Things I've learned/realized/appreciated thus far, while away for three-plus months.
The best licorice allsorts and wine gums are in the UK.
Getting socks on a British Airways flight is a good thing when you're in Bologna, Italy three months later and need socks. Navy blue or otherwise.
You appreciate a good meal, whether it's unexpectedly on an airplane, train, you make it, it's made for you, or in a restaurant that you didn't expect to enjoy so much.
Good airplane landings should not be taken for granted.
The UK has some REALLY good food. Marks & Spencer has good deals on lunches (sandwiches, crisps/chips and drinks) but their drinks have "nasties" - artificial sweeteners that make them taste....nasty. Pret a Manger (now in NYC) and Wagamama come to mind has SUPERFLY! Pret's drinks don't have "nasties", and it's where I got the term "nasties" from!
Russell Peters may joke about the Indians running after the English when they left (wanting to feed them!), but some of the best curry I've had has been in England (Shampan in Brick Lane, The Wee Curry Shop in Glasgow and Melati in London come to mind), though it was top-notch in Lagos, Portugal too. Probably 'cause there are so many Brits there!
I like Uniqlo best in NYC. The Paris store was expensive and PACKED, and the London store wasn't as big and fabulous.
I don't like bunk beds and I don't like dorm rooms.
I like museums that aren't in the "salon style" (Louvre!) and LOVE free ones (London in general).
I love Robert Mapplethorpe and am thankful to have seen his work side-by-side with Michaelangelo's, as I found it inspiring and life affirming.
I appreciate well-dressed people, especially when I'm carting around a rucksack!
I appreciate good/sexy beer, since I haven't had any since Belgium - which seems like a lifetime ago!
I appreciate cheap flights from Ryanair and Easyjet, and CERTAINLY appreciate the more lax weight restrictions on Easyjet (20 kg for checked luggage, versus Ryanair's 15) and British Airways (20 kg as well).
I appreciate having brainstorms (I've had one or two while away) like buying a bag in Gatwick in order to meet the weight restrictions imposed by Ryanair.
I have a new appreciation for football. Not American football, but "soccer". I want to play when we're back at home. Great game. No, I don't have a favourite team. I suspect my favourite team will always be the Pittsburgh Steelers.
I appreciate a Netbook, Flickr and an external hard-drive, in order to hold the thousands of pictures that we (me) have taken while away, and Facebook to share them with friends/family easily.
I appreciate good tours. Walking tour in Edinburgh ("free" - pay what you think the guide is worth. GREAT idea!), Belfast Black Cab tour, distillery tour at Glenmorangie, Porto port tours, a good sherry tour at Tio Pepe (Uncle Joe) in Jerez (versus the interesting tour at Sandeman's that was...interesting) and a fantastic tour of a Brunello winery in Italy.
I appreciate the work that Stonewall UK is doing for gay/same-sex rights in the UK and LOVE my new t-shirt.
I appreciate the opportunity to learn more about mom's mom's family ancestry and the chance to see where my grandmother grew up in Shettleston, (Glasgow) Scotland.
I appreciate that all we've used McDonald's for while away is a bathroom and photo ops.
I appreciate a good clean room and a good bed.
I appreciate Jodi being healthy.
I appreciate a good cup of tea. BOIL THE FREAKIN' WATER IF YOU'RE GOING TO CALL IT TEA!!!
I appreciate an "Irish Shopper" recycled plastic/reusable shopping bag that we've had since Enniskillen, Northern Ireland.
I appreciate my hate/distrust for industrial meat, produce and Wal-mart more and more every day.
I appreciate a good meal, but not paying a lot for it is even better.
I appreciate things of beauty, but a) I want to be able to photograph them (Michaelangelo's "David" and The Sistine Chapel come to mind - and I did photgraph both of them!), and b) am getting sick of churches, but still think they're beautiful.
I appreciate being on a farm, but think that being on a farm should mean that you're not burning plastic period, let alone for your family/children to breathe in. That is, instead of paying to have it picked up with the garbage.
