Gail Whitmore Traveled Europe
from October 1999-February 2000
October 18, 1999
OK, so it's finally time to go. I'm
arriving in Paris on Wednesday morning and staying with the family of a friend
for a few days. From there, I have no idea what I am going to do and
that's the best part. I have learned to say "I am a vegetarian"
in languages for 197 countries as well as some colorful phrases to protect me
This will be the only e-mail account I will
be accessing from abroad so feel free to fill it up. I will also be
checking my voice mail so if you have the need to talk to a machine then knock
yourself out as I'm sure I would love to hear a familiar voice.
Also, if you feel compelled to join me
anywhere, don't hesitate to let me know...I would rather that than be accosted
on the Eurail. I thank you in advance for your consideration.
Well, wish me luck. Talk to you all
October 22, 1999 Paris
I arrived two days ago, (I think). All
is well. My stewardess was a b%#ch but aside from that I was a very
good girl on the flight (for those of you who know that I usually need to be
Paris is SO easy to get around.
Everything is clearly marked and there are arrows pointing to everything.
NY is SO bass-ackward. The weather is dreary but not bad. The family
I am staying with are SO nice and they live in a 15th century house(!).
Yesterday I went to the Louvre and saw the
"Mona Lisa" and the "Whistler". The other paintings
made me very sad, so I left. Especially the one of a woman being pulled to
the sky by a demon and someone pulling her back to earth by her hair and she had
a screaming infant in her arms. The expressions in their eyes were
very disturbing. Then I went across the Seine (!) and visited the Musee
d'Orsay and saw Monet, Manet, Seurat, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Gaugin, Rodin
and I'm sure so much more. I liked these a lot better. The colors are
extraordinary!!! It is amazing how the prints absolutely do them no
My favorite place so far is the store,
Monoprix. For all of you who were concerned about my being a strict
vegetarian, there is so much food. I bough chocolate pudding and
soup (not chocolate soup). The tea here does not make me throw up and the
water is delicious :-)
I just left Notre Dame. It is so
humbling to be here among all this history. I visited a church my first
night and was informed that it was not old...only built in 1606....well,
pooh! I am on my way now to see the Sorbonne and the Musee d'Histoire
I wanted to thank all of you who sent me
personal e-mails. I am sorry that I cannot respond right now as I am
being charged $1 for every 5 minutes, and you all know how I get on the
Internet, so I will write when I find somewhere cheaper.
I am very happy....and proud to announce that
I have attained the status of Great Aunt...my niece Kristine delivered James III
the other day...YAY!!!!!
OK, I hope you are all well and getting by
without my influx of semi-humorous forwards.
October 25, 1999 France
I am here in the second largest city in
France...the keys are all different on the keyboard so forgive any mistakes.
I spent a few days in Paris...after my last
letter I saw the Musee de Cluny, like the Cloisters but not. Unbelievable
medieval collection! I also saw the Champs Elysses, l,Arc de Triomph,
Pantheon where Foucault,s pendulum is swinging. I went to Versailles and
saw the Chateau, the home of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
Everything here is SO expensive...3 dollars
for a drink...1 dollar for a postcard stamp....this Internet service is ripping
me off....I saw "Le Projet de Blair Witch"...very amusing with French
My time is up so I have to go...will write
more in a few days, probably from Aix-en-Provence or Marseilles.
Everything is great. I am safe (hot and
tired) but otherwise great.
BTW - A CD costs over 30 dollars!!!
November 2, 1999 France-Italy
Here I am now at, believe it or not, the home
of a couple my age whom I met from a travel bulletin board on the Internet a few
weeks prior to my departure. I am having a fantastic time. They are
so nice and it is unbelievable how much my Italian has improved! I am
speaking only Italian 12 hours a day. Unbelievable!
OK, when I last left you I was spending my
first night in Lyon in France and was not a happy girl. The guy at the
desk was a jerk and I was hot and tired and nobody spoke to me. Besides,
that morning I managed to achieve for myself a bad burn from an iron pan and on
the way to the hostel (to which I had to climb a mountain the dark), I fell and
split open my hand.
Lyon was fan-freaking-tastic!!! What a
beautiful city! I sat for hours in a huge park where ducks...real live
ducks (!) walked by me. As many of you know, I have a fascination
with duck butts. This event was especially interesting for me. After
some time in the park I happened upon a lion...yes, a lion. Now, I have
cats; kitties jump...I was more than a wee bit concerned. There was a zoo
in the middle of this park. A free zoo. I saw giraffes, elephants,
bears, and a deer licked my fingers. What a place!
Then I went to Milano. This is where my
story starts to get interesting. This is funny now but not then.
Don't worry about me, I'm fine but I had a bit of an accident. I was in
the top bunk in the hostel and my first morning there I heard my name over the
loudspeaker. In trying to climb out of bed, I fell through the coat rack
and went splat on the floor, waking everybody up. I apologized and
crawled to the hallway where I proceeded to pass out. People rushed over
and were very helpful (how unlike NY). This is where I have to laugh...I
couldn't think of how to speak to them. They were all speaking Italian and
all the Italian I have ever studied escaped me and all I could do was speak
French!!! Finally, someone asked if I spoke English...oh yeah!
