My Paris, my dad’s Paris, and Hemingway’s Paris

My dad left more than a week ago, but between schoolwork and Paris work I’ve been really busy and haven’t had the time to write sooner. I should have, though, because this is all such an interesting and unique story.

I was luckier than most of the kids in my program in that my dad used to live in Paris and I had visited him a couple of times while he lived abroad. Even though that was a couple years ago, it really did shape my visit because not only did I get the touristy things out of the way, but I did them while also having the local experience of going to a market every day and buying all of your bread and cheese and vegetables and wine fresh. And I had a heads up on everyone, because I had a working (but still a little rusty) knowledge of at least three different neighborhoods in Paris because of my dad.

And I am used to staying in apartments or actual lodgings in Paris, rather than a hotel. It’s weird to think of it like that. There was the hostel for like a week in the beginning of the program, but I’m not counting that because I never want to think of that crappy hostel ever again.

That’s one thing I have up against my dad—in case you haven’t noticed, I like being very competitive about Paris when it comes to him. He’s stayed in hotels in Paris before he lived here; as he joked, “The first time I was in Paris I stayed at the Hotel de Crillion and it’s been downhill ever since.” No kidding: the fancy smanchy hotel has the prime location of being between the Champs-Élysées and Place de la Concorde, and has had everyone from Louis XV to Madonna visit (you could say Louis XVI visited too, since he was beheaded right outside of the building).

Last time I was in Paris with my dad (and my sister). I'm still the only normal one.

Last time I was in Paris with my dad (and my sister). I’m still the only normal one.

So not only have I had a different Paris experience by myself, but I’ve also had a different Paris experience with my dad. And of course, he’s had his own Paris experience that I don’t even know about. But I got a little insight when he visited when he kept pointing out things that were different and things that were the same.

I can’t wait until I come back to Paris and am able to do that.

The biggest thing, for him, was Starbucks. Or, Starboooooooks, as the French say.

There were no Starbucks in Paris when he lived here like four or five years ago. As my French teachers love to tell me when I don’t know a translation and just pronounce the English word in question with a French accent, “Ça n’existe pas,” or it doesn’t exist. He was really taken aback by how many Starbucks he would pass on his morning runs or daily walks—especially with the one that popped up in his own neighborhood.

But like the French people before him (and the American people before them), he adapted pretty quickly. There are two Starbucks on opposite sides of the street that my school is on, and twice I met him at one of them after classes. Or, after classes I would meet up with him and ask what he did, only to be told that he went to Starbucks and worked on his computer.

That leads us to another big change: wifi. Although, to be fair, I guess wifi wasn’t that big of a deal five years ago? Or maybe it was? Or maybe it was in America? I’ll say that we’re much more addicted to it now than we were back then, because surely that’s right? It was hell when there was no wifi in Charles de Gaulle, and then everyone freaked out at our hostel because you could only get wifi sitting in the lobby and even then it was really low strength even without the thirty other kids trying to get on it. The French had wifi in McDonalds before Americans did (I love that fact) but you have to look for restaurants, bars, or cafes to advertise with a sign in the window that they have wifi, and even then it’s not always free. Maybe that’s why Starbucks is so big in France; it’s certainly why my dad visited Starbucks when he was here.

We talked during our cafe stops, despite the presence of Apple products in our hands.

We talked during our cafe stops, despite the presence of Apple products in our hands.

But we still did the whole “sit under a heater on a wicker-back chair on the sidewalk and sip espresso while watching the world walk by” thing when my dad was here. We walked all around Paris and would only stop to drink at a café—always outside when it was available. That was how I found out that there are a lot more runners and joggers on the streets than there were when my dad lived here. Which is funny, because my dad said he forgot how thin everyone was here.

My dad, mostly because of my stepmom, is a big runner. They ran their old running paths while they were here, and I guess they weren’t used to sharing sidewalk space. Even during non-prime running time, like very late morning or early afternoon, there were runners in the big populous areas. But you could always tell who the French runners were. They were the ones wearing head-to-toe spandex. They were the ones carrying Walkmens while they ran. And, most of all, they were the one wearing scarves while they ran.

Seriously. Wearing a scarf while exercising. I love it. That’s so French.

And, according to my dad, there weren’t more dogwalkers, but there was less dog poop. That isn’t to say that the sidewalks are completely clean—because they really aren’t and it’s disgusting how much poop you might step into if you or your friend isn’t looking down. But one time my dad saw someone picking up dog poop and that was literally the first thing he said to me when I met up with him that day. It was that big of a deal.

That was a “Oh … cool, dad” moment for me (sorry, but it was). But one of the biggest moments for me was showing my dad the lock bridge behind Notre Dame. It was something I noticed during my first weekend in Paris, during the standard Seine boat tour, and I was pleased to have something to teach my dad.

On the Pont de l’Archevêché, and other bridges and areas I don’t know the names of, you’ll see both sides of a bridge absolutely covered in locks (even bike locks in some hilarious cases). I’m not sure where this custom comes from, but apparently lovers write their initials on the locks, hook it to the bridge, and then throw the key into the Seine so their love is eternal. You can bring your own lock or even buy ones at the stands along the riverbank. I’m not sure when the custom started either, but apparently it was after my dad left.

Something else I’m proud of was that I took my dad to the Christmas Village on the Champs-Élysées. I wrote a blog post about it, so I won’t go into too much detail, but I went at night and during the day with my dad so turns out he likes being a little touristy sometimes as well.

We went on two tours when my dad was here. The first was to the Père Lachaise cemetery right down the street from me, because it’s so expansive and cluttered and disorganized that you’d get lost trying to do more than find Jim Morrison’s grave. It was his first time there, and my stepmom’s second, so I felt like I was able to contribute to the experience even though I wasn’t the one giving the tour. The cemetery—and my house, by virtue of location—are kind of on the outskirts of Paris, two Metro stops away from the suburbs, so I wasn’t surprised that my dad had never made the trip to the cemetery.

At Père Lachaise.

At Père Lachaise.

The other tour was the Hemingway tour, which I thought I could have done self-guided jut because of Google and A Moveable Feast, but I was completely surprised when we ended up at Hemingway’s first Parisian apartment that is literally a two-minute walk away from my friend’s apartment and apparently I’ve walked by it a couple of times and completely missed the little plaque announcing that Hemingway lived there. The apartment, as well as his writing apartment, is right off of Rue Mouffetard, which is where Lily lives and where I’ve gone to drink late at night and shop during the day.

Egg on my literary face. I couldn’t believe my blog name comes from Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast and I didn’t realize that I was making my own Paris memories in the same spot where he had made his, and also written about his.

