I loved traveling. It was all I wanted to do growing up in a small town. I wanted to see the world. When I studied art in college, my textbooks were filled with artworks, cathedrals, museums, sculptures, etc, that were all somewhere else. America is so young, and Europe is full of history everywhere you go. Sit on a park bench, someone famous probably sat there.
Anyway, when I got the chance to go...I packed light on clothes and heavy on film and I went. Sure, it was a guided tour, but I think Europe with a tour guide is good. With a translator is even better. I saw so many places and things that were in my textbooks. Sometimes I broke down in tears when standing somewhere that I had only seen in books. I was so touched. In Rome, I wandered in awe around the coliseum, where Christians were fed to the lions. How often can you walk in footprints that are thousands of years old? Not on this continent.
The last trip I took culminated in Paris. Such a pretty city with a really snotty attitude. I think the French countryside is gorgeous and the people are warm. I visited Versailles, the famous Monet gardens and bridge and walked the Louvre. Stood in front of and under this:
Don't know why I thought you couldn't walk underneath it. Seems silly now, but I guess I thought that would be off limits. It's not. Just so you know. And it is painted a chocolate brown. Didn't really think about that, either. I thought it was just faded black, but it is brown.
But interestingly enough, there was always one sight that warmed my heart and beckoned me closer. The bright lights, the tantalizing smell, the familiar menu. Ahhhh, McDonald's.
I hang my head in shame. I know. Travel that many miles and eat at a McDonald's? Seems really like an insult to the French people, the Italian people, the Greek people, the British people! But let me tell you, you will be so happy to see those Golden Arches if you ever travel abroad.
Let me explain.
Our tour included breakfast and dinner in the cost, so those meals were preplanned and not always so scrumptious. In fact, often they were repititous. And sometimes strangely foreign. Now I like to try new things, but I would like to choose them, not just have them set in front of me. So for two weeks our stomachs experienced some upheaval as we adjusted to food that we weren't used to eating.
But at lunch, if we were in a big city, sometimes we were able to find a McDonald's and it was so exciting. I remember in Rome, we walked down this street with some fantastically expensive shops, a bookstore and a Prada. Then, the McDonald's. It was like seeing the American flag waving and welcoming me home.
Double cheeseburger, no pickle, fries and a Sprite.
Isn't it funny that such a small thing can help us adjust and feel normal? I love to travel, but there are times when I am tired of absorbing the newness around me and just want something familiar. A security blanket of Americana, if you will.
And, I may apologize to the British, and the Greeks and the Italians for skipping the local fare and eating under the arches, but I won't apologize to the snooty French.
I think you know what the French can kiss. My derriere.