Thursday, February 20, 2014


In 1985 (Wow!  That's 29 years ago!) SWMBO and I made our first (and only, so far) trip to Europe.  We had a month, light luggage and a Eurail pass.  What I discovered early on was that every place we visited had their own personal "badge" for sale.  I began collecting on our first stop.

Every first time visitor to London must visit the Tower and so we did. The crown jewels were fantastic but I can still hear the guard (Beefeater?) repeating constantly "Move the line along, please.  Move the line along."

After a few days in London we inaugurated our Eurail pass with a train ride to Dover, then across the channel by hydrofoil to Oostende, Belgium.  Another train took us to our stop for the night - Bruges.

We loved the "Venice of the North" with its canals and we spent an extra night there before heading into Germany and a stop at Cologne. We viewed the cathedral with it's outer walls still marked with bullet holes from World War Two.  

We could have taken a Rhine river cruise but were too late for it the day we wanted to leave so another train took us to Mainz & Wiesbaden.

Walking around Wiesbaden on Easter Sunday we began hearing the bells tolling from high up in the church in front of us, then another church perhaps a mile away began.  I referred to it as "Dueling Church Bells."  

We loved Germany and spent a couple of nights at the medieval city of Rothenburg and going through the amazing Christmas shops of K├Ąthe Wohlfahrt.  Then it was on to one of our favorite stops - Munich.

We loved this huge city with it's very clean and modern U-Bahn (subway) and the absolutely amazing Viktualienmarkt . . a huge daily outdoor food market in the center of the city.  We bought meat and cheese and fruit and chocolate there for a "picnic" dinner in our room.

Next it was on to Austria.

The gorgeous city of Salzburg where we visited a Mozart museum (and yes, I did touch his piano in spite of signs warning me not to) and watched with fascination a high-class lady eating a sausage with her fingers.  Again, as all along our voyage, great chocolate everywhere. This was also the city in which one or the other of us dropped our camera and broke it on the cobbled street.  But we found a replacement in a small shop and were soon on our way on a beautiful train ride past the Alps to Innsbruck.

It was there we fell in with a happy group of Austrians in a tavern. The night of "many beers" left both of us with a terrible hangover the next day and we went to a chain hotel for two of the worst cheeseburgers we can remember.

The next train ride took us from snowy country down the mountains to Florence, Italy.

We were there in April and it was freezing cold with a gale force wind blowing.  There was no heat in our room and when we asked about it the landlady told us "It's not the right time of year for heat." We left early and headed for the Riviera, which an International edition of USA Today promised would be warm.  San Remo was and it felt glorious.  I can remember walking through the Old Town area and coming upon a local busker playing guitar and singing an Italian-accented "Hotel California."  I also remember walking on the beach and meeting a young woman who was wearing only the bottom half of her bikini!  She smiled and said "buon giorno" as we passed.

An American expatriate couple at the next table in a restaurant heard us saying we were heading for Monaco next.  The woman told us "Don't take the train, it's all through tunnels and you won't see anything.  Take the bus."  We did and it was a glorious ride along the Mediterranean.  I tried and failed to "break the bank in Monte Carlo" with a few spins in the gorgeous casino.  After walking around the harbor and noting grandstands being set up for a gran prix race we took a train to Nice, where we accidentally stumbled into a gay biker bar but we stayed for a beer.

The next day it was the TGV (high speed train) to Paris, where we spent the final four days of our tour.  The Louvre was amazing.  I had planned on spending my birthday in Paris.  (April in Paris, y'know.)  We had a disappointing experience with a cafe we chose for dinner but the next day we had a great meal on a riverboat on the Seine and decided THAT was my birthday celebration.

So finally our visit to Europe ended and we headed for home, flying from Orly Airport directly to Dallas, Texas and a connecting flight home to Phoenix.

Guess what.  They sell those badges in our country, too.

We have talked many times about our Grand Tour.  We decided that was our exploratory trip and the next time we would go to just one country and take our time.

We've never been back.