And it turned out my dad had been on Rue Mouffetard too and didn’t know it—way back when on his first day in Paris where he got an egg and cheese crepe with lettuce and tomatoes (and was never able to find it or the meal again until that day).

Another time I thought I mapped out a piece of Paris my dad didn’t know about was when I took him to Rue Montergeuil, a busy little street in a piéton, or pedestrian-only, cobblestone neighborhood that’s right by my school.  There are a lot of little fromageries, patisseries, boulangeries, and butcher shops on the street and my friends and I have gone here for French, Thai, Indian, and Chinese.  When my dad visited my school, I made sure he also came to this street so he’d get the full “Alissa at school” experience.

Like father, like daughter, like Bourdain (at Robert et Louise).

Like father, like daughter, like Bourdain (at Robert et Louise).

Which he did have, but it became the “Alissa at school/that bakery tour we did ages ago” experience when I took him to La Maison Stohrer, one of the oldest bakeries in Paris where the Rhum Baba was invented. Then he remembered the street and I pouted a little.

But I couldn’t get mad. How could I, when my dad showed me the bar he used to go to because they had happy hour until 10 p.m.? And the Scottish bar where he watched rugby every Sunday and eat cans of peanuts bought out of a vending machine?

We were sharing both of our own Paris experiences with each other, to create a Parisian experience together.

I will say, however, that I was jealous when we went to a restaurant and the manager/owner recognized my dad and my step-mom from the last time they were there five years ago. The restaurant, Robert et Louise, and its’ proprietor François (Robert et Louise’s son-in-law) were featured in the first episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, and my dad is recognized in there. What the hell!

I really, really, reeeeaaaaalllllyyyyy hope that happens to me.

I think the baristas at Starbucks, this one bartender at an Irish bar by Châtelet, a big creepy bouncer at a dive bar near Hôtel de Ville, and the cashiers at the Monoprix by my house all recognize me now, but will they do that in five years? Probably not.

And none of them have ever met Bourdain and presumably remember him as well.

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The Champs-Élysées Christmas Market

Since coming to Paris, I’ve kind of had a love-hate relationship with the Champs-Élysées.

I know, I know. How could I? How could I not love “la plus belle avenue du monde,” or “the most beautiful avenue in the world?”

After fighting foot traffic to get a clear shot, I was too tired to even start with the car traffic.

After fighting foot traffic to get a clear shot, I was too tired to even start with the car traffic.

Easy. Because it’s always too crowded with tourists. That’s really my biggest problem with the Champs-Élysées. Unfortunately, the crowds extend past the actual shopping area and down the street all the way to Place de la Concorde and the Tuileries Gardens and then the Louvre. So, understandably, there is going to be a lot of tourists wanting to visit and sometimes I’m one of them and sometimes I’m not.

But the Champs-Élysées Christmas Market made my poor Grinch heart grow three sizes. It is worth the hassle. It’s easy to spot because there are little white tents lining the streets a block away from the start of the Champs-Élysées shopping area.  But it’s really more like a Christmas Carnival.

It’s bizarre (a word I use ALL THE TIME in French because it just means “weird” and I love the juxtaposition between American “bizarre” and French “bizarre”). Mostly because there are weird carnival staples like the “psychedelic” funhouse or those super slides you go down on a potato sack or roller coasters just set up there on the sidewalk.

In case you're too cool to walk down the Champs-Élysées, don't worry.

In case you’re too cool to walk down the Champs-Élysées, don’t worry.

Oh, and there’s an ice-skating rink too, complete with moving robot animals and hilariously inappropriate dance music (it’s like 7 euros to rent skates and it’s absolutely worth it, if only for the chance to be able to photobomb a million tourist shots while on ice skates).

Plus, there are a lot of really interesting food stands serving both the things you can easily find—crepes, waffles, churros (or chi-chi; I’ve seen both)—and maybe can’t easily find—hot beer (bière chaud), hot wine (vin chaud, not as rare as hot beer but definitely better), and foie gras sandwiches.

And there’s shopping. But it’s not just shopping, but shopping with really weird stores. Need to buy a set of Russian dolls, or three, for that special someone? No problem, there are at least two different stands. Need to buy just a regular doll? Well, there are some stands for that too. Chocolate-covered mousse balls? A dozen for 10 euros or one for 1 euro. Scarves. Backpacks. Ornaments. Glass trinkets. Eiffel tower key chains. HERMIT CRABS. You want it, chances are there’s a stand for it.

At night, the market is even more magical.

At night, the market is even more magical.

The shopping, eating, drinking, and ice skating would be fun activities on their own, but they’re made like ten times funner by the fact that you are doing it on the Champs-Élysées. Like, I felt so cool telling my host mom that I went ice skating on the Champs-Élysées … and saying the same thing to my mom, my dad, and a couple of my friends. This Christmas village, while still crowded, definitely contributed to my Champs-Élysées experience.

It’s a fun—and FREE—activity that is a little touristy (or at least in a touristy area) yet really exciting. You can see the Tuileries, the Place de la Concorde (and the seasonal Christmas Tree and Ferris Wheel), the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Élysées, and the Arch de Triomphe all in the span of like five minutes. I highly recommend it if it’s November/December time in Paris and you’re the tourist or you’re having a tourist come visit.

I’ve gone four times now. I hate that I love it so much.

Top Ten of Dublin Roundup

After a twenty-hour nap taken as soon as I washed all of the Irish grime off of me at my French homestay, I finally feel capable of at least beginning to document the eight days I spent in Dublin. I thought I would do a day-by-day post, but that proved very unlikely once I was in bed at 11 p.m. and waking up at 7 a.m. every day—often leaving the hostel at 10 a.m. and not coming back for another 12 hours. So I’ll just write a ginormous post about my ten favorite parts about the trip and that’s that.

My Top Ten of Dublin:

1. Dublin Pass

-My friends and I bought the Dublin Pass, which is a card that lets you get into museums and most tourist attractions (Guinness and Jameson, for the best deal) for free and get deals or discounts at other places, like a free coffee and cake at the famous (and kind of fancy!) Bewley’s Café on Grafton Street. A lot of museums in Dublin are free, like the Natural Museum of Archaeology or the Chester Beatty Library, but with the Dublin Pass you got additional deals, like 10 free post cards. We got a deal for 6 days of sightseeing for about 60 euro and when we added up everything at the end of the trip, we more than broke even on it. So I highly recommend looking into it if you want to be a big-time tourist in Dublin.

