Home again, after three weeks in Europe

Teresa and I enter the sacred space of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (tourists know it as the Blue Mosque) in Istanbul, Turkey
Teresa and I enter the sacred space of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (tourists know it as the Blue Mosque) in Istanbul, Turkey

Although I’ve been back from my extended vacation since October 4, it’s taken me a while to get my legs under me. My travels, spotty availability of Internet access and shortage of idle time determined that I could not post to my blog. I will giving an accounting of my awesome journey in installments because I am still processing all the events and experiences.

So what did my trip involve?

  • Four days in Barcelona, Spain because we never made it to Cataluña during our first trip to Spain in 2008
  • A 12-day Mediterranean cruise with port calls in Toulon, Livorno/Florence, Civitavecchia/Rome, Naples, Mykonos, Istanbul, Kusadasi, Piraeus/Athens, and Venice
  • Extra two days in Venice and an overnight sleeper train to France, an adventure in and of itself
  • Four days in Paris because my wife demanded that if we had we made it all the way to Europe, she could not leave without seeing Paris
  • A 28-hour return to the States on three separate flights (Paris, Barcelona, London, Washington), including a forced march through London Heathrow Airport security checkpoints, terminal trains, escalators, elevators and duty-free shopping malls

This itinerary is a really long time to be living out of a suitcase, no matter how tightly packed to meet airline baggage restrictions. And you still have to drag the luggage around when you’re not in a plane or cruise ship. But since my wife was in charge of planning the trip, she kept adding a day here, a weekend there, until it grew into 23 days.

Milestones

September represented two major benchmarks in my life: my wife and I celebrated 40 years of marriage and I turned 65 years old (is it wise to admit to either of these two conditions on the Web?). My wife and I had been planning to return to Europe since 2008, but my work commitments at the OAS made it hard to set aside a minimum of two weeks for the trip. Then in 2013, I left the OAS and faced self-employment (or unemployment). Even with a new job, I needed to accumulate enough personal time off. In the end, I found the opening to go because if we put this kind of trip off any longer, we might not be in physical condition to make it.

Let me say that the trip really pushed me to my physical limits. Port excursions are compressed outings that keep you on your feet for most of the day. Sometimes, we were rushed because we did not want to miss the boat: cruises will leave late passengers on the pier if late and they will have to find their way to the next port. Given our short stays in each stop we pushed ourselves to get the most out of the time. When you’re walking, you can get a “little lost,” not completely disoriented. Before and after the cruise, we were hauling around luggage: in Venice, for instance, we had to move bags over “picturesque” canal bridges to get to our hotel or to the train station. By the time we made it home, I had tapped into my deepest reserves and I needed several days to recover from my “vacation”.