Magic Moments: 2009
Just a few magic moments in a trip can make it a success in your mind for the rest of your life. The moon rising over the Jungfrau...being alone at your own private Stonehenge...feeling Celtic pride well up in your non-Celtic soul after hours of traditional music in an Irish pub...meeting your "Old World" relatives for the first time. Do you have a favorite magic moment from your European experience?
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Eiffel Tower at Night
Best Paris moment: Seeing the Eiffel Tower lit up at night!
Phoenix, AZ USA Wed 12/30/2009
When flying overseas It is our custom to go a day early, so we arrived in Ljubljana the day before our Adriatic tour began. We had checked with ETBD to find out if the castle, high on the hill above the city, was included on the tour. It was not. Having read quite a bit about the site, we were not too surprised. Nevertheless, with a day to get the lay of the land, we ventured up the funicular, if for no other reason, to get a bird's eye view of the city. As expected, there was not much that needed to be seen at the castle, but the view was excellent. I made some pictures, we walked around and finally decided to head down, taking more pics on the way. As we stood in front of one the signs with directions for the various paths, suddenly we were joined by a older gentleman who asked us if we needed help. We explained that we were not sure which path to take. He warned us that the one trail we were considering was very steep in parts, so he would not recommend it.. The gent, his name was Ivan, spoke English very well. As we were tourists, our conversation naturally got to his querying about the region of the States we called home. When we mentioned Colorado, Ivan asked if we knew the highest city in the state. He did. And how did he know it's Leadville? It turns out his grandfather is buried there, having been a miner there in the nineteenth century. What came next was really quite surprising. When we told Ivan our hometown is Colorado Springs, he recited information about our city and Pueblo, our neighboring city to the south. Then he told us he had never been to North America, that he was always afraid to fly. Next Ivan told us that he had studied some Native American language, not that he would ever need it, but because it interested him. We walked together down the path, back to the edge of town, and we talked of many things. We learned that our friend was a mathematician, that he had taught for many years, that he lived alone in Ljubljana, that he did not eat in restaurants (I thought we might ask him to have lunch with us), and that he was heading home to make some soup. And we parted.
What a wonderful beginning to what would turn out to be a marvelous journey.
p.s. A lovely picture of Ivan and Barb is available. Give us a shout.
Dave & Barbara St André
Colorado Springs, CO
Dave St. André
Colorado Springs, CO USA Thu 12/10/2009
French impoliteness... Not!
As Lamar said below, one of our greatest surprises was just how warm and welcoming the French were during our recent first visit to Paris. It helped that we not only said "Bonjour" when we entered any establishment... but trilled "Bonjour madame" (or "monsieur" or "mademoiselle" as the case may be), as we heard everyone else doing. Generally, the French seem to treat each other with polite deference (except in the rotaries)... and extended that same respect to my wife and me when we made even small efforts to use their beautiful language. We felt most welcome!
Winchester, MA USA Mon 11/16/2009
Pub crawling in Venice
I want to add a huge plug for a bar recommended by Rick while pub-crawling in Venezia. My husband, niece and I found that Osteria al Portego, near Hotel Canada, was THE pub to eat cichetti, drink cheap, good wine (pinot grigio, ,80 euro per glass on a recent trip) and rub elbows with the locals. It is a small place, so the crowd spills out the door and fills the small street outside with chatter and laughter. Their dinners are reasonably priced and delicious. If you only crawl to one pub in Venice, you can't go wrong with this one.
Edmonds, WA USA Mon 11/09/2009
Quaint Garden-Neighborhood in Stockholm
The first time I traveled to Europe was to Sweden to visit a friend, who lived in a small suburb outside Stockholm called Bromma. While there, my friend was sick and could not take me anywhere, and I was too nervous to venture off on my own. One day, though, I went for a walk in her neighborhood, and after rounding a corner, I noticed a small entrance into a neighborhood walled by high bush hedges, entirely hidden on all sides except for this one small entrance. I walked in and found that it was a neighborhood unto itself. A narrow path laiden with small pebbles wound through, with houses off to each side. Each house was very small, and each yard was really more of a garden. Apple trees, pear trees, rasberry and strawberry bushes, and flowers were in each yard. It was quaint, absolutely beautiful, and peaceful.