2. Guinness Storehouse

I’ve kind of already mentioned this, but I didn’t know a lot about Guinness the beer and Guinness the brand, but this trip definitely took care of that. I didn’t have as many things I wanted to do in Dublin as some of the other girls I went with, but this was something I knew I had to do, even if I would have had to pay for it. I didn’t, because of the Dublin Pass, but I would have gone here without that incentive.

The storehouse is kind of out the way, as it isn’t anywhere near proper Dublin where all of the touristy things are. It was like a 45 minute walk from our hostel but it’s do-able, I guess. We had to walk through a rougher area of Dublin than the polished, visitor-friendly part that we were used to, so it was good that we got to see another side to the city. The Guinness storehouse really is the only thing to see in this area, though.

When you first enter, the first thing you see is the 9,000-year lease Arthur Guinness signed for the place in 1759. I don’t really understand how that is possible or how it works but it’s a good thing to know if you need to start a conversation over a pint of Guinness, I guess. You could even see the original document, but it was kind of hard to read.

“My goodness, my Guinness!”

The best part about the exhibit is that you’re walked through the four main ingredients of Guinness (water, barley, yeast, and hops) and how and why they are used in the beer-making process. There are slightly dated videos about how to make the beer that you can watch, and you can also see all of the equipment used with creating and then storing the beer. And then after all of that, you get a shot of Guinness where you’re encouraged to swish, sniff, admire, and sip the beer—basically treat beer like a wine and be all snooty about beer. Sign me up!

After walking through a history of Guinness advertisements through the ages, we then could either pour our own glass of Guinness or go to the Gravity Bar at the top to have our complimentary pint of Guinness poured for us. The girls I was with wanted to go to the Gravity Bar, and I kind of just went with it. I already had a basic knowledge of how to do it just from watching the bartenders do it in Ireland: tilt the special Guinness glass at a 45 degree angle and fill it ¾ of the way while rotating the glass so it stands straight by the time you hit the ¾ mark, and then wait a bit for the foam to settle before finishing it off. Once I read the sign that explained all of that but in more scientific and professional-sounding terms like “surge” instead of “foam,” I was good to go. The Gravity Bar gave a really picturesque view of Dublin, but what really added to the experience was the fact that there were labels for all of the big attractions you could see (like St. Patrick’s Cathedral or Trinity College). But after walking so far to get to the storehouse and then walking up seven flights to the top, it was nice to sit down and get down to Guinness and relax with a pint—even if it was only 11 in the morning!

I will no longer be impressed by the hearts or ferns in cappuccino foam. Thanks a lot, Guinness.

I don’t know how, but the bartenders made four-leaf clovers in the foams of our beers. Maybe if I had known that they would teach you how to do it in the “Pour Your Own Pint” section I would have pushed for that, but overall it was an experience I’d definitely recommend, and not just for the free beer!

3. U2 Everything

I get a lot of flack for it, but I love U2. I know it’s Dad Music, I know Bono comes off kind of strong sometimes and their music sometimes isn’t that great. I get it. But I don’t care. I love U2. I was excited to go to Dublin because of the U2 connections. One of the things I wanted to see was the Clarence Hotel, which in person is really underwhelming and all but whatever, Bono and Edge are partial owners so it’s cooler than any hotel you could stay in, okay?

But U2 was everywhere, even if I didn’t have as many conversations about the band as I would have thought. The guide of the free Dublin tour didn’t remember Adam Clayton or Larry Mullin Jr.’s names when we were stopped outside of the Clarence Hotel—don’t worry, I unabashedly helped him out, and then again for a second time when we were at St. Stephen’s Green and he was talking about how since U2 has the keys to the city they could technically let their livestock graze on the grass thanks to an outdated but still legal law.

If you understand this, then don’t tell me what it means. Bono is perfect.

There were also wax statues of U2 members at the Wax Museum, which I expected. A couple of the pubs in Temple Bar area had pictures of the guys from when they stopped in for a pint. I expected that too. But what I did not expect was that U2 songs would be everywhere. The pubs, the cafes, the stores, the grocery stores, the hostels—if there was music playing, it would be U2 if you were there long enough. Most of it was old, pre-‘90s U2, which was fine by me. But yeah, if you listened to the music in a public place, then you were listening to U2.

I did see some anti-Bono graffiti. I don’t really understand it, and not just because I don’t understand why someone would take to the walls of Dublin to complain about the city’s most famous and prolific celebrities. But it was there.

4. O’Neill’s

-O’Neill’s is right across the street from the Dublin Tourism Center, and it looks like a big house that could be a hunting lodge or something. It definitely had to have been a house in another life, because there are so many rooms and stairs and nicks and crannies in the restaurant, which makes it a great bar to go to.

When we went here on the Halloween pub-crawl, they served mixed drinks with gummy eyeballs that were very creepy and festive (and deadly). There was also a live traditional Irish sessions band playing, and it was here that we were introduced to popular Irish songs like “Molly Malone” and “Wild Rover” (I just put up Dubliners videos, but every sessions band worth their weight in Leprechaun gold will know these songs, apparently; both of the sessions bands we saw at Temple Bar played these songs).

A nice hearty O’Neill’s dinner: broccoli, cabbage, carrots, mashed carrots, roasted potatoes, mashed potatoes, chorizo/mozzarella-stuffed chicken, and garlic bread. AKA everything that could ever fit in my stomach ever

When we went for late lunch/early dinner a different day at O’Neill’s (we got a free beer there thanks to the Dublin Pass), there was a ton of people there watching football on all of the screens and we ended up sitting in the most isolated seat, which was good because we stuffed ourselves on the 12 euro carving station meal. It was easily the best meal I had all week. In lieu of waiters or menus, they have a “carving” station that basically functions as an upscale cafeteria line, or you can go to their sandwich station and get a big hearty sandwich. They also do breakfast, which I almost did but I didn’t want to go to the same restaurant twice during the same trip. I kind of regret that now, especially when writing this.

5. St Stephen’s Green

My lunchtime view. So pretty!

I went here four times. The first was with the free, guided tour; the second was with a friend who had missed the guided tour; and the third and fourth were by myself on my last day in Dublin, when I finally did a full turn around the park and then returned with a package lunch to eat on a park bench and people-watch. No matter the weather, it’s always picturesque and beautiful with the water and the fountains and the birds—and let me tell ya, I got to see it in the sun, in the fog, and in the rain. There are a bunch of memorials here if you want to be touristy and a lot of benches if you want to be creepy. But it’s so nice, especially with the rich autumnal colors of the leaves (the leaves actually turn warm colors here, as opposed to the pale green and yellow-green of Paris!) that I felt instantly uplifted and homesick for raking leaves every time I entered the park.

