Laurel, the intrepid tourist, on a bridge over the Liffey River in Dublin
Hello there- I came across an article by expert wanderer, Pico Ayer– “Ten Things Every Traveler Should Do.” I couldn’t have agreed more with his practical ideas. He urged travelers to ride a bus to the end of the line, browse through a neighborhood bookstore, read a local newspaper or attend a sporting event to capture the true flavor or a place. And it set me to thinking…
I have another list from 1991, when we piled our 4 kids in our trusty old van and drove from Madrid to London (with the help of an overnight ferry) to meet up with my parents. My Dad sent ahead “Grandpa Carl’s Rules for London.” They included — Eat one ice cream every day. Hold hands crossing streets. Micah and Aaron plan the subway routes. Everyone gets one complaint per day (that’s all!). It was a marvelous memorable trip– with plenty of ice cream…
So I came up with my own “Ten Rules for Travel.” Here they are:
#1. Admit you are a tourist! Snooty people like to call themselves travelers, not tourists– but I say, if you’re in Paris, see that Eiffel Tower along with Notre Dame and the Louvre! They must be worth seeing, if so, so many people are there to see them. So grab that tour book and see all the great sights, as well as the out of the way places. In the spirit of the old “Grand Tour,” tourist away–always with respect and politeness for the people you are visiting, of course. (photo: Laurel is the Tower garden)
#2. You’ve heard this one before– pack light! Take that tiny carry-on and the 3 skirts or pants and interchangeable 5 tops, then throw in a sweater or two–easy! Leave room for the things you pick up along the way. You’ll be glad when you’re dashing through the Paris metro at 6:00 A.M. racing to the airport (at least I was glad). (photo: Maryann and Dora off to Shanghai)
#3. If you are a “planner” like me, enjoy all that anticipation! I trundle home piles of books from the library to study up on our destination, pour over web sites and Pinterest so I’ll know where to track down the best pastries or which night the museums are free. The Lonely Planet series has a king-sized book, The Travel Book, with suggestions for nearly every country on what to eat, experiences not to miss, things to read as you travel, helpful words or phrases to have ready… It’s a gold mine!
#4. For me, the best souvenirs are found in museum shops or grocery stores! I realized that most of the art wall in our living room is comprised of museum prints and post cards from Paris to NYC to Beijing–memories of travels I see every day. And one of my favorite ways to see the life of another country is up and down the aisles of the grocers. We loved the entire aisle of olives in Seville! There are always interesting spices or candies or teas to cart home…
(photo: Murillo and me in the Louvre)
#5. We keep our eyes open for music along the way. Larry and I loved the grand choir along with rosy cheeked choristers in St. Stephens Church in Vienna, relaxed with a string quartet in the basement crypt of a church in Bern, sat and listened to a men’s choir rehearse on an afternoon in Notre Dame, Paris, enjoyed the symphonic picnic concert one hot summer evening at a park in Chicago… (photo: bandshell at Millennium Park, Chicago)
#6. Pack along books that take you deeper in the history and culture of the place you are visiting– Imperial Woman (Pearl Buck) or China Road (Rob Gifford) for China or Moveable Feast (Hemingway) or My Life in France (Child) for Paris. The best for waits in airports and bedtime reading along the way.
#7. Snack to your hearts content! The tastes of a country shouldn’t be limited to breakfast, lunch and dinner. Just after breakfast, Laurel and wandered past Berthillion, that I had read made the best ice cream in Paris. So we ducked in for our breakfast dessert! There are between meal tapas in Seville, bakery breaks in Austria and irresistible street food across China. And who could pass by the entire wall of chocolate bars at a department store in Bern, Switzerland? Not me. (photo: spicy peanut dumplings, China)
#8. Visit small towns as well as big cities. Near Amsterdam we lodged in Harlem with a kindly Mrs. Braun. We loved the tree lined canals, the historic church, the enormous pancakes and took short train rides into the bigger city. Driving with friends near the German border in France we saw a village up the mountain and couldn’t resist the detour. We hiked up shaded hills to an old stone watch tower and walked cobbled streets along the canals. We loved the impressive huge German style crucifix in the local church and ducked in for coffee and pastries during a passing shower. Beautiful. (photo: pueblo of Utrera, Spain)
#9. Most larger cities have bookshops with English shelves. Browse through books about your location. And pick something to carry home the beauty of your trip. I have a small collection of children’s picture books in several languages. Red Riding Hood is easy to interpret if you have great illustrations! And my favorite Italian souvenir is a small book of watercolor details of vignettes from all around Florence–exquisite! I’ve used it to inspire of lot of little drawings of my own…
#10. Leave a little time for unscheduled wandering. The last night Laurel and I were in Paris this summer, we took the round and about way home, past the grand illuminated city hall, crossing bridges over and back across the Seine, taking one last stroll through the Marais– all under the most startling luminous blue skies. We hated to tuck in for the night and say good bye to Paris.
Now, writing this, I’ve given myself the old travel bug again. I don’t know when our next trip will be– but I’m ready to employ these ten rules any time!