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-   -   Travelgirl's Trip of a Lifetime (https://www.fodors.com/community/europe/travelgirls-trip-of-a-lifetime-623665/)

Toucan2 Sep 12th, 2006 02:59 PM

I'm still reading as well. I think we will all be sad when the trip report ends!

cigalechanta Sep 12th, 2006 03:29 PM

Dear travelgirl2, your report has cheered me up. You have a wonderful family with wonderful times.

olive_oil Sep 12th, 2006 05:29 PM

Holy Moley! What a trip.

I've been hanging around here at Fodor's for several months now, how is it that I have only just found this thread?

I think it was seeing the reference to "400 responses" that caught my eye. Well, now it's 401.

I have spent the entire evening reading this from start to finish; it's great! i am on the edge of my seat. Thank you, Travel Girl, for sharing all this. It is wonderful.

Olive Oil

paula1470 Sep 12th, 2006 05:39 PM

Also still reading. I love how well your boys travel and how well they adapt to all the different situations. I look forward to your report everyday and will be sad when it's over.

Rosiegirl Sep 13th, 2006 05:00 AM

I have been reading from the beginning. What a wonderful education you are giving your boys. And having fun, too. I look forward every day to a new post.

maureencol Sep 13th, 2006 06:39 AM

It's funny, I read some of the responses from the readers and they do the same as me! Come in to work, sign on the computer, get a cup of coffee and read the latest travel story from Travelgirl! I won't have anything to do when your trip ends! LOL

tower Sep 13th, 2006 10:21 AM

tg2:

Happy you're all back safely..and loaded with great memories and a certain sense of massive accomplishment well-earned and deserved. Congratulations....TG2, youe DH and Ds1 and Ds2.

You asked above: "Stu T. - Are you back from vacation? Where did you go?"

First of all, you may not recall, but we were in France for three weeks in May....combined our typical auto trip through Cote d'azur and Provence and a great canal barge trip emanating from Strasbourg in Alsace. Super! And as I mentioned earlier, we're thinking of re-visiting China (1984) and Japan(1946-48) in the very early spring..your notes will come in strongly...especially Jane Yeo and the Cave guide in Guilin.

By the way, picky-picky case in point..."vacation" never seems to apply to our worldwide journeys...it implies "VACAT-ing ones job"...no job, no vacat-ing...so we never refer to our journeys as "vacations"..same situation with "retirement" implying "something to retire from". Since I've been writing solely and more seriously these past twenty years, there is nothing to "vacate" and nothing to "retire from", as my own quasi-maverick mind set dictates. Then again, what would one expect from a sometimes curmudgeonly 77 year-old??

So there is my lecture for today's class......there will be a multiple choice quiz tomorrow.

Please keep on writing the report!

Love and admiration , Stu T.

travelgirl2 Sep 14th, 2006 08:29 AM

Day 52 – Salamanca

Today we have such a hard time waking up. I know I shouldn’t, but I suggest to the kids that maybe they should stay home today. They are torn, but their tiredness wins out. I also skip school. We have been staying up so late and walking around so much, that we all welcome the break.

We have lunch at TARANTELLA, an Italian restaurant near the Plaza Mayor. For dinner, we take out pizza from the restaurant next door to the internet cafe, GIOVANNINO’S RISTORANTE.

We go to the INTERNET CAFÉ on Calle Palominos. We just sit for a few hours, playing games, catching up with friends via email, writing on Fodor’s, etc. This internet café is possibly the nicest I’ve ever been to. Everyone is efficient and it is always perfectly tidy. There are about 30 computers, with 4 spots to plug in laptops. It costs 1.50 euros per hour.

On thing I am noticing more and more is the way people walk here. My walking style is direct and purposeful. The people here seem to meander along. Especially in the evenings, when people are out for a stroll. So many times someone walking in front of me just slows to a stop, for no particular reason. Unless I really pay attention, I end up bumping into the people in front of me. This happens a lot. And I’m not even what I’d consider a fast walker.