6. ‘Evening of Food, Folklore and Fairies’

To be honest, I wasn’t super into the idea of this deal of eating a three-course meal at a pub and listening to Irish folk tales. Lily really wanted to do it and everyone else seemed okay with it and even though I wasn’t too happy about the 36 euro price tag, I just went along with it. I was glad I did. The food was really good—you had a choice of four or five things for appetizer and dinner and then a choice of two for dessert, and I got a “warm chicken salad” that was literally a skinless chicken breast on salad but it was so flavorful and delicious I completely forgot about its sparseness, a really spicy salmon that went really well with my two different types of potatoes, and then a chocolate cake that was, well, a really good chocolate cake. Plus, we got like a history of Dublin and Ireland from Viking Age to Great Potato Famine, and even though it was the same spiel we’d gotten from other tours and museums, it was presented in an interesting way. And the stories were great too. The origins of the banshee myth were explained, as long as stories with fairies and other popular folk tales.

If you’re interested, the organizer of the dinner sent everyone a 23-page Word document of all of the stories we heard that night, as well as book recommendations for further reading. So if you’re really into Irish folk tales, let me know!

7. Grafton Street

Grafton Street is well known for its street performances and stores. It’s a good, busy street that’s equal parts touristy and, um, not-touristy, I guess. There aren’t a lot of familiar shop names there but the clothing stores and shoe stores were fun to walk around in. I know this because I walked around here a lot looking for boots, since the only pair of shoes I had brought to Dublin, a pair of grey combat boots, had torn on the inside seam between the rubber of the bottom and the cloth area where my foot went—and the rubber bottom of one was cracked in two. These were the same boots that had both of the bottoms of the heel come of at Oktoberfest—and they are only a month old! Sheesh. Worst 40 euro ever. And it was so cold and drizzly in Dublin that before I found a good solid pair of boots, I would wear two pairs of socks. But I did find a good pair of sleeker, more feminine boots that were more Timberland than combat, but they were warm and do their job and don’t look like they’re going to be destroyed in a month.

My friend Lily would kill me if I didn’t mention this … apparently busking on Grafton Street is portrayed in the movie Once, which is all she talked about on our Dublin trip. It’s supposed to be very romantic, but I haven’t seen it. It’s on my to-see list. Wikipedia tells me that Damien Rice, Glen Hansard (from Once and his own bands, The Frames and The Swell Season), and Rodrigo y Gabriela used to busk there. Our tour guide from the free tour said that U2 used to busk there, but he also didn’t know the names of U2’s bassist and drummer and I didn’t see U2 listed on the Wikipedia page so I’m not sure who to trust.

Even his statue is rock ‘n’ roll. Le sigh.

But rest assured, the Phil Lynott statue is alive and well on Grafton Street! You have to keep an eye out for it, since it’s not actually on the main road and is placed outside of a random bar that actually was one of the bars Thin Lizzy played at when they were just getting started. But the map I picked up at the tourist center had the statue marked so it should be easy to find. I stumbled across it when I thought I was in the general area of the statue and a friend just pointed it out to me.

8. Old Jameson Distillery

Not to sound like an alcoholic, but touring the Jameson distillery was really the other thing I was looking forward to doing in Dublin. And just like the Guinness Storehouse, it did not disappoint.

It was also above the River Liffey, which not many important tourist attractions are, so we had another interesting stroll in a part of Dublin we might not have seen. It was in a more industrial area of Dublin with a lot of big buildings and people in business attire. But we let loose once we went inside. We had the driest tour guide ever, and his sense of humor was such that sometimes we didn’t know if he was kidding. But the one time he wasn’t trying to be funny was the absolute best—he was waiting for everyone to settle down so he could start talking, and in the wait he just stroked his goatee and whispered, “I miss my beard” to himself. It was creepy, but creepier that we were the only ones close enough to have heard it.

I’m Jameson for a Jameson.

This guy thought we were crazy. We were always joking and making each other laugh when it wasn’t laughing time. But he still picked me and Lily to become official “Qualified Irish Whiskey Tasters” at the end of the tour—though we did get him to smile when Lily dropped her hollow cardboard baton (that we would eventually use to put our rolled-up certificates in) twice during his presentation (earning a quip from him about how maybe he shouldn’t have picked her) and then during the tasting where I pretended to waft the tiny amount of watered-down whiskey in the shot glass instead of just sticking it under my nose like everyone else.

Oh yeah, the tasting. The Tasting. If you end up at the Old Jameson Distillery, you NEED to do this. It completes the whole trip. Plus, it’s more free whiskey so why not, right? When in Dublin…

I may not look it, but I am a Qualified Irish Whiskey Taster, thank you very much.

So at the end of the tour, once we learned about the importance of the triple distilled and, like Guinness, what was used to make the alcohol, the four men and four women were assembled in the bar and set down at a table where there were three watered-down shots of whiskey: Irish whiskey (Jameson, obviously), American whiskey (Jack Daniels), and Scottish whiskey (I don’t know the brand, and that doesn’t bother me because I learned Scottish whiskey is absolutely disgusting). We had to try each one (after smelling it and looking at its color) and then pick which one we liked the best. Jameson was flavorful, in a good way compared to the smokey, earthy Scottish whiskey and the slightly less flavorful and sweet Jack Daniels. I felt lame saying that Jameson was my favorite, but it ended up being true.

Now I’m gonna bring this with me every time I go to a bar.

So I’ll be a Jameson drinker now—and never, ever a Scottish whiskey drinker ever unless it’s like the only alcohol left on the deserted island I’m stranded on and Keira Knightley has already burned all of the rum and Johnny Depp has already asked, “But why is the rum gone?”

9. Jonathan Swift Everything

I didn’t end up going to the Dublin Writer’s Museum, but I knew coming into the city (and the country) that I could expect to see a lot of Oscar Wilde and James Joyce.

And I did! There were random little plaques of James Joyce quotes from The Dubliners or Ulysses about Dublin, like the Dawson Street plaque on Dawson Street from Ulysses. There’s also a James Joyce statue in St. Stephen’s Green and there’s the James Joyce Centre and the James Joyce Museum. There’s a lot for James Joyce, which makes sense for a guy that wrote a lot.

Oscar Wilde was much appreciated too. I expected that, just because he’s such a character. There’s a memorial to him in Merrion Park right across the street from his childhood home—which is actually now American College Dublin so you can’t tour it, which stunk. I’d never even heard of that College but you could only get a B.A. in liberal arts there so maybe that’s why. Seems sketchy but a BA in Liberal Arts would be worth having if it meant taking an Oscar Wilde class in Oscar Wilde’s childhood home.

