Lorraine’s Lowdown: After the trip of a lifetime, new wanderlust may be unrequited for some time
This is the tale of many cities, as I share some lighter moments of my recent vacation to Europe …
Our cruise from Athens to Rome via the Rock of Gibraltar was delayed several hours when the ship couldn’t leave port. It was an engine malfunction, but the captain had us laughing as he joked over the ship’s loudspeaker, “I seem to have misplaced my keys …”
A cruise ship can essentially be a petri dish floating on water. During our two weeks, a nasty cold made the rounds of guests and crew. At one point it sounded as if we had all contracted Kennel Cough, or been teleported to a tuberculosis ward …
My cabin mate’s cold resulted in some loud snoring. In exasperation one night I got up, arranged a makeshift bed in the only room with a door to block the sound, and slept in the bath tub. My cabin mate wryly remarked the next morning, “Will we have to ask them to make up the bath tub tonight during turndown service? …”
Some cruise ships are now being outfitted with the “Medallion Class,” an interactive software program that allows guests to find each other, order items and have them delivered to them wherever they are onboard, make reservations, etc. Guests carry the medallion instead of a key card. It’s only just a little creepy when you approach your cabin and the kiosk welcomes you, shows your photo, then the door unlocks and opens for you …
I traveled with a set of fun foodies, who affectionately referred to the ship’s buffet as “The Trough …”
One evening we splurged on the “Chef’s Dinner,” a swanky, elite dining experience during which we were invited into the ship’s galley and hobnobbed with the chef while enjoying hors d’oeuvres and champagne. Next we dined on a five-course meal in a private setting far from the madding crowd. Or so we thought, until a fellow specialty dining guest explained — and demonstrated! — how to aerate wine by stirring it with a fork …
We tried to balance eating and drinking, Gastric Alley vs. Road of Thirst. The cautionary tale became: “Check yourself before you wreck yourself.” Very, very late one evening, a friend confided, “I don’t know how to hiccup in French …”
One traveling companion said he considered himself an “alcohologist.” He explained, “I’m a light eater and a heavy drinker. You can’t be good at everything …”
When some English-speaking guests were frustrated by the language barrier, their ineffective solution was to speak more slowly and louder — yet still in English. Others added “O” to words: “Do you have a map-o?” or “Please, more wine-o …”
Europeans whose jobs force them to interact with tourists are generally friendly and helpful. Checking in at an airport, we asked where to leave the airport’s luggage dolly. The attendant smiled sweetly, “Wherever you want. Just not here …”
A friend noted a heavy religious influence in Rome and observed, “You can’t swing a cat without hitting a nun in Italy …”
During a tour of the Vatican, a man kept asking his wife about the availability of an elevator. “Did you ask the guide about a lift?” he whispered. She didn’t hear him. “I said, did you ask the guide about a lift?” She replied, “What?” He said loudly — in the Vatican — “Jesus Christ woman, what about the lift!? …
Our friends from Indianapolis gave our British friends a “UK to USA” dictionary (As Oscar Wilde said, “We are separated by a common language). We Americans joyfully taught them — and the ship’s crew — how to use “amazeballs” when expressing extreme contentment or when to use “cray cray” to describe a crazy person. From the Brits: If something is “tickety-boo” it’s “satisfactory” and “I don’t give a toss” means “I couldn’t care less …”
We decided to take a local water taxi at one port, which cost one-third less than the Princess Cruise shuttle to the same destination. A Princess staff member tried in vain to redirect our Euros to Princess: “It’s a 20-minute walk to where that local water shuttle leaves.” Us: “We can use the exercise.” Her: “There’s a very long wait and that water shuttle doesn’t come and go often.” Us: “We have all the time in the world. We’re on vacation.” Her: “Local French workers are given priority. They might not let you board.” Us, incredulously: “French workers rush the water taxi at 11 in the morning? …”
For the record: It was a 10-minute walk, we waited less than 10 minutes, and the only French rushing the water taxi were a man, his wife and two toddlers …
In Toulon, France, we took a reconnaissance trip and jumped aboard an open-air train that rolled through the city. The narrative was recorded, and it was obvious English was the narrator’s second language as her enthusiasm mounted for the tourist icon she was describing: “Look at the bell. Look at it! It’s made of wood. Really look at it! Look harder! …”
We were awestruck and humbled by the statue of David in Florence, Italy, one of the most magnificent sculptures in the world. We were horrified as loud, obnoxious tourists talked loudly and elbowed each other so they could take a selfie in front of Michaelangelo’s masterpiece, using their ugly ubiquitous selfie sticks. Thankfully, the boors weren’t all Americans …
Yet Americans are apparently easy to spot. We hadn’t uttered a word at an Italian restaurant when a waiter who spoke very little other English greeted us with, “Howdy, Friends! …”
After the trip of a lifetime, I am filled with a wanderlust which may be unrequited for a time. Me: “I want to travel more often!” My bank account: “Ummm, to Condon Park perhaps? …”
Lorraine promises not to further indulge herself next week, so please send your happy news-o to LorraineJewettWrites@gmail.com.
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