Andy and Tina’s European Vacation

Posted: December 3, 2009 in Odds and Sods

If you’re wondering why I haven’t posted in awhile, I was in Europe for two weeks with my lovely wife.
We returned Sunday, and I’m still getting accustomed to the time change (five hours ahead in England, six ahead in France, Switzerland and Italy).
The trip was unbelievable, one we’ll never forget. We’re already planning to return to some of our favorite spots, and we still have some European countries we want to visit (Spain, Ireland and Scotland tops on the list).
We started off with four days in England, and we loved it there. Tina really enjoyed the shopping on London’s Oxford Street, while my favorite part was naturally the Beatles walking tour, where I got to walk across the famous Abbey Road crossing. We also visited a few other famous Beatles sites, including the old Apple office, where the Beatles played their final gig on that building’s rooftop in January 1969. We also took a bus tour around the city, where we saw and took pictures of Big Ben, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Trafalgar Square and other cool spots. We rode the observation wheel The London Eye, and took a tour of the Tower of London, where we saw the crown jewels of all the past British monarchs.
From London, we hooked up with our tour group and traveled to Dover (the White Cliffs of Dover were really pretty, although it was a pretty crappy day weather-wise). We took the ferry across the English Channel to Calais, France, where we met our bus driver Genarro and tour guide Sara. The next eight days on the bus took us to France, Switzerland and Italy. We spent two nights in Paris, two nights in Luzern, Switzerland, two in Venice, one in Florence and two in Rome.
Paris was a beautiful city. We went to the Eiffel Tower (the line was too long that day or else we would have gone up to the top), Notre Dame cathedral and took a tour of the city.
Switzerland was by far our favorite country. It’s the cleanest place we’ve ever been to. The lakes are crystal clear. The tap water is better than just about every spring water we’ve had. The Alps are a picture of beauty, and the people were very nice. We took a boat trip on Lake Luzern and admired the lake’s natural beauty and pristine water. We got a few of the small towns and a picturesque look at the Alps. We also ventured into the Alps and ascended Mount Titlis, where a few of our tour friends from Australia and other countries got to see snow for the first time.
From Switzerland, we ventured to Italy, where we spent two days in Venice. We were so excited to see Venice, and we were disappointed that it was such a letdown. The gondola rides were well worth it, but the city itself is pretty smelly and dirty (their sewage goes straight into the water, since the city itself is on water) but we had a good time nonetheless. Florence was a nice city, full of beautiful churches and memorable artwork and statues. A drive through the Tuscany region was breathtaking, and a stop in Pisa was cool, as we were able to take our picture in front of the Leaning Tower.
Rome was probably our favorite city, although we were amazing at how crazy the driving was in the city. There’s almost three million people in Rome, but just 350,000 parking spaces. Double parking everywhere. There were no real lanes, so it was pretty much a free for all. It was nice to be on the bus. We had a great time Friday night with the good friends we made on the trip, a couple from Australia named Shane and Wendy. We had an awesome dinner out, the food and the wine were flowing big time and we made quite an impression that night on our tour group, I’ll leave it at that.
Not feeling up to snuff Saturday, Tina urged me to tough it out, and boy am I glad she did. We visited the Vatican museum and were treated to beautiful mosaics and some of the greatest artwork I’ve ever seen. The Sistene Chapel was awe-inspiring, and we learned how talented Michelangelo really was. Also visited St. Peter’s Cathedral. Our tour guide in Rome was awesome. He was very informative, yet also kept things moving and cracked jokes to keep everyone interested. From the Vatican we ventured to some ancient Roman ruins, the best of which was the Coliseum. It’s truly hard to believe how far advanced the Romans were, building a structure that still stands, 2000 years later (and if it weren’t for church officials taking the iron from the structure hundreds of years ago, it would probably be 90 percent in tact, as half the building was lost to an earthquake in the 1500s). We also saw several old castles and other Roman ruins, such as the Forum. Great time. So much history in Europe. You see buildings there that have been up for close to 1,000 years (and in some cases more) and just can’t get help but marvel at them.
Anyway, that’s where I’ve been. I plan to write more here in the coming days, as the hot stove kicks into full gear. It will be interesting to see what the Mets do. Also have a few cd reviews coming up, including the outstanding Them Crooked Vultures album. As they say in Italy, ciao (for now).

Our European vacation did not include an appearance from Clark Griswold.

  1. Glad to hear you had a wonderful time and have returned safely from your travels, but you should see a doctor immediately. You have an Eiffel Tower sized growth on your shoulder.

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