One of the hands-down biggest pains in the butt about travelling is travel itself. Where to buy tickets, how to buy tickets, where to find stops and stations, when to catch the bus, what to do if you miss the last train out of Podunksheim, Deutschland – it’s as though Europeans move to this secret internal rhythm that allows them to behave calmly and rationally in roundabouts and that alerts them to when and where to purchase the best deals for getting from Point A to Point B, a rhythm that this car-cultured-to-the-point-of-debilitation Amerikanerin is not privy to. I lurch gracelessly from bus to train and back to bus again because I lurched onto the wrong train, while everyone around me, aloof in their boots and scarves, floats from one to the next as effortlessly as we might alight from our cars and into the doors of Wal-Mart, never for a moment showing any sign of frantic mental shuffling of schedules and maps.
Which brings me to this: this weekend, I was fortunate enough to invite myself to London, which normally would have been the biggest of logistical nightmares, being bigger than Bingen, except that I happen to have a best friend studying there. This, essentially, means that I latched onto Monica (read her food blog here), and unashamedly followed her like a puppy through the Underground, basking in being able to turn my mind off in all areas linguistic and logistic. It’s a good thing too, as going into a hole in the ground on one end of town only to pop up out of another did nothing for my sense of direction.
And what did we do? We knocked the London Eye out of the way like we were supposed to do, and moved quickly on to things we weren’t supposed to do: namely, Mexican food and barbecue. Sure, I had my obligatory share of pies and puddings, but oh my gosh, I have never felt so entitled to a heaping plate of enchiladas or a brisket sandwich washed down by an Anchor Steam. I feel rejuvenated. Cleansed. Reminded of why I love America. Ready to tackle German again. There is something to be said for guac and margs and BFFs.
Other highlights included a chocolate festival, where chocolatiers didn’t once stop shoving their fancy-pants confections at me (oh dream of dreams); endless winding markets of delicious, fresh foods (meat carved right off the bone! In front of your eyes! Who knew!) that made me feel terribly ashamed of my eating habits and more than once inspired that go-to observation about how “detached” we are from our foods; and cake baking (I can’t believe how I’ve missed the sound of beaters in a bowl).
In short, highlights involved food.
So I didn’t visit Buckingham Palace or The Globe or ride in a double decker bus… but one thing I’m finding this year is that while being able to travel is nice and I feel so fortunate to have this opportunity, my relationships with the people I love are more important, and sometimes, the chance to stuff your face with a friend easily trumps having tea with the Queen. Not that she invited me, the jerk.