reflections on a first trip to europe

Aug 8th, 2006, 11:24 AM
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reflections on a first trip to europe

I read many excellent trip reports on this forum and gained a lot of valuable information. Sorry to say, this won't be a detailed trip report but just a collection of my thoughts! First of all, I have dreamed of seeing Europe since I was a child. Before we left I was secretly worried that I might hate it - that I had built it up so much that I could only be disappointed. In fact, my expectations were mostly exceeded. I do not consider myself a very sentimental person but on more than one occasion I actually had tears of joy - something new for me! So my advice to anyone who dreams of going - go! My second bit of advice is to listen to the experienced travellers who post on this board. I am so glad I followed the advice to pare down my itinerary and take it much slower so that I could enjoy each place and get a little sense of the rythym of life
wishing is offline  
Aug 8th, 2006, 12:25 PM
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I am so glad you listened to the advice of some Fodorites to slow down to enjoy the vacation more. Some of us had to figure it out the hard way!
starrsville is offline  
Aug 8th, 2006, 12:46 PM
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In 2000 my husband made his first trip to Europe, it was my third but the last was in the early 1970's. When we stepped into the main section of Schiphol Airport on our way to the train I had to say, "We're not in Kansas anymore." We have kept that sense of wonder on subsequent trips. That's magic!
Danna is offline  
Aug 8th, 2006, 12:51 PM
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It is a blessing. Really truly a blessing.
SuzieC is offline  
Aug 8th, 2006, 12:51 PM
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wishing- thank you. tears of joy! what a wonderful thing.
suze is offline  
Aug 8th, 2006, 02:53 PM
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Wishing, I too wanted to go to Europe, well Italy actually, from the time I was a little girl. I can certainly relate to how you felt on this, your first trip to Europe.

I think I had a smile on my face every waking moment. And I have the photos to prove it, lol.