Then I started vomiting. Not a good day. I am totally fine now
but it was scary for a few minutes.
I hated Milano. I saw the Duomo which is the
3rd largest cathedral in the world. It was beautiful. Then I went to
a gallery where I paid a small fortune for a very teeny weeny lunch. I
also saw La Scala (opera house) and went to the museum. This was all very
nice but I was finished by 11 am. Then I got nothing but harassed
all day. I did not enjoy my trip there and am not planning to return
Now here I am in Mantova (Mantua) with my new
friends, Francesco and Francesca and am having such a wonderful time. In
fact, just today we were visiting the museum Palazzo di Te which is very famous
here. Francesco is the president of a society of young people who are
interested in this Palazzo and today I met the director of the museum and we are
all attending a meeting tonight to arrange for me to sing at a grand dinner next
week for the people of Mantova. I am very excited!!! Nervous,
though as tonight I have to present myself and experience and such to a group of
learned people...in Italian nonetheless. Wish me luck!
Another funny thing is when you introduce
yourself you usually say "Mi chiamo..." or "My name
is". Some people say "Sono" or "I am".
Well, the name Gail is not known here so when I introduced myself to someone
yesterday and said "Sono Gail", he thought I said, "Hi, pleased
to meet you. I am gay." His expression was priceless. I
have learned my lesson.
The funniest thing that has happened so far
(aside from passing out and speaking French in an Italian hostel) was visiting a
friend of Francesca's who really likes chickens. I mean REALLY likes
chickens...well, not in a sick sexual way but rather he thinks that they are
pretty and interesting so he built a coop and has a veritable shrine to them in
a room in his 300-year old house. When a chicken he especially likes dies,
he takes it to the local taxidermist and you know the rest. So, I'm
in this chicken museum and he is telling me about the famous chickens of America
and he goes and gets a book of chickens and sits down and very seriously starts
talking about a particular chicken that was "very important". I
tried so hard to be attentive and not wet myself laughing but when he said
"this is a very important chicken" I just couldn't help myself.
Fortunately, everybody agreed with me and no one was offended.
Last night on the phone to Peter I kept
accidentally lapsing into Italian. This is good. First French, now
Italian...what next, pray tell?!?!?!
Well, that's about it from here. I have
told Francesco and Francesca about so many of you. Francesco has already
prank called Peter.
I hope you are all well. Hopefully I
will be able to send some more personal and individual messgaes to you soon.
Thanks for reading!!!
December 15, 1999
So much to tell, so get comfy! Since I
last wrote to you, I have been staying with my Italian friends, Francesco and
Francesca. They hooked me up and since then I have been singing.
Auditions, engagements, free voice lessons, job offers. Unreal!!! I
have been travelling around for the last two weeks, though and here's what I
First I went to Lucerne. Beautiful
city. The main purpose for my trip was to see the Richard Wagner
Museum. He lived in Lucerne for 6 years and I was very excited. I
arrived on December 1st, to read that the museum closed for the season on
November 30th. Grrr. I decided to go anyway. I grabbed
someone from Cleveland and we set off. Naturally, Wagner picked a spot WAY
far away from everyone else, so we walked for a very long time. We
couldn't find it and it was dark. We got directions and were instructed to
walk to the end of a dock and then hike for 15 minutes in the woods. We
mulled it over and due to my New York mentality, I whipped out my knife and we
went a-searchin' (cuz, you know how much violent crime there is in
Switzerland...especially Lucerne). We had both seen "The Blair Witch
Project" and were less than thrilled with the sounds of the forest.
Finally, we spotted the house...and lo and behold it looked as though someone
was having a dinner party! I decided that, hey, I've been in the Wagner
Society for 6 years, I'm knocking on the door...then I realized that I had a
knife in my hand..."Hi, I'm Gay from New York. I suggest you let me
into this museum." Thankfully, that didnīt happen. The
woman was really nice and we knew the same people in NY and I got a private look
around. Next onto Bayreuth. What do you do with your life when
you've done everything you want to do?
After that I was talked into going to
Interlaken, Switzerland, not because it's a cool city, but rather because
Balmer's, the hostel is really cool. There I met a ton of Americans and a
bunch of Australians who I have decided are so far my favorite people. I
was also talked into two fun-filled days of snowboarding but since Balmer's was
so much fun my instructor was too hungover to teach me and I missed the day's
activities. This pattern would continue but I won the sympathy of the very
friendly (and Australian) staff. My penultimate day I went sledding and
took a train to the top of the Jungfrau which has the highest railpoint in
Europe. Unfortunately, it was too dark to see anything and I broke my
PalmPilot...not a good day. My last day I was geared up in my paragliding
outfit when the wind changed (as it had every single day) and I didn't get to do
anything. Oh well...perhaps me and agressive sports are not meant to
However, I decided to change my plans once
again and head to Barcelona with some cool Australians I met. Too bad I
missed the train. That's OK. I ended up in Zurich where I met
some great poeple, one of whom agreed to come to Barcelona with me if I stayed
another night in Zurich. That was fine and I enjoyed another day of the
fine vegetarian restaurants of Zurich. Then onto Barcelona. I spent
my entire time there sleeping, shopping and eating Tapas. I only had
one accident. I mean, I fell a million times but I did really hurt my
tailbone. Don't worry it's OK now. I used the CVS brand of BenGay,
otherwise known as ArcticHeat (or as the French would say, "L'Arctic Heat.)
