Trip Start Nov 27, 2012
55Trip End May 18, 2013
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The word 'epilogue’ has been defined in various ways but the one which most suits this piece of writing is –‘the final section of a story providing further comment, interpretation or information.’ With this in mind, here is my epilogue of our twenty week European adventure.
Firstly, this trip truly was our ‘trip of a lifetime’. This phrase is often used somewhat flippantly to describe a journey in which a good time was had. In our situation, I use the phrase in its purest sense. This trip was borne from a desire to travel for an extended period dating back to when we were both about eighteen years of age. We had even bought the tickets back then (which we then cashed in to help us to buy our first home – those were the days when you could ‘cash them in’!) Ever since then, the yearning to do this trip remained
We were thrown a ‘curve ball’ a week before departure with my diagnosis of celiac disease, but this was really only something else to take into account in our planning and organising. It has helped us to very quickly learn how to cope with a dietary restriction and educate ourselves as to what it entails. I think we both now consider ourselves quite expert at gluten free catering.
We were successful in completing a number of ‘must do items’ which were important to us. These included such things as – a game of golf at the Old Course St Andrews for Steve (he in fact played the course twice – thus exceeding our expectations), going up Mount Etna and a visit to Auschwitz. Attending the Grand National horse race and being in Ireland for St Patrick’s Day were not planned but were still highlights. The beauty of this kind of travel is the flexibility which it gives you to go off on a whim or to visit somewhere you have never heard of because someone you have just met has recommended it to you.
It seems to be quite fashionable to make lists as a way of reflecting on events, so I thought I would include some of mine in this. This is very much a shortened list – there is just so much which I could have included!
Most Scenic – this is difficult but I would have to say San Michel Abbey and the Swiss Alps. I really can’t separate these – both were so naturally beautiful that no photograph could really do them justice.
Most Fun – The pub in Plymouth. For those who have been following our blog you may recall the Irish singer/comedian who entertained us for the whole afternoon. He (and everyone else in the place) involved us in their fun and welcomed us warmly. We loved the banter, the relaxed vibe and the atmosphere of this little waterside pub. It had virtually no furniture in it other than a few chairs (and the bar, of course), and there was a howling gale blowing outside, but everyone was just having a great time.
Best Buy – My Spanish leather boots. (I can’t wait to wear them – I have kept them brand new in my suitcase !)
Most Helpful – A member of staff from the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Dublin whose name is Eileen. She was there to serve breakfast and stayed behind for an hour afterwards helping us with maps etc. and giving us advice on the best things to do in Ireland.
Most Friendly – Everyone! Truly, we met so many fantastic people.
Best Country – Each country which we visited is unique and has its own attributes so it is virtually impossible to properly compare them. However, Spain would have to be the overall winner as far as I am concerned. For a country going through some serious economic hardships, its people are friendly, welcoming and upbeat. It is a country of great beauty from its coastline to its mountains.
Best Food – Again, a most difficult category to judge. There were quite a few highlights for me given my gluten free situation. I nearly cried in Igles (Austria) when I was able to have gluten free chocolate mousse for the first time. There was a similar sense of elation at the G.F scone in England and the macaroon in Genoa. (And don’t get me started on chocolate – I can now name the brands of G.F chocolate from Germany, Belgium and Ireland – not to mention the good old stand- by of Toblerone). However, the winner would again, have to be Spain. Nothing beats their Paella!
Now, for those of you who know Steve and I well, you would know that, as a couple, we are not really into public displays of affection. In fact, we thoroughly enjoy joking and stirring each other more than anything else. However, it would be amiss of me to not publicly acknowledge Steve for the support, encouragement and love which he showed to me throughout our time away. There were times when I was feeling homesick (or guilty for leaving our adult boys) – he saw me through those. A number of times we ate at a restaurant simply because they had something I was able to eat and Steve did so happily even though it may not have been what he would have chosen. If he did sit down to something which I could not eat (but would have loved) – like apple crumble – he would apologise – and mean it! We even went to Supermarkets and health food shops in so many countries so I could have my ‘snacks’ (nut bars etc) to travel with. (The locals must have wondered why those crazy Aussies were reading the fine print on food labels). Steve would spend so much time buying me my ‘treats’ - foregoing the cheap chocolate (which I couldn’t have) and spoiling me with the more expensive brands (because they were ‘good for me’.) On our ‘travelling’ days, he carried my heavy bag around, as well as his own backpack, and made sure I didn’t leave the hotel room without my gloves - (often I needed two pairs on). We sang Irish songs in the car together as we drove around the Emerald Isle and searched the ripples of Loch Ness looking for the monster. We laughed when we didn’t know how to pay at a Spanish toll road and almost cried when we couldn’t find a service station in France before the petrol ran out. To put it simply, he looked after me and I thank him. We had so much fun together!
Our travelling days are far from over. Having been home for a week, it must be time to start planning the next trip (though it may only be a two or three week one next time!)
To anyone with a dream to pursue – go for it! Dreams do come true although sometimes you have to wait a while and you have to prod a bit to get there – but don’t ever doubt that you can make it happen!
Thank you to those who read our blog or kept up to date with us on facebook. I hope that you also enjoyed our journey because we loved sharing it with you.