Wishing you many more wonderful trips.
LoveItaly is offline  
Aug 8th, 2006, 03:36 PM
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Welcome home and don't be a stranger to Fodorville. You, too, now have something to contribute! Dave
dcd is offline  
Aug 8th, 2006, 03:51 PM
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Hi--your lovely post made me realize that the places I saw in Europe while I was still young were wonderful. But the places I only saw for the first time when I was older were truly magical. Thank you for helping me recognize that insight, b/c it makes me realize that getting older is not all bad!!
socialworker is offline  
Aug 9th, 2006, 10:09 AM
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I don't know what happened but the rest of my post dropped off the face of the earth!Maybe I was far too wordy and some cyber space editor took me in hand! I'll try to summarize the rest of what I said (but it was rather long!) Just to let you know our itinerary - we began in Venice, staying at La Calcina, recommended by many on this board, and were thoroughly delighted with our room overlooking the canal. Our third night was in a room at the back of the hotel and it was very charming as well with a roomy terrace. Venice was truly magical - my husband's favourite of the trip. We walked and walked and road the vaporetto's everywhere. We knew we would get lost but it only added to our adventure and sense of wonder. There were no deadlines so what did it matter? Our first morning we were up very early (time change and all) and walked through the quiet streets where a few shopkeepers were sweeping the front of their shops and S. Marco piazza was deserted. What a peaceful introduction to Venice. Later that morning on our return the piazza was full of vendors and tourists but it did not feel too crowded to me, perhaps because the piazza is so huge.
On leaving Venice, we picked up a rental car to drive to Tuscany. I swear my husband must have some long hidden Italian in him that was revealed the minute he got behind the wheel of our fiat! He enjoyed driving (briskly, shall we say?) on narrow winding roads. I kept my eyes on the map and the road signs and resolutely refused to look behind.The closeness of other cars is a little unnerving. Tuscany was wonderful. We stayed in an inn near Castellina in Chianti and explored the countryside from there and spent one day in Florence and one in Siena. We even drove to the cities and found free parking just outside the city both times. It was not as difficult as I had thought it would be to find our way. One other bit of advice for first timers - don't be afraid to ask, ask and ask again even if you don't speak the language. A few Italian phrases - please, thank you, where is, beautiful and very good - plus a ready smile and an attitude of gratefullness go a long way in aiding communication.We found the Italian people to be so warm and friendly and willingly to help. Some even lead us exactly to our destination to ensure we got there.
On Florence, dare I say, I did not enjoy it the way I did our other destinations. I was glad to see the city, visit the Duomo, climb the tower, stand in awe in front of David and gaze at the overwhelming art in the Uffizzi. But, Florence did not touch my soul. It was very hot, (over 30 degrees) crowded, and full of street vendors. I think a visit to Florence, for myself, would have been far more enjoyable if we had been able to visit in Spring or Fall. The other problem was our failure to eat properly and take breaks. That's my other bit of advice, advice we ourselves repeatedly failed to follow! Take breaks and eat properly! Our day in Florence started at 10:15 and ended at 7:30 without a break for a meal. Totally insane and we knew it. Part of the problem was that neither of us felt like eating because it was so very hot and we were drinking a lot of water. We had intended to go for both lunch or supper but got sidetracked at lunch and got horribly lost looking for a recommended restaurantat dinnertime. By the time we got 'unlost' we just wanted to get back to our car and go lie down in our room! So I take full responsibility for not enjoying Florence!
After leaving Tuscany we headed to the Cinque Terre - my favourite place or our trip. We stayed at Arpaiu in Manarola and had a wonderful unobstructed sea view. We only stayed for 2 nights and were really sorry we did not have more time. We were ready for some relaxing days. We spent 1 1/2 days hiking the trails, swimming in that wonderful warm salty water - it's almost impossible to sink. We wandered the small towns with their colorful buildings tumbling down to the sea. We watched children play in the sea with total abandon and watched older Italians enjoying watching the swimmer's antics! We really hated to say good-bye to Italy and hope to go back. Our next stop was Lausanne, Switzerland and Paris. On a side note - I am so glad we packed light! We each had a carry on tote bag, I had a black shoulder bag and my husband had a daypack. We didn't have to check our bags and we were able to make some very tight train and plane connections because we could run with all our bags! There was nothing I wished I had brought and there were even a few things we never wore. We took light comfortable clothing that dried quickly and was relatively wrinkle free. What I wore the most was a black cotton skirt and my husband wore a pair of long cargo shorts (that I tried to load up so that I did't have to take my bag along!) To anyone who is worrying about what to wear to fit it my advice is to forget it! Be comfortable and wear what you would wear at home (assuming you're not a total slob!). We saw almost every type of clothing. I never felt out of place. Comfortable shoes are probably the most important thing you'll take. Even with comfortable shoes that I had broken in I found I needed moleskin a few times.
What I learned about myself as a traveller? I prefer smaller towns and villages. I have more stamina than I knew! That if I don't see a world famous museum, art gallery, monument, but instead spend time on a bench in a park or sip cappucino or a glass of wine at a cafe, it's okay. I have learned that seeing the famous sights is great but chatting with locals and just being part (however brief) of a different way of living is even better, for me. So now I am ready to begin planning my next trip with more knowledge of what speaks to me and how I want to travel. Thanks to all of you who gave me specific guidance in planning this trip and the rest who post on this board providing invaluable information and personal insights. Happy travels!
wishing is offline  
Aug 9th, 2006, 10:29 AM
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What a lovely posting. Good reflections about a "first time" with good info and advice for even the most road weary. Thanks wishing. That was swell.
JulieVikmanis is offline  
Aug 9th, 2006, 10:35 AM
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I loved your post!! I think it meant more to me because it was straight from your heart! What a wonderful first time trip!
lindam is offline  
Aug 9th, 2006, 10:42 AM
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Hurray what a great trip report. And two of my favorite places too boot (La Calcina in Venice and Lausanne Switzerland)! merci beaucoup...
suze is offline  
Aug 9th, 2006, 03:44 PM
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Wishing, thanx for "re-posting". From my perspective, it was well worth your trouble. You have a very natural, honest writing style which makes for a very enjoyable read.
dcd is offline  
Aug 9th, 2006, 04:07 PM
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thanks for all your positive comments. it was fun to relive a few moments of the trip (especially on a rainy west coast day!)
wishing is offline  

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