Paris, France to Lynden, Washington, USA
On Monday, I had booked an appointment to return my car at Charles de Gaulle Airport for 9:00am. I got up a little earlier than usual this morning, showered, ate and packed and got on the road for the airport. I arrived exactly at 9:00am to my surprise. It only took about 10 minutes to sign all the papers releasing the car back to Renault and they provided a driver to take me to my terminal at the airport. Pretty darn good service from Renault Eurodrive I must say. If you ever go to Europe for more than a month or so and need a car, this is the way to go.
I boarded my flight and was off at 12:50 local time. My coach seat was surprisingly spacious and comfortable. I spent the first hour or so just starring at nothing really, just dwelling on the adventure I’d just had. Couldn’t sleep really. I was feeling anxious to get home, back to the land of milk and honey. I landed in Minneapolis where I’d get a connecting flight to Seattle. Wow, I was definitely back in the USA. I saw gobs of soldiers and marines in their fatigues, campaign workers and other travelers of all sorts. I had a typical flight to Seattle and managed to catch an earlier shuttle bus by about 5 seconds. The bus was pulling away and I yelled at someone next to the bus to signal the driver to stop and he did. So, I was on the way home to Lynden at 7:00 instead of having to wait till 9:00. Awesome.
I was the last stop for the shuttle as we arrived at the Lynden WTA station at 10:30pm, I grabbed my pack and just as I did when I started this journey, I hiked home. Couple of differences though. No blisters and I didn’t even break a sweat or raise the heart rate much, how about that? It was such a peasant hike on a cool quiet evening. I was surprised that the trees are still full of leaves and there are plenty of summer flowers still in full bloom. Home smelled great, it felt great. I got to my apartment and everything was just as I left it. I went to bed and got up about 7:00am on Friday. Hopefully I’m all adjusted time wise.
I’m home. The trip is over. The journey is just beginning though.
I was so looking forward to this trip and I was excited come departure day. After my hike to the WTA station that morning, I thought to myself, what have I done? I was out of breath, I knew blisters were starting and I really didn’t know what I was doing. Frankly, I didn’t think I’d last the two months and I’d come home early. By the time I got to France, I was certainly a fish out of water. For crying out loud, it took me half a day to figure out how to get to my hostel. Oh man, no way was I going to last.
But I did last. I learned a few things along the way like:
- Be patient, just take things slow.
- Watch others and imitate.
- The basics in the French, German and Italian languages.
- It’s OK to make mistakes and look silly from time to time, just go with it.
- In addition to its many other uses, the sun is pretty handy to navigate by.
- The European road system isn’t so bad once you get use to it and realize it’s no big deal if you miss a turn or exit. You can get to everywhere from anywhere. You just have to know the cities along your path.
- I’m not going to have things the way I’m use to while I’m here, so just chill and try it their way for a while.
- Kurt really is incorrigible.
The two highlighted locations for me, Hallstatt and the Cinque Terre didn’t disappoint. They were so awesome and I had the best times there. But so many other places were great surprises like Dinan and Cherbourg, Bruges, The Rhineland, Lake Como, Venice, Colmar, Baden Baden.
Surprisingly, I had no car accidents and other than a minor ankle sprain and a bunch of blisters (which I think will leave scars) in the first three days of the trip, I haven’t gotten sick, thrown my back out or pulled anything. Actually, I’ve been suffering from this hip thing for over a year now and it seems to be gone. I’m feeling pretty good, I’ve built up my stamina a bit and I enjoy hiking; who knew?
Things I did:
- Ate waffles in Belgium
- Watched the movie “In Bruges”, in Bruges
- Took pictures of the people who took pictures of the people who pretended to hold up the Eiffel tower
- Hiked a treacherous trail on the Mediterranean coast and somehow escaped certain death.
- Drove in Rome which is madness
- Hiked in the Black Forrest
- Drank more on this trip than I have in the last ten years combined, of course that’s not saying much about the last ten years
- Stopped and smelled the roses, quite a few times, I even took pictures
- Met a lot of really neat people, and only a couple of not so neat people
- Went to Rome and didn’t see the Coliseum or the Forum; I’ll be kicking myself over that one for a while
- Beat the Monte Carlo, and the Baden Baden Speilbank Casinos
- Never ate at a McDonald’s or Burger King or KFC or any other American incarnation
- Slept in a castle
- Accidentally walked into the middle of a funeral taking pictures
- Drove the Autobahn
- Fell off an Alp
- Got to shake the hand of an American World War II vet in France and hear his stories
- Inadvertently tried to bribe a Swiss customs agent
- Drove 9,997 kilometers, it’s a shame I didn’t muster up three more
- Rejuvenated myself and got a new lease on life
I don’t like to generalize and that doesn’t justify or really explain why I’m going to do it here and now. Be that as it may, of all the people I met and encountered, generally:
- Europeans as a lot are very patient; way beyond that of most Americans I think
- The Germans and Belgians and Austrians were the kindest most welcoming and helpful people. The Swiss and surprisingly the French came in a close second; sorry Italy, you guys need to work on your people skills a little
- Germans drive fast. Italians drive fast and crazy; the French are pretty reasonable
- Europeans sure seem to like bread
- Most places, where you may be alone, whether it be at dinner or sitting in a park, many people will strike up a conversation with you, or they are easy to strike up a conversation with
Things I missed:
- My own bed
- Boston Legal
- Diet Pepsi in a glass with lots of ice
- A good Pizza; yeah, who knew you can’t get a good pizza in Italy? What’s up with that?
- A bath tub
- My buds
I like Europe, I like the people, I like their customs and culture. Europe is modernizing rapidly and I’m grateful I got a chance to see some of the old world before its overrun. Those Europeans are on to a few things, but, there’s no place like home and I’m happy to be home.