Another thing I have noticed is the way people talk with their bodies and hands. In fact, we spent a whole hour-long class one day learning to be expressive with our voices and gestures. It’s harder than it sounds. This really freaked out the Japanese girls, who are so reserved! Also, the Japanese girls shake their head back and forth to say yes. Up and down to say no. That led to some hilarity as the instructor made up funny questions to ask them and then we laughed at their answers. To us, their heads said ‘yes’, even though they meant ‘no’. They were very cute and took it all with good humor.

callalilli Sep 14th, 2006 11:10 AM

travelgirl2.. still reading, as all above posters, as soon as i log on, i look for your updates. Thank you so much for taking us along on your wonderful trip.

job816 Sep 18th, 2006 01:47 PM

Travelgirl - just got back from 10 days in France and actually missed your report. It was like I left my book at home. But I am glad to catch up and again want to thank you for sharing your journey with us.

tower . . . just wanted to respond to your thoughts on the term vacation. I prefer how the Brits and others refer to their time away from daily life as going/being on holiday. Even though this term probably got incorporated into everyday language from religious dogma, I do believe traveling and having new adventures to be a holy experience.

tower Sep 18th, 2006 02:32 PM

Job...I heartily agree with your comments...it is, at the least, a spirtual experience...especially where we travelers are so often in respectful awe for a new place to visit, a new cultural barrier to vault, new customs to observe, etc. Yes, a holy immersion, indeed.

Stu T.

travelgirl2 Sep 19th, 2006 06:41 AM

Day 53 – Salamanca

Today at school, Carmen asks us what we have been doing. I mention that we took the trash out that morning. On the way to school, we dropped a bag of trash in one of the large bins in front of our apartment building. Carmen is aghast. She tells us that the law is that you can’t take the trash out until 9 pm. The trash is collected at night. This helps to prevent bad odors. Well, now that I think about it, the large trash bin was completely empty. And the law does make sense. But, no one ever told me this rule. At home, we put the garbage out in the morning and the truck comes during the day. Carmen tells us that if a policeman sees us, we can get fined.

Today’s cultural class is very interesting. We learn about Franco and King Juan Carlos. We see some historical news footage on the transition to a parliamentary monarchy.

I am having such fun in school that I decide to buy the level 2 books. If I take them home, maybe I will continue to study on my own. Each set of books (book and workbook) costs us 28 euros.

After school, it is time to go shopping. I get the boys Salamanca University sweatshirts. I try to get some gifts for our friends in Stockholm, since we will be visiting them next. But, at 4 pm, many of the stores are still closed. I continue to have trouble adjusting to the store hours in Spain. I am such a 24/7 American.

The kids are still tired, so they ask me to pick them up at 8 pm. We have scrambled eggs for dinner at the apartment. The next day, the kids are disappointed to find out that they have missed a fun and scary evening. As a surprise, the staff planned a haunted house for the kids. They turned out the lights, the counselors dressed up and they made a haunted house out of the whole convent/school. That must have been super scary, running around in all those old buildings. The kids that stayed loved it. I love how the staff really interacts with the kids. I think this is because of the great job Jose does as the camp coordinator. I hope he comes back next year, because the camp wouldn’t be the same without him.

I am starting to get sad that we are leaving Salamanca in a few days. We all love it here and don’t want to leave. I think it is because we really feel like we are living the life of a Spaniard. Settling in to this place for two weeks makes us feel like we are more than just visiting. Meeting people and having somewhere to go each day has been a lot of fun.

sundowner Sep 19th, 2006 08:18 AM

I'm sure it's hard to keep this up with "real life" going on so thanks for posting, tg2!

LCBoniti Sep 19th, 2006 03:53 PM

Travelgirl -

" . . . we really feel like we are living the life of a Spaniard. Settling in to this place for two weeks makes us feel like we are more than just visiting. Meeting people and having somewhere to go each day has been a lot of fun."

That is exactly why this trip report is so enjoyable!