But I didn’t think good old Jonathan Swift would be so involved in Dublin history and pride, and that made me very excited for the guy that most people, even in my English-major classes, only know as the eat-babies guy. HE IS MORE THAN THAT and I was glad that Dublin felt the same way too.

For example, Jonathan Swift was the Dean of St. Patrick’s, so when we visited that we were treated to a lot of Jonathan Swift history and artifacts, like a casing of his skull and his face as well as one of his writing desks. He’s buried at St. Patrick’s along with his friend and possible lover Stella. I always liked their “are they-aren’t they” relationship, since Stella grew up always being friends with Swift and some people think they were secretly married or secretly in love. All I know is, Swift had one romantic relation that he broke off because of Stella and he was so heartbroken when she died that he petitioned to have her buried at St. Patrick’s so they could be together forever when he died.

You’d think that they would have kept his brain…

Not only were we given access to what essentially his workplace at St. Patrick’s, but we also got to trace his steps through 18th century Dublin. Apparently he thought it would be wasteful to take a carriage to Christ’s Church Cathedral, Dublin’s other medieval church (something I agree with, since I walked from one to the other on the same day and they’re only like four blocks away), so he used to walk up a passageway of 40 stairs by Dublin Castle to get to the church. The passageway used to be filled with beggars, and Swifty would use the money he would have spent on the carriage to give to the beggars—so obviously after a while the beggars caught on and the place then became so overfilled with hobos (and their stench) that Swift had to change his route. But according to the Dublin ghost tour that we took, sometimes you can still see his ghost walking up the stairs at night and modern-day beggars sometimes sleep in that corridor in the hopes of waking up in the morning and finding an antiquated coin in their cup, which apparently has happened.

Such a good guy! And such a good writer too!

10. Tower Records

-It’s not lame to recommend a record store abroad when it’s one like Tower Records. It’s two stories tall and has a café in it called “Sound Bites Café” and is promoted by the tagline “Sex, Drugs, & Sausage Rolls.” There weren’t any available seats when I looked but the food was all artisanal and organic and, well, kind of the food you’d expect a record store to put out in the age of Portlandia.

Bono would love it here, I just know it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I didn’t buy anything so I probably annoyed the hell out of the workers because I spent like an hour and a half just looking through everything. They had a really good selection of Irish folk music, which I really looked through because I don’t know anything about that outside of The Dubliners or the Pogues. I was very pleased with their David Bowie selection, as well as their differentiated American folk/American country/American sections (the genres were that in-depth).

It reminded me so much of Newbury Comics (the New England-based record store I used to work at during my senior year of high school and every December after that) that I kind of wanted to name-drop it and have the cool people behind the counter like me. But alas, I just went through all of the Irish music and took pictures and pretended to be a hip spy.

Dublin Day One

We finally got to our hostel after midnight—it’s an old church turned orphanage turned hostel—and we’re sharing a room with seven other girls, bunk bed style. Of course, we come stomping in when it’s lights out and people are sleeping and we have trouble figuring out which bunk bed is ours and we’re using our cell phones as our only sources of light. Not exactly the ideal conditions to unpack, ya know?

One girl wakes up and tells us she’s sleeping in one of our beds but we can have her old one. Fine, whatever. We’re supposed to have little lockers, only my locker is right next to the head of the bed underneath my top bunk, so I’d have to stand creeper close to the sleeping girl below me to put my backpack away. Fine, whatever.

My friend Jenn and I go into the bathroom to change and brush our teeth. Lily comes in, tries to open the other toilet stall, and can’t get it open—but of course we don’t think anything of it. Wrong. We talk a little. Jenn and I leave. Lily, who had been going to the bathroom, stays and does some teethbrushing of her own. And then two guys come out of the other toilet stall, obviously not expecting to see Lily there—who obviously wasn’t expecting to see two guys walk out of a stall in the women’s bathroom while she’s brushing her teeth.

Not fine. Not whatever.

The next morning was a little rough—rough enough that I didn’t feel guilty about coming in at 1:30 a.m. and making a little noise that when people’s alarms started going off at 6 a.m and the girls left the lights on. The girl in the bed below my friend Lily’s actually tossed a pillow on Lily’s bed without comment and just nonchalantly answered “Yes” when Lily asked if we got pillows (in addition to the comforter placed on our bed and the linens we got at the front desk) and if she had taken Lily’s pillow. But the day could only get better from there, right?

Breakfast was equally hard, with the only redeeming factor being the cold milk (room-temperature milk is the norm in Paris) and the light, fluffy pieces of white bread that remind me of the bread in Alice in Wonderland. Our game plan going into Dublin was to eat a big, free breakfast at the hostel and then wait until late afternoon/early night to eat a big meal. We are poor college students studying abroad against the Euro, come on. So it was a little disappointing to walk into the church hall turned dining hall and see that the only breakfast options were carbs, just like in Paris—toast, Irish soda bread, Rice Krispies or corn flakes. There was NO flavor in the breakfast, as we didn’t even get jam and the orange juice was just water with a little bit of OJ poured in it. But did we let that distract us? Hell no! Poor college students studying abroad will eat anything, and that morning I had two butter sandwiches and many glasses of cold milk.

And it was raining and cold when we finally ventured outside. Lily even had to buy an umbrella and my feet were soaked because I’m too cheap to buy new boots when the rubber bottom has torn away from the foot part of the boot. When it stopped raining, it was still cold, but not cold enough to deter us from the free walking tour we absolutely wanted to have our first day in Dublin—not even when we got to the meeting spot and was told it was three hours long.

It was an interesting group, as international groups can be. We were in the “English-language” tour part, but we were the only Americans. There were people, mostly groups of guys, from the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Brazil; there were two girls from Croatia too, I think . We had to go around and say where we were from in the beginning, but we really cemented our status as the young American girls when our tour guide was talking about how we had to pose for a picture to post on the tour guide group’s Facebook page and Lily automatically turned to me and did the Eiffel Tower pose that had become an inside joke for us—we saw Asian tourists in Paris posing with their heads like the “A” dance move of the “YMCA” while on the Seine riverboat tour with the Eiffel Tower in the background, and we always do that in photos when we’re being super touristy.  Our tour guide called Lily out on it, made her explain it, and then dragged her to the front in the photo where, yes, we all did the Eiffel Tower pose. Great first impression for the Americans.

The tour was long—but it’d have to be, with Ireland’s history. We went from the Vikings to when O’Bama visited Dublin last year. We went to everywhere from Christ’s Church, built in 1090 A.D. (it used to hold brothel, a pub, and a whiskey bar at some point in its long life, funnily enough) to the Temple Bar area to Trinity College to some alleyway from P.S. I Love You (which I have never seen but my tour guide had—something he said he only watched because the girlfriend made him when he called me out on giving him a skeptical look).

