There is no escaping it. Our fast food obsession has spread worldwide and rarely are we able to find a destination without this ever present reminder of all of the things that I dislike about our broken food system in the United States (though this is a topic perhaps for another blog post, or maybe for another blog entirely, as it is a subject that I have a lot to say about.)
We make a point when in other countries to eat the cuisine of that place, preferably in a restaurant filled with more local people and less tourists. No matter how hard I try, though, to find good, local restaurants and plan for picnic lunches in local parks, we end up coming occasionally while we are traveling to this shrine of low quality food at a cheap price.
Sometimes, it is convenience that drives us there. This was the case when we went to the Mc Donalds in Civitavecchia, Italy while waiting for our luggage to come in (which had mistakenly been left in JFK while we continued onto Italy for a 16 days cruise…this is also a subject for an entire new post, as it has quite the story attached to it.)
In Italy, and indeed many countries in Southern Europe, it is common for restaurants to close in those hours after lunch and before dinner, and indeed it was this black hole of “time in between” in which we found ourselves which drove us into the Mc Donalds.
One Mc Donalds that is more on my “hate” end of the spectrum was one that we did not actually even go into. Did you know that there is a Mc Donalds in Rome right across from the Pantheon? I have to admit that it is one of the cutest Mc Donalds that I have seen as it had tables out front with umbrellas, so that it would blend in with the rest of the little sidewalk restaurants that are everywhere in that part of Rome.
Unfortunately, I found that it really ruined the scene for me and that while I loved the Pantheon, I did not find the square that it was located in to be one of the more picturesque ones that we saw in Rome, much because of the intrusive presence of this particular McDonalds.
We were unwillingly driven into Mc Donalds in France (which the French people affectionately call the Mac Do) because of the deep desire of my husband to find an “American” breakfast after about 4 days of surviving on almost nothing but bread, cheese and wine (as budget travelers, it was just about all we could afford in Paris).
We found a McDonalds, went boldly inside, levels of anticipation high, only to discover that the McDonalds in France (or at least the one that we had found) were the first McDonalds that we have ever been in that did not serve some semblance of the classic, Mc Donalds breakfast. All that we found was he traditional french breakfast of Espresso, croissant and juice.
We promptly proceeded out of the Mc Donalds and into the nearest supermarche to purchase prolific amounts of yogurt and pastries in order to satiate the hunger of the male members of our party and continued on our way (we finally found what we were looking for when we crossed back across the channel to England and ate at the first Mc Donalds that we found outside of Kings Cross station where we were able to satiate the need for a cheap, hearty breakfast for the first time in a week).
We were interested to find on a recent trip that a Mc Donalds in Madrid actually had a separate section that actually was a “Mc Cafe” that was serving coffee and pastries, just like a regular coffee shop and right within the restaurant.
The most pleasant Mc Donalds that we have been in was the one that we stopped at in Stirling, Scotland. There was nothing fancy about it, it was a very standard Mc Donalds, but it was the cleanest Mc Donalds that we have ever been in the the employees there were intensely friendly, offering us really helpful advice about our itinerary and places that we should travel.
Sometimes, what you really need in a foreign place is something familiar (and in the case of our need for a Mc Donalds stop in France, something FILLING). Mc Donalds is a reliable bastion of comfort in an unfamiliar place (and the free wifi is also very helpful, and sometimes helpful employees who can point you on the right path) and while we don’t indulge in it on a regular or even a planned basis, it unfortunately can have its place in an international trip in certain extenuating circumstances, or when you really just need a touch of home.