Saturday, February 16, 2008

One Year.

The milestone of being in Cambridge for a year (as of 12 Feb.) slipped by unmentioned on the blog, but certainly not unnoticed. One freakin' year. Most of the time, it feels like one month. We're actually starting to worry that we're not going to have time to do everything we want to do in the U.K./Europe before we return – that is, if we don't change our return date of two years from nowish.

We've learned a lot about each other, ourselves, England, Europe, and travel. Here are a few lessons we've learned in the last year:

1. Always make tea. Neighbor drops by? Make tea. Plumber's coming? Put on the kettle. Don't feel well? Nothing like a cuppa. Stressed out, tired, awake, anxious, calm, mad, sad, happy? Make tea.

2. Always bring a towel. What works for Arthur Dent works for you, too. OK, maybe not literally a towel, but a washcloth is often handy when traveling. So's a travel clock – I've encountered very few hotels/B&Bs that have clocks in the rooms. Ladies, always pack a light (or heavy) pashmina, unless you're going to a beach, then make it a sarong. Toss an umbrella into the suitcase, too. I could go on – perhaps I'll stop here and revisit in a later post.

3. Learn a bit of the local language. Always try to learn how to say hello, goodbye, thank you, excuse me (often different words to get someone's attention or if you, say, knock down an old lady), I'm sorry (also helpful for aforementioned old lady), I don't speak English, and two beers, please.

4. Learn the tipping standards. The US is the highest in terms of tipping. In many other countries, you just round up the bill to the nearest dollar. Some places you tip a taxi driver; others you don't. Etc.

5. Invest in good shoes. Self explanatory.

6. Try the local food. OK, you don't have to eat snails. But find out what the local specialties are and try them.

7. Value personal recommendations over guidebooks. Find someone who's gone to the city you've gone to and get their recommendations. Guidebooks excel at making places sound absolutely amazing; if you only follow those recommendations, you're guaranteed some disappointments.

8. Watch people. Take time out from racing around and sightseeing to just take in your surroundings and observe the locals.

9. Don't assume that because you and they speak English that they will understand you.

10. Simple meals from a market can rival the best meal from a restaurant.

11. Pay at least the tiniest bit of attention to football (soccer); it will provide endless hours of conversation.

12. Eat bread in France, drink beer in Belgium, eat meat in Spain, drink port in Portugal, eat pretzels in Germany. (I'm sure there are many eating rules regarding Italy, but we haven't been there yet.)

13. When driving, you can always keep going around a roundabout.

14. You don't have to buy new. New furniture, new electronics, etc. Be an environmentalist: Repair things and buy second hand to reduce junk.

15. Watch British quiz shows. You won't understand a lot of things, but you get insight into humor and history.

16. Cycling is awesome, particularly in very flat areas.

17. Friends and family are just a plane flight/phone call/e-mail/IM away. The distance can be hard, but all these things make it much more bearable.

We can't wait to see what lessons the next year brings!


Nicki said...

gosh, where did the year go - i just love reading the blog, it makes me feel as if I am part of your journey - love, Nicki

John Kelly said...

Happy anniversary. We just passed the halfway point in our English sojourn. Like you, I'm worried we won't fit in all we want to. I think the last week here will be spent in a mad dash.

We're headed to Madrid this weekend. Any advice? I mean, besides to eat the meat?

KT&JT said...

Madrid--lucky you. Coincidentally, the Independent is having Spanish week and today contains a free Lonely Planet Guide to Madrid! We haven't been yet ourselves. Add it to the list.