First Impressions of Marseille

  • I was expecting it to be hotter here. It was much hotter and muggier in Basel. No complaints here!
  • The landscape is actually reminiscent of scrub habitat on ridges and valleys in parts of the American Southwest.
  • But the rain my first afternoon here? Reminiscent of the light afternoon storms in my old college town. 🙂
  • It’s so windy here! Also like my college town.
  • My host says Marseille is a dangerous place…not what I was expecting. Lots of fighting (some fatal) between people wanting to control the local drug trade. We passed a car whose window had been broken into on the walk to his car. There was still glass all over the sidewalk.
  • Parts of Marseille look pretty from far away- peach and cream houses nestled into scrubland hillsides and around a bay of the Mediterranean. But when you look closer, it’s very run down. Graffiti everywhere, and none of it pretty. The (I assume) newer buildings lack the peach and cream theme and are strictly utilitarian, not aesthetic.
  • But my host lives in a small town nearby. It’s quite pretty here.
  • You can see a big cave from their window. Seems Pleistocene bears have been found there.
  • I’m very much enjoying staying with him and his wife. Having conversations in mixed English and French is actually pretty helpful since what I can say isn’t as restricted as trying to speak only in French. And he’s able to translate when she and I don’t know what each other said.
  • Collared doves EVERYWHERE.



First Impressions of Basel

  • Wait, French isn’t terribly common here even though we’re right across the border? Crap. I don’t know much German. Sometimes I hear it being spoken, but most written stuff is in German.
  • I like all the trams!
  • Ooo, my hostel’s schnazzy.
  • There’s an awful lot of construction going on in this city.
  • Apparently I look European, not American? At least that’s what a Swiss guy at my hostel told me.
  • Wow. The Rhine flows really fast on top of being a big river. Historians weren’t kidding when they said it had to of frozen over for the Vandals, Alans, and Suevi to cross it to go on their warpath through Gaul.
  • Why is food so expensive here?! I don’t want to pay the equivalent of $5.50 for a grilled cheese sandwich. 😦
  • They eat an awful lot of meat and bread here. Or, at least, that makes up almost all of the “cheap” food.
  • There’s a green rooftop outside my window and I got a lifer as soon as I looked out on it! Sweet!
  • A little farmer’s market outside the museum? Cool!
  • Heraldry is alive and well here. They seem to really like putting their very peculiar-looking charge everywhere.
  • Smokers everywhere! And no restrictions on where they can do it. My lungs are not happy.
  • Why are all the children crying within earshot of me?! Three fell down and started crying my first day here! Then a fourth who was just being a brat.
  • Nothing says cute like a naked kid gleefully choking a swan ’til it pukes.
"Animal abuse is so fun!" thought the sculptor. :/

“Animal abuse is so fun!” thought the sculptor. :/


First Impressions of Brussels

  • I got off the metro near my hostel and there was a giant gothic building in my face…with a big Coca-cola billboard on top. Odd…
  • The descriptive text on my map tells me Brussels won’t be winning any beauty pageants. I believe it. I saw one building reminiscent of the pretty apartments in Paris, but it was so dirty it was not pleasant to look at anymore.
  • There’s so much chocolate in these stores I don’t know which to buy.
  • My teacup has a stem. And the handle’s on the stem. That’s different…
  • This place definitely smells like a city.
  • My map also tells me that Brussels is very quirky, but I’m supposed to love even the bad ones.
  • I’ve figured it out—Brussels is New York’s European counterpart. No wonder I’m not enjoying it.
  • This museum is huge. And maze-like. Very easy to get lost in.
  • But the exhibits area is also big and open and aesthetically pleasing (the parts I’ve been in, at least)

First Impressions of the Isle of Wight


I forgot to do this the day I arrived! Well here’s what I can remember thinking.

  • No skyscrapers! This is so nice!
  • Everything seems so laid back here.
  • The train that took me across the island to my hotel has two cars. Two. And they’re old metro cars with wooden siding. Adorable!
  • Seems the tracks were laid down some time ago. Lots of jostling. At one point, I realized I had been inadvertently doing belly dance chest moves and torso undulations as I fought to keep my head still.
  • Little town, it’s a quiet village. Every day like the one before….Okay, wrong country but hurray! I’m in a tiny, peaceful town!
  • The owner of this B&B is nice and friendly.
  • Really nice carpet? Big gilded mirrors in the hallway? This place only costs 50 dollars a night? Wow.
  • And I have a seaview room! Sweet!
  • I love the sound of the ocean. And it’s gorgeous here. The water is a beautiful, dark aqua on a sunny morning. As in big, thick chunk of aquamarine aqua.
  • I really love it here. I’m going to be so sad to leave Tahiti the Isle of Wight. It’s a magical place.

…That was a reference to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., if you’re completely confused.

First (okay, Second) Impressions of London


I’ve been to London once before when I was studying Lystrosaurus for my Master’s, but it was right after a big conference. I was quite tired and pressed for time, so I didn’t get to do any sightseeing while I was here. I just went to and from work. So this’ll be the first time I actually get to experience the city.

  • Wow the Chunnel was underwhelming. Too bad getting a ferry would of been way more expensive and a huge hassle.
  • People who put small, lightweight luggage on the bottom racks of trains–I and everyone else carrying big, heavy luggage hate you.
  • St. Pancras station seems to be full of non-Brits. Less patiently waiting in queues and more standing in my way as I try to navigate the place. I don’t understand people who think it’s okay to stop in choke points to check their things while taking up as much room as possible.
  • The recycling bins here are also enormous.
  • Oh hey, the crosswalks have painted “look lefts” and “look rights” on them. That’s helpful!
  • One of the roads I walked down to get to my hostel changed names three times in half a mile. What.
  • It seems the day starts even later here. Breakfast isn’t ’til 8.
  • This hostel has great, very friendly service and plenty of amenities (a full kitchen and plenty of travel items you can borrow for free!).
  • It also has 6 very tall stories with no lift and I’m on the 6th floor. Luggage=pain.
  • I walked down Tottingham Court Road yesterday. It wasn’t as grimy as I expected. (Kudos if you get the reference.)

Mes premières impressions de Paris

    • I came all the way to France to see a homeless American guy playing a dobro on the subway and singing only slightly better than Bob Dylan?
    • Paris….you need more escalators in your subway system. Hauling 50+ pounds of awkward luggage up and down a myriad stairs is not fun. Thank god for helpful Parisians.
    • Giant recycling bins!
Recycling should be this big a thing in every city.

Recycling should be this big a thing in every city.

  • Is there a major city anywhere in the world one can *not* see Rock Doves in?
  • Balcony gardens are a thing here. It’s nice.
  • What is with your bird naming conventions, Europe? It is not the Blackbird; it is a Common Blackbird. Likewise for Kestrels, Magpies, Swifts, etc… You do not have the only ones in the world! No claiming the whole name for yourself!
  • I am not prepared to translate spoken French in real time. Also my vowels keep switching places in transit from my brain to my mouth. And I keep almost speaking Mandarin.
  • You lied to me, internet. Parisians don’t all dress nicely to go outside. And why does the garbage man have a mullet?!
  • The architecture is nice here.
  • So many ambulances…and they sound like clown cars…
  • I forgot to bring my alarm clock and I can’t turn my phone on while I’m here…crap. I’ll have to go find one tomorrow. For now, I’m going to sleep and trust that I’ll wake up on time.
  • I like how Paris doesn’t seem cramped in spite of the fact that it’s a very old city with European-size streets.