Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Which Way to the Pub?

Living here in Naples, London has become our New York. It’s a diversion. A place we go whenever we have a few extra bucks, want to stay at a nice hotel, see a show, and have a nice (although that’s a relative term and a subject for another day) dinner out. It’s what we call our English Break. Whenever we find ourselves longing to eat eggs for breakfast while reading an English newspaper, hear the sound of our native language (or a reasonable facsimile thereof), or simply watch a broadcast TV show in English (I never miss the Matthew Wright Show) we head for London. It’s not for the cultural venues mind you, just for a break from our daily lives. We don’t rush to the latest museum exhibit, hop on the big red bus, scream over to the Royal Palace, or run to Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, Saint Paul’s or any of the other major tourist attractions (although I will admit we almost always do the Tower of London Tour). We go simply to live for a bit among the natives. We walk, we sit, we talk, we drink, we eat, and then we do it all over again.

When we first started traveling, we’d feel so guilty if we didn’t soak in every cultural attraction we could find. We’d run ourselves ragged traipsing through every museum, palace, church, and monument. You name it, we’d see it. We’d think – “what if we never get back here again and didn’t see – fill in the blank?” It didn’t matter that we weren’t all that interested in it or would rather be doing something else. We had some notion in our minds that we had to check it off the list. You know - that list that anyone who travels keeps in their head of where they’ve been and what they’ve seen. The merit badges we proudly display across our chest. The little push pins on our map, the obligatory Eiffel tower pictures in our photo albums, the ticket stubs from the Louvre. “Honey – did we see the Coliseum? Yes, check. Saint Peters? Yes, check. Piazza Navona? Yes, check. What about the Trevi Fountain? Not yet but we can’t leave without getting a picture of it.” How could you possibly return home from Rome without a photo of the Trevi Fountain? What would you say to people? It becomes like trivia, useless information that serves no other purpose than to impress your friends and family.

Today, we prefer to see the world through a different lens. We still see the sites when we travel, but not all at once and we don’t feel guilty when we miss some. And you’re more apt to find us at a local food market or a local café than at the city’s most important museum. If you want to learn something about a culture all you have to do is slow down and listen, walk in their shoes for a bit, or strike up a conversation. We’ve learned more from sitting in the pubs in London, the Bier Hauses in Germany, and the cafés in Italy than we ever did in the museums, not to mention, we’ve made some great friends along the way.

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