Saturday, June 11, 2016

Overview - Five weeks in Europe

First, thank you John for encouragement and support to take this trip even though you did not want to go.  You were missed by our friends, but this would have almost been impossible for you to enjoy.  I had the time of my life and have you to thank.  While I was gone you gained a skill and are now quite a creative cook.

Second, I have to thank my most adored Sketchers. I was very concerned about which shoes to take. I bought 5 pairs before I left and walked quite a bit in each one, trying to determine the perfect shoe. I did pick the right ones and never had one thought about my feet or shoes. I had many thoughts about my lower back, but feet were perfect.

Thank you best shoes in the world!!!!!

Nice to be home and it seems different.  I can't find the smell of tomatoes or real bread without 10 ingredients.  Olives that were so delicious.  Food things are very different.  They have beautiful markets with fresh, unprocessed, real food.  I will miss that.  Butchers, real bakeries.  We've lost that for the most part in America.  

As good as it was, I can't eat thin, sliced ham again for a long, long time, as it seems I ate this every day in France and Switzerland.  With the cheese and ham daily, I thought about my cholesterol levels often.  I've had my fill of sausages too.  

Culture and food are so interesting.  I was determined to not eat any "American" food on my trip and I didn't have even one hamburger, or eat in any American chain restaurant.

Saw a few chains -McDonald's, Burger King and Subway.  Glad there weren't more.  Oh, of course, Starbucks on every other corner.

Adorable cake in bakery window

First and foremost for me is always people:  I made some new friends and felt blessed by each of them.  Traveling alone can be a bit daunting at times and it seemed right when I needed a friend they were there to either revisit or discover.  I met a German girl who is precious, a Canadian couple who took me in on a rainy day and we had beers (I am such a maniac for Canadians who I think are some of the best people), and several French Couch Surfers that I shared an evening of talking and beer.  A best life saver was on my return trip and finding the best seat mate ever.  Fate intervened many times on my trip.

Then my long time and best in the world friends in Ghent, Paris and Switzerland.  I can't imagine my trip without having them there.  They all spoiled me and I thank them all for their friendship and love.  I was amazed that I wasn't only "received" but planned for and each person wanted my time with them to be special, and it was.

Now, specific over views - which will be followed with a separate blog for each country.

Dublin, Ireland:  I enjoyed their appreciation for the fight for Ireland to be independent and remembrances of their history (Easter Rising and Famine).  Wonderful statutes and monuments everywhere.  Top walkable city.  Great free museums.  Not what I expected at all, a very fast city.

Edinburgh, Scotland:  I was stunned as I walked along Princess Street on the new side, looking over to the old side.  A long line of everything medieval.  I felt like I was in a dream.  To take all that in was almost overwhelming and stunning. Great free museums.

Ghent, Belgium:  A lovely city with so much character and irresistible architecture.  Bicycles everywhere and a city that is working very hard to be environmentally ahead of the curve.  You feel and see the history, but there is no doubt this city is embracing the future.

Paris, France:  What can I say - magic city, I love Paris -- my favorite.  Best yogurt, baguettes, pastry.  Metro is great and easy to use (especially when you have a guide). Seeing the Eiffel Tower from everywhere in Paris and then spending time on top at sunset and seeing Paris at night.  But my heart was captured by Sacre'-Coeur Basilica

Rome, Italy.  Lots of history and wonderful sites. Probably had the most graffiti, but that really was all over.  So sad.  By far, not my favorite city, it did not have good vibes for me.  Had good gelato. Their cannoli was very good too.

Lyon, France.  A delightful, picturesque city that I thoroughly enjoyed.  It is the third largest city in France, but it feels like a small city.  I had lots of fun walking around and discovering things here.

I enjoyed each country I visited.  Happy to have arrived in the Spring so I could enjoy so many flowers in bloom.  I am so glad I went late April to early June because I cannot even imagine what those cities are like when the tourists hit.  It was already busy, crowded with tourists.  What June - August must be like, no thanks.

I must mention this and I was surprised by it, but almost every person I had a conversation with asked me about Donald Trump and what I thought.  I won't expound on my opinion or theirs, but interesting that they were keeping up with American politics.  Interesting.

I was proud of myself - 39 days on my own. I didn't get lost, miss a plane, train, bus, or day tour. I never got overwhelmed or scared.  And I did not gain one pound on my trip, yeah. 

My pre-trip training, which was 3 1/2 months of walking almost every day, 1 - 3 miles, didn't really prepare me, but thank goodness I did it.  I can't imagine how it would have been without being in shape.  

Many places in Europe are "uphill" or "upstairs" and my having walked on flat terrain at home for the most part doesn't equate.  Paris had lots of uphills, steep and brutal stairs.  At times, it gave San Francisco a run for its money.  Many days I must have walked over 6 miles a day.  Rome was lots of walking too and I did start to burn out on the last day in Rome.  But for the most part I was able to keep up the pace.

Notre Dame
Quite a climb

Looks like stairway to heaven

So I hope you will tune in to my individual country blogs as I get them done.  I'm almost finished with Dublin.  This trip enriched my life in many ways.  I have a better understanding of some different cultures and a renewed perspective of my country too.