HappyCheesehead Sep 21st, 2006 09:37 AM

Travelgirl - I am just back from our trip to Croatia and Italy and was looking forward to seeing what happened to you while I was gone!

Looks like we still have a few more episodes to go :) and I am still enjoying.


LCBoniti Sep 21st, 2006 01:48 PM

And will we have a trip report from you, H.C.?

smalltowngal Sep 21st, 2006 05:25 PM

I'm brand spankin'new to this forum (just a week or so) and I read this whole thread and keep checking everyday for more. Thanks, Travelgirl; and "what happened next?"

Scarlett Sep 21st, 2006 05:34 PM

Welcome to Fodorville, smalltowngirl ! You picked a good thread to begin your addiction here :)

smalltowngal Sep 21st, 2006 08:03 PM

Thanks, Scarlett. The first day I found this forum I was on it for five hours (!)
Enjoy all the posts.

HappyCheesehead Sep 22nd, 2006 08:45 AM

LOL LCBoniti! I do not have the gift of words that many here do, but this weekend I am going make a stab at it. First of all, I have to think of a catchy title. I am considering "I Survived the White-Knuckle Drive of Death in Croatia" Think it will get readers??

missypie Sep 22nd, 2006 08:49 AM

Happy, that's a catchy title, but be sure to preface it with "Trip Report", so that those doing a seach for Trip Reports on Croatia in the future will find it.

LCBoniti Sep 22nd, 2006 01:17 PM

H.C. - I love that title! It would certainly grab my attention - although, be sure to add Italy to the title for all of us Italiamaniacs :*)

Go for it . . . maybe it will take my mind off the Packers' dismal season :(

travelgirl2 Sep 25th, 2006 05:11 AM

Day 54 – Salamanca

Today in class, I had a funny story to tell Carmen and my classmates - Last night, as I was leaving to pick up the kids from camp, I saw a man putting out his trash. It was 7:30 pm, too early to put out the trash. Just then, a policeman strolled by. He noticed the man and his trash. The policeman looked at his watch. Uh oh. Was the man going to be in trouble? Not this time. The policeman apparently decided to let him off the hook. He kept walking.

We have a good laugh in class about the man putting out his trash. I bring all the paperbacks we’ve bought and read these last two weeks and give them away. We all like to read, so we have bought many books as we’ve gone along this summer. Due to space restrictions, we’ve either left them in our apartments or given them away.

After language class, our cultural class goes to a very small museum. It has pretty stained glass windows framing the balconies inside. Other than that, it is filled with decorative items. I don’t find it too interesting, so I leave and go over to the CATHEDRAL. There is an old cathedral and a new cathedral, somehow joined together. The cathedral is beautiful.

Another thing the school offers is a daily activity, usually held in the evening. I haven’t participated in any of these, but they sound like fun. One night, they go out for tapas. Another night, they show a movie in Spanish. They play soccer. On the weekend, for a fee, there is a bus for a day trip to the beach in Portugal.

During a break from class, I grab an available computer to quickly check my email. I glance at the headlines in Yahoo. Oh no! This is the day the news broke about the terrorists in London. Heathrow airport is partially closed. There are new carry-on restrictions. The news is sketchy. DH is flying tomorrow from NY to London, and then on to Stockholm the next morning. We fly to Stockholm the day after tomorrow. Yikes. I call DH. He is not the least bit worried. He plans to stick with the plans and fly tomorrow.

I tell Connecticut Mom about the news. They are planning to fly through London tomorrow too. I tell her that I am going to the mall to buy a duffel bag. I need some more room for the towels and sweatshirts and gifts we’ve bought in Salamanca. We decide that we’ll each get another suitcase to check our carry-on items through. So we take a taxi to El Tormes mall and, amazingly, find a luggage store.

