Apache Junction Seekers

Al and Linda enjoy visiting new places and having new experiences. In 2006, we spent 4 months in Europe and originally created this blog to keep friends and family informed. After a long delay, I'm trying to catch up with what we've been doing since then and hope to carry on into the future.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Why we travel

First, we both come by it genetically. Our fathers each had itchy feet but had settled down by the time they had families. For us the itch has never gone away and now is only limited by funds and physical abilities.

We've been in all the states of the union plus most of the Canadian provinces. We've traveled by sailboat, if you can call that snail's pace traveling, but we did cross an international border, however slowly. We landed our own airplane in 39 states one summer. We've driven coast-to-coast numerous times and have lived in the Northwest, the Northeast, the Southeast and the Southwest quadrants of the United States. We go to Mexico for our dental work and good tacos. We were in France on 9/11 and in Germany a few days after the invasion of Iraq.

I hesitate to resort to that old cliche about travel being a 'broadening experience' since I always come back weighing more than I left. But, quite frankly, a major reason we travel is to eat. When in Texas at lunchtime, we find the barbecue joint unless we are on the coast, then we look for shrimp. In France, we find the charcuterie or the fromagerie and buy cold cuts and cheese to go with that fantastic bread. In Brittany I pig out on mussels everywhere I can. In Germany, it's all those different kinds of wurst. In Belgium, it's the beer. I could go on and on.....

Everywhere we go, we meet interesting people and have fascinating experiences. You can find places in the USA where the habits of the natives are almost as different from our own as are the habits of the English or the French. We have come to understand that people everywhere are the same in many regards but hold differing views on many topics, ranging from politics to how close behind your bumper it is acceptable to drive. This is as true of Massachusetts as it is of Madrid. We don't have to agree with them, but it always helps to know why the other guy reacts like he does. Maybe we can even learn something for ourselves.

Despite what Rick Steves and other well-meaning folks say, there are relatively few things that we 'must see' while traveling. My anthropological training has given me an interest in how people live and Al's engineering training gives him yet another perspective. How many other people do you know who made a side trip to see the vast (and abandoned) steel mills in the Ruhr valley? We both like being in the outdoors and would rather hike in the Rockies or the Alps than spend a lot of time in big cities.

There are many more places on earth to visit than we have the time, money and physical stamina to enjoy. We are both at the age where we are no longer interested in trekking through Nepal or undertaking any trip that involves sleeping on the ground for more than a couple of nights. My idea of hell is being stuck on a cruise ship or on a package tour.

We strive for maximum flexibility so that we can take advantage of unforeseen opportunities. And the unexpected is what travel is all about. Otherwise, you might as well stay home.
The Itinerary

April 10/11 - Depart Phoenix non-stop to London Heathrow then on to Lisbon, Portugal. We arrive in Lisbon at 9-something at night on April 11. Yikes! I sure hope the taxi fleet is still there and that the hotel desk hasn't closed for the night.

Note that we are arriving during the week before Easter. This week and next are very big holiday times in Europe, especially southern Europe. Hence, we made hotel reservations.

April 12-April 14 Sightseeing in Lisbon
This will be an out-of-the-comfort-zone experience since I have no Portuguese language skills. I tried an on-line course and rapidly discovered that although I can sort of read Portuguese, the pronunciation is completely different. I'm counting on being able to read signs and otherwise bumbling through somehow.

April 14 - Pick up our new Peugeot and drive to Cascais, which is on the coast a short distance west of Lisbon. We have reservations at a B&B there through the weekend.

April 17 - June 2 Now we're into a free-form segment of the journey. Maybe we'll drive up to Porto to sample the famous Port wines. Maybe we'll be so terrorized by the notoriously awful Portuguese drivers that we'll head directly for Spain. We hope to get to Gibralter on this trip but we'll be playing everything by ear. I understand there is some great birdwatching to be had in Portugal and Spain and hope that the bird flu issue won't interfere.

June 3 - June 10 Normandy, France We have reserved a cottage for a week just yards (or should that be meters?) from the Juno Beach D-Day landing area. Al has discovered that there are annual events in commemoration of D-Day and this year we're going to see them.

June 10 - July 12 Another free-form segment of the journey. We'll probably head toward the South of France and thence into northern Italy, which country will be another totally new experience.

July 13-July 17 Nuremberg, Germany We have reservations to attend the LGB 125th Birthday celebration. For those of you who aren't familiar with LGB, this is the company that makes the model trains that we run in our back yard.

July 17-July 23 A free-form segment that will take us toward Paris.

July 24-August 3 Paris, the City of Light. I hope the demonstrations and strikes will be down to a 'normal' level and that the light won't be from cars burning in the streets. Al promised that we could go to Paris this time and I hope the Parisians don't interfere any more than they usually do. Thankfully, we will have turned our own car in by now and only have to worry about Metro strikes.

August 3 - Travel via Eurostar through the Chunnel to London, then via surface train to the city of York in northern England. We will be met by our friends Norman and Colin who will be our personal tour guides for the rest of the trip. If our last visit to them is any indication, these guys will wear us out.

August 3 - August 15 Norman and Colin have planned a packed itinerary which includes seeing the famous Military Tattoo at the Edinburgh (Scotland) Festival, walking in the Lake District of northern England near their home, and several days riding narrow gauge railways in Wales.

August 15 - Depart Manchester, England for London Heathrow, thence non-stop home to Phoenix. This time we don't lose a whole day, thanks to the miracle of time zones, but I'm sure that we will have been left thoroughly exhausted by the energy of our British friends.

The count down

Less than two weeks left before we depart. Am I too organized? Last time, we made almost no reservations. This time, I have to make a list so I won't forget where we are supposed to be when.

Then there is the packing list. Al keeps saying that we can buy anything we forget anywhere in Europe. To a point, this is true. But over-the-counter remedies are outrageously expensive and require waiting in line at a pharmacy. And how to pick out a deodorant that will really work?

I just read the British Air website and as cattle-class customers, we are entitled to practically nothing as carry-ons, so there go our plans to avoid checking baggage.