Trail of Crumbs

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St. Albans is incredibly charming, and it’s a very short train ride from London, and there are plenty of other reasons to visit. All of them, however, are being crowded out of my memory because during our visit we ate at a place called The Cock Inn, and I find that to be utterly hilarious.

I wish to make many jokes. Though they are, essentially, all the same joke.

 

I am fairly sure that half of all the establishments in the country are named by a bunch of American middle schoolers who can’t stop laughing at how silly those words sound when someone has a posh English accent.

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I tried to do a street art walking tour when we were last in London. I’ve always wanted to take one, to have someone point out the Banskys that I’ve walked by a dozen times and failed to notice. When we were there in the fall, the weather was unseasonably warm (the last day of October it reached an unheard of 70-degrees in the city. I wore a sundress. Rand had on short sleeves.) – perfect for wandering through the East End and admiring the works of not-quite-unknown artists.

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On our second day in Phnom Penh, down one necklace, and sufficiently emotionally drained after the one-two punch of the Killing Fields and Choeung Ek, we went to the Royal Palace.

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The Central Market in Phnom Penh, after a storm.

 

Rand always tells me he envies my palate, which cracks me up because it’s such an unlikely compliment. But it comes up time and again, whenever I identify a spice in a dish that he’s unable to, or I catch a whiff of a bakery blocks before he does. Others who’ve noticed it have commented as well, and I usually smile and tap the side of my ever-so-prominent nose and say, “It’s not just for show.”

Goodness, it really isn’t. Sometimes it feels like a superpower. I am the amazing girl WHO CAN SMELL EVERYTHING (note: superpower has very limited application. The X-Men aren’t calling, unless they need help determining whether or not the milk has gone bad).

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At some point, all of the cities on the Amalfi coast started to blur, so I hope you’ll forgive me if I resort to describing all of them as “lovely” and “charming” and “like a tower of colorful stone blocks precariously piled one atop the other.”

Positano. But it could be anywhere on the coast.

 

But, see, they all were.

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Ravello sits just behind Amalfi, further inland and up the mountainside. You can get there by walking, I suppose, if you don’t value time or your life all that much. The more practical options are to crowd into a bus with a bunch of local kids who don’t understand capacity limits, and tourists who don’t understand Italian (so that when you are screaming, “Per favore, fammi uscire!” they stare at you with blank looks until you yell, “I NEED TO GET OFF THE BUS.”); or you can get swindled by some cab driver.

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Honestly, if I think about it, it’s a miracle Rand and I end up anywhere. Because so many of our outings are just disastrous. Rand will get it into his head that he wants to see something, and ask me if I want to go along.

A day spent exploring some unknown city with my husband? Yes! Of course! I’d love to.

I never bother checking to see if, say, the thing that he wants to see is where he thinks it is. Or if it’s even open on that day. Or if getting there requires climbing infinite flights of steps while a southern Italian sun beats down relentlessly upon us, as though it’s carrying out a personal vendetta. No. I never do any of those things.

Life is too short as is, darlings.

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Inside the Schrannenhalle Marketplace in Munich’s Old Town.

 

As an American, it’s often weird going to Europe, because their consumer culture isn’t anywhere near what we have at home. There are shops, sure, but there isn’t the same onslaught of … stuff.

In the U.S., we understand that you haven’t really had a proper vacation until you’ve purchased at least three shot glasses, four shirts, one bottle opener, and a teddy bear all emblazoned with the name of the place you visited. If you don’t have those things, how will anyone know you went there three summers ago?

They won’t. And that’s just tragic.

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