On the way home from the mall, the driver seems to take an extremely circuitous route. To be fair, maybe he thought it would be faster. I’m not sure. But, I don’t think so. The fare is 9 euros, as compared to the 5 euro trip to the mall. At this point, I am confident enough in my Spanish to register a small complaint, telling him that every other taxi driver has taken a different, more direct, route and that it seems like we are driving around a lot. He basically tells me that if I wanted him to take a certain route, I could have told him. Oh well. At least he knows that I’m noticing.

Although I have told myself that on this trip, I won’t worry about the little things, I have to admit that it has been frustrating at times to have to accept whatever happens without comment. Due to the language differences in the various countries, as well as not understanding the subtle differences in the way things are done, we have been very flexible about everything. It has, in fact, been very enjoyable to “decide” not to worry about anything. And the various ways things are done everywhere have been a source of interest and amusement to us. But, every once in a while, it is frustrating to have to put up with something (like being ripped off or being treated rudely) that I would never tolerate at home. It felt good to speak up to the taxi driver.

kristind05 Sep 25th, 2006 05:36 AM

Travelgirl - i love reading your posts every morning! Do you have your photos posted online anywhere? I would love to actually see the places I have been reading about

moolyn Sep 25th, 2006 05:47 AM

Travelgirl, I'm still enjoying reading about your trip of a lifetime and will be sorry when it's over. You created such wonderful memories for yourself and your family. Thanks for sharing with us too!

missypie Sep 25th, 2006 07:03 AM

Travelgirl, bravo to you for speaking up to the driver. I share your frustrations when traveling. Quite a few things happened to us in Italy that we didn't ever understand and that we would not have tolerated in the US. (Like our daugher ordering the 1/4 roasted chicken in a restaurant and the waiter coming back and telling us it would be a boneless chicken breast instead, then seeing a lady at a table next to us getting the 1/4 roasted chicken a few minutes after we were served. What was THAT all about? We'll never know!)

I think that your attitude of not sweating stuff is the only attitude you CAN have, if you travel in a country where the people speak a lanaguage in which you aren't fluent.

Will your family have a place to practice your Spanish at home? I know how quickly language skills can fade if not used.

travelgirl2 Sep 26th, 2006 03:00 AM

Day 55 – Salamanca

Today is our last day of school and camp. The kids want to stay until midnight. Ugh. I’m glad they’re having so much fun. But, that is really late.

In class, Carmen has used the money from our fines (for not speaking Spanish) to buy goodies. This week, she has brought candy and cookies which are typical of Salamanca. The candy is chocho’s. They are hard, white and the shape of an egg. Very similar to jawbreakers. The cookies are in the shape of a crepe – large, round, flat and crispy. They have a scene from Salamanca embedded in them. Carmen gives me the leftover cookies to bring to the kids, but by the time I get them home, they are broken into little bits. They still taste good, though. I try to put the pieces together, like a puzzle, to show the scene to the kids. They are unimpressed. But, they like the chocho’s.

In class, it is sad to say goodbye to my classmates. Even though most are aged 18-21, we have had a fun time together. The European kids seem very mature for their age. We were all at the same level in speaking Spanish, so we had something in common. We even had a birthday party in class. Connecticut Mom planned it for one of the girls from Holland. She was turning 19 and it made her so happy, because she was a little sad to celebrate her birthday so far from home.

After class, I headed straight for the Internet Café. I wanted to read up on the latest news on travel restrictions. Then, I went next door on Calle Palominos, to GIOVANNINO’S RISTORANTE, where the caprese salad and lasagna made a very good lunch.

That afternoon, it was finally time to shop for gifts for our friends in Stockholm. I had to get a little metal skull with a frog on top. This is a symbol of Salamanca, especially the frog. One of the rituals for visitors is to visit the University of Salamanca entrance and look for the frog. It is supposed to bring students good luck. I’m not sure of the symbolism of the frog and the skull. Maybe the skull has something to do with the cave of Salamanca. The kids took a tour of it on their first day of camp. Only, the tour was completely in Spanish, so they didn’t really understand what was said.

