The continued adventures of Laura in Wonderland (meaning 1991 Europe) To refresh yourself as to what the hell I’m talking about here, see under tags Europe or Travel. I think they are there, or you can read this short recap below…anywho back to rambling…
Recap: 1991 was a helluva year.
The Gulf War started. Russia collapsed. Like, immediately. So fast it was almost unbelievable. It still is. Boris Yeltsin was elected, then not, then Gorbachev took over and Lech Walesa was elected in Poland and saved it from collapsing and Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Moldova, Lithuania, Latvia, Belarus, Estonia and probably more (I had to look it up and now I’m sick and tired of typing those weird ass names -whatever!) got their independence. There was a cyclone in Bangladesh that killed 200,000 people. Jeffery Dahmer was discovered with 11 guys in his freezer. Rodney King was ‘arrested’ and that eventually sparked the LA Riots and my return to Canada. The internet was made available to geeks and there were 1 million users. ONE WHOLE MILLION GEEKS.
Nirvana was awesome and still are.
Yes. It was quite a year. I decided it was the year I would visit Poland with my boyfriend. Maybe Yugoslavia, too. 1991. The year Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Macedonia and Slovenia declared independence. Did I forget them in all the ‘stans above? Did I forget to mention the shelling of Dubrovnik by the YUGOSLAV ARMY? Shit, that was a fucked up year. I wanted to visit Sarajevo. Lezsek had friends there.
This traveloge left off with me lost in London, enjoying myself but I wanted to tell you about my crazy roommate because she pops up in this installment. Valerie.
We’ve all had them, right? The one that we wondered about? What did they do all night with the light on and the door opening and closing and the strange hours and the odd food in the fridge? The one who felt it was alright to bring home 1/2 the nightclub at 3am?
I wrote a lot about Valerie and then I erased it. It wasn’t relevant to this story but sometimes it’s hard to turn off those stories, especially when they are odd, weird or funny. I just want to illustrate what kind of person she was – Is? So I’ll just tell one little anecdote. I can’t help but remember that she’s still out there.
Shortly after I moved into our beautiful shared apartment, I saw mouse droppings in the kitchen. I mentioned it to Val and bought some Tupperware to keep my dry goods in. Cereal, flour, sugar etc. Valerie settled for putting mousetraps into her share of the cupboards. Then came the morning she picked up a box of Wheaties, shook it a bit, and the bottom fell out, dumping 20 to 30 mice onto the kitchen floor. They’d been in her food, eating their heads off for hours!
From my vantage point on top of a chair, seriously, I jumped on a chair and screamed JUST like in the cliche cartoons, it was a nightmare scene. Mice everywhere, all panic stricken, trying to find a bolt hole, any hole, anything, anywhere to go, running like mad all over the kitchen floor. Valerie was just standing there with a bottomless Wheaties box, mice crawling over her feet, looking at them. And she just stood there.
Who doesn’t scream when something like that happens? Who?
Other things happened and then I couldn’t bring her around anymore. Couldn’t bring her to parties or nightclubs…I started taking extra shifts just to stay away from home. After a few months I’d saved enough money to put some in the bank and pay for my trip. I gave notice, packed my bags, stored what I wanted to keep and moved out. I was ready to go.
And so, it seems, was Valerie.
Yes. She was going to Aix en Provence to improve her French. FRENCH?! Improve her French? She didn’t speak French!
She told me she wouldn’t mind showing me around London. Where she’d never been before.
I had to tell her no. I had plans, an itinerary. I had a brother living in Frankfurt to visit, a friend in London and a boyfriend in Gdansk. I was going to Paris and…and..I had PLANS!!!
Valerie took it well, I thought. She would fly off to Paris-if she was even serious about going-and I flew off to London, our time as room mates was over, she was advertising my room, chances were I would never see her again except in a casual ‘Hey hows things’ way, right? I mean we both lived in Vancouver. It’s not THAT big. I was ready to be cool about things.
I had armed myself with my Polish visa, I’d practiced my skills on getting around foreign capitols -yeah yeah I did a crap job of it and spent more time lost and trying to find Mortlake again than not, but I was confident. I found the bus station, purchased a ticket to Paris and after walking around aimlessly for 25 minutes or so, I even found the right bus. Well, truthfully, a bus driver took me by the arm and walked me to the correct bus and told the other driver ‘Don’t let her wander off.’
That trip was a nightmare. I am going to say it was among The Classic Bad Bus Trips I Have Taken, (working title) such as the one from southern Escuinapa in Mexico to LA. Or the time I tried to take a bus from somewhere in Mormon dominated Utah wearing a tube top, short shorts and a back pack…arrgh! Bad idea, take my word for it.
But I wasn’t thinking of BAD things. I was in Europe. This was before the Chunnel, mind you, and the bus left at night. On paper it seemed like a great idea-like so many do. I’d leave at 7:30 pm and get to Paris just in time for sunrise. How lovely. Only 10 hours or so.
We left on time and immdeiately stopped to pick up some passengers. And then stopped again. And again. HEY! Wait…are we headed south?! We were. We drove around the south of England for several hours picking up people. It got dark and weird on that bus. Everyone was smoking. Pretty soon a bunch of people laid down in the aisle and went to sleep. Damn it! Why hadn’t I thought of that?! I was bitter. Stuck sitting bolt upright next to a funny looking guy who I thought looked as if he would steal my Walkman mix tapes as soon as I closed my eyes.
How was I supposed to go to the bathroom? Or get off the bus when we stopped at some odd place for no discernible reason? Turns out they all didn’t mind being stepped on. They could have been dead. aahhhh yes…there’s nothing like standing under a fizzing sodium vapor light at 2 in the morning in a gas station parking lot with a lot of other bleary eyed romantics to make you really appreciate travel.
Needless to say I was completely unaware of how the hell I got to Paris. I busied myself making sandwiches out of Branston Pickle and Marmite and eating, much to the disgust of the guy next to me. He was probably jealous. I didn’t see him pulling out anything interesting and delicious from his backpack and even when I politely offered to make him one he just glared at me. In retrospect, it may have been the smell. Branston Pickle and Marmite? I was addicted to Branston Pickle at that point and my carry on was full of bottle after bottle of it.
The English Channel? Dover’s White Cliff’s? What?! Where? Did I miss it? There was a boat at some point. Fields of some anonymous vegetable, it was getting light. I may have slept. Dawn. Paris. Oh wow! Paris! I was in Paris! I found a taxi, I spoke French. I really did. And the fellow knew what I said. OH MY GOD!!! I JUST SPOKE FRENCH!!!
The only thing was that I was there so early that check in time was hours away. I asked the man if he could hold my bag and he said ‘Oui’ and I said ‘Mercy’and turned around to find VALERIE WITH A SUITCASE!