It’s been several months now, so I no longer wake up in strange European hotels craving freshly squeezed orange juice or Nutella-flavored Gelato or pain au chocolat. That stuff has worked its way out of my system. I also no longer have blisters on my feet and now have air conditioning aplenty.
Last summer I got to spend a month in Europe. In 5 weeks I was able to visit 6 countries (took the train through Switzerland and stopped at the station in Geneva, so I’ll count it). It was one of the awesomest months of my life. I traveled with my Uncle John who had just retired from the Coast Guard. He’s well-traveled and we’d been overseas together a few other times. This time the trip theme was Festival Tour. He stayed in Europe after I returned to the states and in all he spent 3 months in Europe catching other cool festivals I’ll never see. My Aunt Marcia & Cousin Christian later joined him for a few weeks.
Some of the festivals were incredible experiences that will stick with me until Alzheimer’s sets in. Most notable were Il Palio (Medieval parade and horse race) in Siena, Italy and the San Fermin Festival in Pamplona, Spain, which features the Running of the Bulls. We were also in Paris for Bastille Day (their Independence Day) & made it to Venice for the Feast of the Redeemer (Festa del Redentore). Certainly there were lots of things we missed seeing, but that just means I’ll have to return. I may expand on some of the details later, but for now here’s a rough itinerary of my trip. If you get a chance, go to the festivals.
Euro Summer 2013 Itinerary
June 25th-26th–Nebraska to Madrid-Arrived alone in Madrid, AM. Found my hotel in the old town. Walked through city & Plaza Mayor, before reaching the royal palace. Huge armory (suits of armor, swords, etc) & fantastic tapestries. Went next door to the Almudena Cathedral. Beautiful ceiling. Looked for Monasterio de Discalzes Reales (didn’t find & was probably late). walked around. Hot. couldn’t find a certain veggie food place.
27th–Madrid & Toledo-Took high speed train to ancient hill town of Toledo. Great Cathedral. Saw El Greco’s “The Burial of the Count of Orgaz” at Santo Tome Church. Had a small picnic in park overlooking river. Museum of Victorio Macho (sculptures). Santa Maria La Blanca (old synagogue transformed into a church, built in Mudejar style
Evening train back to Madrid. Visited Reina Sofia (modern art museum) & saw Dali temporary exhibit & stuff by Picasso & Miro, etc. Missed big Picasso (“Guernica”). Probably lost a 20 Euro note.
28th–Madrid & Barcelona-Prado Museum in Madrid. Lots of awesome art in 2 hrs, most notably “Garden of Earthly Delights” by Hieronymus Bosch. High speed train (Ave) to Barcelona (2hr 45 min). During journey saw castles on hills in countryside. Met up with Uncle John at hotel in Barcelona (he’d flown in from Germany). Walked boardwalk and saw Columbus statue & other statue. Ate waffles on the go. Walked Las Ramblas and Plaza Catalunya. Ate tapas.
29th–Barcelona-Took train up to Monjuic overlooking the city. Walked to MNAC art museum and saw Medieval Religious art exhibit. Beautiful sunset and saw Magic Fountain light show. Walked by Plaza Catalunya & Las Ramblas. Got gelato.
30–Barcelona-Toured Sagrada Familia cathedral built by Gaudi. Saw Gaudi buildings on Block of Discord. Ate veggie paella & pizza. Delicious lemon & strawberry gelato. Walked Las Ramblas.
July 1–Barcelona to Florence- Flew to Bologna, Italy. Took train to Florence. Found hotel. Walked around. Got photos of duomo (cathedral).
July 2–Florence & Siena-Took train to Siena for Il Palio (Medieval horse race and parade). Siena Duomo (cathedral). Saw city view from high Duomo building. Pizza. Pre-race pomp/parade then race. Took last bus back to Florence with college girl who said “like” a lot. Walked around Florence. Ate at restaurant on far side of Ponte Vecchio.
July 3–Florence-Slept late. Washed laundry (probably this day). Visited Accademia Museum with Michelangelo’s David. City museum off plaza. Dinner at outside restaurant near our hotel.
July 4–Florence & Pisa-Uffizi Gallery with “Birth of Venus”. Beggar asked for money & grabbed my arm. Saw plaza statues. Duomo quick tour. Took crowded Train to Pisa. Got bus to Pisa tower Plaza. Toured cathedral, baptistry & cemetery (also peered into gated Jewish cemetery). Lots of lovers & people posing with the tower. Bus back. Paid to use bathroom.Train to Florence. Ate at restaurant where we’d already eaten.
July 5–Florence to Avignon-Left Florence by train. Got to Milan & walked around station a bit. Sandwich & pain au chocolat. Saw views of Switzerland & Italian lakes on way to Geneva. Stopped at train station in Geneva. Nice views of French countryside. Provence. arrived Avignon, France. Hotel had no AC.
July 6–Avignon, France-Washed laundry. walked around Avignon. Saw old books on street (vendors). Frozen yogurt. Went to Papal Palace which had weird art installation on display. In town people were passing out fliers & trying to get interest in their plays & shows (festival of plays). Folks on stilts or in costumes. Singing. Street music. At cathedral we came in on an organ concert. Walked along the river. Saw a thunderhead. Ate at restaurant near hotel.
July 7–Avignon to Pamplona, Spain– First, train to Marseilles, France. Flew from Marseilles to Barcelona. Flew from Barcelona to Pamplona. Taxied into town. Found our flat on 4th floor in heart of city. Africans with drums on narrow cobblestone street below. Musicians marched along street (brass band) & stopped beneath our balconies. People danced. Streets were crazy. Drunk party goers all dressed in white with red. Ground was filthy & sticky. Bars were full & party pushed out into the street with the music & dancers. We bought San Fermin clothes: white pants & white t-shirts with red neckerchiefs & sashes. Listened to what we thought was a Mexican band. Lots of folks from probably Mexico dancing. Noisy all night. Went to bed with earplugs in. Felt gritty. No AC.
