Neither Karen nor I thought we’d actually do two months riding a bike through Europe this summer. KR was frankly dreading it, but said “yes” early in the idea stage and didn’t want to disappoint Her Man as we got closer. I didn’t think KR would be up for it for a lot of reasons, but her health was No 1. For the month or so before we left, Karen was not feeling well prompting the most comprehensive round of doctors visits and tests we’d ever under-taken. Diagnosis: probably African stomach virus.
So, we decided to take it one day at a time. And then another. And a couple of days turned into a week and … soon a mini-miracle happened. We were both feeling great and enjoying it. We kept on.
I’m not going to recap our 59 days, that’s what the six reports are for. Rather, here’s what I’m taking away from this trip.
- The fact that two people our age can make this trip physically was a huge, pleasant surprise. Riding a bike every day, lugging five bags into and out of hotels for two months, and always being on the move takes a bit of effort. KR was a Stud-ett! She’s a miracle maker! The bottom line is that we were both “up” for the challenge.
- The week before we took off I wrote “Pay Attention!” on my computer keyboard and in post-it-notes throughout my bags. Riding a motorcycle is dangerous. Period. And the very last thing I wanted to do was to get Karen injured. The best way of avoiding that is to be On Your Game 100% of the time. I believe it’s this attitude that made the difference. I made a couple of dumb mistakes (aren’t they all?), but recovered quick enough to suffer no consequences as a result.
- The biggest difference in traveling now is that I’m grumpier and have less patience with people as I get older. I have less tolerance for bad service and bad attitudes, which we encountered more than ever (or is it me?)
- With a large number of notable exceptions, “service” and “lodging” folks were a whole order of magnitude less friendly or helpful. My interpretation of the reaction we received is this: they were a whole lot more concerned with their own needs/requirements than ours. Most things remotely off the usual, were rapidly turned down with a lame excuse. Why?
- Despite the strength on the dollar, this was an expensive trip. Cheap hotels and meals don’t exist when you’re constantly moving, tired and want to reward yourself. The cheapest hotel was $88 and the most expensive was $260. Both occurred during the first week:)
- As the risk of generating a whole lot of disagreement, here are my top-of-the mind impressions of the 11 countries (and 19 border crossings) we experienced:
- France: Oh my god, can they cook! And live! And the countryside is beautiful. Could care less about the non-French, e.g. us.
- Switzerland:. What would you think? Sound of Music green hills and enough cutesy chalets to last a life time. Precise.
- Italy: Oh my god can they cook! And live! And Tuscany and Florence were gorgeous. Consistently tied as the friendliest. Don’t travel in August.
- Croatia:. Talk about a great beach vibe along the Adriatic Coast! Wow. I wish we’d found a little place along its miles and miles of coast and stayed a while. People not so much. Food not so much. Don’t travel in August
- Slovenia/Bosnia: A peak behind the facade reveals a Soviet like feel
- Austria:. The most beautiful Alps of the trip, the dullest city (Strasburg) and people. (I know, totally unfair)
- Germany: Fast, aggressive drivers. Lots and lots of forests in the South. Food pretty horrible, only surpassed in horribleness by the English. Don’t travel in August.
- Belgium: A few of the nicest people and most beautiful forests and country of the trip, offset by some of the least. And the Spa F1 race, what can be better? Lots of asshole drivers on their main highways
- Netherlands:. Amsterdam was the best of the best. Very cosmopolitan. Most diverse city of the bunch. Made me want to (try)party:)
- England:. How can the people be so nice and the food so bad? The southern coast is beautiful. In fact, much of the English countryside was gorgeous.
OK, that’s it for now. We’re going to catch the train to CDG tomorrow AM, then a flight to O’hare, overnight, then fly to DFW and PV. We’ll be home on Wednesday if all goes according to plan. Did I really just say that: ) ?