Not that you asked for it or anything, but I thought I’d spew forth a few random observations from 2 1/2 weeks in Europe. Those bored by such things have my permission to surf the fetish porn of their choice, but since it’s my blogiversary (EIGHT YEARS, BABY!) we’re past such formalities, are we not?
Travelogues share the same space as “old college stories”, “other peoples’ dreams” and details about weight loss: unfathomably dull to everyone but the main participant. This is why I never write about our travels (well, that and because I don’t want to over-reinforce the obvious truth that we’re posh liberals who hate America). When I do wax peripatetic, I try to keep it short and post lots of pictures.
But here’s a few random things for those of you traveling in the near future:
1. Clothes – Actually, Caroline did ask about what the nicer-lookin’ Italians and French were wearing, and Tessa has this report:
Ballet flats are definitely still in – particularly colorful ones. Lots of short skirts (mini to knee) with short boots – mostly slouchy but all are working, including the mini-cowboys.
There’s a style I can’t really get behind, but is definitely prevalent: short skirts with black opaque stockings and flat sneakers like chucks or keds. Looks hideous but the girls love it. Scarves are still happening. Skinny or wide, but definitely long. Colors rather than black.
And the French classics are definitely still around – striped boatneck Ts, slingbacks, silk cardigans. Nothing particularly interesting going on with pant length. Skirts are on the shorter side. Haven’t seen any long skirts except on exceptionally refined older women.
As for me, I bought these light hiking boots at REI because they were waterproof and had Gore-Tex lining, and I wore them every day of the trip in every kind of weather. They get an A+ recommendation from me, as long as you get some Superfeet insoles.
Also, if you have a couple of dimes to throw at one of those new breathable super-light waterproof jackets, they’re perfect for that European cold humidity that can make you hot and frozen at the same time.
Terlets – London – fine. Paris – good. But Italy’s toilets? Oh my god. I know I’m a bit of a hygienic neatnik prissypants, but I visited a couple of toilets in Rome and Florence that make Oklahoman truck stops with glory holes seem sterile. Often no toilet seat, no water, no paper products, and always no soap. Just bring your own personal cleansing wipes, OK?
Doors – I don’t know if this bears mentioning, but automatic doors in Europe open about two seconds after their American counterparts – which means if you’re an American, you’ll be smashing your face into a lot of automatic doors that haven’t opened yet.
Maybe that’s a statement about our weight, or our entitlement, but I know I got used to slowing way the fuck down before entering a building.
Hair – If you’re thinking about getting a haircut before your trip, FOR GOD’S SAKE do it. You know that day when your hair Officially Gets Too Long™ and it’s suddenly bugging the ever-livin’ crap out of you? That happened to me on the flight over. I spent 2 1/2 weeks being bothered – I mean, look at that picture of Lucy and me and imagine having hair like that everywhere you go. I mean, yes, besides my silly choice to have hair almost like that all the time.
Some Stunningly Over-Generalized Comments – The Italians are rude en masse, but amazing one-on-one. The French are the opposite. The Italians are an ice cream culture with an amazing gelato store every block; I asked a French storekeeper where I could get Lucy an ice cream, and she sent me to the frozen foods section of a market at half-mile away.
I got the most amazing Italian shirts in Paris for a pittance, the best croissants in Italy. People speak of getting Stendhal’s Syndrome in Florence (dizziness, hypertension, and hallucinations when surrounded by a magnitude of beautiful art) but if we got it anywhere, it was Paris. And there’s one thing that I can’t get over: when all is said and done, I think we belong, someday, in London.
Flying – There is no way to prepare for flying internationally in coach; like bad news, it can only be endured. I’m not sure what the answer is, especially for those of us six feet or taller – first or business class is prohibitively expensive for most mortals, which leaves the bulk of humanity sitting in a tiny seat for eleven and a half hours.
Yes, I know airplane travel is magical, and yes, I apologize to my forefathers reading this from the Great Beyond, and how they had to take a 3-month sea voyage replete with cholera to get to another continent. We’re spoiled silly, it’s true, but it’s still amazingly hard to sit in one cramped pen with room for only one of your legs, for a whole human day while fighting jet-lagged fatigue.
There is no wifi, no internet, and no power source – every piece of electronic distraction you possess will die before the flight’s half over. There is only you and your lumbar vertebrae, engaged in constant discussion.
And yet, it is so purely, absolutely, unfailingly worth it.
Jack and Lucy in Rome