Whenever I visit a new city I like to pick a photographic theme. Barcelona was easy, the view of street art was everywhere. There seems to be an unwritten rule about graffitii in Barcelona, it is mostly limited to the doors of shops. The artistry varies but it is always colorful. As we walked through the city you get a feel for the neighborhood and the people. When you look at the street art, you see the people and businesses that are the neighborhood.
I have tried to include a good variety of artwork and if nothing else, I hope to encourage others to look around and take notice of the art around us. Recognize the artistry along with the creative graffi. Often the doors advertise the business behind them. To catch much of the art you must get up early before the doors open and the artwork is hidden from view.
This has been an epic year for my husband Greg and I. I retired from a teaching job that I loved, learned to live with my husband full time, started blogging, traveled extensively and rekindled my passion for photography.
My husband and I have learned the dance of being retired together. He has his hobbies and interests and I am learning to take time to do the things that I love. First I had to figure out what those things were (writing, photography, crafts) but now we give each other space, so that later we want to spend time together. This year our European travels have included Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Amsterdam, England, Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland. My husband and I are very different people, he is quiet organized and cerebral and I am spontaneous, outgoing, and attention seeking. But the one thing that we agree upon is that we both passionately love to travel and meet new people from around the globe.
For this blog I decided to include some of my favorite photographs from the year. I hope you enjoy them.
This was a special gift we enjoyed nightly in Rome, our Airbnb was located in a fabulous area with shops, restaurants and so many sights to enjoy.
Sometimes you find you stumble upon a real gem of a restaurant, a family run place with homemade pasta and delicious specialities offered each night.
The location of our Airbnb in Florence was just steps from the Ponte Vecchio.
The sheer size and beauty of David was worth the trip to Florence.
We spent five days in the beautiful area known as Cinque Terre, where we enjoyed the spectacular scenery, hiking and seeing the beautiful cities clinging to the cliffs..
Following Cinque Terre we rented a car and explored Siena and Tuscany.
It was a great pleasure to turn in our car in Rome and board the Celebrity Equinox. No unpacking for a week and we were able to visit some great new places on the way to Barcelona.
After a week in Barcelona we took a flight to Geneva, Switzerland to visit friends and see much of the pristine beauty of Switzerland.
We left Switzerland and headed for a few days in Amsterdam, a city we loved because of its beauty, accessibility, friendliness and rich history.
Next, we flew to London for a few days before we boarded a cruise to the British Isles.
I hope you enjoy seeing some highlights of Europe 2016. I promise there is more travel to come in 2017. I wish you all a wonderful, happy and healthy new year.
I have been back from our European vacation for a little over a week and have had time to think about part two of the lessons I have learned.
1. FLY FIRST CLASS. This became crystal clear to me when we were flying home from London. Greg had scored some first class tickets from our frequent flyer miles. Apparently, it is about $8,000 if you paid the cash price. But as far as I’m concerned it is absolutely, without a doubt in my mind worth the expense. To begin with, you get to spend your time at the airport in the Sky Lounge. When you enter the doors the hostess offers you champagne, cooks you breakfast and they offer the most prized commodity in an airport. Peace and quiet.
Next, you board the plane and enter Nirvana. Your own private pod, with a massaging chair that turns into a bed, television, blanket, pillow, Bose headphones, pjs, slippers and a Cole Haan convience kit, complete with eye shades, socks, toothbrush, lotions etc. They offer you a drink (in crystal) warm nuts, appetizers, entrees, snacks, and an ice cream sundae for desert. They had me at the warm nuts.
2. MAKE SURE YOU ALWAYS HAVE CHANGE with you because it may cost you to use the toilet
3. “GOD LOVES A TRIER” you should always ask, the worst anyone can say is no. The ticket agent in London told me this when I asked, hopefully if we could get theatre tickets for that night. I love that expression, we ended up with great seats to Kinky Boots.
4. IN MOST EUROPEAN HOTELS YOU MUST PLACE YOUR HOTEL KEY IN A SLOT for the ac and lights to work.
5. EXPLORE NEW PLACES on your own don’t always need a tour
6. IT IS MUCH HARDER TO EVESDROP when you don’t know the language.
7. EAT LIKE A LOCAL, it’s always fresh and delicious.
8. Please “MIND THE GAP WHEN DEPARTING FROM THE TRAIN” in Great Britain this is your reminder to not fall between the train and the platform.
