However impersonal airports can be at times, they rarely fail to raise the spirits. When you arrive at one, chances are that you’re about to set off on a new adventure, towards a destination that has you thinking of everything that you want to do. You’re a tourist. You’ll likely do touristy things. The dictionary assures me that touristy is an actual word.
Everyone has places in the world that they want to visit and sights that they want to see. I got my first passport later than most, I was on the cusp of my 30th birthday before a trip was booked by my best friend, also my girlfriend, to go to Barcelona.
It’s a beautiful city so you make a plan. Sagrada Família, walking La Rambla, Plaça de Catalunya, Palau de la Música Catalana, Avinguda Diagonal, taking the tour at the Camp Nou. Touristy things. All will be and are undoubtedly good memories. The best memories though, come with the personal experiences that you share with the person that you’re with.
Copious amounts of cava drinking at the bottom of La Rambla. Learning the Spanish for “Can I have six stamps please?” and then getting roundly slaughtered when it was clear that only four were needed to send postcards back home. Two extra stamps were procured, no big deal surely? Getting into a taxi for the Camp Nou and being mistaken for being Catalonian/Spanish because of your perfect pronunciation. Turns out that nodding a lot can get you through a taxi journey. Stumbling into a private box at said stadium and then realising that you were in the box reserved for the FC Barcelona president. Having tourist food on La Rambla and becoming switched on quite quickly that you’d been ripped off. Making up for it by having the most authentic tapas birthday meal, the night after. Enjoying the best dinner ever. Laughing a lot as your girlfriend gets accosted by an enchanting little girl in the very same restaurant but being a tiny bit sad that neither of you could converse properly with her. Getting to grips with the realisation that you’re going to probably marry that girl, or ask her at the very least. Visiting Sagrada Família and being humbled by it’s beauty. Being a typical tourist an hour later by nipping into the Starbucks across the road for an espresso.
The Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House, Heineken Experience, Dam Square and the Royal Palace, Oude Kerk, all are worth a visit. Not the best memories though.
A random time away booked at the last minute. Bumping into a model and ex Page 3 girl at the airport on the way out. One of us was amused, one of us was not. Getting nearly hit by trams or bicycles at least nearly once an hour. Telling a barman, purely on the basis that he was Dutch, that Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink was your favourite Celtic player. Once again, one of us was amused, one of us was not. Not the best idea in Amsterdam. Sleepwalking naked in the night and ending up in reception. Getting an appreciative nod the next morning when checking out early. Your girl, heading out for breakfast and trying to order it in Dutch, before being kindly chastised/praised for her efforts by the owner who probably spoke better English than both of us. Taking a wander one night and “ending up” in the red light district. Not being able to wipe the smile off of your faces for ages after an American tourist comes out of of one of the establishments and tells his friends that the girl was disappointed to see that that was all that he’d got. Keep some things private, surely?
Venice. It’s everything that you imagine it to be. It’s like a film set and definitely somewhere to explore. It’s almost impossible to get lost. Getting lost sometimes can be good though, right? Why do you travel? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place that you came from with new eyes and extra colours. The people there see you differently too. When you come back to where you started, it’s not the same as never leaving.
Arriving at the airport and upon despairing at the queues for the ferry, deciding to hop on a water taxi and having it arrive right at the front door of your hotel. Expensive but worth everything to make your girl smile. Making the decision to have breakfast one morning at Caffè Florian and being stung for €80 for two hot chocolates and two scones. That smile though. It could burst your heart. Taking the tour of the Doge’s Palace and seeing the cell where Casanova escaped from despite having to bend town the whole time you’re in there given the size of it. Man after my own heart, I’d try and escape too! Taking in the bells at Hogmanay, knee deep in water and then getting the first hug and kiss of the new year from the person that you are entirely in love with.
Philadelphia. It wasn’t the best the first time around but I’ll see you again.
Paris, one of the most famous cities in the world. Sure, do everything that you can. You should.
