Thanksgiving was a little different this year. Bubba didn’t bring the mashed potatoes and Lucas didn’t fall asleep on the couch downstairs, the one Starbucks pumpkin spice latte I allowed myself last week was the closest I got to pumpkin pie, and last year I would have NEVER thought that instead of turkey I would be eating Octopus in Paris with Jolie on the celebrated Thursday.
But just because giving thanks doesn’t have a holiday in Europe like it does in the States and it isn’t adorned with turkey and football and a 5pm nap doesn’t mean that Europeans don’t know how to be thankful. In fact, this year I feel like I’ve found a whole new meaning of Thanksgiving in a country that doesn’t even celebrate it.
Thanksgiving for the Danes starts with J-Dag. This is the day Carlberg brings its special Christmas beer to the shelves. Unfortunately, I was in Italy at the time (unfortunately in Italy, ha what a concept!) and I missed the official day when everyone follows the trucks from the brewery to the pubs and “elves” dressed in blue bring Juleøl to the masses, but I felt the spirit all the same. Juleøl and Christmas bring the entire country of Denmark around a single Thanksgiving table of sorts. The nutty taste of pine and caramel available in only November and December spark reminisces about the year gone by and hopes for the year ahead. I had my first Christmas beer a few days later, (after much anticipation!) with Michael’s famous homemade lasagna. It paired beautifully! But then again, I think both Christmas beer and Michael’s lasagna (better than Florence’s might I add) would each pair with just about anything so how could it go wrong.
My next major Danish Thanksgiving experience also featured Michael and Christmas beer, and schnapps, lots and lots of schnapps. The whole family came over for Michael’s birthday last weekend and I experienced my first truly traditional Danish birthday party.Linda catered various smorrebrød, a traditional Danish take on smorgasbord, small open sandwiches of rye bread and different seafoods and meats. Nearly every course was accompanied by a shot of licorice schnapps (another Danish tradition) and the Christmas beer was flowing. Conversation about the welfare state, the crazy American higher education system, and the recent American election soon followed, I’m sure we were all a sight to see. Food, drink, family, and politics – doesn’t get much more Thanksgiving than that!
The next day, Jolie flew to Copenhagen. (Now it’s starting to feel more like Thanksgiving!) The plane ticket was a combined birthday/Christmas gift and we had both been counting down the days for months. Jolie stayed with me and Linda and Michael and Louise for three days and I showed her around Copenhagen. We walked something like 11 miles each day and on Tuesday we made authentic American pancakes for Micheal’s (real) birthday breakfast. Homemade batter with chocolate chips and peanut butter and syrup… except in Denmark they don’t have chocolate chips so we had to cut up a chocolate bar instead, peanut butter is only popular in America so we had to put nutella on top instead, and syrup is too pasturized for the greater part of the world’s health-conscious consumption so we had to use agave nectar instead. All in all, still a great pancake, but a little too healthy for my taste 😉
Exploring Copenhagen at night, Christmas is in full effect here! –
Early morning wake-up to cook some real ‘Merican pancakes –
Somewhere near Nyhavn (all those colorful houses on the canal) –
On Wednesday, Jolie and I flew to Paris. We stayed with our mom’s childhood neighbor, David Miller, who lives outside Paris with his family. We hadn’t seen him or them since we were little back in Iowa but is was nice to be greated by a friendly face all the same. Paris was everything that every movie has made it out to be. We drove straight to the Madeleine from the airport. It’s Paris’s Parthenon. I didn’t know it existed before either but it’s completely intact unlike the one I saw in Greece, and absolutely gorgeous. David took us to the famous Fauchon Bakery and we bought pastries that we then took with us on the metro to eat under the Eiffel Tower.
The Eiffel Tower really was a work of art and devine engineering. And what I didn’t know is that it actually sparkles for ten minutes every hour on the hour. I thought that was just an allusion from filming it like how city lights look like they’re flickering at night, but no, since 2000, the Eiffel Tower actually sparkles. Absolutely gorgeous.
We walked so much in Paris my feet still hurt:
Thursday: Arc de Triomphe, Avenue des Champs-Elysees, Grand Palais, Petit Palais,Place de la Concorde, Tuileries Garden, Orangerie Museum, Louvre, Musee D’Orsay, Galeries Lafayette, Parc Monceau
Friday: Point Neuf Bridge, Notre Dame, St Germain des Prés, Palais Garnier, Opéra national de Paris
Saturday: Palace of Versailles
The Musee D’Orsay –
Arc de Triomphe –
Notre Dame –
Nutella/banana crepes and vin chaud outside of Notre Dame –
Palace of Versailles –
On Thursday night, David made octopus for dinner. I think he secretly wanted us to be disgusted so he could have more for himself but Jolie and I were both eager to try it. I ate fresh, grilled octopus in Greece but David insisted on freezing and thawing the meat to make it more tender. And he was right. Delicious. And I can say, without a doubt, that that was the most interesting Thanksgiving meal I think I will ever eat.
For my last grand European weekend trip of my semester to have taken place over Thanksgiving break seems to have brought my semester abroad full circle. Stepping off the plane from Paris, back in the comfort of Denmark, which now feels like a second home, hit me like a ton of bricks. This feeling is usually associated with the bone-numbing cold this California college girl still can’t seem to dress properly for, but this time something was different. I am so thankful for the experiences that I’ve had since landing in Frankfurt on August 3rd, they have truly opened the world up to me in ways I didn’t know were possible. The next time I step on a plane in just two weeks, I’ll be heading back home to the States and it will be all over. I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to study abroad since I was little and my parents told me stories of their experiences and just like that, my time is nearly up.
Traveling is weird: the more places you go, the less content you are with where you are; the wider the world becomes, the less space you feel like you occupy. But that feeling of insignificance is beautiful. It’s even oddly comforting because you know that the cure is also the affliction. Upon first arriving here, I wanted to be mad at my parents for not exposing me to this feeling in my childhood, but now, at the vulnerable age of 21, I’m glad I didn’t know this feeling before my 20s. I will never be happily content in just one place for the rest of my life, but that’s the price you pay for truly seeing the world the way it wants to be seen.