Sunday, 7 October 2018

Italy Prima Parte: Water, Water Everywhere

I'm sitting in our B&B room in Agerola, high above Amalfi, as I write this morning, looking out at the clouds that sit on the terrace, with the windows wide open desperately hoping that the underwear and socks and tee shirts we washed by hand yesterday morning will somehow dry. Ha. Faint hope, I think. 

View of the Amalfi coast from Agerola
View of Amalfi taken as we walked the steps down from Agerola
Yesterday we hung them on the outdoor dryer on the terrace and made our way down to Amalfi on foot, in sunshine and heat. That's the view of Amalfi, above, about halfway down. We returned in clouds and rain, to our laundry as wet as when we left. With some weilding of the hairdryer, and a few hours in the window, I remain hopeful that I won't have to enact Hubby's canoe camping solution. (i.e. letting body heat dry them.) Ick. It may work in a pinch in the middle of Algonquin Park, but I've no desire to wriggle my way to Positano tomorrow in wet underwear. Okay. Maybe that's too much information?  

Anyhoo, Hubby has gone walk-about in the rain this morning, and I'm having a lazy morning to myself. The first since we landed in Venice two weeks ago. 

Ah, Venice. Venice was wonderful. Water, lots of water, and crowds, and emptiness. But, let me explain. 

We didn't actually stay in Venice, but on the smaller island of Murano, where the traditional glass makers live. We loved it there. Our room in our small B&B hotel had a balcony overlooking the canal from which we watched the boats chug by early each morning, delivering everything from toilet paper and bottled water to vegetables and wine to the various shops and restaurants. Murano was right up our canal, so to speak. Beautiful, quiet, and practically empty after 6 pm. That's the view from our balcony below.

Afternoon view from our room at the Murano Palace
Afternoon view from our room at the Murano Palace
I will say that on the first night the emptiness took us by surprise. We napped late in the afternoon, thinking we'd arise and, in an hour or so, join the laughing and chatting people enjoying an aperitif in the sidewalk cafes below our windows. Ha. When we finally made our way downstairs, we were shocked that everything was shut, locked up tighter than a drum. "What the...?"  Our host Cesare had said that Murano was very quiet in the evening, but we didn't expect it to be dead. "Never mind," we said, "We'll find something open." And we did. We ate in a different restaurant each night, had some very good meals, and each evening enjoyed a beautiful, almost ethereal, stroll back to our room at the Murano Palace. With the streets to ourselves, the light of a full moon reflecting on the canals, and the occasional church bell, I kid you not, it was so lovely I thought I might be dreaming. 

Moonlight on the canal in Murano
Moonlight on the canal in Murano
The next day we took the water bus to Venice. Wow. The crowds were overwhelming. And a bit off-putting. We booked a "skip-the-line" ticket to tour Basilica San Marco, and almost didn't make it on time. Because of high tides and strong winds, the square was ankle deep in water. We tried skirting the water only to encounter crowds of other tourists trying to do the same thing. So there was nothing for it but to pull off our sneakers and socks, roll up our pants, and wade. Funny how facing adversity together (or inconvenience, I should say) can make people convivial, isn't it? The other waders we met laughed at us, and we at them, and at the more squeamish who were trying to sidle along the edges and not get wet. By the time we made it to the end of the square, the boards had been set up and we waited patiently in line to shuffle along them, trying to stare down those who tried to butt into line. What is it about some people who think that lines are not for them? Hubby calls it "obliviousness," this inability to understand that we're all affected by whatever is happening. I call it the "but it's me" trait. The idea that some people know there are rules and queues, and still think "but it's me and I have to be somewhere important." I love the attitude of these wedding guests, below, who were still laughing as they waded.

Wading wedding guests in Saint Mark's Square
Wading wedding guests in Saint Mark's Square
Inside Saint Mark's we rented audio guides, which didn't work properly. Why does this always happen to us? So we simply wandered and looked. Later we found a small cafe for lunch, after briefly sitting down in another one, checking the prices, and leaving once Hubby had recovered from his near coronary. It was much more to our liking to sit in a cheap cafe in a side street, eat pasta, and watch the people. We saw one bride and groom, with a sweet little girl in her own pink wedding finery, arrive at the gondola stop, wait, and, after checking their map, decide that they were in the wrong place and hurry away. You can see them consulting their map in the shot below, with just a glimpse of the little girl in pink between them. I do hope they found where they were supposed to be. 

