Tuesday, September 24, 2019

The Two Faces of Travel, Part 3

You knew it was coming. My previous blog post (hazards, warnings, danger, risk) was just a prelude to the bigger story: what I endured during my recent month in Europe.
If you’ve been following Facebook (which is more up to date than this blog), you know that I had a nice yoga retreat in the Czech Republic, a nice visit to small towns in Istria and Italy, a nice visit with friends in the French Alps, and a nice canal boat cruise on the Canal de Garonne. I am smiling with memories.

But I learned as a journalist that news sells best if it is juicy, suspenseful, scary, exaggerated, or just plain lies. (As a fellow journalist says, “If it bleeds, it leads.”) If you want to know more about “nice” towns, see my photos on Facebook or consult TripAdvisor. As thinking machines, we revel in what happened to others, and rejoice that it didn’t happen to us.

So rejoice, readers. I’m happy to serve up some grip and grim.
For starters, a mosquito bit me the moment I stepped onto the tarmac at Copenhagen airport—the first since I left Washington, DC, in August. (The 24 other still-itchy bites on my arms and legs are from no-see-ums in southern France.)

Before that minor inconvenience, working backwards from this evening, here are the tales I have to tell:

1-I offer my rating of the low-budget European airline RyanAir: two stars below EasyJet. Paying extra for “priority” boarding was a waste of 70 euros. There was no announcement, no separate line, no pre-boarding, no special treatment of “priority” passengers like Pope and me from the hordes jamming the gate this afternoon.

I could have spent the extra money on a nicer hotel and my beloved French specialty, almond croissants.

2-Somewhere between boat and Bordeaux yesterday, my tablet computer disappeared. Lost or stolen at a French dock, train station or hotel.

3-For two days we’ve emailed a hotel booked on hotels.com about late check-in in Copenhagen tonight, and another booked on booking.com about ferries to their island tomorrow. No answer, no answer, no answer. Finally purchased international cellular time to call. Got late-check-in instructions. Got nothing but promises to find a ferry that is running tomorrow.

4-The ferry problem is due to Pope’s having booked a room on a remote island in the North Sea, in the off-season, prepaid and non-refundable. Heavy rain and wind predicted. See former blog postdanger and risk follow me around.

Mostly, Pope has been a fine traveling companion for the second half of my trip; tonight, however, I am eying his portion of the travel arrangements with skepticism. 

5-After two days, my skull stopped bleeding where I hit it on a low ceiling. It’s still sore.

6-In Europe, elevators and escalators are scarce at train stations, bus stations, airports, hotels. Lots of concrete stairs to carry luggage up and down. 

My carry-on is 25 pounds; by Week 2, a wheel got bent on ancient cobblestones. My day pack is pushing 10 or 12 pounds. By Week 3, I had accumulated enough purchases to add an 8-pound tote bag. Can you feel the weight on my shoulders?

Thank goodness for the twice-weekly “boot camp” classes at my local Sport & Health. Lots of weight-lifting helped me prepare for luggage duty.

7-Continuing to work backwards: by the time my friend and I decided to visit Verona or Vicenza, all reasonably priced hotel rooms were gone. We made do with a tiny, dingy room at Hotel Mignon in Padua. Padua is a dingy city compared with stately, elegant Vicenza. (We never got to Verona.) However, Padua served up many intriguing twists; see previous blog post.

8-I lost 200 euros on the streets of Vienna, from a buttoned pocket, after visiting an ATM.

9-I arrived during the European heat wave. You probably read about it in your Detroit Free Press or Washington Post. I have been washing sweaty clothes in the sink every night. The no-see-ums thrive. And bite.

Shall I go on, or are you bored? Unfortunately for attracting readers, none of these incidents constitute serious, life-threatening dilemmas. For someone who visits many nations with complicated logistics, languages, and security risks, these fall into the category of minor or, at worst, medium-level travel complaints.

I didn’t fall off the walls of a cliff-top fortress.

I didn’t get smashed by a truck or even a mini Renault while walking in narrow lanes.

No one fell off the canal boat or got mugged in a dark corner. 

Even better, no nights were spent sleeping on the floor of a train station. (And only one night on the floor in Dublin airport.)

No, nothing absolutely terrifying or even remotely dangerous has happened to me in Europe so far. Nonetheless, don’t you agree that even petty theft, slight concussion, and substandard airlines make a more enticing story than nice castles, nice paintings, and tasty mushroom tagliatelle?

1 comment:

  1. As an editor, I might add: "For more, see 'Death Takes a Holiday,' 1934." The IMDb descriptor doesn't quite capture it as well as this blog post!