Travel reflections: Home again

6 11 2010

The bad thing about holidays is that inevitably they end.

We’ve been home for a week now. After a couple of rough nights, we’re over the jet lag. We’re back at work, back into familiar routines, for better or for worse.

The memories of our trip hit at odd times, like “a week ago we were walking up the Ku’damm in Berlin,” or “two weeks ago we were getting bundled up for our assault on the cobbles around Ghent,” or “I’d rather be riding the Metro in Paris than being stuck in my car in this traffic jam.”

Three weeks of getting around on foot, and by Metro, U-bahn and S-bahn was heaven. Driving in the Lower Mainland is hell.

Cooking dinner at home isn't just cheap, it's also an adventure in shopping.

I love the compactness of the neighborhoods in old European cities that allows you to get pretty much everything you need for day-to-day life within walking distance. In Paris, Florence, Barcelona, NIce and Berlin, the baker, the butcher and the produce market never seemed more than a 10-minute stroll away. Because space is tight and fridges are small, most people do some grocery shopping every day, for the food they’ll eat that day, and maybe the next. That means you tend to eat fresher, healthier, less processed and preserved food. Plus it’s a whole lot more fun.

An omlette at home is just a quick and easy meal, but in Barcelona it’s an adventure in acquiring eggs, peppers, onions and ham at a local market, in Spanish. And what could be more Italian than buying fresh pasta, sauce and bread at an outdoor market in Florence, or more German than assembling the ingredients for a meal of wurst, kartoffle salat, gorken salat and armbrot from the gourmet counters on the expansive food floor of the KaDeWe in downtown Berlin? I’m getting hungry just typing this…

And when you do have to travel further afield, the subway systems are incredible. I’ve come to love the challenge of dropping into a European city and figuring out the puzzle of their transit system, following the colored lines on the map, putting together the lines and transfer points to get us to our destination.

 

Of course my favorite subway line in Berlin was the U2!

Even buying the tickets is fun, once you overcome the tentativeness of figuring out the system and learn the tricks to get the best value. When we couldn’t find a tour bus to take us around Berlin for the last night of the city’s Festival of Lights, a concierge at a hotel advised us to catch the #100 city bus and it would take us across the city, past all the important buildings and monuments, at one-tenth the cost. And since many of the city buses in Berlin are double-deckers, the view is as good as any tourist bus!

But if there’s one thing I won’t ever miss about Europe, it’s the phone system. The symbol and number sequences and dialing codes just mystify me. And don’t even get me started about the calling cards and complicated instructions to make a simple call from a public phone! Aaaaarrrrrggghhhhhhh… I just want to make a phone call, not dissect the human genome, thank you very much.

Click on the photo below to return to Berlin with us.

Believe me, I'm not this excited to be back home.

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3 responses

7 11 2010
Katie

Despite the smile in that photo, I was mortified having to eat that super-sized hot dog – I don’t like hot dogs! But, like I do everywhere, I was experiencing the culture of the city, cuisine and all … I guess not everywhere can be known for their chocolate or their tartelettes hey 😉

8 11 2010
Nadia

It wasn’t a hordog Katie, it was a WURST…and I’m sure you loved it 😀

8 11 2010
Katie

It was worst alright!

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