After I wrote about being in falling snow for the first time, Indigo Bunting posted about first times. She admitted shock “at this seemingly late initiation for such a well-traveled person.” (That’s me she was talking about!)
That made me realise how different our physical worlds are. That snow in the winter, to her and so much of the US and Canada and Europe, is a very normal thing. But I live in the Southern Hemisphere. Snow hits in the deep south about once a winter, but even where I grew up – a few miles from the 45th parallel, where I found myself fall only just in the northern half of the southern hemisphere – snow was not a regular phenomenon. It fell overnight once, and my father taught us how to make a snowman (roll the snowball to make it grow, don’t try and pack it together like a sandcastle). I’ve never had occasion to use that knowledge again.
When I began to travel, we planned trips carefully. When would be the best time of year to see a particular destination? We had criteria:
- It had to be reasonably warm, so that travel was easy, and we could feel free to get out and about and enjoy ourselves. That tended to rule out autumn, winter and early spring at our destination.
- We didn’t want too many crowds, so avoid school holidays if possible. That ruled out July and August in the northern hemisphere, which conveniently allowed us to meet our third rule …
- It mustn’t be too hot.
- We didn’t really want to leave New Zealand during its best weather – over Christmas and January/February.
And so we travelled to Asia and the Pacific – tropical countries mostly – or during warm seasons.
I travelled for business to Washington DC at different times of year, stopping once in Dayton, Ohio. My flight from Chicago was delayed because of snow. Everything was white, everywhere I looked. (Of course it was, I hear you saying. But this fact was a surprise to me!) It stopped snowing in Dayton about 20 minutes before we landed. It didn’t snow again the entire weekend. The snow was pretty. But I wanted to stand in it as it fell.
Then one year, we sat in one of my favourite restaurants and discussed our next trip. We had been to France about two years earlier. Since then we’d been through a lot, and escaping from life – even temporarily – seemed a good option. My brother-in-law and family had just moved to Amsterdam. I had a brain wave. “Why don’t we go to Amsterdam at Christmas?” I said rashly, over the Boulcott’s famous fillet steak and a nice red. “We might even get a white Christmas?” To my shock, my husband agreed. In the end, the trip involved Amsterdam, Vienna (where we spent Christmas with the family), Budapest, Prague, Berlin and London. I bought boots suitable for trudging through snow. We were ready.
We arrived in Budapest after a snowfall. Not a flake fell while we were there. We spent Christmas Eve in Vienna, and I called my mother at home in New Zealand in mid-summer to find that her unseasonably cold Christmas Day was the same temperature as Vienna’s unseasonably warm Christmas. Daily I looked out the window saying hopefully, “do you think it’ll snow?” whenever clouds came in. My nephew wanted to help. We watched the weather on the BBC. “Oslo has snow!” he shouted triumphantly, “let’s go there!”
Prague was freezing, and all the postcards showed what it would look like if it would only damn-well snow! Berlin was dull and gloomy, even though I loved the city. London was bitingly cold as we walked across Hyde Park. Still no snow. I spent another week or so visiting friends. No snow. My second last day in England, saw snow flurries crossed our path as I drove with Kathryn and Neil from Leicester to Stamford. By the time we arrived in Stamford, the snow had stopped.
In total I spent six weeks in Europe. Six weeks in Europe in December and January. SIX WEEKS and NO SNOW! (Apologies for shouting. But I shouted about this when I was away, and still shouted when I got home.)
So my response to IB is: It’s not without trying!