Finally, it was time to head back to
Mantua. Trouble again...train strike in Italy and I was stranded in Nice
(which is nice...sorry, I had to say that.) There I met a lovely lady from
Peru who reminded me of my mother (not beacuse she couldn't speak English but
because she was nice) and I ended up translating Italian, Spanish and French for
whomever needed it. Now I am REALLY confused. My dreams are a
hodge-podge of languages!!! We visited Nice but I burst into tears when
after 4 hours no one would let me use their bathroom. At least now it's
funny. On the train, we transferred and there was no train to Mantua so I
ended up staying the night with the Peruvian lady's family in Torino.
Now I am in Mantua and I have to sing tonight
and then I will probably head off to Britain. Everything is good
here. The adventures never cease. I keep trying to remember what I
read in a guest book in a hostel that it's not in the destination but in the
journey. When you're cold, tired, lonely, in a foreign country and you
really have to pee, this is something that you want to keep in mind.
Take care and drop me a line if you get a
February 2, 2000
And a Happy New Year to All!!!
When we last visited I was on my way to
Britain...and so I was. After twelve long years I was reunited with my wonderful
family in Scotland. My mother had a nightmare that they would be mean to me but
after they untied me from the chains I found them to be quite hospitable to say
the least. However, on the way I had an interesting experience. There was this
French guy on the train with me who kept hitting on me and asking me which
language I spoke and I would just smile blankly (unbeknownst to him that I
understood everything...then again, maybe it was beknownst to him as I pretended
that I didn't understand English but I was reading a book in English.) Anyway,
these Italian guys asked if the couchette was free and he answered them in
French that couldn't they see that it was occupied. Well, I set them straight as
I could explain my situation better if anything happened in Italian than in
French. OK, so during the night, Mr. Man picks up my book and starts leafing
through it. Later on, he taps me on the shoulder and asks if he can use my
walkman (which I was using) but the piece de resistance had to be when Mr. Man
actually picked up my chocolate and started eating it. I was so pissed but if
I've learned one thing on this trip it's that there are SO many different
cultures out there and lately I'm pretty accepting. However, I highly doubt that
snarfing someone's chocolate on an overnight train is a French custom...please,
someone correct me if I'm wrong. I ended up awake for the 13 hours with my knife
open in my hand as Mr. Man seemed to think it was all right to poke me every now
and then. Ugh!!!
A few days after Christmas, Peter arrived.
Needless to say I was a happy lass. Unfortunately during my time in Scotland I
learned that my beloved foster cat Barney went to go be with God. This is never
After Scotland, Peter and I headed to Paris to
meet up with the Franceschi et al. We had a fine time running through the
streets at midnight with silly string traipsing behind us. So, have we decided
what we think of the so-called millenium bug? Hmmm.
After Paris, Peter and I went to Amsterdam where
the prostitutes' underwear glows in the dark!!! Actually, it may just be
fluorescent lighting. There I had a fever so I had less than a marvelous time.
Actually, Amsterdam made me sad. Not to wax philosophical or anything but it
really disturbed me to see women sitting in windows like merchandise. Despite
the fact that it's legal I highly doubt that that is what any of them dreamed of
doing when they were little girls. After years of wonder, I finally saw the Anne
Frank House. There's nothing more to say on that. Also, in case any of you are
wondering, no I didn't do any drugs...although I got offered more than I've ever
been offered in Washington Square Park.
Now here I am in Mantua...again. Time continues
to pass. I had a birthday. I got an apartment. Things are looking up. I have
auditions and concerts to give so I will be remaining in Europe longer than
planned. Yes, you read correctly, I'm not coming home. Peter and I are working
on finding him a job here. I have to say though that this is a very lonely
experience. It is one thing to travel and do all the things that you have always
wanted to do but it is another to be alone for so long a time...as my travel
buddies will attest to as well. I understand now that realizing your dreams is a
very long process. You don't just go, do it and say, "great, that's done,
now what?" Instead, you set out, suffer tremendous failures, have your
heart broken, renew your faith every now and then and eventually one day you
realize that you have done something incredible. I don't feel like I'm learning
Italian because I'm not "studying" but I know that I am rapidly
becoming fluent which is what I have wanted my whole life. Somebody bring me my
Peter to share it with me.
There is no phone in my apartment therefore it is
difficult for me to access the Internet. Please think of me and continue to
e-mail me as NOBODY HERE SPEAKS ENGLISH!!!!!
Hope you are all doing well and going after what
you really want.