Posted tagged ‘Europe’

“I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.”

July 20, 2017

The weather has settled into monotony. Every day is sunny and hot. We reached the mid 80’s yesterday while Boston was over 90˚. The shade was bearable, but the sun was unrelenting. The only times I went outside were to bring Gracie to the yard where I sat in the shade and waited for her.

I did nothing yesterday and will probably do nothing today as well. A dump run is in our future but probably tomorrow. I do need to water the plants, inside and outside, but that’s it.

When I was a teacher, I traveled every summer, mostly to Europe, and went for three or four weeks. I traveled on the cheap. Go Europe was my travel Bible. University housing and hostels were my hotels as such. Meals were sometimes at bar happy hours where I’d nurse a single drink until I’d eaten my fill or at railroad stations which had kiosks with cheap sandwiches. I usually traveled with a friend. B&B’s were sometimes our stops mostly through Ireland, Scotland and England. I remember one in London, in Earl’s Court. The owner barely spoke English and played music quite loud from the kitchen which was next to my room. The song I remember best is Cielito Linda with the damn ay, ay, ay. I swear it was played over and over. My favorite B&B was in Dingle Ireland. It was over a grocery store. The woman was old. She entertained us with stories about guests including the Frenchman who didn’t know how to eat Corn Flakes and another who wanted a facecloth. She laughed at the thought that the face had its own cloth. Breakfasts were eggs, bacon, toast and coffee and sometimes a grilled tomato. The hostels were cheap enough but didn’t offer breakfast, but they had a value of their own. Hostels were where I’d trade books and information with other travelers. All these trips were cheap enough that I could saved enough money every year for a summer in Europe.

Last year’s trip to Ghana was expensive enough for a couple or even close to three trips to Europe in the old days, but I was perfectly fine with that. I enjoyed the lap of luxury as if I had been born to it.

“Never hesitate to go far away, beyond all seas, all frontiers, all countries, all beliefs.”

June 22, 2017

Today is lovely. I woke up to a blue sky and the brightest eye squinting sunshine I’ve seen in a while. My house is comfortably cool. Outside my window, I can see chickadees on the branches munching sunflower seeds. None of the leaves of the oak tree are blowing. It is a still day.

Though Gracie ate on Tuesday, around midnight she started panting and walking from room to room. She’d sit on the couch for a bit then get up and walk some more. Around 12:30 am, I took her to the emergency vet for the third early morning in a row. She was given anti-nausea medication which settled her down. The vet told me that this was treating only a symptom. I already knew that. She suggested a battery of tests, most of which I probably can’t afford.

Last night was different. During the day, she ate two small cans of dog food, not her usual as I was tempting her taste buds. She ate treats, new treats. She napped and last night slept through the night. I had anti-nausea pills for her, but she didn’t need them. She and Maddie, the cat, are having their morning naps now. I’m going to take one later. I am exhausted.

The best part of any summer has always been having empty days to fill.  When I was a kid, it was games and crafts at the local playground. I’d be there all day. During high school, I did little on summer days, but I was never bored. When I was in college, it was a summer job which I didn’t really mind. Working in the post office was easy and paid well. The pace was slow. Europe filled my summers when I was a teacher. My trips generally lasted 4 to 5 weeks. I knew how to travel on little money. I slept in hostels or on night buses. I ate as cheaply as possible sometimes buying bread and sandwich fixings. I found bars where I could get a drink and eat my way through happy hour. I had only a broad itinerary open to change. It was a wonderful way to travel. They were some of my favorite summers.

Posting my Ghana pictures yesterday got me thinking about the faraway places I love. Ghana, of course, is my favorite. The rest are in no order, no preference. Old Quito is on that list. The narrow streets, the old buildings, the colors and the women’s hats still have a prominent place in my memory drawers. I loved Portugal and Morocco and the Roman ruins in Italy. Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso was my second favorite spot in Africa. It was my weekend getaway. The beauty of the Andes took my breath away. On overnight bus rides, stops at roadside restaurants where the menus were in languages I didn’t understand and peeing in a hole in the little house in the back were part of the adventure. In Morocco and in Ghana I found out that thitting the hole is a lifetime skill.

