Haphazard, light-on-planning style of travel we practice is not for everyone. Before leaving on the summer trip to Europe I haven’t done a lot of research, instead I directed my kid to find and write down everything she wants to see and do, while I would take care of the travel arrangements. So upon arrival, when I asked her what’s on her list for London, she said “Everything!”. That and Nando’s Chicken. And that’s exactly what we did.
Tourists roam Europe with textbook-sized travel guides constantly checking if they are doing it right. Someone on a large travel forum suggested taking a course in French gastronomy before visiting France. That’s in addition to a basic French language course and an overview of the French history. Visitors start their days with detailed and perfectly timed itineraries. A little more planning probably would’ve helped us to see more, save a bit of money and not show up at Versailles on the only day when it’s closed and leave the visit to Louvre for the day when its art gets a day off. People with a plan don’t have to wonder if they will have to sleep at a railway station because their credit card was declined when they tried to buy a train ticket at the last minute using a WIFI they found at a random Starbucks. People who didn’t spend their pre-trip days posting funny photos on Facebook don’t miss their stop on the way to the airport.
And then there are people like us, who get up every morning with just a faint idea where to go, or, sometimes, only a direction. We are the ones wondering around trying to make sense out of a souvenir map. We are the ones taking trams in the wrong direction all the way to the final stop wondering why our hotel is not there. We are the ones eating Mexican food in Amsterdam where the restaurant owner proudly calls it Argentinian, but which turns out to be neither. There is something to be said about spontaneity and sense of adventure, and we are the ones saying it. Loudly.
Don’t try this unless you are sure you won’t be divorced, disowned or dumped.
When God created London he said to the English people:
I will give you an awe-inspiring mix of the best architecture in the world,
where every stone will be connected to history.
It will be decorated with gold,
and things with wings,
and there will be no end to it.
And when you look down upon your city the view will be amazing.
And it will be lit up at night and people would want to come and spend an evening there.
And then I’ll give you traffic that will run in the opposite direction to everyone else’s and you will laugh watching them try to cross your streets scared and confused, in short bursts, like they are running through a minefield.
And your museums will be bursting with displays, and people from all over the world would come to see the stuff they used to own.
And I will give you amazing parks with trails and ponds,
and I will put swans there to please your eyes.
And I will give you a subway where everything will make sense and a pleasant voice will be begging you to “mind the gap” at every station so no one gets hurt.
And after work your people will mingle at bars to have a well-deserved pint of beer.
And your food will be varied and plentiful, but most tourists would want one thing.
And then I will let the Americans bring their crappy food there and deface your beautiful buildings with Colonel Sanders,
and Five Guys (not even Five Old Chaps or something)
and even TGI Fridays
even though you would know what Proper Hamburgers are.
And that would teach you to tell the stupid stories about God creating things.
Oh, and Nando’s Chicken actually wasn’t bad.