Be forewarned, the ramblings of a guest blogger lie ahead! In this instalment you won’t be charmed by Alyssa’s brilliant cultural musings or find yourself guffawing at Dan’s spot-on 90s pop culture references. What I humbly offer, besides British spellings of words (favourite, whilst, what?!), are a few handy travel tips I’ve refined over the last year, during which time I moved from Chicago to London and have puddle-jumped across the continent. I tried to force-feed these to the DeRoses whilst gallivanting through London & Scotland. Like the Founding Fathers did to their British oppressors, I think they’ve shrugged off most of them… so feel free to do the same!
Without further ado, I present to you an unofficial list of travel tips for any destination – some have been stolen from others, some have made a good trip great, and some, unfortunately, have been learned the hard way!
Visit the Highest Point – This is my number one rule. The ol’ google machine should make it easy to identify the best location to take in any city/region. The benefits are at least three-fold… (1) The act of getting there usually requires exercise (obligatory Crossfit reference). (2) The view is usually spectacular. (3) Taking in a city from above reveals the layout of the area, connecting you to the design and history of a new place – check out this Tumblr post if you’re not convinced. This rule has paid off in London (London Eye, St Paul’s, Duck & Waffle), Paris (Sacre Coeur & the Eiffel Tower), and Edinburgh (Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park, which Dan and I hiked on Sunday – it’s tumultuous terrain, but the 360 view is breath-taking!).
Try the Coffee & the Bread – This may hurt many of you to hear, but American coffee, tea, and baked goods are rubbish… there, I said it. (Mom – this doesn’t apply to your homemade bread; just everyone else’s). Most of Europe (if not all?) boast amazing pastries and beverages. There’s no need to be bitter – just please partake. Not every place is Paris (ohmygosh the bread!) or Italy (coffee, duh), but these foods are staples in most places, and are done differently and done well everywhere I’ve been. And since they are ubiquitous, they’re a fun and easy way to rate the cities you’ve been to. A few of my favourites… You’ve not lived until you’ve had a cafe au lait and an almond croissant sitting outside on a warm Paris morning. The tea in Istanbul was fantastic, and I rarely prefer tea. Last week in Glasgow I had 6 slices of bread/butter at the Mussel Inn… okay it might have been 8!
Indulge in Local the Cuisine – Similar to the rule above, I’d encourage you to take every opportunity to enjoy the local specialities. “When in Rome…” is a healthy attitude for travel, especially when it comes to nourishment (Montezuma’s Revenge aside). And you will likely find foods/drinks that are not available stateside for various reasons – so eat up! A few favourites… Scotch in Glasgow (Haggis is also worth a try), Ireland (Guinness for many, Jameson for me), pancakes and poffertjes in Amsterdam, baklava, Turkish delight, and shisha (hookah) in Istanbul.
Ride Bicycles – Many cities offer cheap bikes, which can be rented for a few hours, OR have a program similar to the Divvy model in Chicago (NYC, London, Paris, et al. also have 30-minute schemes). Riding bikes allows you to see more of the area. It’s great exercise, and offers a welcome respite from the walking you’ve probably been doing. Oh, and it’s just plain fun. Riding along the Seine on a velib’ one afternoon was one of my favourite memories of Paris.
Mind the Weather – This may be obvious, but it’s important nonetheless. Make sure you check the weather before traveling, and check often during your trip. That rule was cemented in my brain in Glasgow as I walked to meet up with Dan and Alyssa. In a 10 minute window I experienced the following – sunny skies, grey skies, high winds, rain, sleet, rain, rain stops, rain starts, snow, rain, rain stops. I shouldn’t have expected anything less from Scotland!
My overarching goals when traveling are to (1) find time to rest, (2) be joyful, and (3) be humbled by God’s creation – through nature, and through diversity of culture. Your goals will surely differ, but I hope at least one of these tips will make your next trip a little more enjoyable!