Saturday, May 18, 2019

A great trip

I am finally getting around to writing about our recent European vacation. It was as delightful as I expected it would be, maybe even more so.

I still don't care for air travel and on the way over, by the time we landed I felt like I was about to come out of my skin. We flew from here to Newark, and Newark to Milan. We can't afford to fly business class (which I think is what used to be called first class) where you can recline your seat, get all kinds of great food and drink, and essentially go to bed, but we forked over a few more dollars for "premium economy" which put us closer to the front of the plane and gave us a little more legroom. I think it helped a little.

On the return trip, I flew home from Vienna and Wife flew from Vienna to London where she met Younger Son and they spent a week in England and Ireland. They flew home together from Dublin to Chicago, where Wife caught a plane back to Nashville. My flight home, although longer (ten hours, vs about 7.5 for the flight over), was more tolerable. I did the premium economy thing again and was also on an exit row.

It certainly helps that the airlines have those little screens on the backs of the seats so you can watch movies or even some TV shows. It's just the confined space for such a long period of time that gets to me.

But here's the thing: the destination makes it all worth it. I told Wife I was going to have a better attitude about it next time, and I will.

From Milan, we took a train to the Cinque Terre, which is a group of five villages on the northern Italian coast and is a national park. It was simply charming and we loved our time there. From there we went to Venice, where we met our Arkansas friends. Venice has to be one of the most interesting cities I've ever visited. I knew it was on the water but I guess I had never understood that it is ON THE WATER and the only way to get anywhere while you are there is by foot or by boat. People who live there don't have cars. They have boats if they have anything at all.

From Venice we went to Florence, which Wife and I had visited in 2009 when we did our Mediterranean cruise. We had a beautiful Airbnb apartment just a couple of blocks from the Duomo, the beautiful cathedral there that is probably the main landmark of the city.

We left Florence on Good Friday and went to what would be my favorite part of the trip -- the Tuscan region of Italy. We stayed in a B&B owned by two American guys who lived in Arkansas for a number of years, one of whom our friend Mike, who we were traveling with, knew. They were incredible hosts and their place was lovely, as were the people in the little town where they live. We spent Easter weekend there and enjoyed seeing the quaint villages in their area.

We left them on a Monday morning (Easter Monday, a holiday in Italy) and went to Lake Como. There we had our only bad weather of the trip. It rained off and on most of the two days we were there, but we made the most of it. In fact, the low clouds over the lake and mountains created a unique kind of beauty in itself. Some of the best food we had was during this part of the trip.

We took a train back to Milan from Lake Como and parted company with our friends who we had been with for a week. They went south to Rome and the Amalfi Coast, while Wife and I went north to Austria.

Our first Austrian stop was Salzburg, where much of "The Sound of Music" was filmed, and on which Salzburg has definitely capitalized. We did a cheesy Sound of Music tour and loved every minute of it. After a couple of days in Salzburg we went to the tiny and beautiful village of Hallstatt, where we spent one night, and from Hallstatt we went to Vienna and I flew home from there.

I came home on Day 16, but Wife extended another week to fully celebrate her recent retirement.

Our main mode of transportation, which I described in my column I linked in my last post, were the trains. While not intuitive, we eventually figured them out and we had a lot of fun on them.

I have not even scratched the surface of the things we did, but as I said earlier, it was even better than I expected. I loved the beauty and I loved meeting people -- both locals and fellow travelers. I enjoyed the food and drink. As I wrote in my column, the wine was so light and festive, I could let it get out of hand before I knew it (but I didn't, most of the time). The beer wasn't bad either.

I am again indebted again to Wife, who takes the time to plan these incredible trips for us. She studies guidebooks and websites to get the best possible deals for us, and enables us to truly have the maximum experience, with just enough sightseeing and relaxation. If you ever want travel trips, send me an email and I'll put her in touch with you.

Pictures are below.

The Cinque Terre

From our room on the Grand Canal in Venice
St. Mark's Cathedral in St. Mark's Square in Venice
In our B&B in Tuscany
Sound of Music Tour in Salzburg
"The Hills are Alive"
Another refreshing Austrian beer

Monday, May 13, 2019

Some observations

I've been home a couple of weeks now, but have not gotten around to posting a recap on our trip, nor any photos yet. Give me a little time and I will do so. In the meantime, I'll link to a recent column about some observations on foreign travel. Promise to be back soon.