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Tripping down memory lane

standard March 26, 2008 6 responses

Way back in my pre-husband, pre-kid days every year my two best friends and I picked a long weekend and traveled somewhere in Europe. We went to The Hague, Prague, London, and Amsterdam before I moved across the world and made our yearly jaunts impossible. Our weekends were filled with guidebooks, yummy food, and insane amounts of giggling and goofing off, and one inevitable, memorable snafu.

There was the year one friend forgot to bring nightclothes. We spent an entire Easter weekend in Prague searching for a lone nightgown. Prague is incredibly religious and we never found an open department store. Another year the other friend’s peach shampoo leaked over her entire suitcase. She smelled like candy all weekend long. On yet another trip the first friend tried to meet her nutritionists recommendation for protein and dairy by chowing her way through the biggest block of cheddar we’d ever seen. Every time we headed back to our hostel she’d pull out that brick of orange cheese and nibble a corner or two looking so miserable you would have sworn she was eating rotten eggs or something worse.

On all these trips I was the queen of the guidebooks, pulling one out at the mere hint of a potential landmark. Usually by the second day the other girls groaned as soon as they saw me reach for my bag, but we did learn an awful lot about the cities we visited. But my favorite memories have nothing to do with steeples or museums, and everything to do with the cheap little hotels that housed us.

On our trip to London we arrived at 6 a.m. after an all night train ride only to learn that our hotel room wouldn’t be available until 3 p.m. We fought the urge to cry, walked around the block in search for breakfast, and then napped in the tiny cramped hotel lobby. Amazingly they found us a room at 11. I think we smelled.

Our youth hostel in Amsterdam hosted a modest breakfast buffet that covered everything from pastries to lunch meats, so we took to heading down in the morning with plastic baggies and making lunch sandwiches on the sly. We were always convinced that we’d get busted so we tucked our baggies into our shirts. How the waitress must have laughed at us walking out looking five pounds fatter every morning after just eating a roll or two.

The youth hotel room in The Hague was so small that I could step from the shower to my bunk bed without setting foot on the bathroom floor. But the hotel towels in Prague took the cake. Each guest was allowed one, just one, teeny tiny bath towel the size of a doormat. There was no way to dry off even an arm with that thing let alone my huge head of hair. One morning after a particularly frustrating post shower moment I spotted the cleaning crew’s cart just sitting outside our open door, no cleaner in sight. Before I knew it I had darted out and grabbed an extra towel, but just as I was turning to go back into the room the woman came out of the room she’d been cleaning. She saw me and sprinted after me. I did the only sane thing I could think of: I darted back into our room and jumped into the closet, pulling the door closed behind me. She stormed into the room past my astounded friends, walked to the closet, pulled the door open, took the towel I was meekly handing to her, closed the closet door, and stormed back out of the room mumbling something we could only imagine in Czech. Needless to say we didn’t get clean towels for the rest of our stay, but ten years later I still giggle when I remember that morning.

Since that cold morning I’ve moved to the other side of the world and I rarely get to see those friends. I hardly ever travel without my husband or kids and I miss those giggly girl fests disguised as cultural adventures. BlogHer in San Francisco beckons to me, promising some of that silliness and fun, and I can’t wait to be a part of the madness. Meeting great bloggers and getting a few nights of uninterrupted sleep in a hotel bed is just going to be icing on the cake.

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