Monday, May 22, 2017

Our travels

My plan today was to write a summary of our trip but my brain is trapped somewhere between here and there and doesn't seem to be accessible. I stupidly forgot my meds two nights ago which has left me in a worse state than normal jet-lag. Coffee isn't helping - I'll continue to try though ;-)

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Travel is wonderful except for getting there and back. We flew Air Canada Rouge on the way to Barcelona. It's a bare bones, no frills, airline that didn't even have in-seat entertainment. It was a long 8 hours sitting cramped on hard seats with nothing to distract. Airline food continues to degrade… Flying out of Montreal was easy. Flying into Barcelona was a pain - getting through the long lineup for customs took at least an hour. Overall though the trip wasn't too bad - excitement overrode any discomfort.

The way home was another thing. We were tired from our trip and had mixed feelings about the vacation being over. Rome was no big deal although waiting at the gate wasn't very comfortable. Frankfurt though was another matter. It is a horrible airport where nothing is easy. The distance from arrival to departure is long and confusing (bus, train, bus). I was glad none of the airports on my trip to NZ measured ‘up’ to Frankfurt – they seem positively luxurious now. We were tired and getting cranky. The flight was long but at least there was in seat entertainment, although my headphone jack didn't work very well. There were tons of babies but they weren't too screamy. The food sucked. But we were on our way home!

Air travel is not like the olden days. But the main thing is we got there and back so it's all good :-)

Leaving the pets at home is hard, but with Pat staying with them I hardly worried at all. She took good care of them and even befriended Grace enough that she sat on Pat's hand. That is amazing!

We travelled with Jo Ellen and Don who were perfect travelling companions.

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Barcelona was our first city and it was an amazing introduction to Europe. I had been there before when I was 11 but don't have any real memories of the visit so it was brand new to me. Our drive from the airport took us on wide boulevards lined with old low-rise apartments decorated with fancy wrought iron railings and fancy cornices. Plane trees added some green. Our hotel was right in the Gothic quarter and only a few blocks from Las Ramblas - the perfect location for on-foot exploration.

Rome was our departure point and this was a city to blow our minds. Orange trees with bright orange fruit right in the old streets of the city made a big impression on me. Rome is apparently the 2nd greenest city in Europe, second to Stockholm. Statues, fountains and ancient ruins were everywhere. We will return.

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Everything in-between has started to blur. The cruise was a great introduction to Europe - we'd wake up in a new place every morning. We had full-day excursions in most places and would get back in time to chill for a few minutes then head to the buffet for our supper. We were too tired to go to any of the shows. The grueling pace gave us a good taste of where we want to return.

I didn't gain any weight, which is a bit of a miracle as we ate like pigs. Breakfast buffet usually included smoked salmon, scrambled eggs, maybe a bit of frittata or French toast. If we were on the ship we ate lunch at the buffet. The excursions often included delightful lunches with wine. Or we'd eat at a little restaurant somewhere. We went to a specialty steak restaurant one night of the ship; I had filet mignon and lobster tail. The rest of the nights we ate at the buffet - it was good, but not as good as the ship we were on last November. It was nice not to cook! I ate more meat than I have in a few years total.

We saw so many amazing things and places, but there are three that stand out in my mind. I was excited about seeing Sagrada Familia and wondered if it would be one of those things that aren't as good as expected. My first glimpse gave me a thrill, but when we stepped inside I was awe struck and immediately choked up. It was magnificent. The arching space was like standing in a sacred forest. Stained glass lit the interior. I would love to go back.

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We were walking down a narrow street in Florence when around a corner we came to a large square. Dominating that square was Il Duomo. The towering façade with its multi-coloured marble and statues all over was astounding. I was surprised at my response.

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There were lots more interesting sights, but none that impacted me the same as Sagrada Familia or Il Duomo until I stepped into the Pantheon in Rome. The light coming through the oculus in the roof and the ceiling itself brought tears to my eyes. It has been in continuous use for over 2000 years. Yes - two thousand. Unbelievable.

Well, I guess I managed to eek out a long summary of our trip - that extra coffee seemed to do the trick!

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“A journey, after all, neither begins in the instant we set out, nor ends when we have reached our door step once again. It starts much earlier and is really never over, because the film of memory continues running on inside of us long after we have come to a physical standstill. Indeed, there exists something like a contagion of travel, and the disease is essentially incurable.”
~Ryszard Kapuściński