I also gave him skeptical looks when we walked by the famous Clarence Hotel owned by Bono and the Edge and he couldn’t remember the names of the other two blokes—I had no problem shouting out their names. But come on—he’s Irish! Isn’t it the law that they have to know all of the U2 members, if not love the band? AND I had to remind him of their names when we were in the St. Stephen’s Green park and he was talking about how since all of the members have U2 have keys to the city, they can technically have the privilege of feeding their goats on the grass in the park. Geeze Louise.

But, I guess I had my own “Geeze Louise” moments when I asked if Irish car bombs were a thing in Ireland. Turns out they really, really aren’t. The Irish car bomb—a shot of Baileys literally dropped, shot glass and all, in a pint of Guinness that you have to down before the milk of the Baileys curdles—is an opportunistic American drink, much like St. Patrick’s Day, so you won’t find it on the menu of any bar and the bartenders might not even know what you’re asking for if you were foolish enough to try, according to our tour guide. And he said some Irish really take offense to it if they had relatives who died in car bomb tragedies. Luckily he told us this before we went to a bar! And, as if that question wasn’t ignorant enough, I also went ahead and asked if Shamrock Shakes were served year-round in Ireland. Nope. Another dumb American invention.

But the tour guide was nice enough to say, “Everything else about the Irish drinking stereotype is true,” even though we didn’t even go out the first night—a Friday, no less!!—since we were still exhausted from the night before and the three hour walking tour and the frigid, freezing temperature that chilled us to the bone and forced us to shell over 10 euro for hats and gloves (a decent bargain, but still). So we ended up going to the movies to see the latest Paranormal Activity film, which was a good time for me even though I spent most of the time with my hat pulled over my face and my face tucked into Lily’s armpit.

At that point, I was emotionally and psychologically exhausted from the stress of the movie and physically exhausted from the lack of sleep and the walking. We were all in bed sleeping by ten. Not very Irish, but it was still very nice.

P.S. Ryanair was totally not the stress, since it was a normal-sized plan. And I sat next to a fellow American student studying abroad in Paris, so we just talked the whole time! No free drinks or peanuts, but you could have bought cigarettes, scratch tickets, stewardess swimsuit calendars (you’d think an airline wouldn’t want to promote stewardesses on the beach…or maybe that’s just my LOST paranoia coming in).

I’m Flying up to Dublin!

I grew up in a suburb outside of Boston, but even there the Irish presence was really big, thanks to the Celtics, the Mc or O’ last names, and the people who liked to talk about their Irish heritage. I never got that: I don’t watch basketball, and my last name, Falcone, tells anyone all they need to know about my Italian heritage.

But even if I don’t have the Irish roots (I mean that figuratively and literally—I am not a ginger!), I did have the Boston thing going for me. I saw The Departed in theaters when it came out and I listened to the Dropkick Murphy’s before that movie and, well, I just got used to seeing green shamrocks on everything.

When I go to Dublin tomorrow, I’ll be able to own my Boston Irish background, even if it’s not actually mine. I’m interested to know if the Irish are better at placing the city on a map or at least recognizing it better than the French have been—and considering I get more of a response when I say I live in Philadelphia (Tom Hanks! Eagles! ROCKY!!) than when I say I’m from Boston, it won’t be hard to top.

It’s funny, really, because I never was dying to go to Ireland like people I went to high school with or even one of the girls on my study abroad program (my fellow shame-eating friend Lily from the cheesecake post). Lily also goes to Drexel, along with the two other girls I’m going to Dublin with (the same ones I went to Oktoberfest with, actually) and over the summer we’d meet up to try and plan trips and name our top destinations. This was how we all agreed to go to Munich. But Lily’s number one choice was Dublin, and I was kind of meh about it because I was gung-ho on going to Stockholm or at least Copenhagen.

However … once I started into looking into transportation (pricey!) and language problems (what the hell is that letter?) and money (how the heck to I exchange money?), the dream of going to Scandanavialand became less and less intense. And once I started living in a foreign country and started dealing with translation and culture shock issues on a daily basis, the idea of going to a country with the same language became more and more appealing. I’m not that proud of that, but it’s true.

We got the idea to go to Dublin for our week-long break after I met some Irish guys and told my friends about how fun they were and that kind of reevaluated Dublin for all of us. I think we booked the trip a week or so after that.

What am I looking forward to the most? Touring the Guinness Storehouse, of course! But we’re going to be there for eight days, and we bought a reduced-price pass to go to over 34 cultural attractions in Dublin for free … let’s just say I totally plan on getting my money’s worth! I’m pretty easygoing when it comes to the other things we’ll do, but we’ve already decided on Guinness Storehouse, Trinity College (mostly to see their awesome Harry Potter-esque library), and picnicking by the beaches.

PLUS: I WILL BE IN DUBLIN FOR HALLOWEEN!!!! We didn’t even plan that and actually didn’t even realize it until recently, but Parisians don’t really celebrate Halloween and the Irish do.

The weather’s supposed to be blah and in the 40s (Fahrenheit—still haven’t gotten the hang of Celsius) but that just means we’ll have to sit by the toasty fire while enjoying a pint at the pub!

I fly out tomorrow night, leaving Paris at 10:30 or so. I’m a little nervous because I’ve heard horror stories about Ryanair and I get nausea and motion sickness very easily. But maybe I’ll contract the luck of the Irish and not have any troubles!

I will be bringing my laptop to Dublin—can you believe I have to register for next term’s classes while I’m over there on vacation?!?!—so hopefully I’ll be able to put a couple blog posts up.

Oktoberfail, Part Two

My second Oktoberfail that I experienced at Oktoberfest last week has to do with the camping situation … the one I had built up so much in my head prior to actually visiting it, where the reality of the campsite (plus the rain one night) made it all come crashing down.

I am not a camper. I am not even an outdoorsy person. The last time I slept in a camp was when I was a sophomore in high school, and that was not even by choice. It was a team bonding exercise for my soccer team and it was only for one night, and no one got any sleep then anyway so it doesn’t really count as camping in my head.

It should be noted that I did not plan on camping at Oktoberfest when we started organizing the trip. But alas, my friends and I started booking stuff in August and by then it was too late to find any space for four people in any of the hostels in Munich or by the festival. So one of the travel guide sites we were on also recommended a camping site in an Olympic stadium … which did not really register as camping for me since it would be in an Olympic stadium, not a random forest or woods or river or whatever, and there would be showers and toilets and running water. But really, I was in it for the Olympic stadium.

