by Tanya Brands
Visiting Europe was a dream come true. Last month, I went with my friend on a five-day whirlwind tour, and I can tell you this: some European destinations are wonderful, while others are really terrible. For a day, anyway.
London is a great city, and I’ll never forget the way the guard at Buckingham Palace didn’t even blink when I took his photo. Brenda and I enjoyed to-die-for fish ‘n’ chips in a cute little place in Camden before waiting for the Eurostar train to take us under the English Channel all the way to Paris. While we were on the platform, I dropped my sack of souvenirs. A dashing young man picked it up for me, confirming the stereotype that English guys are real gentlemen. If you can, you should go to London for a day.
France is a horrible place. From the moment we arrived in Paris, I knew no one cared we were there. Making sense of the signs in French is a real nightmare, and the first woman we asked for directions didn’t even stop to look at us. Our hotel near the Moulin Rouge was filthy, and worst of all some young men near the Eiffel Tower said really crude things to us. So much for Paris being the city of love. I highly suggest you never go there for a day.
Our next stop was Barcelona, where we arrived by overnight train. If I didn’t have an obsession for Spain before, I quickly got one after visiting the city of Gaudi. And there really is something very passionate about Spaniards. From the way we were serenaded by a young gypsy man playing guitar on Las Ramblas, to a waitress’s description of her restaurant’s paella as “the most good” in the whole city, I saw that Spain and her people have a long history — and a deep sense of pride. Do try to go there for a day.
Thanks to Ireland’s budget airlines Ryanair, we were able to fly to Dublin for pennies. We were greeted with a charming “good morning, ladies” in an Irish accent at the airport, but that’s where the good part ends. Just like the weather, the people of Dublin were anything but warm. The driver on the Dublin Bus Tour didn’t even crack a smile when I said “top o’ the mornin’” to him. Our hotel “suite” looked more like a closet, and the bartender at the hotel pub didn’t even make a shamrock in the head of my Guinness. As my great-great-great-grandparents were Irish, I had expected to feel more of an affinity. But alas, the Irish are a cold people. I strongly advise you to skip Ireland for a day.
The next morning we boarded a ferry to Liverpool, and boy was I glad to be heading back to England, a place I felt I knew well. On the ferry, we struck up conversation with a little old lady who told us her granddaughter lived in Minneapolis — my hometown! What are the chances of that? When we got to Liverpool, our cheery new friend explained where the train station was. A few hours later, we were back in lovely London to catch a “coach” (that’s “bus” for us yanks!) to Gatwick Airport. Before our departure, we had fish ‘n’ chips at an airport restaurant — a bittersweet reminder of how much we would miss the country of Queen Elizabeth II, dijon mustard, and funny-looking taxis.
If you ever want to go to Europe, don’t hesitate to ask me for advice. I can tell you where to visit or avoid for a day.