Thursday, 30 March 2017

First day lessons

The first day of holidays are always a juggle. After a setting out from home and travelling for more than 24 hours, your body - very reasonably - wants to do nothing but climb into a real bed and catch-up on some much needed sleep.

But your brain is waaaaaayyyy to excited to do something so mundane. You've been planning and counting down to this trip for ages and now it's finally here. You can sleep anytime!

Its also kind of practical to get out and get some sunshine, fresh air and exercise after being stuck on a plane for such a long time. So out you go and you walk, and walk, and walk for as long as you can stay awake.

But walking too long on the first day can bring its own problems. Hiking boots that haven't been on my feet since last winter need a little time to settle in. Give yourself a blister on the first day and you'll be in pain for a fortnight and your can't rest it because then you might miss something. And energy fuelled by coffee and excitement can be a bit fickle. One minute you are happily striding along and enjoying the view, the next you are drooping with tiredness and wishing you weren't quite so far away from your hotel.

It also takes a few days to get your travel persona settled so that you put out the right vibes. I'm usually aiming for relaxed and chilled, with just an edge of 'don't mess with me'. A tour guide I met once called it "getting your Italian on", and whenever I travel, it's like a coat I mentally wear.

She took it to mean that you are assertive and firm and don't  get pushed around. It means you stand tall and project an aura of 'don't mess with me' - all in the nicest possible way of course. I practice studied indifference on trains, look purposeful when walking and I wait to get off the main drag before checking my map.

I also choose my bench seats in parks with care. Settle yourself on a park bench in Brisbane and you'll likely be accosted by a few hungry Ibis or a pigeon or two. Pick the wrong part of the park in Europe and you'll get beggars or hagglers. It pays to choose with care.

Today I wandered the streets of Frankfurt city, looking at the skyscrapers and shops and then wandering down to the Opera house and the old district. Many of the trees are still bare and brown, but there are pockets of spring coming out; with tulips flowering in gardens and cherry blossoms shedding petals over the ground in a pale pink carpet. There are buds on the chestnut trees and the sky is lovely and blue.

After walking for a few hours, I stopped at an Italian restaurant for lunch and faced the other part of first day travelling I always have to get used to. Solo dining. As I walk through the crowded restaurant and get settled at a table alone, I always have to remind myself that people are much more interested in themselves then they are in me and that they aren't really staring. And if that fails, I go back to my number one rule when travelling - they're never going to see me again.

Want to put your hair in plaits for the day but worried you'll look like an aged hippy? No problem, they're never going to see you again. Want to order creme brûlée for morning tea? Go for it - they're never going see you again. Walk into a swanky cafe in jeans and hiking boots and ask for a table for lunch? Smile bright, ask politely and remember that they'll never see you again. Works like a charm - until the day they actually do see you again.

I turned up at the same hotel in Avignon on two different tours a few years ago and they clocked me straight away. Have you stayed with us before? Yes, yes I have. Yes, I was one of the people on that tour who sat up till 2am drinking wine on the rooftop bar - and I'll probably do it again this year.

It doesn't matter does it? After all, they aren't going to see me again......

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Greetings from Germany

So it's just after 6am in Frankfurt. It's dark outside and I've just landed after travelling for something like 28 hours from home.  I don't speak the language, I don't know where my hotel is and I'm not sure how I'll get there - and I can't even check in for another 7 hours. Oh, and it's 5 degrees outside.  But none of that matters and I can't wipe the smile off my face. It's good to be travelling again!

A remarkably smooth trip this time, despite the fact that I came straight through and flew two different airlines along the way. There was an empty seat next to me on the sector to Singapore and the time flew by really easily. I paid to have a shower at the hotel in the airport, had a meal, a big walk and then a nap in the tranquility lounge. The sector to Frankfurt was in premium economy and let me tell you - it was worth every penny. Super comfy seat that reclined further than a normal seat and had a nice footrest. I lucked out and got the front row so there was no one in front of me and only one other chair. I actually got some sleep!

Now I'm sitting in a cafe with a cafe creme and watching the airport come to life around me. The woman at the table next to me is doing the crossword and some Asian tourists behind me are chattering away at a million miles an hour. Across the concourse, I can see people waiting around the arrivals gate for friends and relatives to arrive. A couple of young men have a homemade sign for someone they are meeting. It's pink and sparkly and they are holding it up high as they peer through the gaps in the gate to look out for their arrival. A tall guy in jeans and a hat is standing waiting with a single, long stemmed red rose. Who ever can he be meeting? My guess is that he has been conversing with a girl over the internet and she is flying out to meet him. He looks too shy for it to be someone he knows well.

The girl at the cafe is from Greece and we just had a lovely chat while she made my cafe creme. She tells me she's been here two and a half years, but while it's good that she can make money here, she needs the sun too much and she's going to go home at the end of the summer. What interesting lives people lead!

I'm going to linger over my book for an hour or so and wait for the sun to come up and then catch a taxi to my hotel and leave my bags while I go out for a wander around the city.

Update: the hotel let me into my room early which is just the best bonus ever. So now I can have a shower and clear my head before going out.  A very good beginning :-)
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