McDonald’s, the American Embassy

Sofia: It’s almost as if we speak Bulgarian!

By Perrin

Before Sarah and I left the US, we generally avoided McDonald’s.  Admittedly, we sampled its wares and enjoyed some of them. (Sarah can even plot from memory the price distribution of its frozen yogurt throughout Manhattan – cone cost ranges from $0.90 in Columbia Heights to $1.62 in Times Square. However, most other foods under the golden arches made our stomachs churn.

Kandersteg: McDonald’s adorable Swiss relation McDoris.

Perhaps this decidedly un-American abstention from Mickey D’s stemmed from our father, who has boycotted the restaurant since the age of 17, when he noticed that a golden arch had sprung up by a favorite beach.  Surveying the greasy red and yellow blemish on the smooth face of the sand, he vowed never to set foot in a McDonald’s as long as he lived.

Belgrade: McD’s changes things up with some Mediterranean flavor – looks like fish sticks.

Such a vow was easier kept in 1968.  Over the past year, Ronald McDonald beamed at Sarah and me throughout our treks in Europe, Northern Africa and Asia.  His was the consistent friendly face in 23 of the 25 countries we visited.  As for Laos and Cambodia, where the big M was MIA, we probably weren’t looking hard enough.

Prague: Stylish al fresco seating in which to enjoy a sloppy, juicy burger.

Our perception of the food chain began to transform five weeks into our travels. On one Italian afternoon, the Sisters Bailey and our buddy Bogdan sweltered for over an hour on the side of the highway to Pompeii.  The egg-frying July heat drew sweat as we stared collectively towards the horizon, aching to spot our bus in the distance. No bus arrived.  Taxis and public transportation were far beyond reach. The only thing in sight was a pair of golden arches.

“If the sun sets and the mafia comes out, we can stay at the American embassy,” Bogdan concluded.  He indicated the McDonald’s.

Berlin: Rock and roll art suits this young city. McDonald’s keeps a higher standard of decor in Europe.

Suddenly, the giant M shone as a welcome beacon of familiarity.  We embraced it. For the rest of our journey, the chain’s boldly colored huts provided us with WiFi, English speaking employees, and recognizable edibles.  On lucky days, we found outposts that kept soft American cookies baking on hot plates behind the counter.

We salute McDonald’s for its backpacker comforts, in addition to its sumptuous one dollar/euro/pound/lira frozen yogurt.

Istanbul: Kahvalti or Egg McMuffin – a rose by any other name…

Turkey’s take off on McDonald’s, Burger Turk, suggests that super-sizing is a transnational impulse.

London: 200 seats?! Almost spacious enough for a Royal Wedding after-party.

Vienna: You know a city is posh when McDonald’s is housed in a Park Avenue-ready townhouse.


About sistersbailey

We are Perrin and Sarah Bailey, collectively known as “The Sisters Bailey”. The moniker was born out of a crazy weekend at the 2009 New Orleans Jazz Fest and it was the first time we had ever been referred to as one unit. We grew up in Alexandria, VA together and then separated for college - Perrin to The University of Pennsylvania and Sarah to Northwestern University – and somehow landed together in New York after graduation. It was in the midst of the hustle of Manhattan that we became friends for the first time in years. Somehow we landed jobs in the same industry - Sarah worked in marketing at HBO and Perrin managed creative digital promotions for her media agency’s main client, Disney - just three blocks from one another. One day we decided to leave our jobs, sell our belongings and travel abroad with a backpack and a collective savings of $10K. The stories of our continuing adventures and those of other fearless travelers are here to inspire you.
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5 Responses to McDonald’s, the American Embassy

  1. Taylor says:

    I love this post and totally agree about McDonalds being a beacon of familiarity that is often welcomed. I love the McDonalds here in France with the outside eating areas, as if they were some “tres francais” cafes. They’ve also got burgers with lamb and goat cheese. Haven’t tried one yet… but I want to! Did you guys come across a McExpress? They’re smaller food stalls sitting next to the main McDonalds, and somehow faster? And cheaper. Not exactly sure why they exist.

  2. DMCarl says:

    This post makes me hungry
    Very funny!

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  4. Jamie Parker says:

    HaHaHa, The reason that place in Kandersteg has that sign is because me and some friends made it for her years ago after sampling the all you can in pork snitzel and chips. I am sure you will be equally sad to hear that Doris’ husband has now died. His funeral was in January just before we returned to the slopes of Oeshinensee. As if you have this picture!! I love it!

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