Posted by: gabriellereneeleblanc | August 18, 2012

Home from the Holiday: My Post-Vacation Lull or Why I Can’t Get Over Europe.

I spent the entire month of July in the United Kingdom. Twenty seven days in Scotland, with a four-day stop in Stratford-upon-Avon in England. To say I enjoyed my time there would be tantamount to saying the North Pole is slightly chilly. Or puppies are kind of cute. Or Mitt Romney is a bit Mormon. (He is, by the way, a LOT Mormon. Why is this not being mentioned?)

I digress.

While enjoying my adventures, I wrote and posted one blog post with advice for visiting the Highland capitol of Inverness from my first weekend abroad. After that, nothing.

The truth is, I wanted to write a “best of Edinburgh” article, but needed to accomplish everything on my itinerary before that was possible. So, I decided to wait until the end of my trip before posting anything new.

As it turned out, this was not a smart move.

Immediately upon returning to the states, I found myself in such a period of culture-shock and post-vacation depression that I was actually unable to write about my experiences: hell, it was tough even to talk about! When friends and co-workers asked about my time there, I could scarcely speak around the lump in my throat.

As a student of theatre, I have a pretty good sense of when I’m being over-dramatic and can laugh at myself for the folly. This was not one of those times.

Let me explain by describing, briefly, my life in Edinburgh this summer.

Daily Sight in Edinburgh

The flat I’d rented for the month was in the Victorian-era “New Town”. At basement-level, it boasted a small private garden, two living rooms, a large bedroom, and a full-size kitchen. A quick stroll along cobbled streets, in mild weather that never reached above 70 degrees, would take me to the touristy “Old Town” where the buildings pre-date the Elizabethan era. My daily views were of Arthur’s Seat (a mountain peak in the midst of Holyrood Park), Calton Hill (the second-highest peak in Edinburgh, home to a beautiful assortment of monument), a dozen other breath-taking monuments and statues, and (of course) Edinburgh frickin’ Castle. As I’d taken the month off of work (and couldn’t get a work visa in the UK if my life depended on it) my only labors were working on my novel and, of course, touring the city.

As I mentioned, my final four days were spent in Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare. Here, I stayed in a lovely bed and breakfast hosted by a wonderful English family and indulged myself in three nights of theatre with productions by the Royal Shakespeare Company. There are no words: the RSC is just…wow. I mean, yeah. Wow.

The “city” retains much of the atmosphere and charm of the village originally founded over 800 years ago. Thanks to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, visitors can literally walk in the footsteps of The Bard with visits to the preserved properties of the family. I toured them all and even attended Sunday service in Trinity Church where William is buried beside his wife, Anne. (During service, the signs and markers which are hung for tourists are removed. Having never before visited, I did not know the exact spot of the grave until the following day when I returned with a camera: imagine my surprise to realize the slab lay just where I had knelt the day before to receive communion! I took the host at the foot of The Bard! Lapsed Catholic I may be, but I was still moved by the discovery.)

Now, the contrast: my “real life” in Manhattan.

Daily sight in Harlem

I return to The States just in time for the August heat of 98 degrees which cooks the small Harlem studio I’ve sublet to such a degree that a bed sheet had been hung to separate the living area from the kitchen nook/bathroom in order to preserve the cool air from the window unit air conditioner. And—uh oh!—rent is due! So, it’s back to work waiting tables and checking coats. Now, as much as I appreciate my service industry job not only for the income but also for the flexibility of the schedules which allows me to take a month off at a time (BIG thanks to the management and staff!) it’s still a sad end to the dream: for four weeks I lived the life of a lady of leisure…albeit a lady of leisure on a budget.

Nevertheless, I have now experienced a small taste of my dream to live in Europe and found it even better than my imaginings. Waking up from that is…well…it’s hard.

I’m trying not to come off as an ungrateful whiner. It is an absolute marvel that I managed any time at all in the UK: I saw some amazing things and will always cherish the memories.

Also, I don’t mean any slight to New York City with my European home-sickness. Manhattan is a wonderful and interesting place to live: it’s one of my favorite places in the United States and, as a city, second in my heart only to New Orleans (in this, I believe I’m allowed the bias, having grown up in Louisiana).

However, my regard for Manhattan does not change the fact that my heart longs to be elsewhere.

It doesn’t make me any less sad to be home.

Anybody wanna give a girl a visa?

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Responses

  1. Wow. I cannot begin to express how jealous I am about your experience, especially your visit to The Bard’s home. And how amazing to have taken communion over his grave. Unbelievable! Well, you’ve lived out one of my dreams, and I mourn your loss having returned to the less romantic States on this side of the pond. Thanks for sharing!

    By the way, I met your mother over the summer. That’s how i found my way here. I’m an author and I teach high school Fine Arts and English Lit. I have a bobble-head and action figure of Will on my desk. Not nearly as exciting as visiting his home but a girl can dream. 🙂

    • Hello! Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I hope you enjoyed my mournful little tale.
      I love that you have an action figure of Will! I have one of Jane Austen, but haven’t found one of The Bard yet, I’ll have to pick one up.
      Honestly, as much as I adored Scotland, my brief time in Stratford-upon-Avon was, in many ways, the highlight of my trip. When (not if!) you go, make sure to see a show at the RSC. The productions completely changed the way I think of Shakespeare’s works. 🙂

      • Yes, that sounds truly amazing! One of my former students spent a summer in Europe and said that when she saw a Shakespearean performance in the Globe, she just cried it was so wonderful. I have to live vicariously through others in this regard till I can finally get there. Thank you, I definitely will do this WHEN I go. 😉

        I hate to admit the extent of my literary “nerddom” but I have an action figure of Jane Austen, too. And Poe (with a Raven on his shoulder), Van Gogh (comes with a detachable second head with one ear only), Beethoven, and Dickens. Of course, I’ve never opened any of the boxes. They just decorate my bookshelves in my classroom. I know, I know. I have an illness. But my students seem to appreciate, or at least accept, my eccentricity. Sorry to ramble on. I hope you make your way back to England and Scotland very, very soon. (By the way, I traced my ancestors on my mother’s side all the way back to Jura, Scotland. I have to make it to that island one of these days.)

  2. I went to Stratford upon Avon on a school trip many years ago, and I think it’s definitely with a visit. How cool that you were that close to Shakespeare without even realising! I’d love to go to Edinburgh, everybody I know who has gone there hasn’t had a bad thing to say about it, and it looks beautiful.

    • You should defiantly make the trip to Edinburgh: maybe during next year’s Fringe? I’m already making plans to go, again, and bring a show with me!

  3. I met you last night when you were bar tending, just wanted to let you know your blog is fantastic!! Thanks for sharing it. I’m an airline pilot, I love traveling also but unfortunately my stays are usually only a day or two long. Your a great writer, keep it up!


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