We just returned a few days ago from our first RS tours, and my first time to Europe. It was a long time dream of mine to go to Europe and this trip was the perfect introductory trip. Although it is nice to be home in many ways (ie back to own comfy bed, not having to live out of a suitcase, having my own simple healthy breakfast, cleaner public bathrooms, and seeing my kids and grandkids ) I am a little melancholy that the trip is over. It was much anticipated and a great focus for me ever since June when we decided that we would take this trip, thanks to a very generous wedding gift from my dad. I spent countless hours reading Rick Steves books and travel forums, watching videos, thinking about it, talking to others who had already been, and dreaming about the wonderful trip that it in fact was. I had my bar of expectations set so high that I was a little concerned at one point whether I had let it get too high and if it might not be all that impactful for me. But this was certainly not the case at all. I have been blessed beyond measure by being there and experiencing it all for myself. I am a changed person and have a different view of the European world, beyond textbooks or pictures. I am savoring the trip right now in my memories and want to take this time to write down some final thoughts. I found it so helpful to read other people's reports and want to return the favor.
A few general observations about being in Europe-
I was surprised at how beautiful it was in the natural world sense. I had envisioned it to be much more crowded and maybe even more brown, with not many trees compared to where we live in Oregon. But what I found was so much green lushness, even for late September and early October, and beautiful trees.. The greenness of Holland, the lush rolling vineyard dotted hills of the Rhine Valley and Bavaria in Germany, the magnificence of the Austrian, Italian and Swiss Alps, and the abundance of green rolling hills and vineyards throughout Italy and France; I guess I really appreciate the green landscapes of this earth. We saw so much of that on this trip.
Europe is old!!! Of course I knew this being a history major in college, but it is hard to comprehend how old it feels and is until you get there. I often felt in awe of places I was in, particularly visiting the Colosseum and the Forum in Rome,and Venice oh my! It was deeply moving and I feel changed and have a greater appreciation for having been able to go there.
Europeans seem to move slower than we do in the US and they take time to sit and enjoy the meal and the scene. I/we can learn from that. At cafes, rows of two person tables would often face out onto the street or plaza, rather than facing toward each other, as if people were sitting and watching a movie. And it felt like that to us often. We got into this early in the trip and enjoyed it right up to the end. It seems the European way, and we loved it. On our last day by ourselves, after the tour was done, we took a whole day just to explore 3 different parts of town slowly. We sat in outdoor cafes at each one and enjoyed the scene. We also enjoyed just sitting for quite awhile at Tuileries Park, between the Louvre and L'Orangerie, in two reclining chairs overlooking the pond and gardens, watching all of the people activity from a distance and appreciating the whole scene. It was heavenly!
I will be posting the rest of this report in sections so I do not exceed the limits. Warning...it will be long :-)