Bride and groom consulting their map in Venice.
Bride and groom consulting their map in Venice.
Later we took an interesting walking tour of the small streets and piazzas, and then squeezed into a very crowded water bus back to Murano. Once there, we breathed a sigh of relief that we'd decided to book into the Murano Palace. Away from the crowds. And the lines. Venice is amazing. Other worldly. But I cannot say the we exactly enjoyed our day there. On our final day, instead of returning to Venice as planned, we took the boat to Burano, watched a traditional lacemaker, chatted to a lady in a shop about the challenges of trying to keep this ancient art alive, strolled, and soaked up the ambiance. I'm glad that our last day was lovely, and not fraught with jostling crowds. I want the memory of pink houses in the sunshine, lapping water, and bobbing gondolas to be what remains in my mind when I think of Venice. 

Lovely quiet Burano with its colourful houses
Lovely quiet Burano.

colorful houses, and woman smiling on Burano Island, Venice
Matching my scarf to Burano colours
Since Venice, we've been in Florence, toodled through mountain passes and open "campos," and are now on the Amalfi Coast. I've much more to say about Italy (quel surprise) but time and sketchy internet signals may interfere. We've a little over a week to go before we head back to Canada, and my ramblings and philosophizing may have to wait until I'm ensconced in my little den back home. I will say I have developed a great love of church bells. Especially of the tinny, clanging variety. Hubby has said more than once that he thinks I've enough atmospheric videos of town squares at dusk with ringing bells in the background. The shot below is of the old town of Vieste where we had one of our best ever dinner experiences. But more on that later.

street lights, ancient stone stairs and walls in Vieste, Italy
Dusk in Vieste. Trust me, there are Bells.
Right now, as I'm writing, I can hear the little bell in the square here in Agerola; "the clock upbraids me with a waste of time" as Olivia says in Twelfth Night. The rain has stopped. Maybe my clothes are dry. And Hubby awaits. After all, I can't sit all day long, now can I? 

There's much more to come on Italy anon.  But for now, arrivederci, amici miei

Linking up this week with Thursday Favourite Things and Saturday Share Link-up.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

21 Days in Italy: Packed and Ready to Go

I have a new mantra for travel packing, my friends: pack to please myself. Period. That sounds so obvious, doesn't it? But since last week when I decided on my wardrobe plan for this trip, I've been waffling. Suffering from middle of the night second guessing precipitated by way too much time on Pinterest, and way too many of those bossy blog posts of the "how to pack" variety. Still, despite all this doubt, I've decided to stick to my original colour palette of black and white basics. For twenty-one days in Italy, I'm packing only outfits that are comfortable, reasonably polished, and in which I feel well and truly myself.

three shots of women in black sweater, sneakers, jeans and black cross-body bag
Black and black and blue. Not exciting, but comfortable and covered.
Yesterday I finalized my packing lists. I tried on all the pieces I intended to bring, and decided which pants and tops and shoes were appropriate for each activity, in various weather conditions. Day wear is easy. Jeans, short-sleeved or long-sleeves tees with or without a jacket or hoodie, with or without a scarf, with or without a raincoat, and sneakers. But evening wear was frustrating me somewhat. I wanted to smarten up my look a bit for dinner, without packing too many extra pieces to do so. I jettisoned a pair of black leggings for my black, cropped Rag and Bone pants, and added another long-sleeved tee that will work with both the black pants and my white jeans, with or without my Helmut Lang jacket. Below you can see the mess I created on the bed in the spare room as I rummaged and tossed and ruminated. 

a pile of clothes on a bed
After the bomb, before the sorting.
I decided I would pack my new Uniqlo down vest, after all. I love it so much. And because I'm bringing it, I threw in this navy, white, and pink Massimo Dutti striped cotton sweater which I bought to take to South America last year, and haven't worn since. I'd almost forgotten about it until Ann in Missouri commented on this post about a similar striped sweater she'd purchased from the Ines de la Fressange collection for Uniqlo. Thanks Ann. 

