For the past two months, this energizer bunny hopped from the bridges of Prague to the mayhem of Berlin, from the spa town of Baden Baden to the ghetto memorial of Cracow, from the high couture of London to the security of friends in Northern England (where I scored this “dah-lyn” travel bag), from the fab-o shopping of Bologna (think: Balsamic Glaze in a squeeze bottle!) and now to the majestic aroma of Cologne. I think I travel to unwind myself a bit. When “at home,” I work, I rest. I most likely spend 3 nights socializing (from hosting others to knitting club to meeting for coffee) and the rest of the evenings just eeking by with day to day stuff: internet “work” (aka reading websites, researching trips, shopping online, answering emails) preparing meals, Skyping, bathing, chores). I have a routine, and thrive in it. I am at work around 7, home around 6. I follow a schedule. I am a “good girl” rule follower. But, when I travel, I listen more to the moment than the plan. I laugh more. I make things up as I go along (somewhat like my cooking). This is how travel should be: wondrous.
So, this is a day in the life of a Traveling K:
6:30 am: Brush my teeth, looking out of hotel window. Notice a cool staircase. Spend 10 minutes trying to get a cool angle. Remark with pleasure that the light announces itself a bit earlier and underneath, behind the snow, seeds may stir. Get on the computer; fail at setting up the hotel internet. But write for about 20 minutes, while watching the show The Middle.
7:30 Coffee! Yep! After applying minimal mascara and pulling on sweats. Walk down stairs to the breakfast bar and sipped coffee while internet browsing. Most coffee in European hotels serve the coffee in cute individual teapots. That first cup? Divine. Hits the spot every time.
7:50-8:20: Short jog/stroll through the early Saturday morning streets. Notice a public urinal next to a four hundred year old church and laugh (sorry, there’s no pic here.)
8:40: After a quick change, head to the breakfast buffet. I nosh on almost everything, hard boiled eggs, veggies, brie and molasses on nut toast, yogurt quark with muesli. This is one of my favorite parts of the day. The vibrancy of the colors, and being a morning person, embarking on great breakfast nostalgia. I don’t tend to pick people’s brain at the breakfast table, but I like to hear about their story.
10:30 After the leisurely breakfast, meandering through Saturday morning market, window shopping positions itself as the perfect traveling start to the day. And, within minutes, we stumble upon a gem, Kaffeeschen, a small independent coffee connoisseur where the owner stands before the shoppers and hand tailors choices when you say a few words about your personality or preferences. Like the color green? Try out the Cognac brew (and I did!) Are you a fan of rich brocades? Then the India blend is for you (my aunt Kathy will be getting some soon!)
10:45 ish…I kid around with a couple of bartenders and pretend to serve Kolsch ( Say Kuuuuurrrrl-sha), Cologne’s very specialized and highly alcoholic beverage. Think super-charged pils meets effervescent light 7 up…the servers dose them up by the dozen, meaning, you have to wait until a dozen or so are ordered (um, less than 5 minutes!) and refills come unless to tell them you’re ready for the check. The server there said most people have 4 or so in a 40 minute sitting !
11:15 strolling around Cologne, we cross the bridge. Not only is it NOT snowing or raining, but there is little wind. I am ecstatic…and notice locks of various shapes and sizes adorn the entire length of the bridge … and names, initials or sweet nothings adorn each lock. We start a game of guessing the “locks of love” events, Gerth & Jan, were you here on the night she turned 14?
12:15 Coffee Break, or for me, an Almond Pastry from the Bakeri, and a marzipan from one of Cologne’s infamous confectionaries. This town takes its sweets seriously. Noon is the perfect time for almond flavored sugar formed in the shape of a strawberry to announce itself before your gracious eyes. There is something so precious about eating such lovingly beautiful treats.
1-2: To the MARKETS! Not only do I pick up pickled herring and bread from a divine delicatessen, but entering the oil shop brought an enthusiastic WOW! I LOVE this place. Why? SAMPLES! K LOVES to sample. I savored dips (corn pesto!), crostinis (curry cilantro), likors (winterberry!), oils (Walnut Lemon!), mustards (hot madras), jellies and chutney (mango cherry!) and vinegars (plum)…before settling upon a FIG VINEGAR. SOOOO tasty! I am thinking: with oranges, roasted fennel and acorn squash…maybe some pecorino?
3: A little more shopping. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this paper store and totally SCORE a birthday present for baby (not so baby anymore!) B. I take a little while here, buying a cute bowl for myself and thinking about decorating. Listen people, I don’t like to shop unless I am on vacation. So I am all in for this store. I also got a little pink dish with three wells for olive oil or olives…
Not only did I see my first ever Jackson Pollack, but this place had a new favorite style of mine: Surrealism. I think the colors and the dramatic shapes speak to the “becoming bigger” longing in me. Kirchner. Ernst. Check this out! Isn’t she gorgeous? I also scored a large print of my favorite KLIMT for 4 EURO!
6:30…needing a pick me up, FROMME, more than a hundred years old serving up awesome PRALINES and Marizpan
8 pm…Deciding to forgo a concert in favor of awesome tapas, finally top of the day with a great Rioja, which comprised of dark Tempranillo grapes and an easy smoky finish. This offset the tomatoes with Fleur De Salts…a quad of different sea salts to sprinkle over the tomato and oil. Savor. IT. With papas bravas, olives, fruit de la mar, marinated artichokes, grilled garlic with Serrano chilies. Spanish food is my language!
10:30pm…walk back. Taking time to be grateful for the day, and making sure to do what I always do while traveling: “what was your high of the day?”
HMMMM….mine? Definitely the art museum. Okay…maybe that fig vinegar, but as I sip my marzipan espresso from my french press, it’s the lingering finish of my memories that overfills my cup. Mine to savour and praise.