Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I see London, I see France...

If you’ve ever traveled much, you’re certainly familiar with the all-famous, never ending travel tips, coming from travel companies, friends, and especially well-traveled relatives. In my many years of traveling, I’ve come across more than my share of tips, some of which that have actually served me well. When it comes to packing, particularly longer trips, I’m pretty good for keeping it light. In fact, my first trip to Europe was nearly 2 months long, and all I had along with me fit into a relatively small backpack, which already included an ‘only-to-be-used-once-so-why-did-I-really-bring-this’ kind of sleeping bag.

But now that I travel more frequently with the family (one wife, two kids), I find my unused suitcase spaces have become highly coveted by all members traveling with me. On a recent trip to Italy, our last day before flying home, we began to pack - tucking away items such as Murano glass vases, Venice masks, tourist maps, rocks (are our kids the only ones with such a fascination of rocks?) and magazines that we’d not only never use again, but would never look at, not even on the way to the recycling bin. So one travel tip I faithfully follow is the following: using various items of soft clothing, you can make nearly anything safe from breaking in a suitcase. On the list on this particular trip was a fine bottle of liqueur we had purchased during one of our last days of shopping in Rome. It came in a fairly sturdy well-designed cardboard package, and since the shape of the bottle wasn’t rectangular, I had spare space to use!

Fast-forward to about one month later – we’re at home, and we have our neighbors over for a drink, a kind of thank-you for taking in our mail while we were away. This is another travel tip we follow, but nearly every time we let them know we’re going away and wonder if they can pick up our mail, by the time they actually read it we’re usually already at our destination if not half the way through!

Back to our evening – during some conversation a beer or wine or two is put away, and then I remember this fine bottle of liqueur we bought in Rome, so off I go to find it, bring it out, and impress our friends with a wonderful taste of our trip. Still fresh in the package, in plain view of our guests, I open it up. But, only at the moment of pulling out the bottle, do I remember what clothes I used to wrap it up, and realize that they are still exactly where I left them! The fine bottle of liqueur, about 6 pairs of dirty underwear, and various pairs of socks all make their entrance at the same time! It was one of those incidents where all you wanted to do was mentally press the ‘undo’ key, or pretend that this was all caused by some cruel and unusual trick of a rascally customs agent, but after seeing the looks on their faces of our guests, I knew it was too late. The striped underwear was there, the checkered underwear was there, front and centre on the table, two feet away from our guests, a place where even the most famous underwear in the world could only dream of being displayed.

The evening continued on after a laugh or two, but I have to say, our neighbors have never been back for a drink since. My wife thinks maybe our get together left a bad taste in their mouth (ha!). As it goes being neighbors, we often talk fence to fence, and the topic of getting together for another drink does come up, but no formal invitations have come from their side. I can only hope that we will get together again; a time when we can share in a beer or glass of wine, if only for a ‘brief’ time.