Despite a desire to continue my travels, I convinced myself that Antarctica & South America would still be around in a year or so and decided to head back to the US from Europe to grow my business, see friends and family, and catch my breath. Inspiration propelled me during my entire journey, and my entrepreneurial drive was in full gear. After a successful 2013 session, Parks and People hired me back for the month of July to teach their students GIS so I headed back to Baltimore to pick up where I left off. I was graciously given a room in Hampden and it was a great new perspective of the City. For the previous 5 years I lived in Federal Hill, and welcomed the differences I found in this northern neighborhood: forested running paths along Gwenns Falls, quirky shops, hipsters, and delicious food choices on the Avenue. The neighborhood felt more isolated than my previous residence, but I was lucky that the current client was located withing walking distance. Plus, with a bike and the bus line you could be right back downtown. It almost felt as if I had never left.
During my few weeks back in Baltimore, I attended a wedding at the Museum of Industry (a very cool space), I caught the Mike Dillon Band show at the 8x10 (scared that date away!), attended Baltimore Data Day (many smart people in this City!), enjoyed the Believe in Music Festival in Oregon Ridge Park (amazing music, great cause), rode a borrowed bike in the epic Baltimore Bike Party (bike party!), caught up with friends, and enjoyed great training sessions with 22 of Baltimore's youth. Baltimore had so much going on in both the social and entrepreneurial scene that I never had a free moment. I was even invited to sit in on a great new Hack Baltimore radio show called All The Pieces Matter. A great month for sure, and probably the best I could ask for to start to transition back to this lifestyle.
Many people have asked - "What's it like being back?". I have to admit, it has been quite a transition... I was used to showing up in a place - unsure of language, culture & location of a warm bed - and just figuring it out a day at a time. I went from living out of a backpack, putting on my 'go-to' dress and going, to opening a dresser and thinking "what do I want to wear today?" I went from not knowing where I would find breakfast to walking into a grocery store and being baffled by all of my options - I could put food in a refrigerator and it'd be there in 2 days! Drinking water was safe, yet there was still a filtrated pitcher of clean, cool water in the fridge should I chose to partake. There was an air conditioning unit in my bedroom, a door that closed, a double bed that did not deflate. I was not afraid of bed bugs or scorpions. There were no elephants, no roadside noodle stands, no high speed trains, and no smooth talking Mauritian musicians. I set an alarm on my teaching days, showered in the morning, and wore clean clothes every day. I felt spoiled and lucky. My sense of place and person was so upside down that jumping back on the road seemed like a great option.
There was little mystery to it all, yet everything seemed slightly different. Cars drove on the right side of the road. I did not fall asleep worried about the history of the guy in the room next to mine, and whether I should barrier the door. There was a dog in the house, but she did not have rabies... Weirdest of all? People knew who I was - no more incognito. I walked into the restaurant of a friend, and it was all hugs and catching up. I ran into former colleagues at coffee shops and on the street. I saw old friends at music shows. I didn't say "Where are you from?" to anyone for an entire week! It was incredible, and after missing this for nearly a year it made me realize how very special community can be. My levels of gratitude for life and notably the people I came back to are flying high, and my biggest hope is that I can maintain a predominate attitude of appreciation in my life. Charm City, thank you for a warm welcome! It was a great July, and I have a feeling our relationship is not quite over. Next stop? The City of Brotherly Love... there's a room in Philadelphia calling my name!
The drive from Utrecht to Paris was scenic, with green fields and plenty of cows. Lunch in Belgium seemed appropriate, and we found a great place in Ghent to enjoy a classic Belgian meal of mussels and fries. Dutch #1 and I were trying to make the 6pm France vs Nigeria match in Paris. Nearly there, we made it 2km from our hotel and hit a wall of rush hour Paris traffic. A wrong turn as we were getting close put us back on the highway going in the opposite direction. Aaargh! We deduced that we'd have to get back in the traffic on the other side. The game was already 35 minutes in, and traffic was not something I wanted to exchange for the 8th and final game on my World Cup tour. On an impulse, we pulled off the highway into a Paris suburb, parked the car, and found a pub screening the match. Within minutes we had a pint and were cheering along with the French. It was a slow start, and at half time it was still nil/nil. The room was tense, which made for good people watching. We were sitting outside looking in, and it was fun to see locals stopping by to pop their heads in and check the score. Pogba put one in for France in the 79th minute, and high fives went around the room. It was a quick celebration though, and the room was seated again very shortly after the goal as you can see in the video. Two minutes into injury time Yobo made it 2-0, and the room visibly relaxed. France was going on to the next round, and we once again on the road to our Paris hotel... sans traffic and mission accomplished! The 8 games: 1. Spain vs Netherlands (Irun, Spain) 2. France vs. Honduras (Bidart, France) 3. Belgium vs. Algeria (Brussels, Belgium) 4. Netherlands vs. Australia (Maastricht, Netherlands) 5. Germany vs. Ghana (Berlin, Germany) 6. Germany vs. USA (Muenster, Germany) 7. Netherlands vs. Mexico (Utrecht, Netherlands) 8. France vs. Nigeria (Paris, France)
We only had one day before I had to fly back to Ireland, and we were lucky that Paris has a great subway system they call the Metropolitan. The hotel was in the 19th arr., but the Porte des Lilas Metro Station was a short walk and within a few stops we were downtown. First stop? Coffees & chocolatines at the nearby bakery, which you could smell before you could see! Ooooh la la :) A great way to start a day out. Second stop? Eiffel tower. Dutch #1 had never been to Paris, so we had a nice walking tour and hit a few of the iconic tourist attractions - Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Champs de Elysse... the Metro allowed for a wider net as well. My last visit was 7 years ago, and it was great to revisit with a new friend. It was a gorgeous day, and the city was bustling. There's just something about Paris, and I vowed to return again in at least 7 years!
My flight was out of the Paris/Beauvois airport on Ryan Air, which meant an hour drive out of the city. Again, a word of caution when booking that budget flight on Ryan Air - most airports are not in the city center and you will have to arrange additional transport. A simple search will help, and there are always others in the same situation! I flew into a quiet Shannon, Ireland airport around midnight and settled in to await my 9am flight back to the US. Time to return to Baltimore, at least for July!
Combining a passion for travel, the desire to make a difference and a love of maps, MaggieMaps was born. A place to share stories, resources, and a way to inspire and support others in realizing their individual travel dreams.
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Unless otherwise noted, all prose, poetry, maps and photography posted on this blog are Copyright 2013 Maggie Maps
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