Having studied and lived in Florence, traveled to France, Switzerland and all over Italy, this has been my favorite experience. I can hardly even remember what any of the yards look like, I am now just left with the memory of a small older gentleman sitting on the front steps of his house enjoying the day, and the feeling which remains from the experience itself.
FL USA Mon 11/02/2009
Dublin, Ireland magic
We took our kids to Dublin in 2006. Walking up the hill from the River Liffy in the morning, we came upon a city park adjacent to Christ Church cathedral. As there are few hills in Florida where we live, they were captivated by the green, grassy hills and spent 10-15 minutes rolling down them. Two years later, during a one-day layover, we asked them how they wanted to spend several hours in Dublin. They voted to return to the same hill and we videotaped them (then ages 17 and 10) rolling again. Simple yet magical memories with kids.
Safety Harbor, FL USA Sat 10/24/2009
While admiring the interior of the basilica, a tour group of children began to sing. It was like listening to a choir of angels. Made for a specila moment in a special place.
Atlanta, GA USA Thu 10/15/2009
Arabic Baths in Madrid
After 2 weeks of travel, we were ready to wind down, and Medina Mayrit (Calle Atocha 14, www.medinamayrit.com/en) was ideal. We did just the baths, which was 90 minutes of blissful relaxation in clean, quiet, pools of 3 temperatures, plus a steam room. Such a contrast to the bustle of the city outside!
San Jose, CA USA Sun 09/27/2009
I LOVE London and I experienced my "magical moment" on the spur of the moment walking along the Thames after an evening 'flight' on the London Eye. We came across a merry-go-round and decided to take a ride just for fun. Oh my goodness! It was magic twirling around looking at the lights of London glimmering on the Thames. It only cost about £2, if I remember correctly, but provided my favourite London moment!
Abbotsford, BC Canada Fri 09/04/2009
Rudeness in Paris
Rick, I thoroughly enjoyed your discussion of Paris on July 11,'09. My wife, daughter and I spent an absolutely charming week in Paris in October of '07. Our daughter had to fly back the day before we did, and with a roving subway strike we attempted to get a cab to the Arc deTriomphe from our apartment on the far side of the Eiffel Tower. Though promised one at our 5:30AM departure time, none were available on that morning. We could hear the elevated subway running two blocks down the street so headed for it. Arriving, we discovered a long stair to reach the platform. Although vertical, both of us are in our 70's and not iron-pumping muscle types. Each of us had a large, heavy bag plus a smaller roll-on. Suddenly a Frenchman, probably late twenties, picked up one large bag in each hand and trotted up to the platform, waved good-bye and disapeared!. When we reached the Arc De Triumph station we were again confronted with a long, steep stair. Before we could organize ourselves another Frenchman picked up my big bag and carried it to the top, trotted back down & carried Helen's large bqg up, waved good-bye and disapeared! This one was immaculately dressed in trim buisiness suit, and could have been heading for a fashion model shoot. We made our bus and plane thanks to these two guys. So much for the rumor of the rude, impolite French! We love them!
Lamar F. Neville
Annapolis, MD USA Tue 07/14/2009
Opera in Parma
The highlight of our trip to Italy came one afternoon in Parma as we were sitting on the steps near the Duomo people watching. A woman rode up on a bicycle, got off and began singing the most wonderful opera for almost an hour. Her voice echoed throughout the square and it was truly magical. It created a memory I will have forever.