July 8–Pamplona-Dressed early in white & red clothes. Walked to where we wanted to watch the run, which was near arena entry. We were 3 or 4 people deep, but had poor visibility. Guy brought ladder & climbed up above crowd. Went back to flat, slept & stayed in much of the day. Walked around city. Saw future runners getting tips/orientation. Saw bull pen/corrals. In evening we went to department store to look for a camera battery for John. More employees than customers. Ate at cafeteria in store. Has AC & is a quiet and sane respite from the San Fermin activities.
July 9–Pamplona & Bilbao-Got up a bit earlier & found spot sooner, though spot still not great. 2 0r 3 people deep. Saw bulls a bit better. I got photos & video of bulls. Parade of the Big Heads was cool. Bus took us from Pamplona to Bilbao. Took tram to old town across the river. Walked around town, got dinner, gelato. Saw park, train station. Lots of walking. Nice city.
July 10–Bilbao-Tapas for brunch. Basque museum. Free concert in park (later in evening). Visited cathedral. Walked across river to riverside cafe. Had good homemade carrot cake. We were able to stay longer in 1st hotel after all.
July 11–Bilbao-Breakfast in hotel. Guggenheim Museum. Bilbao BBK Music Festival saw The Editors & Depeche Mode. 25-30 ft from stage during DM. Long walk back to subway. Guy vomited in Subway.
July 12–Flew from Bilbao to Paris. Landed Orly airport.Went to Louvre. Walked area around it (Champs Elysee & Tuileries). Nutella & banana crepes. Tasty. Tuileries Gardens. Arch de Triumph was closed for climbing (too late). Metro to Trocadero-Ben Franklin statue. Viewed Eiffel from Trocadero & saw couples dancing with Eiffel in view. Awesome.
July 13–Versailles & Paris-train from Paris to Versailles. Walked around gardens 1st. kind of warm. Walked by big lake when water show was going on. Lots of people sitting out by lake/canals. Bikes & horses. Girls in dresses on bikes. Toured buildings. Train back to Paris. Washed laundry (probably this day).
July 14–Paris/Bastille Day-Military Parade. Saw helicopter drills within a few hundred feet. Visited tomb of Napoleon (free on Bastille Day). From Champ de Mars watched fireworks go off behind Eiffel tower. Beautiful.
July 15–Paris to Mont St Michel-Left Paris: Car to Mont St Michel (island monastery/fortress on Atlantic). Cathedral night tour. Good lighting & musicians.
July 16–Mont St Michel to Bayeux-Bayeux Tapestry. Cathedral. Dinner at cafe near hotel. Gelato.
July 17–Bayeux-Got food at bakery. Omaha Beach. Normandy Cemetery. Cliff weapons ruins. Picnic at the beach.
July 18–Bayeux to Paris-Drove back to Paris. Cluny Museum (Medieval art). Bakery & chocolate. walked near Notre Dame and along the River Seine. Place de Pompidou.
July 19–Paris to Venice-Before flight, toured Sacre Coeur & other small church, had brunch at restaurant, saw Moulin Rouge. Flew to airport outside of Venice. Found hotel & walked around late.
July 20–Venice/Feast of the Redeemer (Festa del Redentore) -Washed laundry. Pizza. Basilica di San Marco. Doge’s Palace. Water bus. Walked around town. Restaurant. Saw fireworks. Argued with police. Walked back to hotel (longish walk).
July 21–Venice– Accademia art gallery-Titian, Tintoretto, & Bellini. Walked across temporary bridge to fest cathedral. Walked around, then took water bus. Great restaurant with outdoor seating in the back.
July 22–Venice to Bacharach, Germany-Flew from Venice to Germany (Stuttgart or Strasbourg? Ask John.). Train to Bacharach.
July 23–Bacharach & Rhine Cruise-Train to Rudesheim. Toured Musical Mechanical Museum. Took ski lift to War Monument on a hill. Took Rhine cruise from Rudesheim to St Goar. Walked through town and up to Castle Rheinfels. Train back to Bacharach. Walked along the banks of the Rhine.
July 24–Train from Bacharach to Nuremberg (Nurnberg)-Stopover in Mainz to see Gutenberg Museum. Arrived in Nuremberg (Nurnberg), found hotel, walked around & got food.
July 25–Nurnberg-Took a group city tour (including walk to the castle). I went to Wagner music festival performance in Marktplatz, while John went to beer fest. Visited cathedral.
July 26–Nurnberg to Salzburg, Austria by train. Found hotel, then walked around at night. Washed laundry.
July 27–Salzburg– Cemetery where Mozart’s dad & wife are buried. Visited both Mozart houses- Geberstehaus was better. Walked through gardens. Saw a few spots filmed in “The Sound of Music”. Ate at garden & spoke to Canadians & Austrians. Saw old guy in a Speedo mowing his lawn. Walked cliffside and made it to fortress at sunset. Stunning sunset.
July 28–Salzburg-Berchesgaden/Eagle’s Nest. Train to Berchesgaden. Bus up to Documentation Center (Nazi/WWII Museum) & Eagle’s Nest. Back to Salzburg where we got dinner & walked around old town.
July 29–Salzburg to Munich, Germany by train. Roman ruins beneath cathedral in Salzburg. Cathedral. Cemetery. Arrived in Munich, walked around city center & got dinner.
July 30–Munich to US. Left hotel. Got a few more gifts at gift shop & made a late run for the plane. Returned to Nebraska.
That’s it in a nutshell. db
The secret word is cathedral.
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