I appreciate children that aren't annoying, parents that parent when necessary and people who aren't obnoxious when drunk in public. "VIVA JOE!!!"
I appreciate good transportation, that runs on time (Italy!) with informative signage (every country except Italy).
I appreciate, for whatever reason, that the UK drives on the left side of the road while the driver is on the right side of the car, but think the car rental agency should inform you what to do if you can't get the ignition to turnover. THANK YOU to the Germans for the assistance at Loch Lomond. And for those of you reading this, it's the "other" side of the road, not the "wrong" side of the road. Mind you, it's not the "right" side of the road either, and that's a pun. I try not to be punny. That's dad humour.
I appreciate good food prices.
I REALLY appreciate good wine prices - Spain, Portugal, France (Pyrenees mainly) and Italy.
I also really appreciate good scotch prices in France and Spain. Well, almost everywhere except....Scotland.
I appreciate the good coffee we've had in Spain, Portugal and Italy, but especially Italy.
I appreciate Starbucks, but mainly for their WiFi in the UK and Northern Ireland.
I appreciate farmers' markets and so should you. If you don't already.
I appreciate that I didn't have my credit cards and/or cash in my wallet when I lost it, or was pickpocketed, in Milano.
I appreciate home cooked meals. Thanks to Alex, Jon, Deb and Maya!
I apprecite unexpected coffee and pastry - thanks Andrea in Naples (which our server in Siena called "Nipples", and it was his hometown. This made me giggle.) for that.
I appreciate the sane driving in Toronto after being in Naples and seeing the insanity that is the norm.
I appreciate being a pedestrian in any city except Amsterdam.
I appreciate modern art and don't like boring old s**t.
I appreciate that the Glasgow city council has hired translators to aid in interpreting what Glaswegians are saying. In English apparently. Which is sad, since it's the language I speak. Mind you, my Italian accent is pretty good.
I appreciate all the places we've been, but wonder what some of them are like in the summer/good weather. Some I don't ever want to see in the summer with the insanity that I'm sure runs amok.
I appreciate/expect free WiFi if there's WiFi in a hotel. Sorry, that's just me.
I appreciate English language TV and am amused (and frustrated at times) when I see English language TV shows dubbed into the local language. I ESPECIALLY appreciate when they're closed captioned with the local language and I get to hear the English.
I appreciate when I don't have to listen to the f**kin' accordion, which has been pretty much every city/country we've been in.
I appreciate a lack of exposure to lousy street performers, especially the "statues" who expect to be paid for standing still.
I appreciate that beggars in Toronto don't approach you with a cup and expect to be given money for no reason at all. Begging in the name of a saint is even worse. In my eyes.
I appreciate HelpX and Jon/Deb for potentially saving our time away.
I appreciate the doctor in ER in Barcelona who gave us Valium. Not that I've used it, but to have it was reassuring.
I appreciate Corinne in Lyon for being so generous and potentially saving our time away.
I appreciate the generosity of Pedro, who just reinforced how beautiful the Portuguese are. Or maybe it's just the Portuguese I know, and/or Marcos' family!
I appreciate our e-doctor panel of Rachel, Brigit and Zarya for saving us for good, while in Spain.
I appreciate that Jodi likes overnight trains, but the coffee served with breakfast is not enough to overcome the bunkbeds, narrow aisles and constant freakin' jostling. THOUGH, I'm sure the people standing on lonely small-town platforms in Lisboa and Madrid appreciated my mooning them!
I appreciate guide books, but hate when restaurants/bars I REALLY want to go to don't exist. Or, when the really well-reviewed places are impressive to high-school/college students who think having access to a microwave is a chance for some "fine dining".
I appreciate Jodi's sense of direction, since I'm a wee bit spatially/directionally (NOT like Emily's issues with left & right though!) and it's been a saviour. Not to mention her already existing ability to speak French and newfound ability to speak Portuguese, Italian and Spanish. Oh, and she speaks Hebrew too, which will come in Handy in Israel!