9. MEET NEW PEOPLE, they have different life experiences than you.
10. IN EUROPE MOST PUBLIC BUILDINGS DO NOT HAVE AIR CONDITIONING, so dress accordingly.
11. BYOB bring your own bag to the grocery store. If you don’t you will be charged for one.
12. EXPERIENCES, NOT THINGS, or at just small things that you have room for in your bag.
13. IN MOST RESTAURANTS AND BARS the toilet will likely be located down a dark set of stairs. don’t worry if the light goes off, just jump out of the stall and wave your arms like a crazy person, the lights will likely go back on. This actually happened to me in Corsica when I was trying to change out of my bathing suit.
14. BEWARE OF WONKY WIFI, just because they say they have wifi does not mean you can connect.
15. LOOK TO THE LEFT AND THE RIGHT (they may drive on a different side of the road than us)
16. GO WITH THE FLOW, not everything will go as you planned, enjoy the journey.
17. FOLLOW THE LINE LEADER, he will always get you home.
18. LIFE GOES ON WHEN YOU ARE AWAY, so get over it. But have someone check on your house while you are away. Things may break, like our air conditioner in 115 degree temperature.
19. IN EUROPE THEY SERVE FRENCH FRIES with every meal, they may call them chips but they’re French fries.
20. IF YOU ORDER A CAPPUCCINO it will cost you less if you stand and drink it at the counter
21. ENJOY ALL THE DELICIOUS FOOD AND WINE, but don’t fool yourself, you will have to work that stuff off.
22. IN THIS LIFE WE MAY NEVER BE HERE AGAIN, SO ENJOY EVERY MOMENT.
23. TRAVEL WITH SOMEONE YOU LOVE, if they get on your nerves the love thing may keep you from killing them.
24. DON’T BE AFRAID TO TRAVEL, IF YOU ARE THE TERRORISTS WIN.
I have always looked at the world with rose-colored glasses. I can’t help but see the bright side of everything. I believe in Santa, the Easter Bunny and in the future. I know in my heart tomorrow, it will be better. When I hear bad news I try to reframe it in my mind to better news. Rain today means the lovely smell of creosote bushes and flowers tomorrow. I consider myself lucky, I have won numerous raffles, and even online contests. The reason I win is because I always buy the ticket! As Steve Forbert said, “You can not win if you do not play.”
When my youngest child was in the hospital, scheduled for open heart surgery I was sure that he was going to be alright. Thirty minutes before the surgery they discovered that he did not have the heart abnormality they had originally diagnosed, he went home that day. I am grateful. I know I live a wonderful life with a man I love and three healthy, happy adult children. I think a positive outlook can can alleviate so many worries. The glass is always half full to me.
In contrast, my parents were children of The Great Depression. They both grew up without their mothers. My dad was definitely a glass half empty kind of guy. He not only believed that the glass was half empty, it was also teetering on the edge of the table ready to shatter in a million pieces and slice open a vein. My mom had a rosier view of the world. They loved traveling however, after a couple of plane crashes a friend asked my mom if she was afraid. “Why would I be afraid? If the plane crashed we would both die together, doing something we love.” When she was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, after the tears and there were lots of tears she said, “Well, you have to die of something.”
Today the State Department announced an advisory on travel to Europe due to concern about terrorism. I am not worried. I will not think twice about our two month long trip to Europe. This is our dream trip. I look forward to the sights, the people, the food and the adventures we will have. I will not be dissuaded by warnings and fear. We intend to immerse ourselves in the cultures, to learn about our fellow human beings and to make some new friends.
We leave in four days. My thoughts are not of dying, they are of plane connections, new sights, shopping and the anticipation of something new. Right now all I’m thinking about is comfortable shoes and how many things I can fit into a plastic bag for my allowed liquids. It is amazing the number of things you need to include: toothpaste, sunscreen, moisturizer, eye drops, hair products etc. I really don’t think it will all fit.
Greg has the travel spreadsheet which includes all the necessary information for the accommodations, passports, flights, tours and EVERYTHING we might need for the trip. I no longer need to worry about tickets or anything related to the “travel documents.” That is because about fifteen years ago when we were driving to LA for a family cruise, I picked up a large manilla envelope labeled “TRAVEL DOCUMENTS” and threw it in the garage. My only thought was that it was on my seat and in the way. Four hours after we left the house Greg asked for the envelope. I told him I didn’t think it was important so I left it in the garage. At that point, I was pretty sure Greg considered leaving me at the border of Arizona and California. Yes there was screaming. But the point of the story is, it has become a favorite family anecdote and we made the cruise. I do not dwell on the fact that he drove an extra eight hours, because I no longer have the burden of travel documents. My only concerns are about connecting to WIFI , snagging a blanket on the plane and keeping up with the Line Leader.
My biggest worry is whether or not my headphones will keep out the noise of the adorable crying baby that will likely be sitting next to me.