Dinner with the ‘rents the other night, the conversation kept returning to far off wonders and distant lands. Next week, Ma and Pa will make their first ever trip across the pond (I was going to say it was their first trip outside the country, but I just remembered their train tour of western Canada last year). They’re headed to London and Edinburgh and other various UK points for a two-week excursion, taking day tours and generally exploring origins of our family—Wallace, Moor, Brown, McEachern, etc. I’m sincerely excited for them and especially excited to see the photos they’ll bring back.
The 'rents warmed up their passports last year in the Canadian Rockies.
Plus, all our talk about their trip has me dusting off my own memories of Europe—not that I am or have ever been an international aficionada. But my two teenage European trips made the kind of blissful impressions they’re supposed to make.
When I was 15, I signed on for a soccer team making a weeklong trip to Belgium. We traveled through little neighborhoods and towns to schools and soccer parks, playing against whatever teams they’d rounded up for us. We also took day-trips to Brugge and Paris, where a group of us, upon arrival, made a B-line for the Hard Rock Café—cheeseburger cravings after a week of omelets and waffles.
At 19, I was among seven or so Stetson English majors who enrolled in a three-week British theater class at Oxford University (though, to be fair, that was just the location—it was taught by one of our own Stetson professors). We settled in a dorm (of sorts) in Brasenose College and visited Stratford and London; we saw Antony and Cleopatra and Volpone performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stoppard’s The Real Thing in the West End, Julius Caesar at the Globe, and more. In our free time we also visited Bath, Liverpool, Stonehenge, as well as weekend trips to Edinburgh and Paris—this time, our group purchased a museum pass at the Louvre and toured around the city visiting Notre Dame and the museums dedicated to Picasso and Rodin. “It’s amazing what those few years do for you,” says Ma, who never quite got behind the Hard Rock trip the first time around.
But it’s not like I have a lot of advice or insight for the ‘rents—certainly not anything they haven’t already been told by their travel agent or friends. I’ve requested that they take a picture by the sign for Brasenose College and recommended a café that may or may not still exist in Edinburgh. Obviously they’ll show me photos of places I’ve never been before (Dover, for one, would’ve been cool), but what fun it would be to see something I recognize in a photo, 10 years removed from a trip overseas.
Their overall expectation—and the thing that got me time and time again—is the overwhelming sense of history, the age of the country. The five hundred years since Columbus sailed the ocean blue ain’t nothin’ but yesterday.
Longtime Asolo wardrobe master Hillary Petlock still keeps a house in her hometown of Bath; she graciously picked me up from Heathrow when I arrived a day early for the Oxford trip and treated me to lunch in an old mill by a nunnery on a narrow, rushing part of the Thames, east of London. On the walls and in display cases, the restaurateurs hung hundreds of artifacts that had washed up out of the river over the years—ancient cutlery and tools, even bits of armor, spears. Trying to contemplate the age of the items, of that place, almost made me dizzy. The best I could do to describe it, in my ridiculously Floridian way (though I was certainly aiming for humor as much as accuracy), was, “It’s like Disney World, only real.”