Tag Archives: Europe

A Toulouse Tea Moment

The year I turned 21, I went on an exchange program to Pau, France. With every intention of immersing myself in the French language and culture, I soon fell into the expected rut of hanging out with those most like myself – at least most like my nationality. I spent all hours of the day and night with Americans. A motley crew, to say the least. A hippie, a scholar, an angst-ridden socialist, a newly divorced and experimenting homosexual, a small town cheerleader, an anarchist, a hairdresser, a cross country runner, a white girl who preferred dating black men, … and here I was. A white bread goody-two-shoes from Boise who knew nothing but church, family, and a whole lot of conservative status quo.

My semester with this lot gave me an infinitely richer education than my Bachelor and Master degrees combined. I learned what it meant to be open-minded, to appreciate people for who they were, and the gifts and talents they each brought to the table. I learned about living in community – of filling in the gaps for a friend when necessary and having confidence they would do the same for me in my times of need. I was introduced to foods and beverages, card games and books I never would have found on my own, and they in turn were introduced to me and my quirks – namely my penchant for tea (and red wine, as it turned out).

On one overnight excursion toward the end of the semester, a trip set just for the American students, we went to Toulouse and Carcassonne. At lunch before the journey back to Pau, we all sat together, trying to translate American pop songs into French (we had crashed a karaoke bar the night before). As we sat at the end of meal with our cups of tea, we ended with, “Stop in the Name of Love,” (or, “Arret a la nom d’amour”) as captured here.

Stop! In the Name of Love

Stop! In the Name of Love

My heart was breaking as I anticipated the end of the semester and facing the world without these comrades, and yet my cup overflowed knowing I had changed because of them. For the better.

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An Amsterdam Tea Moment

In the spring of 2005, just as the cardinals were meeting in Rome to elect the new pope, Gene and I embarked on our first trip to Europe together. His first trip to Europe, ever. Amsterdam was our second major stop on the whirlwind tour, and our first impression was of awe at the number of bikes, both parked and ridden, throughout the city and the whole of The Netherlands.
The architecture made everything look like gingerbread houses, and the canals and foot bridges enhanced the feel of walking through a fairy tale. Even stumbling across Anne Frank’s home where she and her family hid in the attic for so many long months, there was a feeling of suspended reality. (And no, I had not been smoking anything.)  
While exploring the neighborhoods was our primary focus, and peering in the windows of the numerous “coffee shops” a favorite pastime, you can imagine how I was absolutely stopped in my tracks at the sight of a Tearoom called Jennifer!
A tea shop named 'Jennifer?' Of course I pop in.

A tea shop named 'Jennifer?' Of course I pop in.

 

There was no question that we had to take a tea break.
Mmmmm... Jennifer Tea

Mmmmm... Jennifer Tea

 

The selection was very basic, and the furnishings had the distinct look and feel of Ikea, but I delighted in the knowledge that here, in a sea of coffee houses, I had found my port-of-tea.
 
Jennifer Croissanterie and Tea Room
Raadhuis Straat
Amsterdam 1016 DD
The Netherlands

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A Barcelona Tea Moment

I love nothing better than a cafe in any European city. On our last trip to Europe, to attend our friends’ wedding in Vitre, France, Gene and I took a detour through Barcelona. We have managed to find our stride in travelling. It is light on sight-seeing and heavy on cafe-enjoying. We will find a good spot with plenty of people-watching opportunity, and we’ll plant ourselves there for as long as we like. Barcelona in August turned out to be a bit rainy, surprisingly enough, but there was a plethora of bars and cafes to shelter us from the minor storms.

What I love about these cafes is the absolute freedom to choose a table and remain there for as long as you like. No one will disturb you or make you feel like you need to move along. It is at cafes such as these that Gene and I could sit – after a day of wandering the neighborhoods, admiring the architecture of Gaudi, getting lost in the Gothic quarter, and being snubbed by a small restaurant owner who did not like Americans – and review the adventures of the day over a glass of wine or pint of beer… or a cup of tea.

Cafe in Barcelona, Spain

Cafe in Barcelona, Spain

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