woman in striped sweater, jeans, and down vest on a deck
My new Uniqlo down vest with Paige jeans, and a navy striped Massimo Dutti sweater.
I also decided that I will not make the same mistake I made packing for England last year. My error was bringing too many different outfits for evenings in London. I really need to remember to, "Keep it simple, Sue." The idea of big, famous, foreign cities can still freak me out a little, until I get there, and feel stupid and silly for worrying. I should know that classic, well-fitting jeans or black pants, and a good blazer will take me pretty much anywhere. Or anywhere we're likely to be dining. I despair sometimes, folks, I really do. Because, you know, despite being sixty-two, and travelling as much as I have, I can still feel like the kid from the farm. 

woman in striped sweater, jeans, and down vest on a deck
The kid from the farm goes to Italy. 
Here's what made the cut yesterday. Starting in the upper left corner of the shot below. I'm packing: white jeans, black pants, three pairs of blue jeans, a black blazer, a black zippered sweater, one light pullover sweater, one light hoodie, one down vest, 3 long-sleeved tees, 4 short-sleeved tees, 3 scarves. Plus loafers, running shoes, and flat sandals. Plus my Moncler anorak and my Stan Smith Adidas which I'll probably be wearing on the plane. I am not taking a dress, or a skirt, as I'd considered doing, and I'm packing only one pair of pants that might be considered even remotely "smart." C'est tout. Or I guess I should say: questo è tutto. 

folded clothes on a bed
All laundered, pressed, folded and ready to pack. 
So, only two more sleeps until we leave. The garden is cleared. Thanks to everyone who helped us eat our way through all that produce. The fridge is almost empty.  My lists are finished and mostly checked off. The laundry and ironing done, clothes all neatly folded and waiting to be packed. I've had my "trip haircut" and colour... thanks Carmen. Tomorrow I do the actual filling of the suitcases and carry-on bags. We travel with two small spinner, carry-on size, bags which we always check. And a tote bag each. I'm a very lean packer. Hubby is always astonished at what I can get into a small suitcase. We're excited. And a little nervous, as we both always are until we get where we're going. 

woman in striped sweater, jeans, and down vest on a deck
Despite my casual stance, I'm anything but chill. 
It feels a bit like the night before the first day of school when I was a kid. When the new Barbie lunch box and thermos sat waiting on the kitchen counter, the new book bag was all packed with sharpened pencils, and fresh notebooks (which we always called scribblers), and the new first day of school dress was pressed and hanging in my closet. What anticipation! Then... and now.  

But before I go I wanted to say a few words about all those oh-so-confident articles and posts, the ones that purport to tell us how to do things, like pack for travel. I'm always suspicious of people who have all the answers. I'm reminded of that scene from Pride and Prejudice when poor, flustered Maria Lucas insists she has to repack her case because the inimitable, and all-knowing, Lady Catherine de Bourgh has told her how to do it properly. Poor Lady Catherine, she ends up thwarted in every way. Her daughter does NOT marry Darcy, Elizabeth Bennet does, and, with a little encouragement from Elizabeth, Maria Lucas packs her bags to please herself. Ha. That's what comes from trying to tell people what to do. 

That's kind of rich, you might be saying, from someone who worked as a teacher for thirty years. But telling people what to do has never been my style, in or out of the classroom. I'm more of a "let's have a conversation about this" kind of gal. 

Now it's time for the part of the conversation where you talk, my friends. What's your take on those bossy articles and posts that tell us the five, or ten, or fifteen things we absolutely need to do, or have, or whatever? Or tell us how you spend the last couple of nights before a big trip, when the decisions about what to pack are made, and everything is almost ready to go. Are you able to keep excitement tamped down to a reasonable level? 

P.S. My blog post schedule will be sketchy for the next while. But you can follow me here on Instagram. I'm sure I'll be posting lots of photos. 

P.P.S. When I refer to "bossy blog posts" I am not talking about the truly helpful packing posts which simply discuss the travellers own experiences with packing. Like the ones at Une Femme d'Une Certain Âge or Materfamilias Writes. I love those ones. 

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Much Ado About Very Little

It's the calm before the storm around here at the moment. Hubby and I are treading water, not quite twiddling our thumbs, finishing up tasks on our list that need to be done before we leave for Italy, and generally trying NOT to get too excited too soon. 

I shopped last week. I found a great new travel purse, and a black Madewell tee that will round out my warm weather travel choices. I may have purchased a gorgeous pair of burgundy Paul Green loafers for fall. But you'll have to wait until we return from Italy to hear about those. I'm thinking they will lessen the post trip let down, when I know I'll be thinking, "Manotick is lovely, but it ain't Rome." Nothing like planning a new outfit to lift one's spirits, eh? 

