Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Now that I'm back in the United States, I've had a chance to think about the places I've visited over the last two months. It has been quite an adventure. I spent the first 10 days moving around England and much of France with my friend Roger Sims. I cannot express enough, my thanks to Roger and Helen for the kind hospitality. Their sons, Nickolas and Robert and delightful young men, and it was a pleasure getting to know them better.

Once I was on my own, I made my way from place to place by rail. For those of you
who plan any travel throughout Europe, I can highly recommend the Eurail pass. I was able to go to many of the European Union countries without any problems, never having to show my passport and only having to pay a small additional "fee" occasionally. Otherwise, all train travel was covered, which by the way included some of the underground (subway) systems in many of the cities. In every case, the people in the train stations, information bureaus and tourist bureaus were kind, courteous and helpful. If there was a "language problem", there was always someone who helped. I did my best at learning some of their language and the "locals" were always grateful and humorous.

In ma
ny ways, when something did go wrong, it was part of the adventure. For example, on my way to Pompeii, I missed the stop and went too far. The next stop was Solarno, a beautiful Italian city on the Mediterranean Sea. I had the pleasure of spending a couple of hours there waiting for the next train back to Pompeii.

Importantly, one must not take themselves too seriously. Many times I laughed at myself for some reason or another. The second time I broke my camera, for example, it cost me a couple of $, but it was fun to seek out a store, find the camera department and explain what I wanted.

Many of the countries I visited were battlegrounds just a few years ago. Now their communities are thriving and prosperous. Many people are multi-lingual, educated and well traveled . Generally, the average workweek is 35 hours and most Europeans get 25 days or more vacation per year. Most of the countries I visited have universal health care systems, and while there are always "pros and cons" about subjects such as these, it seems better to have a health safety-net than nothing at all.

In my opinion, the most beautiful cities were Paris, Budapest, Vienna and Krakow. The most interesting was Rome. The most delightful was Amsterdam. The most friendly people were the English, French and Dutch. The cities I would visit again -- ALL of them. I can't think of one city that disappointed me.

Here's a list of the countries and cities I visited.

United Kingdom
Stratford upon Avon

Le Havre



Czech Republic
Kunta Hora






I've enjoyed keeping this blog. It's a reminder of my experiences along the way -- an experience I will not soon forget. So, until the next adventure -- Ciao... Dennis

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam Holland. I awoke to a strange email saying that British Airways had canceled my flight. No more explanation, except it was an aircraft that could not be maintained. But, there were no suggestions, no telephone numbers, and the only hyperlink was broken!! So, needless to say, British Airways was on "my list" -- if you get my meaning!!

After trying a couple of things on the Internet, I called the travel insurance company, Access America. They bailed out on me by saying that, if the airline cancels a flight, it's not covered with their insurance. If I incurred any additional costs, it would be between me and the airline. So, for those of you who are planning a trip here or there, my suggestion is NOT to take the most expensive insurance. Just get the "health" section of the policy in case something hapens to you. Oh, they did offer to help for for an "additional charge", but after spending more than $500 on travel insurance, and thinking I was covered, I declined their offer. Thanks again Access America.

Jennifer and I went to the airport as planned. She went to find her flight (we traveled separate airlines) and I set out to find a British Airways agent. It didn't take long, although there was no signage for me to follow. The airport information desk was helpful and I found the ticket counter was nearby. To British Air's credit, they did offer me 2 flights -- one to Paris and then to LAX on Air France and one on KLM directly to LAX. Needless to say I took the KLM non-stop and will in LAX at the same time my canceled flight would have been there. So, what started out as a potental disaster turned out ok, and I'm pleased with the outcome.

The plane starts boarding at noon and it's around 11:40 a.m., so I'm at the gate. So, with boarding time close at hand, I'll sign off and continue this at a later time.

I arrived at LAX at 3:10 p.m. By the time I cleared customs it was 4 p.m. and our friend Dianne was there to pick me up. She suggested we wait around for Jennifer to arrive at 7 p.m., we went went to a local restaurant and enjoyed some soup and conversation.

Jennifer and I arrived home at 8:30 p.m. or so. We had left for the Amsterdam airport at 8:15 that morning, but the time difference is plus 9 hours. By the time we walked in the door we had been up and in transit for 19 or 20 hours. Ten minutes later, I was "out cold".
As I reflect on my last 2 months of travel, it's hard to believe it has come to and end. At the beginning of the trip, it seemed like it would go on forever! Of course, all good things come to a close, and in many ways, I'll be glad to be getting back to the U.S. and the routine I've set for myself.

Ciao for now....