Today’s post is a little random, for two reasons: a) I’ve been sick for two days and therefore have been massively unproductive and couldn’t think of anything else to write, and b) it’s the last few days of NaNoWriMo and I’m frantically trying to pound out a few hundred more words (I’m embarrassingly far away from the 50k word goal, but that’s a different topic).
One of my dreams/day-dreams is to be a travel writer. The first key to that is, of course, being a traveler. I’ve been to a handful of US states and three foreign countries, but I doubt that’s enough to qualify me as an “experienced” traveler, or worthy of writing a book about traveling.
I think it does qualify me, however, to write a blog entry about some of the places I’ve been. So here’s my quick-and-easy guide to getting by in select international venues:
Costa Rica (specifically San Jose, and a Pacific-coast resort that I can’t remember the name of):
Tip #1: It’s always temperate weather. Houses and public buildings are built open-air or with windows that cannot be closed. Very odd for someone who comes from a place that requires A/C in the summer and heating in the winter, as well as protection against hurricanes and ice storms. Nothing but sunshine (and humidity) in Costa Rica!
Tip #2: Black sand beaches are cool, but they’re surprisingly similar to white sand beaches. It’s a beach with sand. Only it’s black. It was my first view of the Pacific Ocean, though!
Tip #3: Not very many people speak fluent English. Conceited American here, who expects everyone to speak their language. No, I did not go there actually expecting everyone to speak English (although my friend who I was visiting spoke English). I attempted to brush up (that is, learn from scratch) some Spanish, but I don’t think I ever managed more than “please” and “thank you.”
England (specifically, London—and only some parts of London. It’s a really big city):
Tip #1: When they say “Mind the gap” when you’re loading or unloading at a tube station (underground rail), they’re not kidding. At some stations, the gap between the train car and the platform is large enough to lose a Rottweiler in. Heed the warnings of the nice British lady’s recorded voice when you’re on the subway, folks.
Tip #2: If you want to shop for a few days in a row, go to Portobello Road. It’s closed off to traffic on the weekends (I think that’s when we went), and it’s miles (or kilometers) of shops, street vendors, street musicians and performers, and more shops. Lots to see and do and buy, and as a bonus, you’ll get that song “Portobello Road” from that old Disney movie stuck in your head for the rest of the day.
Tip #3: Not very many people speak fluent English. London is the melting pot of the world, and I heard more languages on a daily basis on the streets of London that I’ve heard collectively my entire life. And those people who do speak fluent English speak British English, which might as well be a foreign language to my American ears.
Norway (specifically Bergen, and a scenic fjord about 45 minutes outside the city):
Tip #1: The flora and fauna of Norway are beautiful, especially out by the fjords. For someone who comes from the east coast of the USA, where we think that Afton Mountain in Virginia is a tall mountain, the mountains of southern Norway totally blew me away. There are also these little neon-green birds that live out in the wilds—they looked almost fake they were so brightly-colored, but I was assured that they were quite real. The birds like to snack on the giant black slugs that come out after it rains (which is does about eight days a week in the Bergen area), so watch where you step.
Tip #2: The currency is a tad confusing for us simple-minded Americans. You feel all rich marching out the door with 2,000 kroner in your pocket, until you realize that equates to less than 400 US dollars and a bowl of soup is going to cost you about a bazillion kroner.
Tip #3: A lot of people speak fluent English. Thanks goodness, because I went to Norway knowing less Norwegian than I did Spanish when I went to Costa Rica. Again, I had a friend with me who was bi-lingual, but it was nice that most people there were bi-lingual as well. I always had to ask people to say it in English, though—because of my pale looks and my lack of tourist-y fanny pack and camera, everyone assumed I was Norwegian. While this was flattering, it was also embarrassing, since the only word I mastered while there was “takk.”
So there’s my first foray into travel writing. No offense is meant, of course, to any of those countries or the people in them. I loved all of those trips, and met friendly people and had great experiences. Anybody else have a humorous or useful travel tip about a place you enjoyed visiting?