and then get ready for the next day. Maybe we had a few more drinks than originally planned, and I completely say that’s the fault of good company and delicious drinks.
That night we met people from all over the globe. We had conversations with Domingo from Chile about religion. We talked with Jason from New Zealand about boats and work. We talked to Callum from Australia about politics and school, and we joked with Reece, also from Australia (and living in Paris), throughout the night and talked with him about tattoos. I’d also like to take this moment to give a quick shout-out to Reece and the phenomenal drinks he made for us over the time we were in Paris.
I woke the next morning in a foggy state to workers using a power drill to try and fix the showers in the bathroom next to our room and, in a panic I thought it was my phone going off that was going to wake everyone up. We spent our last full day in Paris trying to see what we had missed, and the next day we waited at the Gare du Nord for our train to come and watched as a cat struggled to maintain its dignity on a leash.
Forty six days ago we were in The Chunnel on our way to London. Forty six days ago I got my first glimpse of the London skyline. Forty six nights ago I was out in London as Kaeleigh slept off a slight fever. I walked Tower Bridge and saw The River Thames beneath me.
“This literally looks like The Black Plague,” I told Kaeleigh as we waited in line to see the Crown Jewels in The Tower of London the next day. Over a month later and I hold to that statement. We got caught in our first London rainstorm that day and ate lunch in the shadows of Big Ben.
A few days later we went to The Harry Potter Studio Tour. I lost my mind while we were waiting in line and I cried as I saw a huge part of my entire life coming alive in front of me. I took a lesson on wand etiquette and usage, I drank Butterbeer (it’s like everything you’ve ever imagined), I spent copious amounts of money in the gift shop and I can now say that I am the proud owner of Hermione’s wand.
We walked through Kensington Gardens and I watched Kaeleigh’s eyes light up as she recited “The Garden” by Ezra Pound over and over again in her head. We went back to The Orangery and had afternoon tea the next day, and Kaeleigh watched as my eyes lit up because I am a tea person.
Forty days ago we had our breakfast at Kiko’s, our favorite café in London where we got to know the beautiful people (Ansel and Michael and the lovely ladies who make great cappuccinos) who worked there and they got to know us. Forty days ago we got lost as we tried to find our way to the hotel we’d be staying at. Forty days ago, we dolled ourselves up to go out to a fancy dinner and to see Richard III in Trafalgar Square. Forty days ago, we sat on The Tube riding back to our hotel at midnight and laughed as we listened to the (loud) conversation of a group of inebriated young men. We stayed up too late that night watching a movie and slept in past what we’d been used to the next morning.
“It’s good you’re doing this – ‘cause no one can take memories away from you,” Ansel told us thirty nine days ago while we ate our lunch and before we said goodbye. Thirty eight days ago we got on a plane to come home to Seattle, with part of my heart left behind in every place we went.
“My soul is dancing and my heart is light” was the final line in the journal I kept over the time we were there.
Thirty eight days later and my soul still dances and my heart stays light.