This week, I'll be finalizing my packing lists, and then, well, packing. And trying to maintain my equanimity. I've been listening to books on my Audible ap on my phone. If outfit planning can lift one's spirits, there's nothing like a little gentle reading, or listening, to calm them. 

cover of the illustrated version of Pride and Prejudice

I'd never listened to Jane Austen books on Audible before. Rosamund Pike narrating Pride and Prejudice is sublime. Eleven hours and thirty-five minutes of heaven. That's her on the left below, playing Jane Bennet in the 2005 movie version of the novel. Not my favourite film version, I will say. 

The actresses who played the Bennet sisters in the 2005 movie, Pride and Prejudice
The Bennet sisters in the 2005 movie version.
I've been well spoiled by the 1995 mini-series with Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet, and Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. That's the definitive version in my books. No one can touch Colin Firth's Darcy, and Alison Steadman is annoyingly wonderful as Mrs. Bennet. I've seen the series so many times that I can quote a whole wack of it off by heart. But, it's been a few years since I've read the book, and I was pleasantly surprised to hear how much of the dialogue of the mini-series was in Austen's original words. 

The actresses who played the Bennet sisters in the 1995 mini-series, Pride and Prejudice
The Bennet sisters from the 1995 mini-series.
My hours of happy listening made me recall my visit to the Jane Austen Center when I was in Bath last year. And chatting with this gentleman outside who was done up to look like Mr. Bennet from Pride and Prejudice.

woman with a man dressed in Regency period costume
Me and Mr. Bennet in Bath,  October, 2017
I told him all about the incident at my Mum's one evening years ago, when Hubby was upstairs reading, and Mum and I were in the living room drinking tea and watching Pride and Prejudice for the umpteenth time. And as we watched the scene where Alison Steadman shrieks, "Oh, Mr. Bennet my poor nerves," Hubby descended the stairs. Mum paused the tape, jumped up from her chair, and in a perfect imitation of Mrs. Bennet, shrieked, "Oh, Stuart, shall we have some tea?" She then looked quizzically at me, as if she were thinking, "What the hell did I just say?" And then she and I fell over laughing. Hubby rolled his eyes and headed for the safety of the kitchen and some normal conversation with my stepfather. Ha. 

We love that story. Even more now I can add that in front of the Jane Austen Centre that day last fall, Mr. Bennet drawled in what I soon learned was a wonderful Somerset accent, "And di-id yourrrr husband, say 'Silly women?'" 

"He did indeed," I replied. And we chuckled.  Then I headed inside for tea. Besides my chat with Mr. Bennet, I loved the apricot cake, the fact that I was not the only solitary reader taking tea, and that glimpse of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy photo-bombing my shot. It's often the small moments on a trip leave the most indelible memories, I think. 

cup of tea, and plate filled with goodies, woman reading tn the background
Taking tea in the Regency Tea Room in the Jane Austen Centre in Bath. 
Yep, Hubby and I are in pre-trip limbo this week. I'm kind of enjoying the calm before the storm. Most of our preparations are complete. Hubby wants to have the garden cleaned up before we go, so he won't face a frost-riddled, soggy mess when we return in mid-October. So we've picked, and pickled, and simmered whatever we can. Our freezer is chock full of tomato sauce, apple sauce, pesto, and peppers. I'm sure the neighbours, my walking buddies, and Hubby's golfing and hockey mates, are right royally sick of the bags of garden produce we've been pressing upon them. 

red apples on a tree and blue sky
We simply cannot keep ahead of the apples.
In fact, I see Hubby out the window at this very moment picking apples from our still-laden tree. I might open the window and in my best Mrs. Bennet imitation shout, "Oh, Stuart, shall we make a pie?" Or I could try to NOT be annoying and simply help him pick. Yeah. That might be better. 

You know, I'm not the only one who enjoys this kind of limbo. Pop on over to No Hat No Gloves and see how much more eloquently Annie writes about much the same thing. You can find her post here. I think you have to love a woman who loves good books and colourful footwear, don't you?

Now, what are you up to these days folks? Speaking of calm and storms, I know that many of you are probably hunkered down what with all the big weather events this week. Hope you stay dry and safe. 

