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Going home

September 18, 2008

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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.

map1I 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.

Final Thoughts:

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
  • Milk
  • 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.

One Comment leave one →
  1. June permalink
    February 15, 2009 9:11 am

    Thanks for posting so many details of your trip. It is refreshing to read the details of your trip, hearing both joys and frustrations. I am planning a big trip in a couple of years; your blog will help me with my plans. Your photos are great. J

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