It’s been a little over a week since I’ve returned from Europe, and I’m finally catching up enough to write about the trip. The truth is that I wrote the whole time I was there, but it’s hard to condense 40 pages on paper into a few paragraphs in a blog. So without further ado, a whirlwind description of my whirlwind European tour.
Flew to Paris, train to Montpellier. Day trip to Carcassonne. Longer trip to San Sebastian, Bilbao (Guggenheim), Barcelona, Figuerres (Dali), and back. Couple more days in Montpellier. Train to Milan, then immediately train to Venice. Venice for a few days, then train to Rome. Rome for a few days, then plane home.
Really condensed version:
I went to work and struggled to focus. Left early and drove to Portland. Stayed the night at my cousin’s house.
June 2/3 (stupid time zones):
Woke up, had breakfast. Cousin Lynn drove me to the airport and dropped me off. After a bit of a snafu getting tickets (good thing I was there 2 hours early), I got on the plane and had a relatively enjoyable 10 hour flight to Frankfurt. The plane was late and my connection ridiculously tight, but my luggage and I made it on the plane to Paris. I took the TGV (fast train) down to Montpellier and met my sister at the station. We dropped off luggage and went out to dinner. I had been up for over 24 hours, so I slept hard.
Back on the train for a day trip to Carcassonne, an ancient fortress. Explored a lot, had some interesting food for lunch, toured some more, then got picnic food and ate it on the train back. Yay for $2 bottles of wine. When we got back we went to a play that was not very good at all. Then we went out to a bar with live rap that was also not very good, but interesting nonetheless.
Checked my email (it’s nice staying in the dorms), got frustrated with the different keyboard layout. Went downtown again and explored. Had paella for lunch, went to a museum, sat in a park, walked among the throngs of tourists, had some ice cream. Went to a library where I discovered I’m really only capable of reading the children’s books. Made our way back to the dorm for a long overdue shower. I did research the rest of the evening.
I went into downtown alone while Betsy ran errands. I walked all over and explored as much as I could. Showed up at the dorms in the afternoon and went out to dinner with Betsy. I discovered Muscat, a great dessert wine famous in that area. Went to a couple bars and clubs and danced to American music (it’s all they play). Stayed out a little too late.
Back on the train towards San Sebastian. We had a couple hours in Toulouse for lunch. On the train again, with another break in Irun, right on the border between France and Spain. Then we got into Spain and arrived at San Sebastian, walking to our hotel, unfortunately too late for dinner anywhere.
Ate breakfast, checked out of the hotel, saw an art exhibition, hung out at the beach, ate some lunch, and hopped on a train to Bilbao, home of the Guggenheim. We arrived with only an hour left at the museum, which was ok because the art inside wasn’t nearly as cool as the building itself and I managed to walk around all the art twice. Back to the train station, where we resorted to sign language to get tickets to Barcelona (we couldn’t get back to Montpellier back the way we came for some reason). We had sandwiches and sangria while we waited for the train, then took it overnight to Barcelona.
The overnight trip was horrible; no room to lay down or sleep. We only had a few hours in Barcelona, so we went to Park Guell, which gave us a neat view of the city. Convinced the folks at the train station that there actually was a train headed where we wanted. We had a picnic on the train, which stopped in Figuerres, home of the Dali museum. The last leg of the trip brought us back to Montpellier. We cleaned up and went out to hear a live local group at a bar. We ran into her friend and walked him back to the dorms.
Went to the flea market and saw all kinds of crap; Betsy bought some of it. Headed back to the dorm to write, rearrange luggage, etc. Went to dinner at a creperie, then to a bar for an after-dinner drink, then home. (It was a pretty lazy day, but we needed one).
Another day downtown on my own while Betsy prepared to leave. I came back and showered and wrote postcards while she went out to run some errands. We had dinner at the cafeteria; very cheap but edible. We used parts of the dinner as hors d’oeuvres for the party Betsy threw on her last night in France. She had a bunch of friends over and had a nice little party.
We finished everything up and discovered that renting a car to drive through the Riviera to Milan would cost more than buying one, so we took a train to Milan instead, but ended up going through Geneva, so we got to see the Alps. We arrived in Milan, but their left-luggage had low max weight limits, so we couldn’t leave our luggage, and all the nearby hotels were too expensive. So Betsy watched the luggage while I explored the club scene in Milan. It’s a long but very good story; she wasn’t really interested in clubbing anyway, and it turned out she was safer in the train station than I was outside of it. Clubbing is the same everywhere you go. The people, the music, the drinks, it’s all the same.
It was tricky, but I managed to get back into the locked train station so I wasn’t outside with the bums (It really is a good story. ask me about it). We took the train to Venice. Betsy watched the luggage while I searched for a room for a few nights. It took a while, but I got lucky. We took the boat/bus to Piazza San Marco, then had some lunch. Wandered around, made it back to the hotel to clean up some, then back out into the foray for some museums, then an aperatif, then a really expensive dinner, and finally bed.
Went to the train station and got tickets to Rome in advance. Picked up some pastries and fruit for breakfast, then got on a random bus and explored. Back to the Piazza San Marco for some more exploration and a lot of museums. We got special treatment at an expensive glass store. Pizza for lunch. A couple more museums, then back to the train station. Gelato, a nap, and dinner. A long long walk to burn off more than the calories we had consumed, but we explored a lot of Venice. Gelato again, then bed.
Tried to go to a museum, but it wasn’t open yet and we didn’t have time. Toured a grocery store instead and got lunch for the train ride. We arrived in Rome and repeated the hotel drill: she watched luggage while I searched. Found something acceptable and got situated, then went out to dinner. Went down to ancient Rome to view it at night. Walked around a lot, then came back and went to a famous pub nearby, then went to bed.
The Vatican and Castel Sant’ Angelo. Campo di Fiori for dinner, people watching, and a little bit of partying.
Palatine Hill, Colosseum, Forum, all before lunch. After lunch we went back to the hotel and did postcards and that was the end of the day. We crashed hard.
Pantheon, then wandering around forever, eventually heading to Villa Borghese, a huge park, where we stayed for a few hours. We came down the Spanish Steps and found a restaurant, then went back to the hotel to pick up our luggage and go to the airport. We stayed the night there, but didn’t really sleep.
On the plane to Portland! Arrived safely, then drove back to Richland. Betsy stayed the night, and her boyfriend picked her up the next day.
Well, not at all. There’s so much more that happened, and even the things that I mentioned had so much detail and little stories to go along with it. It was a great vacation and tour.