Before going on vacation – or “holiday” as the Europeans call it – we can’t wait to go. It seems we are stressed out at work or bored at home. Or both. We need to get the hell out of Dodge, or State College, or whatever town we are hostage. It’s glorious to think of the wonders that await us at the beach, in the city, at the lodge, at Disney, in the tropics, at the casino, or at Aunt Betty’s house. It has to be better than the drudgery we’re dealing with at home – otherwise, why would we go on vacation?
The vacation I went on included Barcelona, Paris and parts of England including London. It was fab. Most of it. I’ve traveled plenty, but we all know you just learn to take the good with the bad. To get to the fun destination, you may have to wait in lines at airport security behind the wanker who failed to put all their liquids into a ziploc. You may get taken off a plane experiencing mechanical difficulties after finding the last spot in the overhead and the right angle for your kneecaps in relation to the seat in front of you. If driving, that’s a whole new set of cuss words.
But I think the hardest part of traveling is figuring out where the hell you’re going. It takes brain power. It sucks the glucose straight out your head. At home I just take where the hell I’m going for granted; I have good ol’ Bessy parked right inside my house. There she is, in my garage. My sweet angel of a van just sits there awaiting my flabby flat, suburban ass. I don’t appreciate her enough. And my husband thumbs his nose at her – “minivan… ha….never!” I just get inside and drive aimlessly to my destination. I go from temperature-controlled air to temperature-controlled air in the van. My auto-pilot brain takes me wherever. Yes, I do sometimes have to think about how to get where I’m going – but alas, I use Google Maps on my iPhone. My son is Mr. BestFriendsWithTheWorld, so there is always a new address popping up for me to play fetch.
Luckily, on this last trip, I was with hubby so I didn’t have to figure out the “where the hell are we going” by myself. We got subway maps and we got city maps. He knew he’d be driving part of the time so he brought his Euro GPS. Once at the hotel we had to figure out how to get to our next meal. And the sightseeing spots. And we needed a laundromat. And a bank. And a pub. So, you talk to the concierge. You look at maps in your hotel room. You stare at maps in metro stations. You go into shops and ask people for directions. You look incredulously at the GPS. You take wrong exits at traffic circles. You walk more blocks than you were supposed to. You find yourself staring at the ‘stops map’ on the metro car you are riding in to make sure you got on the right one. You stand on street corners wondering what psychic ninny thought it was a good idea not to put names of streets on street corners.
I’m not picking on European cities. I know cities here in the U.S. are just as frustrating. I travel here too.
In a European city, besides spending a lot of time thinking about how to get where you need to get, you spend a lot of time getting there – and you physically exert yourself in the process. Of course, this is also true for U.S. cities, especially those like NYC where many folks rely on public transportation. It may be a number of blocks to walk to the metro station. There may be a bit of a walk inside the metro station involving stairs. Time is spent on the metro itself and it may involve a transfer. If you have to transfer to another metro line, there may be another walk within the metro station. Then more time is spent riding this other metro line. On arrival, chances are your destination (restaurant, sightseeing spot) is not going to be at the top of the stairs once you emerge from the metro station. So it’s another walk until you figure out where it is. Of course, this is not a bad thing. Exercise is a good thing. It’s just different to be coming home from dinner at midnight; riding a subway for 20 minutes and walking for a mile.
Remember Bessy? I flop onto her leather seat and she takes me from Point A to Point B. Wham Bam Thank-You-M’am. When I got home from vacation, it was weird. That first day I drove to Penn State to get some books for work. It was so wide open. Most of the students are not back in town yet for the semester, so we don’t really have what anyone would call traffic – yet we all complain about the traffic. I guess it’s all relative. That day I noticed the cars here are bigger. I didn’t see many pickup trucks in Paris. Or many SUVs in Worcestershire. Our gas is cheap. Relatively.
Hotel rooms are hit and miss. Some of our rooms were decent sized and some were small. But, most interesting were the homes we stayed in. They were all in England; one in London, one in Cheltenham, and one in Church Lench (Worcestershire). The one in the pictures was from the 1700s or 1800s. The owner, Richard, told me, but I don’t remember. He said he paid about 600,000 pounds. That translates to about $900,000. Holy cod. It was about 13 miles from Stratford-upon-Avon. Thank God for the GPS.
I do realize real estate price is dependent on location. The owner said his area was very expensive. I got the impression that the England location is very expensive.
Now that we are home I appreciate my bed, washcloths, top sheets, my van Bessy, AC when I want it, restaurants with AC, exercising only when I feel like it, free water, and my DVR. Things I miss about the city: plays (we saw Once), new food, new sights, sparkling cider, new words, new friends like Gavin, Pablo, Monica, and Paul, cool churches – you know – all the stuff people go to cities for. But I think mainly I liked noticing all the things that were different….like toilets. (see previous blog posts)
As far as souvenirs for the kids; my son now has socks with Arsenal and Manchester logos (soccer teams). My middle daughter got funky earrings from Paris and the oldest got a necklace. And I brought home the Fairy.