Returning the birthday favour and visiting the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Musée d’Orsay, Centre Pompidou, all of it is worth it. None of those things are better than laughing for an hour in the queue for a restaurant that only serves one starter and one main meal. Getting slaughtered when you order white wine with steak. Fuck off with your pretentiousness, French waiters! Chuckling for a long time that your girlfriend thinks that you might propose at the top of the tower that Gustave Eiffel built in 1887. Being on your back underneath said tower trying to take an artistic photo and never pulling it off. Your girlfriend then reminding you of your photographic failings for the rest of the trip that you suck, but secretly liking taking it tight.
Anyone who is ever on the east coast of the US, needs to head to the nation’s capital. Washington. See the things that you’re supposed to see as a tourist. Some of those will become more personal depending on your likes, wants and needs. Whether I’m back or not, I’ll always remember the the White House, Neptune Fountain. The Great Hall, the Library of Congress. Walking along the corridor from the Capitol to said Library of Congress. Taking in the special collection room on the upper floor and seeing the three doors representing tradition, writing and printing. Cutting about the Minerva Foyer and the Congressional Reading Room with you. Debating whether or not, just for a second, to try and steal Lincoln’s pocket watch. Nic Cage could probably do it. You’re welcome, producers of National Treasure! The Smithsonian and buying gifts for a dear friend. Being in awe of the Guttenberg Bible and taking photos of all of the sites. One person featured heavily, the other did not. It’s always a good plan to go on holiday with someone who looks better than you so that you can take pictures of them that you’ll treasure forever.
The Windy City. It’s beautiful, absolutely beautiful. Visit if you can, you won’t regret it. Millennium Park and the bean, the Magnificent Mile, The Willis Tower, still referred to as the Sears Tower, all of it will impress. It still doesn’t impress as much as having drinks with someone that you love in a hotel that is one of the most architecturally stunning I’ve ever seen. Smiling when she discovers strawberry margaritas. Smiling harder when she discovers blackberry margaritas. Buying a bespoke piece of jewellery for her when she wanted to get it herself, and then she’s disappointed to find that someone else has bought it. That someone else was clearly me. The joy on her face made the trip worth every penny.
The greatest city in the world, New York. The sights are too many to mention but you try and do them all. It’s touristy, why wouldn’t you? Having been a dozen times but never on my own, my favourite city is made by my second favourite person in the world. My favourite memories are made by my second favourite person in the world. Eating the best burger in the world at Minetta Tavern. Cafe Wha. Having a drink at the Subway Inn whilst you took two hours to get there from Battery Park. Taxis were available but you still got lost in the most navigable city ever. You trying to order a cab at 4pm, whilst not realising the shift change for yellow cabs. Bottle service at Angels & Kings. Seeing and meeting Travie McCoy and telling him that you love him. Drinks were clinked, I was never threatened. Telling Panic At The Disco at the bar to fucking hurry up and order. Telling me that there were some dicks at the bar who thought they were a boyband. Erm, actually they were. Meeting Pete Wentz, Ashlee Simpson and Seth Green. Putting Seth in a panic by giving him too hard a handshake. Get over it dude, we’re Scottish. Seeing Young The Giant, Marina & The Diamonds, Gavin DeGraw and denying a request to see The Pigeon Detectives. Being the first person up to the crown of the Statue of Liberty and asking the guy at the top what he did when he needed a pee. Being jealous of you hitting the cart with a golf ball before me at Chelsea Piers. Wasabi crusted steak at Tao, drinks at Banc, buying dubious things at Duane Reade. The rooftop of the hotel on warm nights with cold Patron. Having the second best day and night of my life in Central Park with you and three other people who I care about deeply.
Too many memories to mention but every one of them will last forever.
That’s the thing with memories that make you happy. You’ll remember them for the rest of your life. Travelling will give you many memories. All of the above cities have felt like home at some point but that’s because of the companion. You can have a home wherever in the world that you want, depending on who is with you. It’s special, they are special. It is how it is and it always will be.
Soon, a new city and a new country will become home. I can’t wait but I’m scared too. I’m going alone. No one to hug me, kiss me, wind me up, buy me beer, slaughter my photo taking abilities, to warn me off dodgy clothes purchases. It’s just me. It’s a new adventure and it’s a realisation that there are so many different places in the world to call home.