Linking up this week with Thursday Favourite Things and Saturday Share Link-up.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Planning My Travel Wardrobe for Italy

Our three weeks in Italy are coming up very soon. So, obviously I've been musing about my travel wardrobe. That's nothing new. What should I wear? And, how should I decide what to wear? These are perennial questions for me.

woman in white jeans, black jacket, black loafers, and scarf sitting on a deck
Still musing about what to pack for three weeks in Italy
I'm pretty methodical about wardrobe planning for travel. I always look at climate, the predicted weather conditions for our destinations, how many different "seasons" we'll be experiencing. In South America we went from the chilly, late fall conditions of mountain mornings in Patagonia and parts of Peru, to tropical, high summer temperatures in Buenos Aires and Lima. I look at the type of activities we'll be doing. Are they likely to involve lots of exercise in the heat, or might they instead require gloves, a waterproof jacket, and maybe even a toque?  Even the location of the activity makes a difference. For instance, if we're walking, will it be on trails where I'll not have to worry about looking good, or in a city necessitating an outfit that's comfortable, but still somewhat smart? So many variables, so many decisions. I call that last one the fleece or no fleece decision. 

I remember the stressing I did before we went to France in 2015. I was worried, in particular, about what to wear in Paris. Silly me. Everything was fine. But I remember one friend commented on Facebook that I should toss in a few tee shirts and a pair of jeans, carry a mostly empty suitcase, and shop in Paris. No, no, no... that would never work for me. It may seem shallow, but I always have a better time if I feel comfortable in, and confident about, what I'm wearing. And what Hubby would say if he had to trail me around Paris, while I shopped for those things I hadn't packed, doesn't bear thinking about. Ha. 

Packing for South America last year required lots of lists, much editing, then more lists. It was a complex trip requiring a variety of clothing, all packed into the same size suitcase I always carry. We spent some of our time in cities, some hiking in the hinterland, some in tropical climates, and some at elevation with pretty chilly temperatures. The range of activity, plus the need for a more complex "medical kit," and inclusion of bulky hiking boots and poles, meant that I only had room for a few outfits for each stage of the trip. 

My trip to England last fall should have been a doddle to plan by comparison. Most of our time was in cities and towns, one season only, no hiking or outdoor activities except city walking. But oddly enough I made better packing choices for South America. For England, I packed several pieces I could easily have left at home, and even a couple of outfits which I regretted bringing. That's partly due, I know, to my state of mind last September. My brother had just died after a long and difficult battle with deteriorating health, and we all felt kind of wrung out in my family. As a result, I was stressed and not making good decisions. In retrospect I guess I should have delayed or even cancelled the trip. But... water... bridge... you know. I'll move on and learn from the experience.

This morning I dug out my lists for both trips and annotated them, highlighting those items I could have easily left at home. 

travel wardrobe planning lists
Annotated packing lists for South America and England
In the final analysis, I could have packed five fewer pieces for our South America trip. Not counting the flip flops I never wore. Not bad for a six week trip that spanned numerous activities and conditions.  According to my lists, I could easily have left five items home on my England trip too. That does not include the outfits I hated. Not to mention the couple of unplanned pieces I squeezed in at the last minute... thank goodness. So, not great planning for a fifteen day journey.

This year I'm trying to learn from past mistakes. I'm identifying a colour palette to work with right from the beginning. Boring it may be, but I've decided to go with black, grey, and white. I plan to bring as "toppers" two black jackets, one casual and one a bit more dressy. And as much as I love it, I'm leaving my Veronica Beard navy blazer at home. It did yeoman service in England last year, but as a result I hardly wore my black Lafayette 148 zippered sweater. I'm going to substitute my black Helmut Lang blazer, instead, which will work with the same bottoms and tops as the Lafayette sweater, giving me more outfit variety with fewer pieces. Hopefully. We'll see.

notes for planning a travel wardrobe
Italy travel wardrobe planning. A work in progress.
To that end I've been playing around with combinations. Like my black Helmut Lang jacket, white jeans, and my black Stuart Weitzman loafers. Layering the jacket over this grey Aritzia hoodie and a short-sleeve white tee. 

