Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Europe (excluding the United Kingdom) (02/19/09)
TITLE: E.T. - European Tours
By Marlene Austin
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We began our tour in Paris, France, arriving at 7a.m. Parisian time. We met our local guide and the rest of the tour group and set out to view the “City of Light”. We were to get most of the sight-seeing done in the morning to have the afternoon to explore the surrounds on our own. We did fairly well at staying on schedule except for the Eiffel Tower. We stopped at a sidewalk café first, to grab a bit of nourishment. At the Tower, most of us walked the steps to the second level and were satisfied. Mr. Einhart, however, chose to purchase a ticket and rode the elevator to the top. He apparently made acquaintance with a group of “gone wild” college students, and since he had mostly drunk his nourishment at lunch, he was more than willing to accept their dare to bungee-jump from the Tower. Needless to say, no one in our group was too sympathetic as he complained of “soreness” the rest of the tour. I guess once a person reaches their seventies they gain a “death wish” of sorts.
Our second day, we were in Rome, Italy, the glorious “Eternal City”. We thought our stay in Rome was going to be eternal when a young lady in the group went to put her hand in the Bocca della Verita. Placing her hand in the mouth of the disk she discovered what felt like coins. She chose to help herself. Unfortunately, with a fist clinched full of coins, she was unable to remove her hand. It took the tour guide and two policemen a full hour of cajoling and threatening, and the promise by another member of our tour group to “reward” her with a bag of Italian coins, before she finally relinquished the treasure. Our tour group began to gain a reputation.
On the third day, we were navigating the canals of Venice, and I do mean we were navigating. I have no idea why we believed we could not get lost on avenues of water, but it was cheaper to just rent a boat and do the manpower ourselves than to hire a fully manned gondola. Apparently the day we were there it was the time all the businesses of that particular district were throwing their waste into the waterways. We found ourselves on “non-tourist” paths. We got more than a close look at the rear of the businesses. The semi-floating debris of half spoiled meat drew insects, birds, and of course, fish. The smells were to be remembered.
The day I was looking forward to most was our visit to Austria. We attended the Vienna State Opera’s performance of Verdi’s Othello. A truly glorious experience - until Mr. Einhart’s proclivity for alcohol relaxed him to the point that he believed himself back home at the local bar on Karaoke Night. The Austrian people were very polite, even as they escorted us from the performance.
A train ride to Berlin, Germany, was our last stop. We all had our passports ready as we were sure we would be able to obtain a memorable stamp through Checkpoint Charlie. It was quite a disappointment to discover that this icon of history no longer existed. After all, the Cold War is over, duh.
As our plane landed back in the U.S., I couldn’t help but click my heels together three times thinking, “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.” I told my husband for our twentieth anniversary I wanted a long, calming cruise. I think I heard him say something about making reservations with a company called Titanic Treks.
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