There are lots of nice things to buy in Salamanca. The leather goods are beautiful. The briefcases and custom-made boots look wonderful. I buy leather note pads and little leather change purses. I also visit a jamon shop and buy some vacuum-packed Spanish ham. The lady launches into a discussion of the various types of ham. I don’t understand anything she is saying, even though she speaks perfect English. It’s all just ham to me, so with her help I pick an assortment.

I spend most of the evening packing. We really spread out in 2 weeks! I told the kids that I would pack for them, so they could stay at camp until midnight. As it gets later into the evening, I decide to call a taxi so I can pick up the kids. I am just not up for an hour walk at 11:30 pm, with all this packing left to do. The taxi waits while I collect the kids. They happily say goodbye to their monitor, who has walked them to the door. They look so tired. They are overjoyed to see the taxi waiting for them! We are home in five minutes.

samsmom1127 Sep 26th, 2006 08:41 AM

Can't wait to hear about Stockholm!


LoveItaly Sep 26th, 2006 12:16 PM

Hello travelgir, I am still so enjoying your trip report. You have such a delightful way of expressing yourself. And what a trip of a lifetime indeed! Best regards.

coolbluewater Sep 26th, 2006 12:34 PM

I feel obligated to tell you how much I've loved reading this report. I check for updates regularly! Thank you for putting so much effort into sharing your trip with us.

::goes back to living vicariously::

travelgirl2 Sep 26th, 2006 07:16 PM

Thanks for the encouragement. I'm glad to hear from you guys.

kristind05 - I'm sorry, but I don't have pictures posted anywhere. Just planning to create a scrapbook for us to keep. First, though, have to finish posting about the rest of our trip.

missypie - DS1 is taking his second year of Spanish at school. He got an A+ last year. (Sorry for the bragging. Proud mama.) No language classes here in 6th grade, so DS2 will resume Spanish next year. I have to figure out how to continue learning myself.

travelgirl2 Sep 26th, 2006 07:35 PM

Day 56 – Some Of Us Travel to Stockholm And Some Of Us Don't

After picking the kids up at camp at midnight yesterday, I had to stay up and finish packing. Then, we rose early in the morning and called a taxi to take us to the train station in Salamanca. We waited in the street for a while, but no taxi came. Usually they came in about 5 minutes. So, I called again and explained that we really needed a ride to the train station. Her reply, in Spanish, was either that no one was working right now or maybe that everyone was working right now. I stressed, in Spanish, that we had a train to catch. She said she would try to find someone to take us. To my great relief, a taxi arrived shortly thereafter.

The train ride to Madrid is about 2 ½ hours. It is a nice, relaxing ride. We took a taxi from the train station (Chamartin) to the airport, which cost 23 euros. I had heard from many people that the taxi drivers often overcharge on this trip, so I asked the driver, in Spanish, before the trip how much it would cost. He was very accurate, quoting 23 or 24 euros. He also invited me to sit in the front seat, instead of squeezed in the back with the kids.

At the airport, there was no extra security that I observed. It was just two days ago that the people were arrested in London for planning to detonate explosives onboard planes, assembled from liquids and electronic items in their carry-on baggage. No one seemed concerned about that here. We were allowed to bring carry-on baggage, including our computer.

While waiting to board the plane, there was also a Muslim couple with a baby waiting to board. I felt guilty about my reaction, but I got anxious when I saw them. I kept thinking about the news reports that a mother with a baby had been arrested and she was planning to sneak something in the baby’s formula onboard. Apparently, several other passengers felt similarly, because many people were furtively glancing at them. The world situation is such an unfortunate thing.

The flight on IBERIA was excruciatingly hot. We were slightly delayed when a pneumatic machine used to start the engines failed and they had to get a new machine. Upon arrival at Arlanda airport, only 4 of our 5 suitcases appeared on the baggage carousel. I got in a long line to make a report. I couldn’t communicate with MR. DF (dear friend) and DH, who were waiting outside to pick us up. The man at the complaint desk said the luggage would probably arrive the following day and they would deliver it to me.

