Ah, The Joys of Traveling

May 19


When you read this I may be at the Eiffel Tower going up to the sumptuous Jules Verne restaurant, or at the Café Beaubourg having a martini or whatever it is Parisians drink these days, or on the Ile de St. Louis saying au revoir to my decision to cut back on sugar with the best caramel ice cream in the universe. Or,  I may be in Amsterdam on a boat trip, or looking at Vermeers at the Rijkmuseum, strolling through the red light district, or eating Indonesian food — since, in case you didn’t know, that’s a specialty there because Indonesia was once a Dutch colony.

These are the joys of travel. But right now, I’m in the hysterical/panic stages of packing and don’t have time to write a new blog. So here’s a blast from the past: it was another trip, another country, Rome and roaming around Italy. There were lots of joyful moments, but also some indignities. . .



The e-mail message from Rome said simply: Bring Colace.
The reply from NY was equally succinct: Relief is on the way!

If this isn’t the most the most effective communication in the history of the Internet, I’ll eat my cappello.

What’s the story behind these messages between the Old Country and the New World? Isn’t Italy famous for great gelato and naked statues? Pizza and piazzas? Pizza in the piazza? What does Colace have to do it?

Aspetta, my friend, aspetta.

We’re talking about the indignities of travel. And when the travelers in question are not twenty, Colace is not the only indignity. It begins with the irony of the luggage. You can lift less, but you need more. Your little kit with aspirin and toothpaste has slowly evolved into a bewildering assortment of items, including . . .

Your reading glasses and your other glasses for TV, so that with your sunglasses you have three pairs to lose; your contact lenses, their case(s) and solution(s); your prescription medicines plus the painkiller of your choice, maybe that new stuff that you rub directly into your forehead.

Of course you need shampoo and conditioner (your hair is dry too), and something for sleep. But wait! Don’t forget the Tweezers for Geezers, an absolute necessity since you’ve taken to sprouting hairs in places other than your eyebrows.

If you’re a woman . . .

You can add a shitload, you should pardon the expression, of creams and cosmetics because even a “natural” look requires foundation, blush, eye shadow, mascara, eyeliner, eyebrow pencil, lip liner, and you can’t survive jet lag without a concealer. You don’t use each of these every day, and you may go without makeup a lot of the time, but you will need some of these things at some point, so how the hell do you know which not to take?

And then there’s the (gasp!) shoes . . .

I knew a lot about Italy before this trip, and love the Italians, many of whom seem to be my relatives. They are nice people and I love their lasagna alla Bolognese.

But Italians have no concept of convenience and this, too, can lead to indignities. Take the cobblestones. For Americans, they are impossible to walk on in anything resembling nice looking shoes. So you wear “walking shoes,” AKA clodhoppers. Then you notice that the only other human being in Italy with shoes as ugly as yours is a nun with a mustache and hideous haircut that only a Mother Superior could love. There was one other example of really bad shoes. But when I looked up with a glimmer of hope, it turned out to be a man, begging for Euros in the streets of Bologna.

Before you tell me that I am full of the same, trust me on this: all Italian women, unless they are ANCIENT, wear good-looking shoes. They are genetically engineered with both the desire to possess good leather and the ability to walk in fabulous shoes in impossible conditions.

I wanted to announce to the world that I have cute shoes too. But the truth is that I’m not young enough to wear them for actual walking. I might as well admit that, because you can’t travel without revealing your age. Yet another indignity! First it’s your passport for the noisy clerks in the hotels. Then it’s your international driving license, which you forget in the glove compartment of your cousin’s car. Oh well, now the relatives know why I can’t wear cute shoes.

But about the Colace. . .
Which, I must say, is an absolute must in Italy because the diet has lots of pasta, prociutto and formaggio and precious little fiber. So I better get this over with.

Suffice it to say that during my trip I got to know various and sundry bathrooms intimately, giving new meaning to the phrase Fleet Week. Talk about indignity! Some people do these things for pleasure? Are they out of their minds? Anyway, when everything settled down and I just needed a little help, I was forced to do one of two things:

1) Attempt to explain to a pharmacist, in Italian, what the hell Colace is. It’s not exactly a laxative, you see. And I know from experience that if you ask for a lasativo you will get a high-octane product that will knock the you-know-what out of you, which makes sense given the local diet.

2) Send an e-mail to a friend who was meeting us and ask her for help. Indignity was not an issue here: we’ve been through worse things in the past. Don’t ask.

The decision to go for number two, so to speak, produced the infamous “Bring Colace” e-mail, so the solution to my problem turned out to be just a click away.

I have to go now — and, hopefully, tomorrow, and tomorrow, and the next day — but I’ll be back soon with more about my travels, travails, and anything else I think you need to know.

For more delightful travel hints:
The Eleven Stages of Packing

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