That’s the number one comment I’ve heard – and uttered – over the past few days. Some people I’m visiting I haven’t seen in nine years, but it’s nice to know that the essential excellent things about them remain the same. And that I haven’t aged in a decade, that’s nice to hear too, I’m going to start legitimately pretending I’m 25 again.
I’ll have to Coles notes this as best I can – the last few days have been absolutely manic. To finish off the Wales chapter – we had a great night out at O’Neills pub in Cardiff and celebrated the Six Nations rugby win until the wee hours with French and Welsh supporters alike. Suffice to say I have many entertaining bar photos involving leeks, daffodils and dragons (Welsh symbols), and even have a bagpipe encounter thrown in for good measure. To remember it all, I have a bruise on my backside, earned after I stood on a stool to dance and promptly came crashing down to earth. Class in a glass over here. Jenny and Gareth drove me to the airport the next day and I walked away with tears rolling down my face because I’m a giant baby – and because it’s so hard leaving people you love without a firm idea of when you’ll see them again.
I didn’t have much time to be upset though, I was bound for Basel, Switzerland, the first place I ever lived properly away from home. Predictably this was emotional as well. I took care of three boys, ages 5, 7 and 9, for a year and a half in 2004/2005. Michael, Philipp and Patrick were my little brothers. Or they were until I got off the plane and saw three strapping young men waiting for me. 15-year-old Patrick joked immediately “you’re our little sister now” since they all tower above me.
It was amazing to see how polite, interesting, charming, worldly, intelligent, warm, conversational and FUNNY they are. I told my lovely host mum Marianne when I got to the airport that my German is worse now than when I left. Michael chimed in “but our English is much better now”. Is it ever! They were all learning when I was there but Michi and Philipp are fluent, and Patrick’s English is better than my German. On top of it all – they are still the loveliest boys. I’m so incredibly proud of them, and almost as soon as I’d left them, I was in floods of tears. They truly are my brothers.
It was emotional seeing my host mum again as well. Marianne was my anchor as I tried to figure out how to live in a foreign country with a foreign language. She helped me through all sorts of triumphs and heartache, made me part of the family, and it is why she truly is my Mami Zwei – ‘mom number 2’.
Marianne was on form as ever when I returned to the Steiner home in Grindel on Friday night. I was treated to an amazing spread of raclette (cheese and potatoes with a Swiss twist), homemade tirimasu, traditional Swiss treat “mohrenkopf”, and the beer, wine and schnapps were flowing.
I turned into a crybaby once again as Marianne shuttled me back into town to Swedish Catie’s flat – I don’t know when I’ll see them again. I was still drying my tears as I walked into Catie’s flat – an hour late – when she pulled me into her living room and shocked the hell out of me. She’d gathered my good friends Joss and Joanna. I met English Joss in Switzerland all those years ago and had most recently seen him when he lived in New York and Jennifer and I visited him there in 2007. That was shocking enough, but English Jo Riggs was also there. Jo and I were flight attendants with BA together. She is now a pilot and flies out of Basel Airport – and had never met Catie before that night. But Catie rallied the troops – and they helped me celebrate my return. I was so overwhelmed with the emotion, I’m not sure I processed he wonder of it all appropriately. No time to worry about that though – Catie poured a glass of red and forced us all out the door. Time to do the rounds at the pub. Not much sleep was had that night and we were up to watch the Olympic gold medal game hours later. I watched in a pub full of Swedes, so I had to contain myself a bit, but it wasn’t really tough since I was feeling the effects of the night before. Seeing as my hardest partying years were in Switzerland, it was appropriate that we didn’t make it to bed before 5 am – after an ice fight in the bar, and a wrestling match at home. As most of my Swiss nights have been, this was one to remember.
Sunday was a gorgeous warm and sunshiny day in Basel. Catie and Joss joined me as I toured around to take some touristy photos. Basel is such a beautiful, clean city. The nostalgia factor continued to rate through the roof, and I couldn’t help but marvel at the Swiss transportation system. In Basel alone it’s the best I’ve seen in the world. You can’t help but respect a country that is so quietly efficient about something everyone else sucks terribly at. We ended the visit on a Sunday Funday – drinks at the pub and then Catie took me home and made me her classic to-die-for Carbonara. We both eventually passed out on the couch – and I ended up getting two hours of sleep before I had to be up for my 7 am flight back to the UK.
Predictably – more tears as I left my sister from another mister – the best friend who stood by my side through one of the periods that developed me most as a person in my life. The tears were ok though since we’d done nothing but laugh for the previous day and a bit. Truly a case of “nothing has changed”.
It was a ridiculously short amount of time to spend in Switzerland, but I’m so glad I went, and so thankful that my friends and family made the time to see me. I left the country with a heavy but full heart on Monday morning.
It was a blur of planes, trains and the Underground as I made my way to Folkestone, Kent, to visit former roommate and loves of my life Dana, Chris and baby Ted. The whole reason I planned this trip to Europe is so I could meet my 13-month-old nephew. And he is gorgeous! I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves, but he is the most even-tempered, lovely baby ever. We had a lovely walk down the seaside, which is a block away from their gorgeous house – and then were very much by surprise visited by Josh Levett!!! Jenny Bain, Josh, Dana and I trained together when we joined British Airways in 2006. It’s hard to think of many people I love more than them. We had a lovely visit as it was a gorgeous and warm day here on Monday as well. Chris made us an amazing dinner of sausages, cabbage and bacon, and roasted sweet potato. Who knew all my friends were such good cooks?
It’s after 6 am here and I hear Ted stirring in the other room, which means I’m off to take advantage of more time with some of the best people ever. It’s nice to have a few solid days here since I’ve been so all over the place. A bit of downtime now, before I hopefully head to South Africa with the woman who made this whole trip possible – Jennifer Roussy – in four days! Hope my loved ones are staying warm in Kamloops! I see the snow is persisting on the coast as well. I hope everyone I love is driving safe – and missing me of course 😉 Ciao for now!