I appreciate grocery stores, but farmers' markets make me much happier. THOUGH, farmers' markets rarely, if ever, have wine for between 1 and 5 euros that is some seriously good s**t.
I appreciate small towns. I appreciate big cities. I appreciate places in-between. I'm a big-city kinda guy though. I love to people watch, and that's hard to do when there aren't any....PEOPLE!!!
I appreciate family and families. I also appreciate parenting when done right/appropriately. I can't begin to count how many times I've said, "If I would have done that when I was a child...." while away.
I appreciate all the churches we've seen (this is my second time sitting down to write this, so there may be some repetition. Deal with it!) but the Gaudi was my fave - though we only saw it from the outside. Jodi was sick in Barcelona, and I didn't want to pay and then leave. Kinda like Eddie Murphy in "Delirious" when he's talking about the black family and the haunted house. "Okay, gotta go!"
I appreciate that people are willing to try and communicate with an Anglophone, through whatever means they have readily available. This has been a delight. That and the fact that Jodi seems to understand every freakin' language under the sun.
I have enjoyed listening to all the native languages being spoken while away, but Portuguese makes me giggle and Glaswegian is just "royally" messed up! I like to pretend to talk most of the languages we've heard while away, but by far Italian is my best accent, Portuguese is my favourite to pretend I know (well, next to Italian!) and while I'm not good in Spanish, I think I'm better in Spanish than French. Which I took from grade 4 - 10. Go figure.
I appreciate that every freakin' town/city has had an Irish pub and Chinese restaurant. We've even had Chinese in Sintra, Portugal and Bologna, Italia.
I appreciate that people like fried food, and we've had some, but generally speaking not too much. The Spanish seem to like to fry a lot, as do the Portuguese. Oddly though, we didn't have much fried stuff in the UK, where they'll fry a lawn chair or hammer if someone will eat it and/or pay money for it.
I appreciate a good sandwich, and ANYONE who knows me knows this. I've had packaged sandwiches in London, Scotland and Northern Ireland, bocadillos in Spain and panini in Italy.
I miss my bed at home.
I miss my slow cooker. (Thanks again Mark & Ray!)
I've appreciated all the native alcoholic beverages, but especially port in Portugal.
I've appreciated passion for food and drink, much like I have, and I firmly believe it's contagious and that food should be more than merely a means to cease your hunger or enable you to continue on with whatever activity requires calories/nutrition. Food is life, life should be passionate, and therefore, food should be passionate.
I appreciate books and magazines in English, even if I end up finding them in a pile near a garbage dumpster in Firenze, Italia. It's great when you can get UK Cosmo, Elle, Penthouse (a few good stories/articles - pig hunting (feral (wild) pigs (not sexual at all, though he was REALLY into it!), the real Sopranos from New Jersey and some other little blurbs of interest, National Geographic (no nudity) and Stars & Astrology (or some other goofy title like that).
I appreciate free publications. In English. I will read just about any free publication that has news and other stuff in it. I don't read free classifieds though. UNLESS they have Companions/Singles Ads in 'em. Then, I'll read those. I suppose that's about where I draw the line.
I appreciate public transit that alerts you to the next stop. There have been lots of examples of this, and a few where we had to scurry off at the last second. "And don't you do that again!" Like I'm going to miss the stop again? Well, I might, but Jodi wouldn't!
Every city's cathedral/basilica/duomo was the first/biggest/tallest/longest/best at something. Just look around or ask someone, and they'll be more than willing to tell you why it's best. It's like local cooking in Italia or football (the real deal!) anywhere (A-N-Y-W-H-E-R-E!!! in the UK and/or Europe!).
I appreciate "free" breakfast. We paid for the room, it's not "free", it's INCLUDED!!!!
I appreciate good Indian food. Lagos, Portugal and Mijas, Spain come to mind. Probably the large numbers of Brits that are there.