Chester Springs, PA USA Thu 07/09/2009
My husband and I were driving to Vienna from Munich and stopped in Hallstat for a break and a snack. We sat alone on the deck of a cafe on the lakefront and savored apricot strudel while watching hang gliders soar off a nearby cliff and circle the lake. The sun made all the colors brilliant and the only sounds were the lapping of the waves and an occasional quack from the resident ducks.
Smithfield, NC USA Sat 06/20/2009
Paris Night Bike Tour
Riding bikes on the Fat Tire Bike Tour and rode into the Louvre Courtyard while a street musician was playing the Baritone - Amazing, Surreal....fell instantly in love!
Paris, NB Canada Thu 06/18/2009
We Have Arrived
For those that have dreamed about European travel, there is always that memorable first time they actually "enter" europe. For me, it was back in the Fall of 2003 on my first trip to Paris. We had just arrived at the De Gaulle airport and taken the subway to our hotel in the Latin Quarter. We emerged out of the Gare Du Luxembourg and onto Boulevard Saint-Michel sometime in the early afternoon. I was a simple city scene, buildings, streets, and so forth. But seeing the Parisian buildings and the relative quaintness of the surroundings really drove home the fact that we were actually there. In a way, it was like walking into a history book. I've been back to Europe a few times since then, but I'll never forget that moment.
P.S. Since the fall of 2003 there has been googlemaps and the streetview feature. It is now available for Paris and many other European locations and I have, in fact, gone in and retraced those first steps. It was like going back in a time machine.
San Leandro, CA USA Tue 06/09/2009
Pipe Organ Music in Gothic Cathedral
A long desired wish came true when we unexpectedly got to hear a Bach and Liszt concert on pipe organ in a gothic cathedral. Here in Palma de Mallorca, the Eglesia de Sant Francesc featured organist Juan de la Rubia in a free concert. It was so wonderful to get lost in the music; the organist received two standing ovations and gave an encore. What a spectacular evening.
Panama Sun 06/07/2009
Church on Ireland's Dingle Peninsula
Gallurus Oratory is the small thousand year old stone church on Ireland's Dingle Peninsula. It always inspired me to think of these poor hard working people lifting their eyes up to heaven, and one of my great hopes while visiting Ireland was to stand on the very spot where they prayed all those centuries ago.
The sun was starting to descend when we stumbled upon the tiny church I had waited years to see. We spent perhaps thirty minutes there, and JUST as we stepped out of the stone fence, the first snowflakes started falling, white and gold as the sun dropped toward the ocean.
Just a singular moment I won't soon forget.
Green Bay, WI USA Thu 05/14/2009
My partner and I went to Santorini in April, pre-crowd. We stayed in Fira and wanted to go out for dinner. Our concierge suggested a place, called a driver who drove us 10 minutes away in the pitch black to the restaurant.
Well the driver turned out to be host, chef and entertainer. And the restaurant was opened to us only. Well he cooked up a marvelous appetizer with fresh oregano, lemon and feta that I still taste years later. The dinner and company were superbly romantic. It was one of my most memorable experiences ever.
San Francisco, CA USA Wed 04/08/2009
Twice in England we heard real bell ringing. The first time was in Bath. We asked a local resident if the ringing was a usual thing, and he said, "No, I've not heard it done before." The second time was an evening in Moreton-in-Marsh while we were walking back to our B&B after supper. This time we heard a group practicing their rings. The sound of real bells is far superior to the canned ringing we usually hear in the states.
Brevard, NC USA Wed 02/04/2009
Magic Moment in London
First trip abroad. London. December 2008. The moment I stepped out of the Westminster tube station and looked up at Big Ben, in "person", he was so real, standing there in his golden glory gleaming in the sun, chiming noon (very loud), think I got a tear in my eye. I had spent most of my life waiting for this iconic moment to convince my brain I really am in London finally. I am going back in April, but I know this time when I see ol Ben again, it wont be quite the same feeling as that very first time.
Boulder, CO USA Fri 01/16/2009