Why The Mornings Made Me Move To Europe

Montpellier

To say that I’m not a morning person is generous. I am a monster for the first hour of consciousness each day – and I wake up without an alarm clock. Give me even a minute less than eight hours’ sleep, or force me awake with an insistent beeping noise, and I am a barely functioning monster.

The flip side of this is that I adore early morning. As a photographer, I prefer its light even to the magic hour of sunset. Morning has its own character; it is a living thing that whether you’re stumbling home or setting out, you’re fully aware of it surrounding you, watching you. Midnight may be the technical start of a new day, but you’re never sure until the morning that it’s true.

With some exceptions, flights to the U.S. from Europe tend to leave in the morning. It is a brutal thing to end a vacation by awakening to an alarm at some ungodly hour, and everything you do on a departure morning confirms a harsh, inevitable truth: It’s time to go back to your regularly scheduled life.

Before I lived here, departure mornings were worse than that first morning back at work. Specifically, leaving the hotel to go to the airport was like a dagger through my heart. And do you know why? Because there’s nothing like morning in Europe.

The streets have been washed clean, and the sunlight throws a million diamonds in your direction. You can smell fresh coffee and warm baked goods from the cafes, and garlic and roasting chicken and the contents of sizzling skillets as the restaurants prepare for lunch. Shop owners greet each other over the shriek of their safety gates, and they move their best wares out to the sidewalk with cigarettes dangling between their lips. The air is crisp.

A new day is starting, and you’re not going to be there to see it through. Instead you drag your suitcase behind you, bumping it over the cobblestones, avoiding the passing glances of the locals because as hard as you tried, it’s now painfully obvious that you’re not of them.

Yet.

17 thoughts on “Why The Mornings Made Me Move To Europe

  1. How often I feel this way. Europe in the morning is truly beautiful! Thankfully I never have yet dragged my suitcase through the cobblestone streets. Fate worse than (almost) death! (somehow I have cheated this fate, someone has always done this for me, or I do it in hiding😉

    • I always skulk into a cab. Funny that I don’t mind taking public transportation from the airport to the city, but I almost always take a cab from the city to the airport.

  2. I agree Miss Expat. I remember my first visit to Europe, arriving in the afternoon light to the piazza in Milano. And the quiet sorrow of leaving by the early morning light two weeks later.

    We live in Copenhagen now and often walk the quiet morning streets to catch and early plane or train for one excursion or another across the continent. (Denmark is closer to Italy than Seattle, but not close enough!) I always feel badly that my suitcase wheels are making such a racket on the cobblestones; but grateful that I’m off on another European adventure!

    • After having been away from the States so long, I do find I can hold my head higher when creeping to the airport in the morning – I’m going on a trip to America! It seems much more exciting than when I was heading back after a vacation. And I never, ever mind getting up early to get on a train to somewhere fabulous. OK, I do, but there’s no sadness. Ha!

    • Yay! Do it! It was my last morning departure from Paris that made me say to myself, I can’t keep leaving like this. AND A PLAN WAS HATCHED.

  3. I’m fairly crabby before I have coffee in the morning, but when I find myself awake at 6am or even 7:30, it’s just lovely. I love European cities in the morning. Everything you describe, but especially the light and newness of the day. The starting over. Nothing “bad” or inconvenient has happened yet. There’s some sort of potential. Anything can happen.

    I do get the same feeling in certain neighborhoods in San Francisco too, when I happen to be in them at those early morning hours.

    • Oh, I love them everywhere I’ve lived, actually (although I’m fortunate to have lived in beautiful places). What I didn’t mention in this post, but which is in the back of my mind, is how these places just seem so ancient – I mean, the sun has risen over the Coliseum for a kabillion years, and it makes you humble to see it.

  4. In Trapani I got in the habit of going to bed shortly after sunset. I usually watched the sun dropping into the Med with a glass of cheap, raw-tasting Sicilian red in hand.

    Then I’d wake up in the middle of the night and write the rest of the night.

    At the right times of year (autumn, spring), I’d bicycle around the end of the peninsula in the last hour before sunrise, an ineffable experience. (And I’m trying to be a writer.) 🙂

    Okay, here goes, picture the sun trying to emerge from behind Erice, which rises 2,500 feet on the shore of the Med, the sound of the seagulls, the ever-present stray dogs slinking through the streets like wraiths.

  5. I’m a morning person, so I totally know what you’re talking about. There’s nothing like a freshly-scrubbed Italian city in the early morning. Everything looks so much more…hopeful, you know?

    And sadly, that last depressing walk down the street on the last day will come sooner than we think. I’m usually already planning my next trip back by then.

  6. Early mornings are particularly great at this time of the year. The sun’s up early, everything feels fresh, you can feel the warmth of the day coming thro. Best city for this – Rome. Magical. Not so great in winter, when it’s dark and damp tho!

  7. Pingback: MJ’s Travel Favorites 4-18-10 | Traveling with MJ

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