I first visited London when I was 16. My British-literature teacher offered to take a dozen or so over-achieving students to the city over spring break. Intrigued by the idea of international travel and, let’s admit it, a chance to spend more time with the teacher (I had a bit of a crush – as did most of my cohorts on the trip) I started saving money made at the Half Off Card Shop to pay for my adventure.
In this most recent visit (at double the age), I’ve found memories of that initial foray into travel popping up. My food memories are vivid; pizza with corn on it (corn!); my first red-wine vinaigrette (I thought I’d get drunk); a heavenly baguette at an Upper Crust inside one train station or another; and, of course, a healthy obsession with the endless Cadbury selection of candies at Boots and WH Smith.
I stopped into Boots quickly this afternoon to pick up supplies and was just a tiny bit giddy about entering the store that has (due to various maladies in my subsequent trips to Great Britain) been essential to all of my over-the-pond travel. I wondered if those traveling to the states feel the same about our CVS or Walgreens.
And then there’s Pret a Manger and Upper Crust and the dozens of other chains. If they were at home, would I eat there? Not likely. (Though Pret’s sustainability messaging is very well done and their fruit cups – “your one of five servings a day” – made me feel a little better about all the french fries I’ve been eating.)
In short, my standards and habits are different when abroad. And I can feel less hypocritical about this knowing that no matter where I am, the chances of my visiting any version of KFC (Tennessee Fried Chicken, Kentucky Chicken and Fish, etc.) are zero.