When we finally exited the baggage area and walked past customs, we found MR. DF. He was the only person in the waiting area. He was very patient and said he had figured that we must have had a baggage problem. He informed us that DH was stranded in London. DH had flown overnight to London Gatwick, arriving this morning. He transferred by bus from Gatwick to Heathrow and waited for his British Air flight to Stockholm. After several hours of waiting, with everyone directed to wait outside the airport, in the rain, there was an announcement that all flights that afternoon were cancelled.

Using an airport internet kiosk, he tried to re-book with British Air for the following day. But they were fully booked for the next 3 days. The internet connection was very slow, so he decided to head into the city.

Upon arrival at Paddington Station, he saw a Hilton. But it was full. So, he used their business center and searched and searched for a way to get to Stockholm. Finally, he found a flight the next day on Ryan Air. Then he found a hotel room at the Sussex Hotel and spent the night. He managed to make it out to see The Blue Man Group and to have a bite of fish and chips.

All in all, it was a long and stressful day for everyone. The kids and I were safely in Stockholm, at least. We hoped that DH would be able to join us the next day.

Pilates Sep 26th, 2006 07:48 PM

Hi TG2: To keep up with your Spanish, invest in some good language CD's.

I recommend The Living Language series for more grammatical instruction and Pimsleur for more listen and repeat type learning.

You can transfer the lessons to your iPod and practice while you exercise or pop a cd in your car when you know you'll be driving for a half an hour. Use it so you don't lose it.

Que le vaya bien y gracias por todo que ha escrito. A mi me gusto' mucho!

travelgirl2 Sep 26th, 2006 08:25 PM

Gracias Pilates. He me gustado escribiendo todo. (Did I slaughter that?)

marigross Sep 27th, 2006 03:13 AM

Travelgirl, just so that you know where a good story (read here YOUR story) can lead:

- I am posting this here because only Fodorites will understand and I think Travelgirl will get a kick out of it :D -

This past weekend, my long time unofficial DH - we are not married after many years of happily living and traveling together - and I were having our after dinner drinks and discussing YOUR trip report.

I was telling him about your wonderful attitute and the marvelous things that you have done to show your children the world....That led to a conversation about the values and views our parents taught us and the ones we wanted to pass on to our DD.

After a few twists and turns along the curvy road of dialogue, something totally unexpected happened: HE PROPOSED!!!!! After all these years, we are gonna go legal :O

Needless to say, I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Travelgirl ;)

Italybound07 Sep 27th, 2006 03:38 AM

TG-you are still the first place I check every day! I am going to go through withdrawal when it is over.

Did you journal every day on your trip?

How did the boys adjust to being home?

fun4all4 Sep 27th, 2006 04:32 AM

Oh my gosh, Marigross! Best wishes! What a wonderful story - thanks for sharing.

travelgirl2- this continues to be an amazing adventure and I am enjoying every minute of it. :-)

missypie Sep 27th, 2006 06:47 AM

Marigross, that is so cool!

Travelgirl, I love that your husband went to see Blue Man Group instead of being grouchy in some hotel room by himself!

LCBoniti Sep 27th, 2006 09:06 AM

First, marigross, what a lovely story! Very best wishes and isn't this trip report the best ever!

travelgirl - as uncomfortable, uneasy and sorry as you felt about your reaction to the Muslim family, imagine how they and many others like them must feel. What a sad situation!

I hope you all (esp. your DH) have a wonderful time in Stockholm after all the stress!

Dejais Sep 27th, 2006 09:56 AM

Okay, so finally, after not being able to read your trip report for weeks (UGH!), I am caught up.

I got tears in my eyes as I read about your visit to Anne Frank's house. That is something I have always wanted to see. Your words captured the experience wonderfully. Thank you for that.

LOVED, LOVED, LOVED your stay in Salamanca. "He's bleeding to death," had my whole office laughing!

Anyway, I thought of you often as I was traveling these past few weeks and could not wait to catch up on your posts. Now that I have, I need more! :)


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