Mon 19 Jun, 2006 06:04 pm
Upon returning from our 21 day tour through Western Europe I got sick and therefore put off this account of the tour.. Let me start my travelogue with the generalization that I would not do it again unless it were for the first time. Guided tours are a nightmare containing great moments. In 18 days we went to 10 major European centers, centers, only one of which I've been to before, Amsterdam.
The tour began in London for two nights. That was great--we weren't tired yet. We got blissly lost on the subway ("tube") and quickly learned how easy it is to negotiate, although we couldn't get off at our destined (Victoria) station because of a fire alert. Then I lost my VISA card to an ATM monster. Then the tour drove to Amsterdam, a town I adore, accept that now it is was (like the rest of Europe) covered with grafitti (worse than Los Angeles). Even beautiful Vienna had it. But, I must say, Europe's grafitti is distinctly more aesthetic/artistic than that of America. After only one sceduled night there we drove to through Germany's Rhineland (Wiesbaden-Niedernhausen), later (I don't recall when, we spent a few hours in a beer hall in Munich, within view of the plaza of Hitler's rallies). Then after a drive to Innsbruck, Austria (starying in a freezing hotel) we arrived in the most beautiful city imaginable: Vienna (two nights), rivalled not even by Salzburg, another stop like in a dream--I can't recall when it was . During one of our afternoon free times we came across a small church (St.Peter's) in downtown Vienna. It seems to have been built to honor beauty more than the saints. I sat for half an hour in ecstasy. Then there were two days in Venice, a veritable (at least the lagoon part of it) jewel box. We were pushed around like meat in a sausage machine. Then in Rome at the Sistine Chapel this sausage experience was felt most vividly when, looking up at "the ceiling" we had to do so while almost trotting. I burst out laughing at one point. It was absurd. At many points my wife and I just removed ourselves from the scheduled tours, even those we paid extra for, and went off to eat, drink and watch the "daily life." The Basilica was obviously not made for tourism, nor was the Louvre or the streets of Florence. But all were spoiled by the floods of tourist groups. I loved Lucerne. There we broke off from the tours and found a wonderful art museum--called the Rosengart Collection--full of some of the best works I've ever seen of Picasso and Paul Klee. Then we had an expensive lunch with a delicious red wine (Don Luigi)--only thirty euros in the market but 66 in the restaurant. That revived us. Our two nights in Paris were exciting. Thank goodness, Francis drove to our hotel to have a drink with me, a delightful--very civilized young man. I remember telling him that Paris was frustrating because it seemed SO much fun, but without any control of French it was actually intimidating. I'm so used to swimming in the Los Angeles Hollywood scene as if I belonged in that pond, but not at all in Paris. Roma is much more comfortable for me; I can almost understand the language, it's so much like Spanish.
When the tour ended in Paris, my wife and I took a train to Torino. THAT was the best part of the trip. We arrived Sunday with empty streets. How delicious. We explored the area around our hotel and then the next morning saw it come to life--BUT WITHOUT TOURISTS in any amount. The two days there, with our search for Nietzsche's apartment (which we found, to my wife's great satisfaction). We definitely plan to return to that urban jewel. Then to Milan for one night. A large dirty industrial center. The best thing there was that the elderly cab driver sang arias (virtually in the shadow of La Scala) during our 35 mile to the Malpensa airport.
Throughout the trip (21 days in all) we enjoyed wonderful food and GREAT coffee, and the local wines were invariably good. We ate like horses but lost weight because of the tremendous amount of walking. Some people in our group had the great misfortune of coming down sick. Fortuntately I put mine off til I got home.
There's no place like home. I don't know how C.I. does it. And he's my age. What a man!!!.
Wow. I almost feel like I went with you. I agree with you about Milan and Rome, but I loved Venice. I'd done so much reading ahead of time that I didn't much notice the crowds...too busy staring at everything. How lucky that you got to meet Francis when you were in Paris! I've heard he's a real sweetie. Paris can be a little intimidating when you don't speak much French (I know.) Next time, try the South of France. It's slower-paced and tres
charming. (Oh look! I used a French word! In context, even!
I am so envious...you got to see so much! Next time you go, you'll know where you want to spend more time. Right?
Thanks for the travelog, jl. Sounds hectic, but fun.
Thanks for the travel log, JL!
I'm a tour avoider myself.. the combination of things I'd want to see, places I'd rather skip and just walk and eat and drink wine instead are so many, and my sense of entrapment is so available to my psyche, that I am a poor candidate for tours. Most recent exceptions were the fairly short-time architectural tours some of us took recently in Chicago.
I'm crazy about Roma but prefer it in March. Last time I was in Firenze I had already been to the need-to-see places tours go to, so I could zip around the tourist bunching - well, that was in April, tourist time not quite in full bloom yet.
Your time in Torino seems perfect. I have only zoomed past there by train; would like to see the elegant old caffes...
So glad you got to meet Francis!
Hope to hear you and your wife do more trips at your own pace, seeing and doing what you want, now that you've gotten your feet wet...