woman in black jacket and white jeans posing on a deck with river in background
My Italian palette: black, white, and grey.
Then adding a scarf, either this one or my Burberry one, seen above in the first picture. I did something similar in England last year, but with the navy VB jacket and blue jeans. My goal is cobble together a few outfits in this palette that I really like, and go from there. I'm hoping that combinations like this can do double duty as a casual dinner outfit or smart, walking-around-in-cities outfits in either coolish or warm weather depending on how many layers I wear. I can wear all these pieces with my black leggings and the loafers or with jeans and sneakers. Of course, I'll bring a pair of athletic sneakers for some serious walking when we're not in cities, a rain coat, a couple of pieces for a pop of colour in my very neutral palette, and maybe a pair of ankle boots depending on the weather predictions. 

woman in black jacket, white jeans, and scarf posing on a deck with river in background
I wore something similar in France in 2015, and last year in England.
As usual, my goal for a travel wardrobe is NOT to be fashion forward. But to be comfortable, presentable, and a bit polished, in clothes that feel good, and make me feel like me. And to be appropriately dressed for the occasion, the location, and the weather. And in as few pieces as possible, so they will all fit into my suitcase. Ha. Sounds complicated, doesn't it? 

This week is my shopping week. I have a few things to purchase for Hubby. And I'll be on the hunt for a couple of long-sleeve tees, and maybe a light fall sweater for myself. Packable, washable pieces that won't break the bank, and which will double as casual or a bit more polished depending on which pants and jacket I'm wearing. I also have my eye on a new travel bag that I saw a few months ago. 

Yesterday an ultra-light down vest from Uniqlo that I ordered on-line was delivered. Oh my, it's lovely, a wine/burgundy colour, and it fits perfectly. Thanks to those of you who suggested it. I haven't decided if I will take it on our trip. 

But then, I'm not finished my planning yet. Now I must go. I'm not nearly finished trying on outfit combinations: discarding pieces, adding others, deciding which tops, which tees, which scarves. Do I pack those sandals, or my ankle boots, or neither? Not to mention the shopping that still needs to be done. 


I've miles to go before I sleep. Miles to go before I sleep. As Robert Frost didn't exactly say. 

What about you, my friends? Have you had any packing "learning experiences"... let's call them that, shall we? 

Two Traveling Texans
Linking up this week with: Visible Monday#IwillwearwhatIlikeTurning Heads Link-upStyle Me WednesdayThursday Favourite ThingsFabulous FridayFancy FridaySaturday Share Link-Up 

Friday, 7 September 2018

On Being a Tourist

Hubby and I are off to Italy before too long. Our plans were mostly completed months ago. Right now we're refreshing our memories, reviewing all the arrangements we made way last spring. Reconfirming accommodation reservations that probably don't need re-confirming, but we'll do it anyway just for peace of mind. I'm researching details of what we might do with our days in Venice and Florence and Rome. Hubby is re-acquainting himself with the driving routes we'll take after we leave Florence, how we plan to get from one small place to another, what interesting roads we'll attempt. I have a rough plan for how I'll proceed with my jobs. Research. Shop. Pack. Go. 

And bubbling underneath all our suppressed excitement. While we're busying ourselves with everything that needs to be done, checking items off our list so all will be ready in a timely fashion, but not ready too early, which will only cause anxiety for both of us. Underneath all this and mostly unspoken is our desire to be on our way. To be tourists again.   

man and woman eating chocolate covered ice cream
Our chocolate-dipped-vanilla-ice-cream-face selfie.  Île d'Orleans, Quebec, 2014.
"Tourist" seems to be a pejorative term these days. Maybe it always was. Conjuring an image of hordes of noisy, clueless, middle-aged gawkers, with fanny-packs, selfie-sticks, three cameras slung round their necks, baggy khaki pants, and socks with sandals. Nobody likes tourists; nobody wants to be considered a "tourist," or, most importantly, look like one. Apparently. 

Seriously. I did an internet search with the search term "how not to look like a tourist in Italy" and got over a million hits. 

I spent way too much time this morning on a chat forum on the Rick Steeves website reading what people had to say about the issue of NOT looking like a tourist. Such a lot of palaver. And the upshot is that no matter what we do, how much we try to "blend in," we probably will be unsuccessful. And even if we do perchance blend in briefly, once we open our mouths we'll have given the game away anyway.

woman sitting in a sidewalk café in Paris
Didn't realize that I was "blending in" with the café decor. Paris, 2015.
So if the game is up as far as looking like a tourist, what does the traveller do to avoid looking like a clueless tourist? Well, obviously, do some research. Find out what local customs or habits you might be offending if you wear certain items of apparel. Mostly this has to do with not looking like you're going to the beach, or off clubbing, unless you are. Wear clothing that is appropriate for the location you're visiting and for the activity. That's just common sense, I know. But when we hiked the Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand a few years ago, a full-day hike, with temperatures only a few degrees above freezing at the top, we saw a couple of young hikers wearing flip-flops and shorts, and we heard one of them complain to the other, "You told me this was mostly a flat walk." Ha. Not flat... not a walk. And quite dangerous, actually, to attempt the Tongariro without proper clothing and footwear. 