I don’t travel summers anymore, but I keep my passport up to date just in case.

“You don’t need magic to disappear, all you need is a destination and a great hostel!”

July 21, 2016

Yesterday was the perfect day: sunny, warm and dry. A breeze from the south kept my house cool. It will be warmer today, but this room, in the back of the house, is still dark and cool. I’m going to be out on the deck today with a good book and a cold drink. My outside table is perfectly shaded by branches from the scrub oak. Gracie lies in the shade at the right angle formed by two sides of the deck. She sleeps deeply and sometimes even snores.

When I was teaching, I was usually traveling in July and August. I was one of those backpackers who slept in hostels, on overnight buses and sometimes in parks. I bought bread, peanut butter and jam and ate sandwiches to save money. Sometimes I bought a cooked chicken and tomatoes for a fancy dinner sandwich. I had a Go Europe guidebook which listed free food at happy hours. I’d nurse a drink and eat my fill. Overnight train travel was my favorite route between two places. Sometimes I’d just buy a seat and try to get comfortable enough to sleep, but a couple of times I bought a couchette and was able to stretch out on a mattress and sleep.

Traveling in Europe was a huge adventure for me. I got to see all the places I’d only read or dreamed about. One summer it was five weeks in England, Scotland and Ireland. Another summer it was six weeks traveling in Finland, Russia, Denmark, The Netherlands and England. The big trip was eight weeks in South America. I landed in Caracas and left from Rio. In between, I traveled from country to country by bus, car and planes. The best plane ride was over the Andes from Lima to Cusco. I saw the shadow of my plane on the mountain tops covered in snow. In those days few Americans traveled in South America. We met only one other in Paraguay who asked to join us at an outdoor cafe. He had heard us speaking English. He was the head of Pan American Airlines in South America and was on his farewell tour of Pan Am offices before his retirement. He told some great stories including one about Eisenhower visiting South American and having to extend runways for his plane. I think that trip was my all-time favorite.

Eight weeks from now I’ll be in Ghana.

“What shall you do all your vacation?’, asked Amy. “I shall lie abed and do nothing”, replied Meg.”

February 16, 2015

Just looking out my front door to watch the progress of the plowing and shoveling gave me snow blindness when I turned back into the house. It is as bright a day as we’ve had in weeks. It is also freezing. The wind is so strong it is blowing the snow with the same ferocity and lack of visibility as in a sand storm, just not with the grit. Though my plow guys keep turning their backs to the snow cloud, their beards were frosted and icy with snow. My walkway is shoveled, the car is free and Gracie’s steps and stairs have also been shoveled. I threw de-icer on all the front and back steps, and it is already working. This morning’s paper is now in my hands. I just brewed a fresh pot of coffee. It is already a good day.

This is school vacation week around here. I never understood why we needed one in February having just had a long Christmas vacation, but I didn’t argue. When I was a kid, we never went anywhere or did anything special as my Dad was working. When I was older, my friends and I would get together. I remember a toboggan party at the Winchester Country Club. My friends Bobby and Jimmy and I fit perfectly on Bobby’s toboggan. We were daredevils who went down the steepest hills. I remember one hill with a slope in the middle. The toboggan flew over the slope and the three of us were airborne. When the toboggan landed, Jimmy ended up half hanging off the back of the sled. He stayed that way until we finally stopped. He wasn’t hurt just snow-covered. We looked at each other without saying a word and as if on cue, we started trudging up that hill to do it again. This time we all stayed on.

When I was teaching, I used to go traveling for the week, mostly to Europe. The weather wasn’t all that bad, it was off-season and cheaper and there were fewer tourists. I’d pick one place for the week. One year it was Rome. Another year it was Vienna. I can’t remember how many times it was London.

Today I have laundry to do. I’m tired of looking at it in the hall. Looks like a big day ahead of me.