I appreciate public nudity. I haven't seen any as of yet. Other than inappropriate butt cracks on women bending over, or homeless men that is.
I appreciate tasty food, but can do without some of the salt that seems to be so prevalent in Portugal and Spain.
I appreciate a good movie, whether in English or not. "Scarface" (Pacino) was great in Italian, and "Cobra" (NOT Stallone) was funny and all in Spanish.
I appreciate a good trivia night, ESPECIALLY when the questions can be answered by non-Europeans/Brits.
What the F**K is up with gypsies?!?!? They were camped, YES CAMPED, on the platform in Tunes, Portugal for a few hours. I just don't get it. I appreciate nothing about gypsies. Except that this culture seems to have given us "Snatch", and I loved Brad Pitt in that.
I appreciate Wally & Gitta Rice. They're great people, and I wouldn't "have" Jodi if not for them. I appreciate that they put up with me. I think they appreciate that I put up with them. (Kidding!)
I appreciate that I have a spatial issue, which tends to rear it's ugly head when I'm driving (I also have a habit of walking into door frames, but usually with my right shoulder. Mind you, that's not the shoulder that's giving me issues right now. That's the other one, the left one (for those of you playing at home. I think it has to do with the pickaxe work in the Pyrenees. I suspect some physio is in my future!). Not really just driving, but turning/parking/reversing in tight situations. My brother knows this from 1987 when I scraped up Plymouth Scamp in the Branson parking lot. The Rices know this from the Alhambra parking lot. Goldcar in Malaga, Spain knows this as well, but really didn't seem to care about it. As long as the under-carriage, windows and roof were fine, they were fine with whatever other body damage occured. If renting a car, try to see if there is a "GOLDCAR" in business there. That's G-O-L-D-C-A-R!!!
I appreciate a shower with warm/hot water. There seemed to be a shortage at times in Mijas and Roma. Oh well. I ended up cutting my head in Mijas, and used the sink in Roma for my audience with Benny.
I appreciate when people aren't drunk and yelling "Viva Joe!", when I'm out to dinner in a "nice" restaurant. Though, to be honest, it was amusing to see the drunk dude, who looked like a cross between Roberto Benigni and Gilbert Gottfried, toast the newly 25 year old Joe. SEVERAL TIMES!!! It ceased to be as amusing as eat toast went on.
I appreciate it when Jodi understands that we don't have to do all the same things together. UNLESS I don't speak the language or will get lost. Then we do.
I appreciate that every language/culture seems to have a version of John or Joe.
I appreciate that people consider it cold in Italia when it's not. But the herd of fur coats isn't necessary. No matter what the temperature is.
I appreciate that people consider the Pope to be an important figure, but the high school football pep rally atmosphere at the weekly Wednesday papal audience was SUPER DUPER weird. The Mexican high school boys biting each other was entertaining though. The girl beside us writing in her dictionary about hating traveling with her parents and that she was broken was sad. But entertaining nonetheless.
I appreciate/love good gelato, and there's been tonnes in Italia. I'm psyched to go home, since I know there are some really great spots in Toronto. Though it's not the same.
I would GREATLY appreciate it if people would learn how to use their (digital) cameras, since EVERYONE seems to have one now, so that they DO NOT use their F**KIN' flash when taking pictures in musuems/churches where it says "NO FLASH" and even shows a picture of a camera, with a BIG BOLD "X" through the flash part of the camera if you do not read the language, or the four others posted. In case you didn't know this, you are destroying the artwork of the world with your reckless and inappropriate use of THE FLASH! YES, YOU!!!! YOU!!!! YOU!!!! (Can you tell this pisses me off more than a little bit?)
I appreciate Maya for saving us in the awful weather that messed up our HelpX and miss how much Sarah enjoyed the attention she got from me. If only more women were like Sarah (the German Shepherd)....well, I won't finish that sentence.
Why is it so hard to find dill and/or cilantro in Italia and/or France?!?!?! ARGH!!!
If I see one more Nativity scene AKA presepe I'm going to scream!!!