Where We Were Made:
We had been on the go for seven days until we even got to Europe. We left Victoria on Wednesday night (Sept 13th), and got to our hometown in Hamilton at 6am. Bleary eyed and disoriented with time change no.1, we visited our family and close friends. The following day we started the next part of our journey to Kingston, Ontario for John’s sister’s wedding and got slightly derailed. As we were pulling into an en route in the middle of bum- nowhere, a van reversed directly into us. It happened in slow motion, as these things tend to, and there was nothing we could do to protect the beautiful Infiniti rental car from getting smacked on the passenger side. So much for being able to use those car doors for the weekend. That resulted in us having to file a police report in Napanee, apparently where no police officer works in that designated area. What an efficient use of our time. Instead of getting to Kingston for 1:30 as we had planned, we didn’t get there until 4pm. The day continued, we went to the wedding rehearsal and eventually got to our designated sleeping spots. This was the second longest day of my life.
And then it was wedding day! The morning was spent doing the usual primping and priming for the ladies, while indulging in a delicious breakfast and watching Friends (the one where Monica and Chandler get married of course!). I really have no idea what men do during this time period, but I assume they were keeping busy in some way. Eventually we were at the Kingston Waterfront waiting for the ceremony to begin. As if this car couldn’t be cursed anymore, doesn’t water spill all over my dress from the flowers five minutes before we have to walk down the aisle. I definitely gave the ladies sitting at the waterfront a show as I fervently attempted to dry my dress by blasting the AC with my bottom on display of the car dashboard. Despite that, what a lovely day! I could not be happier for Nick and Christina. They are absolutely perfect together and I wish them a lifetime of love and happiness.
After dancing and indulging in a few drinks, I decided it was time to retire from the festivities, since we needed to be at the Toronto airport for 4:30am. So, again, off we went at an ungodly hour to get to our next destination. We dropped off the banged up vehicle with no trouble and did the security check in procedure and we were off to London, England!
London: Loos, Beadles, and Books
Hello time change no. 2. We arrived in London at 10:30pm and got taken to our hotel, The Connaught, in a not banged up Mercedes something or other. Oh my goodness, I’ve never been anywhere so fancy. I felt like a true country mouse. We stayed in the “Contemporary” part that had the fancy toilets. What a luxury to not have to touch the toilet seat and sit down to a warm seat (this did not help in preparing me for what I was going to encounter in Italy). Needless to say, my butt was quite happy. Okay enough loo talk. We wolfed down burgers and fries at midnight (how elegant) that were way too expensive, and then passed out.
I woke to the dull gray that is London, and prettied myself up for breakfast, attempting not to be the country bumpkin that I felt like. Apparently athletic leisurewear is non-existent in London and Lulu’s are unacceptable outside of the comfort of your own home. And of course it was fashion week. Despite feeling slightly out of place, I tried not to slink past the models in the hallways and pretend like they had nothing on me. And really they are just people in fancy clothes anyway. Trying to look glamourous all the time is exhausting. I was over it by the time we left. Also, they all kept calling me Mrs. Nowak, to which, my initial reaction was a blank stare and then realization they were referring to yours truly. I’m still getting used to my married name apparently. I strolled around the Mayfair area of London, walking down Carnaby street and Burlington Arcade, wandering into Fortnam and Mason, which has the Royal Crest on the outside indicating that the Queen shops here, specifically for her tea. I was really hoping to find a proper hairdryer with a diffuser for my unruly hair, which I was successful in finding. A little historical fact: The Burlington Arcade has a history of prostitution and to this day you are not allowed to whistle or sing down the alleyway as it was a warning signal that police or Beadles were approaching.
One slightly annoying part of this entire trip was that everyone thought I was American. And I replied slightly indignantly that I was in fact Canadian which was well received. Everyone loves Canada! Keep it up Canadians, we are the best kind of people (according to a good ol’ chap I met in a scarf shop).
The next few days went by in a flash. We toured through London and walked the Thames River, saw the Eye, Big Ben and got a ride to Harrod’s from a proper English bloke (as they say). I could only understand about every fourth word but it was the most entertaining taxi ride I’ve ever had. Harrod’s was overwhelming but truly the store of all department stores. We mosied into Hatchards, a bookstore that’s been around since 1797! I was in my perfect paradise; there were books galore and I really could have spent days in there. I really would have loved to spend more time in London but we were soon packing up our suitcases and heading off to Italy.
Italy: Wine, Canoli’s and Selfie Sticks
Time change no. 3. I hate airplanes, I really do. And airports for that matter. The entire process of security and luggage is very inefficient outside of Canada. We boarded the next germ filled tube stuffed with mouth breathing strangers and eventually arrived in Rome. We were picked up by a gentleman who didn’t speak English, but kindly brought us to our sleeping quarters downtown. In hindsight, it was a little sketchy because we had no idea where we were going and who this man was. Thank goodness we didn’t end up in someone’s freezer. We dumped our bags and quickly sought out food. Pasta dish numero uno! Full disclosure: I ate countless amounts of pasta, cannoli, gelati and vino. It was a foodcation and I loved it! Our apartment was minutes away from the Spanish Steps, which was a very cool hangout spot at nighttime. We made our way to the Coliseum the next day, stopping for gelati and waiting in an hour-long line to see the ruin. It was completely worth the wait. Like, that thing was built in 80 AD and we were standing in it! Talk about ancient.
