My wife got a wild bug up her butt and decided to start batting around this idea of going on an overseas trip. It’s not her first trip out of state (I think she’s up to four now), but it Is her first one out of country. For me, it’d be the fourth (?), but our first trip to Europe. All of my extra CONUS activity has been points south of here.
Then she actually booked a reservation at a hotel in Dublin, and now we’re locked in. We’re really going. This is not a drill. And while I have a year and change to prep, the prep work is going on Now.
Murphy’s Law of Combat: “No plan survives initial contact Intact.”
That’s why the prep is going on now. And where most times for most trips we come from different paths to meet at the same place, this trip is starting to show us just how much differently we actually Do travel. My wife got online and got her Google-Fu going and shot me an itinerary for a whirlwind tour of the UK that had guided tours and trips everywhere and travel galore. She had us in for history, and books, archeology, and a bunch of touristy stuff. I looked at that and went about trying to complete the plan that she outlined. I figure out where we’re going to eat. Where to do laundry. Where the nearest pharmacy or hospital is in case of emergency. I look for the quiet shops.
And because I love my wife, I look for the places one can get chocolate. Even in a small town like Hay-on-Wye in Wales. And yes, I did find the Fudge Factory there. You’re welcome wifey. The difference between us? She travels like a scholar and tourist. I travel like a, well, a bard.
If you were to ask me where I’d go in San Antonio, for example, I would never list a lot of the places most would expect. Alamo? Maybe once. Tower of Americas? For the view, maybe. Not for dinner. Riverwalk? Oh no. In fact, don’t even bother going downtown. Sea World and Six Flags? In the 20 plus years I’ve lived in the area, I have never once set foot at either. If it were me? Universal City, UC park. Randolph AFB and the ATC museum there. Ft. Sam Houston and BAMC. The only other places inside 1604 that I’d go are places to eat. By the way, best place to eat in SA? Go out 10 west headed out toward Beorne, until you get to Beorne Stage Road. Pull off on that exit and look for Rudy’s BBQ and Country Store.
And after a quick search for it, I find they opened one up in my old neighborhood on the Northeast side out by Schertz. I think I’d still go to the one out by Beorne though. Tradition and all.
Want to know where to eat in SA? Pick a food group. I have favorites for all of them. Thai Taste on the north west side. Freebirds in Huebner Oaks. Golden Pheonix for buffet on the northeast side. Taco Cabana instead of Taco Bell, because the Bell doesn’t do fajitas right. It’s Supposed to come on a sizzling skillet. Pizza? Double Daves. Ice Cream? Anywhere that serves Blue Bell. (Trust me on this, if you’re in Texas, there IS NO OTHER ICE CREAM. Try some and you’ll figure out why.) Mongolian BBQ? There was an awesome place on Walzem, but I don’t know if it’s still there. And not one of those places will ever be found by a tourist unless a local takes them there.
What’s the difference? Price for one. Touristy places are always over priced, watered down, Mild flavored and spiced. Authentic SA food should clear your sinuses and fill you up. It comes with cheese. It has Shiner Bach on tap. The BBQ sauce has jalapenos listed in the ingredients. And in the mom and pop restaurant, if you pop down for a 10$ lunch plate, you’re getting enough food to feed a ranch hand. You get real beans and rice. Tortillas aren’t just made on site, but made by Hand on site by Mi Madre. Touristy doesn’t know you by name. Authentic means you get Corona with a lime in the bottle, top popped for you and still dripping from the ice chest. That’s the SA I know. The military town in south Texas that’s a mix of German and Mexican and service. It’s wurst and beer in the fall and tamales for Christmas. It’s hot and spicy and made to feed grunts and Airmen. And in this, it’s awesome.
And Six Flags just doesn’t compete. That’s the difference. Ten years in California and I still remember Texas brisket. (My doctor is going to weep openly if I talk about eating it though…)
And when it comes to Anyplace I travel, I want the authentic. I want the quiet little local place. Come to Davis and I’ll take you to Sam’s for shawarma and introduce you to Sam and family and get a lunch that can’t be beat. I’ll then take you a block across the park and into Let Them Eat Cake for a Guinness dark chocolate cupcake that can only be described as sinful. This is how I travel.
And as I show wifey bits and things here and there, she’s starting to figure out the same thing. When one of the guides she started reading was actually talking about places to do laundry, she knew why I was asking how long in between laundry days. You have to pack more or less clothes depending on that answer. More laundry days = fewer clothes packed = lighter luggage = more room for trip trinkets. That’s thinking like both a tourist and a traveler.
And that’s what I’m looking for in this trip. I want to explore Ireland, sure. I want to wander around Ulster and find my family history and have a torrid love affair with my wanderlust without having to take off my wedding ring. I want to find a Claddagh there to fit my wife’s finger and give it to her in Dundalk and swear by the standing stone Cú Chulainn was supposed to have died on that I am her husby. I want to sit back in a quiet corner booth with my walking stick and listen to a Triad. I want to fall asleep to the sound of a fiddle playing downstairs. I want to wake up to the smell of good coffee and bangers and mash cooking in the kitchen. I want people to smile and say they love MY accent while I’m loving theirs. These are the memories I’m looking for. And I can’t wait to experience them.