"Like all great travellers, I have seen more than I remember and remember more than I have seen."
-- Benjamin Disraeli


               

    One of the great marvels of Europe is the discovery that the world is so full of variety and that there are so many different ways of doing the same things, like eating and drinking, walking and driving, dressing and shopping.
    It fascinates me that Europeans could be at once so much alike---they are universally bookish and cerebral, and drive small cars, and live in little houses in ancient towns, and love soccer, and are relatively unmaterialistic and law-abiding, and have small hotel rooms and even smaller bathrooms, and cozy and inviting places to eat and drink---and yet so endlessly, unpredictably different from each other.
    The French, I love them for their charm, but they cannot get the hang of standing in line. They try and try, but it is beyond them. Wherever you go in Paris, you see orderly lines waiting at bus stops, but as soon as the bus pulls up, the line immediately disintegrates into something like a fire drill at a lunatic asylum as everyone scrambles to be the first on board, quite unaware that this defeats the whole purpose of lining up.
    The Italians, my people, should never have been let in on the invention of the motorcar. Every Italian, young or old, male or female, wakes up each morning with the same purpose, to be the lead car, the first to finish, drive anywhere, park anywhere and use your horn like Pavarotti used his voice.
    The Germans, though a most interesting people, are totally confused by humor, the Swiss have no concept of fun and the Spanish think there is nothing at all ridiculous about eating dinner at midnight.
    As an American I love the idea that you can never be sure of anything in Europe. After countless trips I still enjoy that sense of never knowing quite what's going on. My friends and clients assume that I speak all the languages. When I tell them I only speak English, they look at me as if I were crazy or foolish. I share the feelings of Bill Bryson in his book on travels in Europe, "Neither Here Nor There". That's the glory of foreign travel. I don't always want to know what people are talking about. I can't think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can't read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses. You see wonderful things because you are really looking. Every where you go you're learning.




"I haven't been everywhere,
but it's on my list." -- Susan Sontag