If going to Rome, be prepared for the following things: lots of walking, lots of people, rude customer service (Romans, you are not nice), cheap wine, expensive water, (bring a water bottle with you and find a fountain, the tap water is safe to drink), crazy drivers, horrible plumbing (it’s nice if a public toilet actually has a seat) small narrow streets, lots of cobblestone, no elevators, women in heels, men in slacks, cigarettes everywhere and a very distinct buzz that is Roma. Sitting in an alleyway in the afternoon, having a glass of wine, wedged between old stucco buildings with laundry hanging out the balconies, you realize it is truly a unique place like no other. One night, we went to a little jazz bar and met a couple that had lived across the street from us in Toronto. They had decided to explore something new and spend a year living in Rome. We listened to their experiences and they confessed to having some difficulties, specifically with the language barrier and that nothing is soft in Italy. They had wished for soft pillows from Costco, a thing we apparently take for granted living in Canada. And I can vouch for the lack of softness because our bed in the Roma apartment was like a board and the floor had the roughest carpeting I’ve ever experienced.
On a side note, I am going to rant about a little modern day invention called the selfie-stick (I’m sorry in advance if you are an avid user, but I do not approve) There is a time and place to take pictures, and when you are in a holy place, such as the Vatican put it away! Enjoy the experience. I do admit to taking a few photos but I would like to say that I was a little more dignified and subtle with my photo taking, as I was not posing in front of a holy priests’ tombstone with my tongue sticking out. End rant.
Our final destination was Sorrento. In initially planning our trip, we did not fully think of the logistics of getting from Rome to Sorrento, which was about three hours away from each other, down the “dreaded” Almaflie coast. To be honest, the road itself isn’t that bad, it’s the drivers. I would say that the road to Tofino BC gives the Amalfie coast a good run for its money. Anyway, we decided to rent a car and drive there. Well John drove and I diligently provided directions. Kudos to John for driving because bloody hell, Italians drive like mad; they may as well be throwing bananas out of their windows. Although, I do respect their aggressive driving, especially living in a tourist city like Victoria, where the speed-limit is like 40 kms. My motto now when I’m driving, is “Drive like an Italian,” while reaching over John to honk the horn, much to his disapproval.
Sorrento was the relaxing part of our trip once we got to our hotel. We were able to sit poolside, read and have a few afternoon drinks, whilst enjoying the beautiful view of Mount Vesuvius. Eventually the conversation lulled between us, as we had been together for a solid one-week period, and sought out conversation with a lovely English couple. They had a hell of a time on the bus excursion down the Amalfi coast and recommended doing the private tour if we were planning to go.
We went into the town of Sorrento one day, where there are various shoe-makers, obscene amounts of limoncello, and many stray dogs. Not a bad place to be a stray dog if you ask me, lots of tourists and yummy pizza crusts to mooch. We stopped in various shops, one of them being a wine store, looking for some vino to have that evening. Well wouldn’t you know that Italians really believe in using Windex, because damn if I didn’t see that glass door I walked straight into. Oh the shame. John lovingly covered my burning face with a bear hug and we quickly made our exit, much to the scowling looks of the owners. I can only imagine the fiasco if I had broken the door.
Sorrento also has a buzz but not quite like Roma or London, it’s busy but more relaxed and I would even say tired. You see more of the day-to -day, blue-collar grind here. We passed by a woman on the side of the road in Sorrento with no nose, holding her baby. I do not know her story, and I can only speculate the things she’s been through. I wanted to give her everything I had on me, and looking back, why didn’t I? It’s just stuff, I had more of it. I woke up to seeing her face in my dreams that evening and I will likely never forget that.
We said goodbye to the Sorrento sunsets and olive trees and eventually retraced our steps back to the Rome airport, starting off with me having to give the little rental car a push to get us out the steep driveway. This was the start of our twenty-four hour travel day, and by far, the longest day of my life. We hopped from Rome to Toronto, Toronto to Vancouver, Vancouver to Victoria and by the end of it, I felt like we had travelled through ten galaxies and found myself asking “what year is it?!”. With all the travelling though, it truly felt good to be back in Canada, where the toilets work and Tim Horton’s is king.
Everyone keeps asking me what my favourite part was, and I honestly think that I was just happy to have explored these places with my hubs. Neither of us had ever visited the UK or Europe before, and it was really amazing to experience all of it together. After a year of being married, we’ve learned a few things (at least I have), including how to travel together and not kill each other. But marriage truly is a sea-saw and yes it’s tricky, because it’s a constant give and take. It’s about knowing when to push and when to let up. Standing by through the good and bad, and knowing that there are going to be as many tears as there are smiles. And really, compromise has the ultimate say. Of course there is still some room for improvement… For myself, learning to let the little things go and John maybe not leaving so many little things on the floor. Exactly one month ago we were standing in the Coliseum together and one year before that, we got married. Here’s to many more years of travelling with my ever so patient and loving husband. Happy one-year anniversary.