The group tumbled out of a tour bus at Scotland's Stirling Castle and reassembled in a knot of black and khaki near the ancient ramparts.
A woman near the rear stared as three travelers strode by in plaid Bermuda shorts, sweat shirts and cowboy hats, and then she murmured:
"Have you ever known anyone as funny as people?"
Can't say that I have: the way they dress, the phrases they use, the questions they ask and then ask again.
Of course, I could say "we" and not "they," but I do have some sartorial rules of the road.
Wear Your Zoo Best
I try not to dress as if every destination were a zoo on a free afternoon. Even some zoos--such as those in Barcelona and Budapest--bring out families in their Sunday best.
I try to dress in nice enough fashion to be welcomed at my hotel with a smile instead of a shudder. I try to wear solid colors and not appear as either an American in an American costume or an American in a Japanese costume.
Because I am often involved in meeting business people or in interviewing the odd count, I try to choose low-key clothes. I never wear Hawaiian shirts. That part is easy, even in Hawaii.
I try to dress comfortably, but not in clothes so old that I warn them, while packing, that it is their last trip.
Europeans of all ages seem more fashion conscious than Americans. Children in Parisian parks often appear to be dressed for a portrait by Renoir, not ready to tangle in a tug-of-war over a muddy pit.
Simple, understated clothes work best if you wish to sit at a sidewalk cafe and blend with locals who are sipping \o7 cappuccino\f7 or Dubonnet. If you must be the center of attention, go ahead and put on your beer-can hat, or Statue of Liberty T-shirt with its battery-powered torch.
Natural Fabrics Preferred
Polyester does not wrinkle, but it can stand out amid the woolens and cottons and natural fabrics of much of the world's wardrobe. And wrinkles swiftly fall out of good-quality natural fabric, especially if it's textured or nubby.
When I strode out of the Royal Hotel in Copenhagen recently to visit the shop Den Permanente, I was wearing black flannel trousers, black walking shoes, a white silk shirt and black trench coat. Twice I was stopped by couples who seemed to be asking directions. I was unable to help, because the first question was in Danish and the second in German.
But it gave me a lift to know that I must have looked at home. And it's true that I knew where I was going--at least for the next three blocks.