Gluten-Free Travel Tips for Europe and Beyond

When people would ask me what happens when I eat gluten, I used to joke: “You really don’t want to know!” Wink wink, nudge nudge! But when a coworker (on whom I’d already used my little line) asked me yet again to clarify, I realized that my polite reply was more evasive than explanatory. People were not “getting it.”

So now when they ask, I give the straightforward answer: 

Really. Bad. Diarrhea.

There, I said it. 

And that’s a great segue to the topic of being socially awkward.

It can be socially awkward having to ask for “special” food whenever dining out or with friends. People often assume that you’re just being picky or that you’re into annoying fad diets.

But I’ll tell you what’s even more socially awkward: The panic of Continue reading “Gluten-Free Travel Tips for Europe and Beyond”

The Ten-Pound Note’s New Face (It’s not Mr. Darcy!)

Although the review in my handy Rick Steves’ England guidebook wasn’t exactly a glowing one, I decided to make the visit anyway. I had grown up on Jane Austen novels and their television and film adaptations. Besides that, I also thought the underappreciated 2013 comedic film, Austenland, was rather a hoot. So why not check out the Jane Austen Centre as well?

After all, it’s not everyday I get to visit the Georgian-Era spa town of Bath, which my guidebook tells me has more “‘government-listed’ or protected historic buildings per capita than any other town in England.”

In fact, I had only ever visited Bath once before, on my thirtieth birthday, to be precise. I had managed to escape from the seafaring toils of my then floating home and workplace, the RMS Queen Mary 2, by escorting a passenger tour from Southampton, where the cruise ship was docked for the day.

This May, almost exactly ten years later, I was looking forward to revisiting the lovely English city, including the Royal Crescent, which had left quite an impression on me the first time around.

The Royal Crescent is a Georgian-Era row of 30 terraced houses — the seven-year-long construction of which was completed just two years before the US gained its independence in 1776. (Back when it was still just an unruly colony.)

the-royal-crescent
The Royal Crescent

From the expanse of manicured green lawn within the embrace of the crescent’s arc, one enjoys a fine example of the beautiful symmetry you’ll find all over Bath.

Georgian architecture, incidentally, gets its name from the time span of its reign, which coincided with that of four successive “George” monarchs: George I, George II, George III, and George IV, between 1714 and 1830.

By Jove, that’s a lot of Georges! Continue reading “The Ten-Pound Note’s New Face (It’s not Mr. Darcy!)”

From Devil’s Drink to Frappuccino: The Coffee Scene in Italy is About to Change

Bear with me while I reminisce about my first. I remember it distinctly: that very first sip of coffee with milk frothed up by way of pressurized steam.

A cappuccino.

Some of my earliest recollections revolve around the time I learned from my parents that we’d be leaving our home in Wichita, Kansas, to move to Greece. The idea was very confusing to me. I was four years old and fairly confident that Greece was a blob in a frying pan, not a habitable location.

Spoiler Alert: I was wrong.

We moved to Athens. Everything was so new and different. It was the first time I could recall having encountered something along the lines of café culture. In those days I was too young to have been able to form any such concept of lifestyles and how they differ based on culture — yet still, I had noticed a difference.

The streets were full of people. People out walking or shopping at local markets. People who enjoyed watching people. Lively social interactions were part of the daily street scene. Life in Athens was livelier and more pedestrian-centric than what I had been used to in small-town, USA. (Not that I was drawing on much experience at that point in time.)

Now back to that first sip. I think I was already five by then, and we were getting settled into life abroad.

I was with my parents and sisters in a public gathering place — let’s call it a coffeehouse or café — but I did not know what a cappuccino was. My parents had each ordered the frothy beverage, and it looked so inviting, so tempting, so… YUMMY.

I begged them to let me have some. Eventually they gave in and allowed me a sip. I carefully held the warm cup with both hands and drew it in. What I imagined as a sort of chocolate-infused liquid-marshmallow mix touched my lips, it approached my taste buds, and… and… Continue reading “From Devil’s Drink to Frappuccino: The Coffee Scene in Italy is About to Change”

It’s About Damn Time

Sometimes my own inertia drives me nuts.

I’ve been trying to get this blog up and running for what seems like eons. The idea started forming around 2009, I think. Four years later I actually bought the domain name. Woop!

While ideas ruminated at the back of my mind, the site sat in limbo for several more years, feeling all neglected. Wah waah.

Another thing that drives me nuts is the opportunities I’ve let slip by. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy with many things I’ve done. I don’t mean to be all negative or down on myself, but I’ll just explain.

I feel very fortunate to have done a bit of traveling in my lifetime.

Queen Elizabeth 2 docked in Lae, Papua New Guinea, 2004

I just wish I had kept a journal or blog during my summer on Crete, my six weeks in Amsterdam, the seven years on cruise ships, or that time I drove across the US when I was twenty. Not to mention those three cold winter months learning German in Germany, in an intensive-language program where I was the only American in a class full of Russians.

Jawohl! Fun times. 

And then there are the more recent travels I wish I had documented.

This June I returned to Seattle after six incredible weeks spent in Europe, starting in Istanbul, followed by travels in England and Wales, then Switzerland and Italy. Not long before that I was lucky to be able to spend ten days in Paris celebrating my 40th birthday and running the Paris marathon.

2016 Paris Marathon

Yippie! My bucket list felt very fulfilled that week.

And last November I got to spend a week in Cuba (una semana en Havana!) exploring the most unique, historically- and culturally-rich, as well as the largest city in the Caribbean — while also trying to improve my rudimentary Spanish skills.

The question now is, did I take full advantage of those amazing opportunities? Did I share pictures on my blog? Or any of the day-to-day stories? Did I even get my blog up and running in time? Did I?   Continue reading “It’s About Damn Time”