I never take pictures of food. But after landing at London's sprawling Heathrow airport after an exhausting early morning flight from Amsterdam, my breakfast at Terminal 5's little Parisian-style cafe looked too delicious NOT to document. My simple picture (below) of my coffee and French toast turned into the catalyst for a story that reminds me to stay humble while traveling - because things rarely ever go as expected!
I had flown from Seattle to Amsterdam, via Heathrow, for a few days in November in order to attend a symposium and national dog show for my lifelong breed, the Kooikerhondje. Since it was nearly the end of the 2017 and my vacation days were almost gone, I went as quickly as possible - I worked Wednesday, red-eyed out that evening, and was back Sunday night in order to work again Monday. The whirlwind schedule meant there was little time for sleep, downtime, or adjusting to time changes. By the time we arrived at Heathrow at 7am on Sunday, my body had no idea what time it was or what meal it wanted - but the French toast at this little cafe looked delicious during our layover! So I snapped the picture.
Fast forward a few minutes to me letting out something between a squeak and a scream as a spider emerges from a raspberry and scuttles across my toast. I drop my fork on the plate and the cafe goes silent as my traveling companion laughs while flagging down the waitress. I'm not normally scared of spiders, but when you are sleep-deprived and one wanders unexpectedly across your food, you tend to react very viscerally! The restaurant manager and sweet French waitress were lovely about replacing my food immediately though, and while waiting for my new plate, I posted my now-fateful picture of my meal to Facebook with the caption "Eating spiders in London."
Funnily enough, one of my friends, who was herself traveling from our meeting in Amsterdam back to her home in Austria, commented that she could see the spider in the picture and it set off a hunt. Sure enough, it's there in the picture above - right-hand edge of the honey jar!
When I got home and recounted to my coworkers on Monday morning about my jam-packed European travels, I found that the stories most well-received, and now months later remembered most fondly, were the ones of weird little happenings - like the toast spider.
This has changed my outlook on travel just a bit - instead of focusing on creating experiences by trying to find the most beautiful beach, or cathedral, or plate of local cuisine - I need to focus on being open to the quirky. The unexpected adventures, the hitches in the most well-laid travel plans, and the most humorous occurrences are likely to create the best stories and memories. Not all travel is sunshine and rainbows and models riding elephants on a picturesque beach at sunset - it can be challenging, surprising, and embarrassing! Embracing these less-glamorous facets of a travel experience are the best way to keep a traveler honest, but hungry for the next adventure!