When I first moved to California, I heard people say, “Why travel? We have it all here.”
I wanted to say, “Well I feel sorry for you. You must be blind.”
I’d like to focus on what traveling and seeing the world does for me, and share my perceptions and some cross-cultural comparisons. (For a quick sightseeing trip of Big Ben, the Natural History Museum, Oxford Street, Picadilly Circus and South Kensington tube station, please my Flip video.)
Traveling around London is easy with an Oyster card. You can catch a tube as many times as you wish. I’m happy to inform you that the English are extremely polite and patient. Even young women offer their seats to elderly women–not me yet– on the tube.
A few things you need to know if you’re from the U.S. “For here or to go,” in England is, “Eat in, or take away.” It took me a while to get the hang of it.
If you like half and half in your coffee at Starbucks, you won’t find it. They only have skim and whole milk. When you ask for cream, you don’t get to pour it in yourself. The barista will reach down, in his hidden fridge and take out a container of heavy whipping cream. He will then pour a 1/4 cup of heavy cream into your coffee, turning it completely white, and because he has been so kind, you’re too embarrassed to complain.
Trash cans in London and Paris are almost non-existant and yet, there is no litter. How come?
I have several theories: People don’t snack, therefore there’s no extra trash. I know this applies to the French who frown upon eating between meals.
All trash cans in Paris are see-through.Why?
To avoid terrorist bombs being placed inside. This is the explanation I was given.
The restrooms in London and Paris rarely have paper towels. Why? Probably to reduce waste, so the British have these high-tech hand dryers, that almost blow your hands off.
There are still holes in the ground toilets in southern France.
Fortunately, these are not as common as when I lived there.
In a small French cafe in the town of Cahors, southwest France, I heard Lady Gaga, followed by a French Brittany Spears. A couple of middle-aged French women hummed to Lady Gaga’s Pokerface, while filling out a Rapido (lotto card) and drinking their on-the-way-to-work espressos.
A pharmacie in France is a combination of a US pharmacy and a beauty supply store. They are all over the place, more common than grocery stores. With a minimum of ten people working to serve you, they give advice on medication, aromatherapy, anti-wrinkle creams, self-tanners and perfumes. Customer service in French “pharmacies,” makes it pleasant to be sick, unlike the unpleasant, overworked and stressed out local pharmacy staff in my neighborhood.
So why do I love to travel? Because we don’t have it all here. There are too many places to see, things to learn and minds to open.
News from southwest France and a meal at a one-star (Michelin) restaurant in Belcastel, a fairy-tale village. See photo below.