Bach to the Shire
Random Thoughts on our travel and the art of traveling:
After 3 flights, 6 trains, countless taxis, busses, bikes, trams, 4 rental cars driven over 3,000 km, 25 different hotels or apartments, visits to over 40 cities/towns, two(!) haircuts, over 150 meals out, 1 million pastries, 70+ bottles of wine, an estimated 200 credit card transactions (and did not lose a single card!) and over 400 miles walking (7 milesx60+days) - we are headed back to the Ponderosa.
What amazes me the most is even after such a long trip in only two countries (actually four, but short stays in Portugal and The Netherlands only count as appetizers for further visits), we still feel like we have really not scratched the surface. There is so much more to experience!
We were extremely lucky with the weather and it really only rained 4 days. I finally chucked my umbrella in a dumpster somewhere in the south of France. Our plan was to start in the south and follow the good weather north and it worked nearly flawlessly.
Cathy was an amazing travel partner. We got along great the entire trip. We did take 1/2 day breaks occasionally which helped us appreciate each other even more.
The smaller footprint you make and leave, the easier you are to travel with.
Speaking a different language is more challenging than I thought.
People are more alike than they are different.
If you can't walk or climb stairs, Europe is going to be difficult for you. The American Disability Act did not include Europe.
Spain and France have better public transportation and health care than the US.
Good wine is cheaper in Europe. Great wine is cheaper in the US.
If you think gasoline is expensive in the US, try again.
Many younger Europeans seem awed by the U.S. and all of them say they want to visit. We often found ourselves saying we are from the US - not England as for some reason travelers from the US seem to get more respect than those from the mother country.
French drivers are more conservative than the Spanish - but both pale in comparison to the Italians.
We dislike toll roads - although they are a pleasure to drive on.
With all due respect, both the Spanish and the French need to do a better job with popular music and movies. Can't tell you how many times we have been in a shop or restaurant and heard American Golden Oldies - and not just in touristy places, but nearly everywhere. Same with movies at the cinema - same movies that are showing in the US - just with translation or subtitles.
I laughed to hear the music of Pink Martini played in at least 4-5 different locations - wine bars, restaurants, shops throughout France. If they only knew...
French people are not snotty. They are proud of their culture and would like us to respect it.
The Spanish people are more laid back and easy going. The French are a bit more formal.
What do I miss about home?
After 68 days, we were never homesick, although we thought about home fondly. However, we do miss our kids, family and friends. Other things that I miss include the piano, our wine cellar, my whiskey collection, planting seed starts for the garden, washing machines, fast internet, Blazer games and eating on our deck. That said, all of that will be there when we return (except the Blazers !?#!?!?).
Funny that we didn't miss watching TV - although to be fair, it was in other languages.
What was the most memorable? There really were so many great moments and experiences - and of course like most adventures, they get even better as they cook in your mind. The Basque cider house adventure with Terry and Alfons was very special, a week of Paris exceeded my expectations, time at La Boisserie was as real a French experience as we could have ever hoped for, the laid-back Andalusian small beach towns felt timeless, our many kind "landlords" who rented us their apartments, the beauty of Collioure in the very south of France, the incredible lunch in Lyon, the great wine in Chateauneuf de Pape, Bordeaux and Beaune, the great cathedrals throughout our trip, the kindness of so many who could have just as easily ignored us. The food!
Where would we go back to?
Seville - this is a has-it-all city. Culture, history, great food, weather....
Lisbon - best views and new hip restaurant scene, wide avenues...
Collioure - Mediterranean paradise (especially spring and fall)
Beaune - so much good wine and food, so much wine history, cutest village ever!
Dijon - Great markets and shopping, beautiful old downtown, part Provence, part Paris.
Paris - so much there, so much life, so very beautiful.
Would we change anything?
I'd bring a smaller suitcase, study the language longer before coming, bring my own small pillow....but really that's about it. I'm glad we went everywhere we did - even if we would not go back. Some places I would have loved to linger a bit longer. It will all leave a lasting impression and a hunger to go there and back again.
Thanks for reading this blog.
Captains log. Stardate April 30, 2015 - Over and out.