But other than being safe, being comfortable, and being respectful of local customs, I think we shouldn't worry about what we wear. Okay, okay, I can hear the guffaws. I didn't say I wasn't going to worry about what I wear. I always worry about what I should wear, and what I should pack. That's a given. I just meant that I don't worry if I'm spotted as a tourist, or not. That, my friends, is an exercise in futility. With my round face and colouring, only in Ireland could I have any chance of being mistaken for a local... and then, as I said, only until I opened my mouth. 

And even with research, and all good intentions to appreciate and respect local customs, we get it wrong sometimes. Hubby and I looked like clueless tourists in Buenos Aires last year, when we naively headed out to the restaurant recommended as a great place for dinner by the lovely young man who worked in reception at our hotel. We were surprised to find the door open but the restaurant empty at almost eight o'clock. We entered, sat, and glanced around us for a few minutes. At the back was a clutch of waiters, chatting among themselves, ignoring us. But at the stroke of eight, a horde of locals converged on the place, every seat was soon taken, the waiters flew from table to table, were especially nice to us, and we had a fabulous meal.

patrons viewed through the window of a restaurant in Buenos Aires
Norte in Buenos Aires after 8:00 P.M. February, 2017
Turns out that the restaurant doesn't even start serving until eight. None of the restaurants serve until eight, said the lovely young man at reception when he apologized for not alerting us to the fact. "Never mind," we said, "we thought it was hilarious." Kind of reminded me of years ago when a friend and her husband tried to go for dinner in a small city in Arizona, popular with retirees. In fact my friend's parents wintered there for years after they retired. At seven-thirty they found many of the restaurants already closing. Turned out that everyone else ate at five. Ha. When you "come from away," as we say down east, you gotta go with the flow of wherever you are. 

But going with the flow, doesn't mean, in my books, being afraid of making a mistake, or ashamed of being a tourist, a traveller, or a visitor... however we describe ourselves when we're not at home. Last year I was chided by a travelling companion for asking too many questions, for not "figuring things out for myself." In truth I think they were embarrassed by my queries. But I think that as long as we're not strident, demanding, or rude... there's nothing wrong with seeking help or assistance from locals. Of course you have to choose carefully whom to ask. In my experience most people are only too happy to help. In Dublin when Hubby and I exited the Guinness Storehouse from the wrong door (NOT attributable to the sampling we did inside, I might add) and had to stand with our city map for a moment to take our bearings, we were approached by a young mother pushing a stroller who spent fifteen minutes chatting with us after she directed us to where we wanted to go. In fact, if I hadn't become so sanguine about asking questions we might still be driving around County Kerry, looking for the Ballaghbeama Gap. And we might never have met a leprechaun. But I've told you that story already. 

woman and man in restaurant, smiling
Captain Stan's Smoke House in Georgia, 2014
So, yeah, we're excited about becoming tourists again very soon. We've done our homework, researched as much as we can about where we're going, what we're going to wear, and what we want to do. Hubby and I are not much for group travel, we'd rather paddle our own canoe. Well actually, Hubby does most of the paddling, in or out of the canoe. Ha. I'm the navigator. We'll no doubt do a couple of guided tours, half or full day. We've always found these to be wonderful, whether in Savannah, Georgia; Derry, Northern Ireland; or Machu Picchu, Peru. But we also love just wandering, exploring, and sometimes even getting a little lost. We know we won't be mistaken for local Italians. But hopefully we won't look too clueless. 

And, you know, we're okay with not looking like we're from wherever we'll be, but just once we'd love it if someone we met guessed that we were from Canada... instead of from that other big country to the south.  Not that there's anything wrong with being from there. Just that we're not. 

Where do you stand, my friends, on looking like a tourist? 

Two Traveling Texans

Linking up this week with Thursday Favourite Things and Saturday Share Link-up.