Coming Soon to a City Near You

The first time Husband and I traveled overseas we went with a small tour group to Scotland and England. It was November and I barely remember the stupefying hours between landing in Glasgow and being driven to Edinburgh. We finally reached our hotel which was old and quaint and all those things you want in the British Isles. It was also icy cold–at least to our Southern way of thinking. But it didn’t matter because at long last I was overseas and the room had a little electric tea pot and a supply of shortbread in that plaid wrapping.

We always knew we wanted to travel and, while the group aspect wasn’t really our thing, it was nice for the first trans-Atlantic trip. We made friends with the others and were quickly pegged as the young, energetic members of the group. The guide didn’t mind when we begged off group excursions to explore on our own, she knew we’d find our way back. I remember in Windsor we were wandering around the stables behind the castle and came across an elderly woman from our group who was completely lost and terrified. She had become separated from her companion and had been walking aimlessly for quite a while.

There were a lot of firsts on that trip–first castle, first time to order a pint in a pub, first time to have broiled tomatoes for breakfast. First time to witness “ugly American” behavior. (I really wanted to spell that behaviour, but that would just make me a poser.) We were walking up to St. Andrews–the place where golf was birthed more than 600 years ago. There was a rope strung  between the lane we were on and the golf course. Thirty seconds after we were told not to cross the rope, one of our group did…running across the fairway to get a better photo of the clubhouse. I’m sure he thought that they meant everybody BUT him. He was a nice enough guy, but our opinion of him wasn’t the same after that.

Anyhow, that trip whetted our appetite for more, and two years later we went back to England with another group. It was a fun trip too, but we we were ready to start traveling on our own agendas.

Fast forward 13 years. We’ve got lots of international travel under our belts and have gotten good enough at it that people seek our advice and counsel. Nevertheless, when a local group put together a trip to Italy, we signed up. There were a lot of friends and family going and Italy was a place I’d never been. After consulting the schedule and the map, we decided to tack on a few days of our own at the end.

We started in Rome and then headed north, stopping in Florence, Sienna, Venice, Assisi and other places I’ve forgotten before ending up at Lake Como. In between, we saw some amazing sites and, I’m sorry to say, a few more examples of ugly American behavior. We spent way too much time on our big bus, going through the Italian countryside on interstate highways without any chance of taking a back road or a wrong turn just because you felt like it. You’d see a little village in the distance, maybe surrounded by grape vines with an ancient steeple rising above the other buildings. But you’d never say, “hey, bus driver–can we just go over there for a half hour or so, just for one glass of wine?’

We had a schedule and it must be kept.

But on the last morning as everyone else was packed up and ready to go home, the bus did make one slight detour and dropped us off at the train station. We said our goodbyes, grabbed  our luggage and charged up the steps–ready at last for our own adventure on our own time.

Three hours later, here we were:


High in the Alps. I know that most of the people on the bus were ready to go home. But more than one has said that they were just a little jealous of us heading up those steps to the train station by ourselves.

p.s. This post was inspired by Rassles.


Filed under Travel

6 responses to “Coming Soon to a City Near You

  1. Julie

    Oh yeah, I’d rather be lost anytime than found on a tour bus. I can honestly brag that the only times I’ve purposely acted out were times when trapped and stuck on tour buses.

  2. And you’ve never looked back, right? So where’s next on the agenda?

    All travellers can be spectacularly ghastly, regardless of their nationality. It’s not a trait unique to North Americans.

  3. it took me a decade of business trips and organized tours to learn to travel on my own… not easy for us raised in the US of A, but a very worthwhile skill learned! here’s to more adventures in your future!

  4. Julie–tour buses are from hell!
    PG–actually, we’re off Sunday–more details later.
    DF–lots of adventures to come and I look forward to reading more about your’s.

  5. This was perfect, Franklin. I feel like I will always be kind of an ugly American when I travel, because I don’t try to blend in. Then again, I never try to blend in.

    And honestly? I’ve met very few respectful international tourists in Chicago. Mostly they just do the exact same thing as traveling Americans, except they sit around and talk about how the US thinks they’re better than other countries, and because they have modesty in their country that means their country is better. And I’m “all, shut it, German. Do we need to bring up Hitler?” And then London is all, “now don’t be wankers” and I’m all “take your foreign slang back to Hogwarts, you twat” and then South Africa is all, “VUVUUUUUZELA” and things just get really out of hand.

    All of the foreigners are coming together for the world cup.

  6. I hope that title is directed at me.

    This summer we are road tripping it to the north of Spain — Asturias and Cantabria to camp in Picos de Europa and on the Cantabrian sea. It’s so hard for me not to google everything and make a strict schedule to get the best of the best. But the good thing about a road trip is you can always modify and stop and change your plan and stay longer where you only intended to pass through if the place strikes you. I can’t wait. It’s been too long since I’ve done any travelling outside of just going home.

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