The name of the place was Wies’n Camp, which is in Olympic Horse Stadium München-Riem. In the 1972 Munich Olympics, this was where all of the equestrian events occurred during the games. I’m not a horse-y kind of person (I do like things, I swear, just not horses or camping), but whatever, I knew this was the closest I was maybe ever going to get to the Olympics and I didn’t care (sad, but true … unless the Olympics or the world finally recognizes the sport of competitive speed-reading).

Plus, it was cheap, and it was kind of our only option. It was 35 euro per person for a four-person tent and I was naïve in thinking I wouldn’t be spending a lot of time at the campsite.

Oktoberfest all day! Party all night! Sleep when I’m dead … or on the train back to Paris!

As you’ve already read, none of those things happened. Oktoberfail.

Our six-hour train ride from Gare D’Est in Paris to Munchen Hauptbahnhof in Munich got us in the train station at night. So we knew we’d miss the Friday night of Oktoberfest, but we were in no hurry.

We arrived at 9:30 p.m. My friend Jenn got hit on by a cute German guy in lederhosen at 9:35 p.m. Maybe it’s because we were tired or hungry, but we just giggled the whole time we watched them interact and complained about how of course Jenn is the one to get the first guy.

However, none of us were too envious once we asked him for directions to our camp and he thought we were crazy for actually camping outside. At first, he thought it was just a translation issue and the “camp site” we were talking about wasn’t the “camp site” he thought he knew.

“Camping? You are going camping?” he asked. Yes.

“You are going camping outdoors?” YES.

“You are all going camping outdoors? To sleep under the sky?” FOR CHRISSAKE, YES!

He started cracking up once he knew that yes, we were all going camping outdoors.

It turns out it was so hilarious because “German girls don’t camp. And European girls don’t camp.”

“Well, these American girls do,” we said before ditching him.

Hmmph. We thought he was just sexist or something. Surely German girls, or at least European girls, camp! I mean, there isn’t a stereotype of American girls camping and none of use camped regularly, for the most part. But camping was a thing at Oktoberfest, or so we thought based off of all of the camping options that we had to choose from.

Campsite … don’t zoom in like I did and look at all of the weeds in the stands 😦

Whatever. We shook off Cute German Guy, both literally and figuratively, and we finally arrived at the camp after figuring out the Metro line and getting off at the most random, remote Metro stop ever to follow a crowd of people into the night.

But actually, the first thing we noticed once we arrived at the campsite was that we were the only girls in the registration center/bar/dance floor/bathroom makeshift building.As soon as we followed the loud American Top 40 music and cheering into the makeshift building and saw picnic tables, a bar, and an entire dance floor mostly comprised of guys (most of whom were wearing lederhosen), we all just looked at each other.

Well, okay, we weren’t the only girls there. It’s like there were only two handfuls of girls (does that mean ten girls? Because that’s what I’m trying to say but in an earnestly clever way) in the makeshift building … and we were four of them. And the other girls that were there were all standing next to boys, AKA were taken, AKA maybe weren’t there because they wanted to be there or originally proposed camping.

AKA, umm, maybe Cute German guy had a point…

We scoped out the scene while we stood pressed against the wall with our backpacking backpacks and waited for Lily to register us. It was a little dark in the room, but we were pretty sure there weren’t any girls on the dance floor.

This got me thinking.

Not about how, as The Hunger Games’ Effie Trinket might have said in this situation that the odds were ever in my favor. Not about how there was American pop music playing that was relevant when I first started standing pressed against the walls at parties and dances in middle school. And definitely not about how everyone in the place was hammered and we were all way too sober to be dealing with the crashing reality that this was not exactly what we were expecting.

Instead, I wondered: What’s German for “sausage fest,” anyway? Do they even have that phrase? They have to, since sausage is such a huge part of German food culture. Right? Does that mean that are there different sausages used to describe different sausage fests? Like, ‘Oh, last night was such a Bratwurst fest’ or ‘This is a total Knockwurst fest.’ Hmm. Maybe I’ll have to ask a German. I wish I had thought of this when Cute German Guy was around, since he seemed to be in the know about how German girls don’t camp! 

My Mindy Kaling-esque musing was interrupted when Lily came back with our tent number. We were #305—and after putting our bags away and worrying if anyone was going to steal anything, we decided to go back to the makeshift party and represent our tent and our country. Or something like that.

This fits 4 people and not 4 Rumpelstiltskins. It’s funny because it references a German fairy tale and the fact that we had to sleep in the tent.
LAUGH AT MY WIT BECAUSE I AM A GENUIS.

The dance floor was just the area to the left of the bar that was between the wall and the first row of picnic tables. It wasn’t a big area, especially when it was full of drunk guys all unironically dancing together in the same space despite the fact that there weren’t any girls on the dance floor—something I’ll probably never see back in the States!

We were kind of bopping on the edge of the dance floor just watching as we planned our mode of attack. And the guys that came up to us to ask us to dance didn’t do so by getting all up behind us and just grinding, which is unfortunately pretty standard at Drexel. The guys were still wordless (maybe a language issue? completely possible), but they’d hold their hand out for us to dance. It’s a nicer invitation, I think, especially because their dancing styles were how I imagine my grandparents danced when they were my age—my hand on his shoulder, his hand on my waist, our other hands entwined in the air.

Of course, the first guy I talked to was from France. What are the odds, right? C’est la vie. He was a fireman from a tiny French village about forty-five minutes away from Paris and he had come to Oktoberfest with a couple of other guys from his squad. Now, I don’t know if it’s because he was talking me up or because it’s actually the truth, but I walked away from that feeling like French firemen were so much more badass than American firemen, mostly because the firemen in France also function as EMTs and that the French government bends over backwards for their firehouses. See, I learned something cultural and interesting at Oktoberfest!

But because I knew I’d have an early morning the next day, I went back to the tent around midnight (aka before “Tik Tok” came on and the two friends that stayed on the dance floor were the only people in the whole building who knew the lyrics). Big mistake. It was FREEZING and miserable and cramped and I was wearing every object of clothing I had brought, minus my spandex tights and the pair of black gloves that got eaten by my backpack—so, Under Armor spandex shirt, long sleeved shirt, a fleece zip-up sweatshirt, non-hoodie sweatshirt, jeans, two pairs of socks, scarf, and hat. I did bring my winter jacket but it didn’t fit around my layers so I used it as a pillow and a blanket.

And that wasn’t enough! I don’t know if it was the cold or the fact that I had to pee so badly but didn’t want to go into the actual cold, but I didn’t sleep at all. At around five I finally got up, grabbed the spandex tights, and walked back to the dance hall to go to the bathroom and change. No one was there, it was dead silence, and I just walked to and from this building, but somehow during all of this I ripped a big hole in the kangaroo pouch of my sweatshirt. And the next morning I woke up and saw that the rubber layer of the heel of my boot was just chilling on the grass outside of our tent. I don’t even know how any of that happened but somehow I was already a hot mess without drinking anything at Oktoberfest.

