Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable.
Sometimes it hurts. It even breaks your heart. But that’s okay.
The journey changes you—it should change you.
It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness,
on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you…
hopefully, you leave something good behind.
Recently I was a guest on The Fatal Charm of Italy podcast, with host Rick Zullo. It was such fun to reminisce how I powered through Europe eating clean and healthy. Below is an excerpt from a chapter in Release Your Obsession series: Release Your Obsession with Cheat DAZE: Heal from the Inside Out. The link to the podcast is also available for you to listen to us chat about my experience.
One of the highlights of my life thus far was going to Europe in 2016. I was a first-timer going abroad—and I looked it too. Can you imagine a full-blown confirmed food addict heading out to Europe for the first time ever, and not eating sugar, flour, or wheat? Yep, I went into the unknown, and I want to take you with me step by step…food by food.
I boarded Norwegian Air to London mid-July in 2016 at ten p.m., giddy with awe, wondering what Mom’s relatives’ land would present in England, and Dad’s in Italy. With London my first stop, thoughts of tea, hats, and English accents danced in my head, and to my delight I was greeted by flight attendants, wearing sleek and stylish uniforms.
I was in awe. The uniforms were so British.
I made my way to the very last seat on the entire plane. Goodness, I thought, this can’t be good. The very last seat next to the toilet was where I’d be spending my next eight-plus hours.
And this spot proved to be delightful. No seats were taken on the last three rows, so I sprawled out with my books, laptop, and Italian lessons, along with the prepared foods I carried with for the flight, and I settled in for what was my most relaxing travel experience ever.
All the warnings as to how awful my experience traveling to Europe would be were countered by my joyous crossing. I sipped my hot tea, watched two movies—a rare opportunity for me with my hectic life—ate roasted chicken, asparagus with a garlic butter sauce, and a sweet potato. After, filling my belly, I slept a good portion of the way.
Life is good
Traveling through Europe was a life-changer for me. I will never forget my experiences forever marked in my memory, in my consciousness, and most definitely in my heart and on my body. I did take something with me—something good and perhaps something bad as well.
I’d never been to Europe before, so I didn’t know what to expect. I’d thought I would fall in love with London, as my mom’s entire family were Londoners, and Italy, I imagined, would simply be a sidebar. But that’s not what happened. Italy is forever engraved in my heart. My dad’s family was there—and some still are—in the small town of Duvelle, outside of Vicenza.
Goodbye palm trees, goodbye ocean, goodbye Florida.
A Good Book Goes a Long Way
Settled in my seat, I whipped out Memoirs of a Solo Traveler: My Love Affair with Italy, written by Margie Miklas, which remained my constant touchstone throughout my trip, offering morsels of information, experiences, and comedic interactions with the beautiful Italian community.
Some of my experiences mirrored Margie’s, such as meeting my relatives, looking for family landmarks, plus discovering the antiquated ways of the post office, that businesses closed between one and three p.m., not to mention trying to speak Italian in different dialects, all of which enhanced my enjoyment and didn’t disappoint.
Unlike Margie Miklas, for me, the trip started in London in the quaint town of Esher, where I was to stay with my niece Jacqueline; her husband, Trevor, and three children, at their home; along with my sister Mickey and her husband, Emil, who are visiting as well from Illinois.
The plan was to stay in London Wednesday until Saturday, then fly to Italy for one week, and then back to London for a few days, and then back to Florida for me, and Illinois a week later for my sister Mickey and husband.
A Taste of London
London was amazing. The air was fresh, cool, and clean, and the accent was icing on the cake. The greenery, blooming flowers, and exquisite skyline ever-etched themselves in my mind. I felt good. Esher is a town in Surrey, England, to the east of the River Mole. An outlying suburb of London, with Esher Commons at its southern end, the town marks one limit of the built-up Greater London area.
Everything was surreal—but the food was the same. I saw fast foods on just about every corner in London. The city reminded me of Chicago, and I heard others say New York. It had that same “city” feel.
Finding food that fit my needs was easy everywhere we traveled in London. Salads were plentiful as were fruits, starchy unprocessed carbs, fats, and dairy. The only food that seemed quite pricey were the proteins. This was the first time in a long time I had the feeling that I wouldn’t have enough to eat. And at times, once in Italy, I wasn’t able to eat an ample amount when protein was factored in—and often fruit was lacking too, with the exception of those I carried with me, and those sold on the streets from carts.
