I tried to find the words. Well, actually I found way too many. Thousands and thousands erupted from my memories onto the screen. I wrote for days and hadn’t made a dent in what I wanted to say, what I wanted to capture. This was the summer I saw Europe for the first time. I wanted to share that awe, that wonder. I wanted to experience it again, to entice you to share your experiences. The issue was that I also didn’t want to change this place completely. This week though? I haven’t baked a thing. I was hit with this killer cold (coughing, sneezing, runny nose, pretty much everything they list in those commercials), so why not start now? Here’s the first bit of Europe. If you come just for the recipes, come back then, no worries. If not, grab a cup of tea and enjoy!
When getting ready to leave, not just packing and thinking about all of the things that we would be doing in Europe, there was one thing that kept coming up. How this trip would change me. How it would change how I thought about life, about travel, about home. I did not realize what that would mean. Actually, I’m still not completely sure what it will mean, but I do know that a change has begun to take place.
I want to remember this trip forever. I’ve been quietly begging my parents to take us to Europe since grade 5. It is possible that I started earlier, but without question, that year solidified it in my mind. That year, we studied greek mythology and ancient Greece. I was enthralled with each of those myths. The gods and goddesses living on top of a mountain all to themselves, each having this control yet responsibility over certain things from war to childbirth. Hearing about their lives in these fabled buildings and everything else that occurred in ancient Greek times made me want to see it. To feel the same hot sun, eat the same foods and see the same sights. Now, we didn’t go to Greece, but one day I will.
In fact, there are countless countries that I have been dreaming about visiting, and I firmly believe that one day I will make my way to each of them, meet the wonderful people and enjoy whatever experiences I may be priveledged to have. But right now, at this moment, there are three areas at hand and twenty-three days in which I was able to enjoy them all. I know that I didn’t see everything or anywhere near that, but I did treasure each moment, even the one where my parents and brother were sound asleep after having been awake earlier. I woke up some point past 3 am and did rest afterwards, but couldn’t get back to sleep. It was 8:30 by the time I finally had the heart to wake them up (and breakfast downstairs was ending in a half hour).
The air there is so deliciously humid. The warm air welcomed us to the town with a gentle hug. On our second morning in Glasgow, I came over to the window to listen to the ebb and flow of the city while it woke up, and my family slept. Jet lag can be such a funny thing. My only experiences with it had been usually 2 hours (rather than these 7) – at grandma’s. The tiny advantage of staying up later than my cousins for the first night or two, and them being up and awake hours before us (often egging us to get out of bed, to swing on the swing and everything else that grandma’s cottage holds). It was an advantage, rather than something waking me up at 3 in the morning. I was not familiar with that beast. Luckily Glasgow was our entirely laid-back place. No plans. Just making sure that we would see my Nana’s cousin. It also would be great if we got over the jet lag… and we just about did.
The biggest thing I was hit with while exploring this city and moving through its streets was the history. It seemed like every stone, every building, every statue was saturated with history. I live in a new country. My house is as old as my parents, not older than my great great grandparents. Through our trip and all of the other places we went, we continued to see this deeply ingrained history. Seeing statues of people that won battles in the 1200s. Paintings of royalty and battles (there were a lot of battles) who lived a thousand years ago. Here, Canada’s history doesn’t go that far. At least not Canada as Canada. There are enormous amounts of history of the Natives and Inuit, but most of the recorded bits I’ve read are from when explorers came, not hundreds of years before, and surely no castles to boast of. That was what I knew, so learning that this famous inventor was born there, in that Glasgow home and across the street was where so-and-so did this, which changed the course of history, it was eye-opening.
We took a tour, on those double-decker bus tours that let us see what we wanted to see. In fact, that was how we started out in each city. It gave us a lay of the land (or an understanding of how enormously huge it is… ahem London) and we would listen to the stories of the city as we drove by, preferably with a live guide. The Scottish ones were especially delightful, playing on that dry humour and always sharing candidly, as if you were their long-lost cousin. In fact, we found (my dad especially noted this) that everyone in Scotland welcomed us and spoke in that same way, as if you were a friend of a friend or their sixth-cousin, twice removed (or something along those lines). Being of mostly Scottish decent, it was amazing how these places felt like my roots. Most of my family has been here for hundreds of years (only a couple though), and it was fascinating to see the face of my cousin, or of a friend as we walked through the streets.
In the 9 days in Scotland, I must have done 40 double takes. Or at least 25. I kept mentioning it so I eventually didn’t say anything when I saw friends in perfect strangers. (But they were everywhere. Every. where.) It was awesome yet surprising at the same time. Among those faces, was that of my Nana’s cousin. He took us around one day to all of his favourite spots (and a few that we had planned to see as well). That day, it was magical. But, let’s save that for another day, okay? He deserves it.