Photo Cred: Brittany Handler

I already recounted my Oktoberfest activity here, so I’ll keep this post strictly focused on the campsite activities…which unfortunately are equally not WOOO OKTOBERFEST!!!! even though that’s what the atmosphere was like at night.

And I don’t know what they were during the day, because the next time I came back to the Wies’n Camp was at 2 p.m. and that was when we all stumbled into our tents and took a three-hour-long nap. What I saw after I woke up was that there weren’t nearly as many people in the makeshift building, but the people that were there all looked incredibly sober and no one was wearing lederhosen.

This was not the same camp we came back to at about midnight after walking around Munich with a Drexel friend I met up with who is studying in the city. The dance floor was now an actual dance floor and not the passageway it functioned as during the day, and the same drunk lederhosen guys were there dancing to the same American Top 40 songs with the same drunk lederhosen guys from the night before. Once again, only ten girls in the place and we were four of them.

And even though we did relatively little that day compared to what we could have done, we just headed back to our tents at around midnight. This was, once again, another big mistake because it rained the whole damn night. We didn’t get a ton of rain in the tent—just a little puddle by someone’s end of their sleeping bag—but it was still really cold and it’s depressing enough when it rains (for me at least) and to be stuck in a tent in the rain meant that I was not a happy camper (see what I did there? It’s not a cliché because it was true in that case!).

It was only drizzly the next morning, but we still went right to the train station instead of going back to Oktoberfest. One breakfast of beer that weekend was more than enough, thank you very much.

 Author’s Note: I feel terrible having to write this out, but I did have a very fun weekend, despite the complaining in this post. I’m just saying … I went to Oktoberfest and I got a tour of Munich with my friend, and what I did there was enough for me for my fill of Munich. I may not have spent a lot of time at Oktoberfest but I liked what I did every second of it and I have no regrets. It’s just if I get the opportunity to go again, I’m not sure I would go back instead of traveling to somewhere new and doing something new there.

That’s’ not to say I didn’t like Oktoberfest. I did! It wasn’t what I was expecting (well, I did expect all the drunk lederhosen guys), but it still turned out very good. The best part was meeting new friends and finding out cultural differences with the foreigners we were seated next to—something that is my absolute favorite thing to do abroad.

Furthermore, Oktoberfest weekend was a good bonding experience with my friends, and a great preview for what will happen during our week in Dublin next week for my Toussaint vacation. I’ll be in Ireland from the night of October 25 to the morning of November 2 (UM HELLO HALLOWEEN IN IRELAND), so you can expect more timely blog posts about Dublin around that time!

Oktoberfail

More than a week has passed since Oktoberfest ended and my liver has finally recovered … from the two liters of beer I drank all that weekend.

I know, I know. Believe me, I’ve had a lot of people judge me because I didn’t get completely wasted at Oktoberfest. The worst part is, I didn’t plan on drinking so little either. I thought I had prepared for Oktoberfest, but I didn’t prepare for Oktoberfest to have to start at 9 a.m.

Beer hall!

I don’t know if it’s because we were lazy or if it’s because we just told ourselves that it would be impossible to plan activities at a festival where we’d be drinking heavily, but we didn’t really have a set plan for Oktoberfest. We knew we had to get to the site relatively early so we wouldn’t have to wait in line to enter a beer tent. But we didn’t have an exact time of when it started, so we just planned on showing up at 9 and walking around for a while before we would try to enter a beer hall.

We only wandered for a couple minutes before one of the three other girls in my group wanted to follow a crowd of people wearing lederhosen and drindls (traditional Bavarian outfits that are nowhere near as slutty as their American Halloween costume counterparts). Little did we know we were actually in line for the actual king of Oktoberfest beer tents, Hofbräu-Festzelt, and the crowd we were following was actually 10,000 people that would fill the festival’s largest beer tent in ten minutes, according to the friendly Norwegians sitting next to us.

The inside of the beer hall.

We were also clueless about how much a liter of beer can be, especially first thing in the morning. Let me tell you, the term “breakfast of champions” takes on a whole new meaning when it’s 9:30 a.m.  and there’s a liter of strong German beer sitting in front of you.

But once again, that was just us. The Norwegians seated to our right and the Germans and New Zealanders to our left didn’t make any puckered faces. They had no problem yelling “Prost!” and clinking beer glasses when it was closer to 5 a.m. than 5 p.m. And the other 10,00 people were equally ready to wake up and smell the beer.

Within minutes of being served our beer, people started standing on the top of their picnic benches and chugging their entire beer or what was left of it. And the crowd was so into it, cheering the person on and clapping when they finished or, in a worst-case scenario, booing if they couldn’t. This happened about five or six times every hour, for all of the five hours that we spent at the beer hall.

The Germans and New Zealanders (the ones in the lederhosen, surprisingly). And The Beer.

Because it turns out that Oktoberfest is the happiest, most magical grownup place on Earth where it’s weird if you’re NOT day drinking, you DON’T really want to have beer for breakfast, and people will judge you if you CAN’T finish chugging a liter of beer in under thirty seconds or CAN’T drink more than three liters of beer in three hours.

I had two beers in five hours, and two of the other girls I went with only had one beer in the same amount of time. And I don’t know if it’s because we are girls or because we are Americans or what, but that was the perfect amount for me and my wallet—one liter of beer is 11 euros, or more than $14! And keep in mind that the human stomach can only hold about 32 ounces of fluid, which is basically one liter.

The trouble was, though, that in order to keep your seat, you had to keep buying stuff, either food or drink. So we ordered sparkling water and torso-sized German pretzels and even a half of a roasted chicken to split all between us just so we could stay without the scary waitress barking at us in German. I wasn’t even that hungry, but I just wanted to stay.

And I thought Americans had huge portion sizes!

The Germans next to us very helpfully ordered all of our nutritional demands, though they did tease us for not being able to drink as much beer as them.  In all of the five hours that we were there, they didn’t get up to go to the bathroom once. Talk about German efficiency.

They were genuinely distressed that we were leaving and didn’t want to spend all day drinking with them in the tent before going to a club at midnight—and didn’t understand that we would probably die or pass out if we tried to at least catch up halfway to them.

I don’t know what happened to those cute, friendly German guys in lederhosen. All I know is that we went back to our tiny tent and took a four-hour nap. My Oktoberfest might not have been like their Oktoberfest, but it was good enough for me.