25 July 2013

Six Things I Learnt On The Trip That Was*

1. Germans do have a sense of humour. 
Germans generally get a bad rap in the humour department; I think it is undeserved. I offer this little tale as proof.

When you cruise in Europe, one of the things you notice is that any announcement onboard goes for a very long time. That's because they do it in five or so languages. And whilst it's pretty impressive to hear the same person switch from Italian to English to French to German to Spanish without skipping a beat, the time it takes does wear a bit thin. 

So - we were sitting in the theatre one day, gathered with our life jackets and a few hundred other people for our emergency evacuation drill (we'd been a bit naughty and missed the drill on day one...). It was just after midday so we'd all been dragged away from reading a good book by the pool, or settling into a three course lunch at the buffet, or just generally lazing about contemplating our next gelato. And we were all keen to get back to our book / lunch / gelato. The emergency drill kicked of in Italian, then moved on to English. Then they asked if any one spoke Español, a few people put their hands up. There was general eye rolling around the room - a third language meant more time inside, away from the sunshine. Then they asked if any one spoke Deutsch and a firm, loud 'NEIN!' rang out across the room...

2. Grande does not always mean what you think it means. 
We travel pretty light, but knowing that there were potentially three adults, one adult-sized kid and one kid on the road trip part of this holiday I specifically  booked a 'grande' car. When we went to pick it up, the lady at the car hire counter confirmed it was indeed a grande car. Awesome, right?

Except that, as it turned out, us and our carry-on luggage barely squeezed into this grande car (and that was with one less adult than originally planned). Fitting the bags in the boot was like an advanced game of tetris; backpacks were piled on the backseat, legs were around armpits. This 'grande' car (for which I paid a grande-ish premium) was smaller than the 'standard' car we'd usually drive.

I know to expect smaller hotel rooms when travelling in Europe, but I had no idea this extended to hire cars.

3. Fifteen year olds say the phrase 'on the podcast I listen to' a lot.
And by a lot, I mean a lot. I think it's awesome and exciting when kids find something on their own that they're really, really in to. A band, an artist, a podcast...but dear lord if I never hear that phrase again, well, I'd be perfectly okay with that.

4. Holidays aren't always relaxing.
To be honest, perhaps we were a little mad thinking we could fit in a two week trip to Europe around the relocation, the renovation and the husband's new job. We spent a lot of time chasing wifi signals (thank goodness Italy has come a long way in that regard), typing emails, figuring out if it was an appropriate hour to call Chicago or Sydney or Seoul, drafting org charts and compiling (rather long) to do lists for when we got back home... 

Luckily for the second half of the trip we were staying in agriturismi with poolside wifi, so the boys were happy to frolic in the water or read in the sunshine while we did our stuff. And we still managed to squeeze in some down time (especially on the boat where quite often we had no wifi or phone signal at all - enforced bliss!). Maybe we weren't that mad after all...

5. Not everywhere accepts credit card.
One hot day we were sitting in a restaurant in Tropea, eating lunch before heading off on a ferry to see Stromboli. Just after our antipasto, midway through our primo piatto, we asked if they took credit card. They didn't. A quick check of our wallets proved we were in for a good few hours of dishwashing if we didn't make a quick dash up the ridiculously steep cliff steps in the baking hot sun to find the only ATM in the village (and by 'we' I mean 'I'). 

(Also, speaking of the only ATM in the village, did I mention the husband managed to break it the next day? And did I mention it was the only ATM in the whole town?) 

(Which reminds me - if the elderly English couple who tried to use the ATM after us is reading this, I really hope you already had enough cash to pay for your lunch...)

6. Goats are awesome.
This little guy lived at the beautiful Villa Rizzo. He had a gimpy leg and giant eyes and ran over to have his head scratched when you called out to him. He was adorable.

*Bonus! Includes gratuitous gross generalisations based on nationality! 


  1. Goats are the best. My recent trip photos contain a suspicious number of goat photos.

  2. Also, http://www.flickr.com/photos/59055972@N00/9122863663/in/photolist-eUa4wP-eu9Y6k-eucgE1

  3. I love your sense of humour! I learned that holidays aren't always fun with our smalls on our recent trip but I think it was (maybe!) still worth it. Your photos are glorious!!!

    1. Thanks Cat! And yes, travelling with smalls (or not-so-smalls in my case!) is a whole new adventure...it's the best and (sometimes) the worst, but well worth it for the best bits I think. Now you've got me thinking about travelling with kids tips...there's a blog post in that for sure!

  4. Hah! Living as an expat here in Germany has taught me many of the things you recently learned (credit cards, cash only places, traveling light - like REALLY light), but I still don't always get the sense of humor here. Rental cars vary from place to place in Europe, but I found Italy, the Netherlands, and Denmark's cars to be small (unless you're around here in the land of BMW/Audi/Mercedes). It's better to have a small rental car in Italy because the roads, especially some of the smaller town roads, can be incredibly narrow and parking is kind of a nightmare if your hired car was any bigger. ;) Sounds like you had a bit of fun in between.

    1. Interesting...the other thing I noticed is that you cannot hire an automatic car in Italy, at all! We got an auto in Spain last year but no chance in Italy. I'm guessing the high-tech Germans would be all over the automatic gear box?

      And your comment about small cars / small roads made my laugh out loud! We (the passengers) were complaining on this trip that our driver (the husband) won't leave a small Italian town until he's found the narrowest street in the whole place, which he drives through whilst yelling 'breathe in everybody!'.

    2. It's still hard to find an automatic even 'round here. It's a huge price difference, too. You pay significantly more for an automatic here in Munich.

      And narrow roads in Italy... yes. I had the experience where the road curved left and unexpectedly turned into a one-way-sorta-half road and there was a tractor coming directly at me. I froze, and the driver just wheeled around me in my panic. :D

  5. Great pics Emily and I love the story about the Germans on the ship. Brilliant! :)

  6. Hahahahaha, love your funny Germans story!

    Yes, all too often a "holiday" is not really a holiday. I just like to tell myself it is an adventure. And adventures are good!

    ps: I also need to write a blog post on traveling with (smaller) children, I am an expert now.

  7. I'm German, and I found the first thing you learned very funny. ;o)

  8. I love the composition in your photos I feel inspired! Keep up the good work <3


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