Travel Mishaps and Disappointments

Travel is a little like weddings. We’re told that it will be life-changing, full of spectacular moments that we’ll remember forever, but the reality is that it’s not always pretty or fun or life-changing.

I used to be embarrassed to admit that travel is not always easy for me.  On nearly every trip, there comes a time when I think to myself, “why did I come all this way when my own bed is so comfortable and SF coffee is so delicious?” But I’ve come to appreciate the high and low points of travel. Even when a trip hasn’t been everything I’d hoped, I’ve always found it worthwhile.

Since my reports here on the blog have often been full of highlights, I thought that while I spend two pork-filled weeks in Spain and Portugal, I’d leave you with some examples of how travel has often not been everything I’d expected it to be.


Paris was our first trip to Europe and my first lesson on managing my expectations. I’d expected Paris to be full of incredible food — and it is, but I learned that as in most cities, you have to seek out good food. We arrived in the morning and had a dry, forgettable croissant and the coffee that might as well have been Nescafe. I thought to myself, “I could be in SF having a Tartine croissant and Blue Bottle coffee! What am I doing here?” (And after two weeks in Paris, I never had a croissant in Paris that I thought bested Tartine’s.)

In Paris, we were lucky to stay in the attic apartment of friends of the family. It saved us money and it had a view of the Eiffel tower, but the trade-off was that we were told that the bathroom was a “Turkish” toilet that was located in the hall and shared with the other tenants on the floor. I probably should have googled Turkish toilet so I wouldn’t have been as shocked to see that the bathroom was essentially a hall closet that had a hole in the floor.

One last positive Parisian surprise: falafel. I expected Paris to be all about the baguette, but instead, I came away from our first trip thinking that one of the most memorable things I ate in Paris was a falafel — well, falafel and macaroons.


We arrived in Florence fresh from the Ligurian coast where we’d lucked into an apartment that had windows that looked out at the sea and terraced vineyards (and that also looked down on a topless, sunbathing German, much to Mr. WholeHog’s delight.) But the apartment we rented in Florence wasn’t nearly as picturesque: the bedroom window opened onto a lumber mill, pictured below, and the front windows looked out on a parking lot.

The view from our Florence apartment.

Although the views weren’t exactly as I’d hoped, it turned out fine. We were never bothered by any noise from the lumber mill or the construction of another apartment in the building.

Another surprise in Florence, a city full of art, was finding this park with a fountain, which, to me, looked like a pile of poop.


We stayed overnight at Cefalu, a seaside town in Sicily, to get in one last swim before heading off to Rome. Many of the restaurants in Cefalu had outdoor seating on docks that stretched out over the rocky shore and looked out at the ocean. It was definitely a cheesy, touristy sort of thing to do but I thought it’d be fun.

It was shortly after we took our seats that we heard the first meow. There were soon many meows and when we looked down, we saw the why: feral cats scrambled around on the rocks below begging for scraps. Like some of the pigeons in SF, some of the cats were deformed, missing eyes and ears among other body parts. It was awful and depressing to eat dinner above begging feral cats, not at all the charming seaside dinner I’d hoped. And if that wasn’t enough, Mr. WholeHog also got eaten alive by mosquitoes.


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