Is Euro Glam a Sham??
Anyone who dreams of visiting Europe usually is in search of the experience of thousands of years of history, style, music and culture that the pretty little postcards so easily make it seem to be. In the minds of the Euro-virgin, it is simply a hop, skip and a short 6-8 hour $1500 plane ride away. To any one whose experienced Europe, travelled through to several countries on one trip, with a budget, knows that this is not entirely how it pans out. And by not entirely, I mean not at all.
This year, I visited Europe on a different level than I had in the past: as a total and complete tourist. Let me clarify: I am not in possession of an EU passport, I was not born nor never resided on the continent, however, as many of us diverse second-generation Canadianas do, I am lucky enough to have somewhat close kin living in Italy who were gracious enough to take us in for both our previous visits. This seemed like only a somewhat small advantage to me in the past, at times almost a burden, but if there is one thing I learned from my trip this past summer, is that I seriously underestimated the power that it truly holds. These people not only held the magical key, but opened the secret door to a world of language, transportation, free and comfortable accommodation, insider information, free internet access, familiarity in an otherwise strange place and most importantly–homemade food. It was a reality that slowly crept up on me as we drove away from our flat in London, smacked us right in our tired faces as we arrived at Heathrow, and continued to gently abuse us as we explored the ever-so-beautiful but ever-so-touristy town of Taormina.
As I reflect back to my travel journal, I chuckle, unsurprised, as I find the story I was in search for. “Another one of those ‘glamorous’ Euro experiences to add to the ‘why-do-I-put-myself-through-this-annually?’ list”, I wrote. You see, in an attempt to avoid having to haul our luggage through the terrifying, extremely steep, multiple escalators and stairs of the underground (did I mention it used to be used as a bomb shelter…did I mention it’s about three times deeper than the TTC?…did I mention I am actually afraid of stairs?…do you see how all of these factors may have had me having multiple nightmares as our date of departure approached?) Mel Sac and I decided to book a 25 pound car service to the airport. However, thanks to Expedia, our departure terminal was not quite clear to us, and as it was 3a.m., our desire to do research before leaving was quite nonexistent. The problem with being dropped off at the wrong terminal, which is indeed what happened? Paying an additional 24 pounds for an approximate 5-6 minute drive over to our appropriate departure location. Steaming with fury, exhausted and not quite on speaking terms, Mel Sac and I started off our trip on a great foot. After fighting the mobs at the always-so-organized Alitalia terminal (didn’t we promise never to fly with them again??), sitting next to a stranger on the plane who basically slept on my shoulder, and enduring the infant crying and kicking the back of my chair for the duration of the flight (did I mention I’m not too keen on children?), we finally made it.
Mel and I glide through the Milan airport like giddy little children experiencing a sugar rush for the first time. “Immediately upon arrival, Mel Sac and I discussed the feelings of home, comfort, and sheer happiness Italy, in general, brings to us, how selling our soul to move here is often contemplate.” I write. We chuckle at the casual demeanour of the Italian airport staff–their lax lean against the wall as they drink their morning espresso and cappuccino, the security guard who sings “Shots” by Lil Jon through an accent as he scans potential criminals–comparing it to the strict sincerity of the Pearson gang. The first two experiences noted in my journal are the smell of the Milan airport Motta cafe, and our first caprese panini of the trip. I think it need not be said that our struggle thus far was well worth the pain.
I begin my culinary indulgences with, well, the panini caprese, and the airplane biscotti we receive as our snack. So simple yet the Pearson food selection could never even rival it. My legs twitch anxiously in my seat as my taste buds begin to almost produce a foam of excitement. However, I will learn, more than ever, to appreciate the beauty in simplicity on this trip, and to miss dearly the homemade meals and small town corner pizzerias of Terracina as I experience Italia for the first time through the eyes of the strapped tourist.
Let me explain…