In London, we ran into castles everywhere. Windsor Castle, in the town of Windsor—the queen’s preferred residence in London—as we learned, is the largest and oldest occupied castle in the world, the original castle having been built in the eleventh century. Somewhere along the way, we witnessed a changing-of-the-guard ceremony near Buckingham Palace, the place most people think of when they think of the British Royal Family.
The Internal Clock
My internal clock had me at my “normal” times, even though a time difference was at play. Each morning, I was up by six-fifteen a.m. just as I would be at home, and I went off to sleep around midnight. I think keeping my days and meals at the same intervals contributed to the ease of working my food in each day. I also attribute my comfort to the light and dark controlling my waking hour and sleep. When the light streamed through the window, I was up and out, propped at the table, sipping tea, writing in a quiet space while everyone else slept.
Once the group was up and about—free of jet lag—on the second day, my sister, twelve-year-old great niece, Jacqueline my niece, and I made our way to London for the day on Friday—as Thursday had been a recuperation-from-jet-lag, get-acclimated kinda day. We were then off to the train: there known as the tube.
I can still hear, “Mind the gap!” every time we exited—a warning to watch the space between the train itself and the platform.
In London, we walked and walked, and walked some more. One of my concerns on this trip was that I wouldn’t fit in my morning exercise. Well, that was never, ever an issue the entire trip. On and on we walked, to the point that my toes were really sore, cramping, and blistered. Yes, I bought a really swanky pair of new sneakers to wear about without breaking them in.
After gallivanting around London with our tour guide, Steven, a good looking fortyish guy with golden hair, sporting a trimmed mustache and beard, and dressed in a light olive-green, plaid suit jacket; crisp white shirt; red-and-black tie matching the dark lapel to his jacket; and black pants, and carrying a black umbrella having a hook handle, and that he often held in the air to keep his posse together. He was comical and knowledgeable all rolled into one.
As we marched along at the city center, we feasted upon: the Houses of Parliament, the iconic “Big Ben” clock tower, and Westminster Abbey—the site of British monarch coronations.
We stood gazing out across the Thames River, where we could see the London Eye, which we didn’t have time for—but I was told this observation wheel provides panoramic views of the South Bank cultural complex and the entire city.
Of course we couldn’t walk around London without poking into castles such as Buckingham Palace, which was a sight to behold. The charming red phone booths scattered about in London-Westminster still stand, reminding me of how far we’ve come with technology, each of us carrying our own device.
We passed the Churchill War Rooms, and shortly after, the horse guard parade, and then St. James Park, loaded with exquisite greenery and flowers of every color imaginable. Then we strolled through The Mall, soaking up more trees and foliage as the ceremonial marching band went by in their full red jackets, black pants, and black hat attire, with what looked to me like animal fur on top. I wondered how they could see with their hats so low. The royal band with its trumpets blaring, symbols clanging, and drums drumming was a sight to see.
Cars whizzed by on the “wrong” side of the road, something that made me dizzy to the point I had to close my eyes as a passenger. The side they drove on just didn’t seem right.
At the lovely café in the Mayfair area of Westminster, I ate salad filled with tomatoes, a spring mix of baby greens, spinach, and kale, along with chunks of chicken, red bell peppers, tomatoes, and with a lovely red vinegar and olive oil dressing on top. Afterward, we enjoyed cups of decaffeinated cappuccino.
Every day, thus far, all my foods had been clean, meaning whole, fresh, real, and on task. My nephew Trevor, an excellent cook, grilled steaks to perfection with oven-roasted garlic, olive oil potatoes, and roasted asparagus one night, and grilled breasts of chicken to equal perfection with baked potatoes, roasted-garlic broccoli, peppers, and mushrooms on another night. Though the meals were excellent, the best part was bonding while sharing conversation and laughter, and creating memories of a lifetime.
Breakfasts were eggs made into a quiche filled with vegetables, cheese, tomatoes, and onions, along with red raspberries, bananas, and oatmeal, accompanied by hot tea laced with almond milk.
I started off right, and my sticking to my foods kept going day after day, proving you can eat clean, no matter where you are, or what’s going on—and not feel deprived. We have a choice.
What is your experience with food while traveling? Do you eat out of control? Are you into cheat-day mentality?
Stay tuned…Part II is up next where you’ll get a sneak peek into my experience in beautiful Italy, a place that forever stole my heart.
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Hugs to you, I care!