Postcard: Traveling Poor
We got a postcard this week from Mary Lou Weisman, who's been thinking about her honeymoon years ago aboard a Greek ocean liner. She remembers nights sharing canned tuna, bread and wine with other budget-conscious passengers and sleeping on the deck under the stars. She also recalls, a bit uncomfortably... how she felt about the middle-aged tourists below, snugly sleeping in beds and eating at tables. Didn't they realize how their money actually insulated them from the very travel experiences they craved? Well, as she tells us now...times have changed.
Forty years later I'd pay almost any amount not to have to eat tuna out of a can or wait in line with 50 others to use the only bathroom. Now the challenge is to have authentic experiences in spite of being encumbered by funds.
When in France, for instance, I go on a picnic, preceded by a trip to a grocery where, in the interests of authenticity, I must at least attempt to speak French. This works very well for the bread (du pain) and the wine (du vin). But when I order brie, the proprietor thinks I'm asking for "bruit," noise.
Soon everyone in the store is making fun of the American woman who wants to eat bread and noise. My authentic French experience is nicely underway.
Sometimes Larry and I disagree about whether certain forms of high end authenticity are, in fact genuine. For instance, Larry thinks that posing with a New Guinean wood carver in native dress, especially right after he has taken an imprint of your credit card, does not qualify.
On the other hand, I like staying castles. I like the tapestries. There's something grand about carrying around a room key the size and weight of an anvil. And what could be more authentic than to sleep under a coast of arms on a bed made for a Medici?
Larry's not impressed. Didn't I have an authenticity problem with the jacuzzi? Does it bother me that they're play American in Paris in the dining room or that the Medici mattress is a Sealy Posturepedic. "And by the way," he wonders, "have I seen the bill?"
As an antidote to the castle, I promised Larry that the next night in Tours, we'd check into a no star hotel. It pleased him that we had to walk up three flights of stairs to get to our room - The elevator, read a sign, "ne marche pas." We would fully appreciate the elevator's loss that night - when the sound of staccato heels and work boots drove home the message that we were trying to sleep in a whorehouse.
innocent of what lay ahead, we looked forward to a warm shower.
But "La douche ne marche pas" read a sign attached to the shower.
It directed us to the public baths. "This may be more authenticity
than I bargained for" I remember thinking, as I sat on a long slatted
bench waiting with a lot of other naked women, who were also getting
stripe marks on their buttocks. I hoped unkindly that Larry, herded
into the men's section, was having at least as bad a time as I was.
A matron carrying a stack of frayed towels escorted us to the shower
room. There, in full view of one another and the matron, we were
allowed one pull to get wet, one minute to soap up, and another
pull to rinse off. "Defense de sifler et chanter," (No whistling
or singing) read a huge sign on the concrete wall. As if.
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