“Wanderlust is incurable.”

June 13, 2013

Yesterday it rained in Hyannis. At the same time, the sun was shining when I got to West Yarmouth a bit down the road. The paper says rain again today, and we already have a sky filled with clouds. The day is also damp and has a bit of a chill. I’m going out for a few errands later. I have a list.

My usual quiet has been broken, The house next door is being reshingled, and all I can hear is the nail gun and its tap, tap, tap, tap, always four taps in a row. One guy is doing the whole job. It took him two days to do the small side of the house, the one nearest my house. Now he’s working on the back of the house.

When I taught, I traveled every summer. I’d be gone five or six weeks. I usually did Europe though I did have that one South American summer. I always had my backpack, my Go Europe guide-book and my Eurail pass. I never packed too many clothes: a couple of pairs of pants, a few shirts, underwear and a light jacket. I had my flashlight and my Swiss army knife with all the doo-dads. That was all I needed. I always traveled with a friend, and our only planning was deciding which countries to visit. We grouped them. One summer it was England, Scotland and Ireland. Another summer it was Denmark, Finland, Russia and England. You’re probably wondering about England in that grouping, but we always tried to spend at least a few days in London before we went home. Spain and Portugal were an obvious duo.

When I became an administrator, I had to work summers so I traveled April vacation but to only one country. I had become a suitcase traveler by then, but I still brought my Swiss army knife and a guide-book: still no plans ahead except the country and a rental car. I’d have a vague idea what I wanted to see, but I was always open to any adventure. Sometimes we’d see a sign with an arrow pointing to a side road and an attraction and we’d follow that arrow. We were seldom disappointed. Most times we had no reservations but still found great places to stay. I remember a farm in Belgium and a really old house in Ireland. Its steps going upstairs were bowed.

I’m not traveling this year. Two trips to Ghana have depleted my resources so I have to start saving again. A one year hiatus is about as long as my wanderlust will handle. Pinching pennies here I come!

“Sunday is the core of our civilization, dedicated to thought and reverence.”

April 14, 2013

The day has potential. The sun is working its way from behind the clouds so every now and then I see light which gives me a bit of hope. A patch of blue also appears then disappears so I’m thinking maybe a nice afternoon might be the order of the day. I think a lovely Sunday afternoon is the best of all. During the week most people work so lovely goes to waste, and Saturday is generally chore and errand day so though we may get out into the sun we don’t get to enjoy it. It’s just the backdrop. Sunday, by tradition, is the quiet day, a day with no ambitions, a day to be enjoyed.

Tomorrow is a holiday, Patriot’s Day, when we commemorate the Battles of Lexington and Concord. Paul Revere and William Dawes will make their way on horseback to warn everyone the British are coming. This time around, though, state troopers will escort the riders. There is also a reenactment of the Battle on Lexington Green which begins around 5:30 and later, at 9, is one at the Old North Bridge in Concord. Tomorrow is also the marathon. This is the first year in a long time I haven’t worked it, but my back prevents it; instead, I’ll watch the Red Sox. Their game begins at 11 because of the marathon.

This is April vacation week for kids. When I worked, I always went to Europe for the week, to one country or city. They were adult trips: no backpacks or hostels or sleeping on night busses. Usually we rented a car and travelled all over. Portugal is still my favorite trip, but I did love Belgium and the Netherlands. The scariest ride was in the fog through the Black Forest. I couldn’t see the road more than a few feet ahead of the car, and I’d have been doomed if not for the white line. The prettiest rides were through the Ardennes and in the Netherlands with its windmills. My parents were my fellow travelers, and they were great fun. My dad and I played cards every night after dinner while my mother worked on her crossword puzzles. They were amiable travelers and didn’t really care which road we took. All of if was new to us. They never balked at any restaurant and were willing to try new foods. I drove and my mother was the navigator. My father thought he was, but he butchered every language so my mother would repeat the city where we were going, and it never ever sounded even close to what my father had said. He never caught on.

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