|Subject: Re: First Travel Experiences|
When I was a child, my family traveled primarily between Upstate new York and Virginia. We did squeeze in one short trip each to Quebec and Miami, but that was about the extent of it.
In college, I somehow became interested in traveling to Europe, and I began reading travel guides and other Europe- oriented materials in huge numbers. Finally, in 1965, four years after graduation, I decided to make the trip. I went alone and stayed for exactly nine weeks (I was teaching school and had the summer off, although without pay).
Assuming this would be my only trip to Europe (fortunately not true, as it turned out), I tried to see as much as possible in the time I had without resorting to a series of one-night stops. Here is the itinerary I finally came up with:
London - 7 days (with a sidetrip to Stratford-upon-Avon and one to Windsor and Hampton Court) Brussels - 3 days (with a sidetrip to Bruges and Ghent) Amsterdam - 3 days Copenhagen - 3 days Berlin - 2 days Cologne - 2 days Rhine steamer from Cologne to Mainz. Overnight in Mainz. Heidelberg - 1 day Frankfurt - 1 day Romantic Road bus trip from Frankfurt to Munich. Munich - 3 days Vienna - 2 days Zurich - 2 days Lucerne - 2 days Milan - 1 day Venice - 3 days Florence - 3 days Naples - 2 days (with a sidetrip on the Amalfi Drive) Rome - 7 days Pisa - 1 day Nice - 2 days Paris - 5 days
At that time Arthur Frommer (whose "Europe on $5 a Day" was my Bible) offered a travel service in cooperation with KLM airlines. This provided a hotel room and breakfast in any of a hundred or more cities for $5.00 a day; and for each day one stayed, there was a city or area tour thrown in at no extra cost. I used this plan for nearly all of my stops, and had mostly excellent accommodations. In Milan, for example, I had a room in a former palazzo; the room had marble floors, three beds (yes, unfortunately I was still alone), and a large balcony overlooking the gardens of the President of Italy. Breakfast was served on the balcony.
A Eurailpass took care of my in-Europe travels. My other expenses, including meals, entertainment (and I went to the theater or opera almost every night), souvenirs, etc., amounted to just $720.00 for the entire nine weeks. I wish I could do that today!
I remember outstanding bargains in food: spaghetti, bread, and wine for lunch in Rome for $.16; a steak dinner in Paris for $.90; a wonderful Wiener Schnitzel in Lucerne for $.68. In fact, I very rarely spent as much as a dollar for a meal, and I am a BIG eater.
Maybe this itinerary seems to some of you like too many places crammed into the available time, but it worked for me. I learned what I loved best about Europe (almost everything!) and where I would like to return. As a result, I have been back nineteen more times and am currently planning still another trip for this coming fall or winter.
Tastes differ, of course, but this was a close-to-perfect first trip for me. My wife (another addicted traveler) and I often talk about our first trips, long before we met each other, and we both agree that they changed our lives for the better in countless ways.
I envy a young person setting out on a first real trip, no matter where or for how long. But, unlike so many things, the excitement of a first trip does not fade with experience. It grows more and more intense. Instead of becoming jaded from travel experience, we become sensitized so that each trip is more rewarding than the last.
In many ways, travelers have it all.
Ron Fredericksburg, VA