My hubby and I went to Europe before we got married and since we love to travel always talked about going back with our kids. We wanted to make sure the kids would be old enough to remember such an epic trip and the time never seemed quite right. Then, with a blink of an eye 24 years have passed from our original trip and we experienced the death of our beloved father and grandfather, Grandpa Brian (aka “Coach”) so we decided there was no time like the present! We just got back from the “trip of a lifetime” with our kiddos who now at ages 21, 19 and 14 will certainly be “old enough” to remember it.
We went to Iceland for one day, then Rome, Paris and London. The trip was everything we imagined and I am certain when I reflect back on my life it will be on the highlight reel- one for the record books as they say. So while it’s still fresh in my mind, here are 10 random thoughts…
- There are beautiful churches everywhere – so beautiful they take your breath away. Stained glass, painted ceilings, and sculptures with beauty that are equal to any museum. There are the big ones, Notre Dame, Westminster Abby and then the small ones. For example, across the street from our hotel in Paris was the beautiful Church St. Roch built in 1653 and while fallen into a bit of disrepair was still astonishingly beautiful.
- So much of what you learn in school is available and on display in the scads and scads of museums. We saw beautiful works of art that we had learned about or studied in school. A family favorite was the huge painting by David called “the crowning of Napoleon.” We all sat in front of that painting listening to the audio tour completely spell bound by the painting and the story behind it. It was gorgeous.
- The audio tours are essential. They give great context, allow for people to go at their own pace and enhance the understanding of the art. At these museums it’s easy to achieve the state we called “sensory overload” where you don’t even know where to look there is so much to see.
- Just getting around on the public transit is an experience in itself. We used the Metro in Paris and the Underground in London and got to experience the urban commute which is much different than our “hop in the car” suburban lifestyle. I am a bit embarrassed to admit the great sense of accomplishment I felt when we successfully arrived at our destinations.
- Translating money makes it difficult to see if you are getting a good value and frankly there aren’t many choices when walking up to a museum and they ask you for 5 pounds or 10 Euros. It all becomes “Monopoly money” especially when they give you change. I have no idea how much we spent and I do not look forward to getting our Visa bill.
- There are crowds of people everywhere especially at the major attractions like the Vatican or the Louvre. We all got frustrated when people knocked into us or stood in front of pieces of art to get their “selfie.” Frankly, it took away from the experience and our favorite memories are at some of the smaller places where we didn’t feel so rushed and crowded.
- We walked and stood so much that I was physically exhausted. We started to keep track of our steps using our smart phones and one day we reached 30k steps. This is a physical trip with many uneven surfaces, steep stairs and lots of walking. I was thankful for my practical and sturdy shoes.
- My daughters and I spent an inordinate amount of time dreaming about repacking our bags. We basically wore the same clothes over and over! So if I could re-pack my bag I would add a few more pairs of pants and certainly a few more sweaters. My daughters and I had some fashionable dresses that barely made it out of the bag and we spent many hours talking about things we wished we would have brought especially when the weather was cool.
- There is no better way to get to know someone than to spend 2 weeks with them on a trip. And while we did have a few tense moments, we travelled well together and I know these 4 people much better than I did before we left. Special shout out to my hubby- there is nobody better to travel with, he can can read a map, walk around tirelessly, and navigate a city better than anyone I know.
- And while I love, love, love to travel, I equally love to come home. Because somehow the trip is even better when you get home. You forget about how long it took to get lunch, how frustrated you were with the crowds, how tired your feet were or how hot/cold you were, and you just remember the amazing trip with your favorite people.