Yesterday was the first anniversary of the first trip Carol and I took together. We went to France, which had been the scene of my first solo train trip the year before. Without really thinking it through (which is generally my method of thinking things through), this second France trip was a test of how well I stack up as a solo versus a companion traveler. In retrospect, it was probably more of a test of how well Carol stacked up as a companion to a solo traveler.
In many respects, Carol was visiting two foreign countries at once: France and me. She enjoyed the parts of France she saw: Luxembourg Garden, Giverny, Avignon and Lyon. And she made notes on all the parts she would have liked to have seen were it not for my penchant of wandering off aimlessly and not asking directions. I've explained to Carol that it's my way of seeing places and things normal tourists won't see. Carol has addressed that with the purchase of maps and guidebooks, so that we accomplish more what tourists accomplish when they travel, as compared to, say, refugees and the homeless.
By the time we were deep into our trip to Italy trip six months or so later, Carol had become adept at guiding us to interesting places to see and where to eat, while leaving me with the distinct impression I had wandered onto them on my own. This happened in Salerno, when I had us hop off the bus several stops too soon, got us completely lost in the old city, and then Carol guided us in the complete opposite of where I was taking us. When we arrived at the Garden of Minerva, I helpfully pointed out how much more we got to see of the old city my way. (I kept to myself that my detour took a big chunk out of the time we would have spent looking at flowers and shrubs.)
What's emerged from our companionship travel so far is a kind of kabuki dance of me turning a sightseeing objective into a long, meandering and pointless itinerary that leads to a shortened visit to the well-regarded Whatever, and then bleeding directly into Happy Hour. Carol's strategy is an inverted pyramid of that same approach: direct to the Whatever first, followed by a long meandering walk to a sidewalk cafe, and the close of business for the day.
As we begin to look ahead to our October trip to Great Britain, our evident different approaches are converging nicely. Because of our reading of Theroux and Bryson, we are using the maps and guidebooks to steer us away, rather than toward, many of the coastal villages and industrialized urban areas gutted or simply desiccated by the fall of British economic and political supremacy. I will indulge Carol's affection for the Royals ( she was in London for William and Kate's wedding), as she will indulge my attraction to musty bookshops and dimly lit pubs. We're expecting the weather to limit meandering aimlessly, while expediting the start of Happy Hour.
Should be a great trip.