My recent travels through
Northern Italy were memorable, delightful, and
fattening – including as they did La Scala, , Cinque Terra, gnocci, pasta,
gelato, and bread, bread, bread. Oh, and wine that flowed like water and olive
oil that could make you weep with joy. Lake Como
But more than that, they were instructive. Extended travel can winnow life down to its most basic – in my recent experience, feet and toilets. Both Napoleon and Frederick the Great are quoted as saying that an army travels on its stomach, but in my experience they’re not going to get very far if their feet hurt.
My travel group was its own small army as we all rolled out at six every morning, not returning until twelve hours later with overflowing picture files and sore feet. Conversation each evening might begin with comparisons of the beauty of Belagio to the canals of
, but at some point it usually turned to footwear
strategies: Teva sandals vs hiking
sneakers, or the wisdom of changing to different shoes at the end of a long
We women of the tour also became comrades as we experienced the capricious variety of foreign toilet facilities, usually hard to find and which ran from palatial to downright sketchy. We coached each other on the importance of carrying extra tissues and the first person into the ladies room would report back to those in the inevitable line (a truly universal experience) on the toilet seat situation.
We learned that something we all took for granted – a comfortable place on which to rest a weary backside – is apparently an indulgent frill and is often missing entirely, causing you to perch precariously on a cold porcelain edge.
However, this paled in comparison to the Olympic skill required in the more rustic “conveniences” which required you to assess just what shape your upper body strength was in before you attempted to use them. In these WCs, grips were placed strategically on opposite walls, enabling you to lower yourself to an appropriate angle.
The report to those waiting as you emerged changed from “seat” or “no seat” to the dreaded “handles!” and the line would thin as people decided that maybe they could wait a bit longer after all.