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Summer Postcards 2017

Summer Postcard: McChickens with a Side of Bamboozled

By Maria Victoria Paredes
By Maria Victoria Paredes, Crimson Opinion Writer

I left the imprints of strappy wedges in grass and gravel across 14 cities in 18 days, with all the passion of a summer breeze and none of the grace. This isn’t to say that I did not wander or sip or taste or prance across Italy and France. I did it all, except my wanders were trips, my sips were spills, my tastes were stains, and my prances were sprints. I tore my favorite pair of nude wedges, unintentionally flashed church-goers, and ripped a tight navy dress—and that was only the beginning.

My 17-year old-brother, part-time traveler partner, and full-time best friend, was not spared by the Universe. Together, we were bamboozled left and right. I left my Visa debit card at home in Miami where it taunted me from 6,000 miles away as I faced shopkeepers, waiters, and artists who proudly rejected my American Express card in multiple languages including the increasingly popular ‘Italian-Hand-Gesture.’

The devil’s house, known in some circles as the Euro Exchange kiosk, put my math skills to the test when its advertised 1.284 US Dollar to Euro rate somehow equated to 46 euros for 80 dollars. I realized then that in my time away from Italy, I had not only lost my Italian but was also illiterate in this dialect—one that translates all transaction agreements to, “Please wait while we rob you with a 20 percent commission charge and a standard six euro fee.” In a particularly shameful episode, I was swept into paying three euros, of our remaining 26, for a rose from a man who had offered it for free.

The only place that accepted our AmEx in nearly all of Venice was a shop owned by an elderly Italian couple that sold paintings of dogs dressed in extravagant ball gowns. Worth it.

The highlight of the trip was spotting the iconic Golden Arches that embody all that is right and all that is wrong with the United States: a McDonald’s. Hangry and dehydrated in the glory of an air conditioned dining room, we were thrown a bone, or, rather a French fry, from afar by Steve Jobs. Armed with Apple Pay—because not even the epitome of American cuisine accepts American Express—we quickly became McDonald’s connoisseurs, comparing the quality of EuroSaver McChickens and McCafe selections as they varied by city. Venice’s McDonald's boasts delicious marmalade brioches but Verona’s has an exquisite dessert display and cheaper water bottles. France’s McDonald’s are an embarrassment.

So, yes, we did it all. We got lost in narrow streets and took artsy Instagram photos and discussed architecture styles. But, after all was said and Facebooked, what we’ll remember the most will be leaving our hotel with five plastic water bottles refilled once, twice, and thrice with Venetian fountain water, sweaty clothes, empty-ish stomachs, and full hearts, grateful for mishaps that make a vacation an adventure.

Maria Victoria Paredes ’20 is a Crimson editorial editor in Adams House.

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Summer Postcards 2017