What I Learned from My European Vacation

Eight hours. That’s how long it takes to fly nonstop to Rome from New York. But after you factor in packing, traveling to and from the airport, and going through customs, it feels more like eight days.

Is it worth it?

Yes.

Even though the customs agents ask a million times if you have any goods you’re going to sell, it’s worth it. Even with people pushing and shoving, cutting you off, and trying to sell you useless crap, it is totally and completely worth it.

Then after a day and a half in Rome, the flight to Lisbon, Portugal is another three hours. A car ride to Porto, yet three more.

Worth it. For so many reasons. One being the beauty. Two, spending time with people you adore. Three, the experience.

Anyway, when you spend an extended amount of time with the same people, you can pick up some habits from them.

I am a definite habit-picker-upper. I cannot go to North Carolina to visit my parents for even a day without coming home sounding like an Appalachian pageant queen.

So, the habit I picked up from one of my travel mates (who shall remain nameless)?

Let’s just say it’s never a good idea to respond to a “hello” from a colleague by saying “hey hoe” in a staff meeting. “Hoe” as in not what you garden with. That will be 1% off my raise come appraisal time. If I keep that up, I’ll be owing the company money. Or begging for it in the street.

Packed like sardines in a tin can. No one cared. “Push push shove shove.” That seems to be the theme song over there.

Europeans are unaware of the term, “personal space.” I am the type of person who, if you are not at least arm’s length away from me, I am offended. These people will not only enter your personal space, but they will take it. And with no apologies. As someone from New York, this is an offense of colossal proportions and people should be thrown in the clinker for stealing another’s space.

The street peddlers in Rome are a force to be reckoned with. If you don’t buy what they are throwing at you, you are a “cagna.” It’s nice to know I am a bitch in another country. I felt right at home.

I pretty much can’t eat anything fried, processed, acidic, or fatty because I suffer from GERD. During my visit I didn’t have one single bout of it. Do you want to know why? Because they eat the way people were intended to eat, and not like an African bush elephant. You’ll be hard pressed to find anything processed. Everything is fresh, and the portions are small.

Fresh spaghetti, fresh sauce, small portion

Dinner isn’t until at least 9PM. We didn’t eat before 10PM. The streets are alive, people can actually walk around in public with wine, the joy was palpable. I wanted to stay forever just to be able to experience this every single day.

The breakfast that we are accustomed to does not exist. Unless you go to a touristy area. The sign outside a restaurant that says, “American Breakfast here” will make you feel at home like the African Bush eleph…er, I mean, American, that you are. Otherwise, you need to be accepting of croissants, fresh breads with jam, fresh fruit, and cappuccino. Forget about a normal cup of coffee. It doesn’t exist.

Chocolate croissant. Heaven.

Since we’re on the subject of food, there is no need to tip at a restaurant (or anywhere for that matter) because they have an actual salary and don’t get paid in peanuts. Also, you can sit and enjoy your meal for hours. The servers will not bother you and will not bring the bill unless you specifically ask for it. And when you do ask for it because it’s been six hours and you have things to do, you know, like go to bed, they will respond by saying, “Are you sure? There is no rush.”

As someone who is always rushing, it was a little off-putting at first. But by the end of the week, I realized this was something I want to do for the rest of my life. I enter a state of calm when I even think about it.

No, your eyes do not deceive you. That is indeed a wine truck.

Drugs are legal as long as you are carrying 5 grams or less. The smell of marijuana was everywhere. I believe I got a contact high from it. And guess what else? There is no Heroin epidemic over there. Let that sink in.

The Sistine Chapel is a glorious site to behold. As long as you have the patience to get to it, that is. You have to walk through a maze-like museum first. We felt like beef cattle on the way to a slaughter. It was terrifying. The ten thousand signs on the way let us know we were on the right track. And once we entered the Chapel, I didn’t realize it. “Why are all those people standing in the middle of that floor looking up?” Oh. Right. Michelangelo.

The cattle and the signs, signs, signs. Everywhere there’s signs.
Stained glass and chandeliers. In McDonald’s

Even the McDonald’s was breathtaking. And instead of a plastic three inch princess, you get a beach towel. That actually absorbs water. Amazing. The plastic princess doesn’t do that.

You’d think they were drinking camel urine

I discovered I like port wine a little more than I thought. Not enough to partake in it on a regular basis, but enough to sit through a tasting. The “children” in our party — don’t worry, these children are both of legal drinking age — did not appreciate it. Youth is wasted on the young.

How could you not appreciate port wine with this view?

And the piece de resistance? The afternoon “siesta.” Or in Italy, a riposo. Businesses (apart from the touristy areas) shut down. Like, close and lock the doors, for up to two and a half hours, every single afternoon. This is called self-care. And we should take a page from their book.

In a nutshell, we all need to drink wine in the streets, take two hour naps daily, eat healthy foods, and slow down. I know I would be a better person for it. Wouldn’t you?