Greg’s Dad and Mom invited us to join them in an Italian villa they rented in the fall of 2000. Fears of flying and going far from home were put aside, and that trip changed us forever.
Europe is where many of our ancestors came from, so, of course, there has always been that strong desire to learn more about the places they lived and why they left there.
We have beautiful scenery in America, and there is plenty of it in Europe. But, perhaps the most memorable things from a trip there are the history, the culture, the architecture and the art. At a time when more and more people are leaving the church, tourists (not residents) flock to European churches as the center of much of the spectacular art and history.
The European magnet also might be in small things. And, many things in Europe can be small, some of the lesser known countries themselves, hotel rooms, cars, trucks, food portion sizes and more. The most notable small things are the prices of some things, notably airfares (not to get there from America but hopping around once you get there), inexpensive but perfect loaves of baguette bread, pizzas served by waiters not expecting tips, and lots of wine cheaper than orange juice.
The quality of nearly everything cannot be missed. It shows in even the lowest priced hotels; and, in the cuisine, where “slow food” is bigger than fast food and where even an old railroad station might have a coffee shop that has fresh pastries and freshly-squeezed orange juice. It shows in the classy and fashionable way nearly everyone dresses, even though many more people in Europe are unemployed. And that unemployment and early retirement pay has helped create a populace that seems more focused on relaxing, enjoying the simpler things of life, like food and drink, and spending more time with family.
We can travel the USA from coast to coast and see lots of “same old” food places, retail stores, and gas stations. Europe so far has avoided a lot of America’s homogenization, and, despite its other shortcomings, and it certainly has them for its residents, it can be very inviting for a traveller.
After our initial trip of less than two weeks, we were eager to return, even though the next year brought us 9/11 and even greater fears of international travel. We were fortunate to return several times in the last 15 years, visiting more of Italy and adding more countries and even eastern Europe, an area that was never anticipated by us in 2000. Some of these trips included cruises, where it is possible to see multiple cities and countries in a short period and is the easiest way to get around the Greek islands. But we have also had more restful and targeted trips to such places as the French and Italian Rivieras, Tuscany, and Sicily.
This October, Sue’s sister Regina Pulsifer will join us on her first trip to Europe. To give her a quick introduction to many areas we have visited and to allow us some new experiences, we are planning a trip that will be less focused. We decided that we wanted to see a large number of countries, using planes, trains and automobiles. With the assistance of the website airbnb, a new lodging service not available when we last travelled to Europe, we will travel from north to south during the month of October, with the goal of visiting at least 16 countries.