I Wonder What’s Behind That Door?

When I travel I of course take along a camera. I think photography helps you see things differently, helps you think and imagine. I also find that I like to photograph certain things a lot. I can’t pass up someone I see reading a book without trying to get a good picture of them. And I love photographing people who are photographing something else! I particularly love photographing doors.

 

Blue Door in LympstoneThey come in so many shapes and sizes, so many colors, so many textures. I have a whole collection of door photographs. And whenever I open up that file and idle away some time looking at them I end up pausing at one of them and wonder to myself where that door leads. All the doors I have photographed lead somewhere. There is a place beyond each of them. To me that serves as a metaphor for travel itself. By leaving home and going somewhere you have never been you are opening one of those doors and stepping through. You man have had a pretty good idea of what is behind that door, but until you push it open you won’t really know. Behind it are the sight, the smells, the sounds, the people, the places that so far have been only of your imagination. Walk on in and it becomes very real. So, I wonder what is behind these doors? Tell you what, come along with me in June 2013 and we’ll find out together!Lovely in Lympstone

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Gelato – the Base of the Food Pyramid!

Gelato Sign

I don’t know how they make this stuff. I go to stores where that claim they have it. I try it. I am deeply disappointed. Only in Italy do them make the real thing. And it is simply remarkable! I have no idea what their secrets are, but I am sure there is some magic to it. Two of my sons are lactose intolerant, and yet they ate and ate and ate Gelato and thrived. My eldest son holds the tour record for 23 in one day. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, midnight snack – it doesn’t matter.

San Gimingiano Gelato

The Gelato flavors are nearly surreal. From Chocolate to Kiwi to Pistachio to Rice (Riso – my favorite) to any fruit you can imagine and some you can’t, it is a divine delight. So when in Italy dive in. Look over the amazing variety. Be daring and adventurous. There is more to life than chocolate and vanilla (although I always have some). Then, when you come home and go the ice cream aisle of you supermarket you will pause, look rather sad, and utter a forlorn sigh. Gelato – the foundation of the Mediterranean Diet!!!!!!

Bostone Gelato

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It’s Beautiful Over There

 

Burano Colors

Europe has a beauty that is diverse and breathtaking, from the natural to the man made. North or South, East or West, everywhere you go there is so much that is just inspiring and, well, beautiful!

Pantheon

Perhaps one of the most beautiful, most perfect buildings is the Pantheon in the heart of Rome. Built by the Emperor Hadiran in about 170 A.D., it is the only Roman building remaining intact. When Germanic tribes swept through Rome to despoil it of its treasures the Pantheon stopped them in their tracks. They refused to destroy it. They were in awe, as we are today, of this spectacular building. No picture does it justice. It is one of those places you just have to experience for yourself.

Eiffel Tower

They were going to tear this down when the World’s Fair was over. Parisians hated it. Beaudelaire would eat lunch in the cafe on the first floor every day because, as he said, it was the only place he could go in Paris where he didn’t have to see the thing. Well, Parisians are not the only ones today who cannot imagine Paris without it. It is one of those monuments that is so much more impressive in person. You finally realize – it is BIG! Really BIG!

Jungfrau

 And then there is the beauty of nature. On a clear day in the Swiss Alps it is hard to imagine anything more sublime. The Swiss love their mountains and spend a lot of time in them themselves. They also work hard to preserve them. We join them in their love of their mountains with a hike of our own right here at the base of the Jungfrau. If the weather cooperates you’ll never forget your day in the Alps.

Burano Flower
But not all of Europe’s beauty is found in the grand. Much of it is right at your feet! So don’t always be looking up. Keep your eyes and ears open to everything around you and you are bound to fill your travel with beauty. It will enrich you trip immeasurably!

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Expect the Unexpected

Pigeons eating off the top of your head. I’d say that was unexpected! And it is the unexpected that enlivens any trip through Europe. On our tours we actually seek out the unexpected. Sure, we see all of the wonderful things that you must see on a tour of Europe, and we love them and are thrilled by them. But we also seek out those “moments” that give a spark to travel that makes it all so memorable.

Take the time to admire the street performs that are everywhere in Europe. Some are seriously legit, like this guy in Paris.

Swiss Cheese

Don’t be afraid to try new things. Interlaken was filled with the foul smell of this cheese, but on a dare we tried it. Surprise! It was absolutely delicious! Honest!

German dude

Chat it up with the locals. You’ll learn a lot about the people and places that you would not learn otherwise.

So seek out and enjoy the unexpected. Don’t get caught in the typical tourist trap of only seeing the major sights. Get out, get looking, have fun!

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Mothers and Daughters

Mothers and DaughtersFor the past few years there have been a lot of mothers and daughters come along on our tours. My wife and I only had sons so the whole daughter business is terra incognita to me, but I have noticed the wonderful relationships between moms and their girls as I have traveled with them through Europe. There is a bond between them that traveling together in this wonderful place only deepens.

At the Seine

Tuscany Jill

It’s not that the daughter knows mom has the credit card! Yes, they do have fun shopping I suppose, but it is the experience they share. They get to tell each other right then and there about the wonders they are seeing, about the feelings a great work of art inspires, about the sights and sounds and smells of Europe that they love ( and the things they don’t!) They get to share some invaluable time together away from home and work and school and husbands and boys. They share the trill of travel and the thrill of being together.

So for the moms and daughters out there who are wishing for some seriously quality time together before the inexorable march of time takes you away from one another, think about three weeks in Europe on our 2012 Grand Tour. If you ask me, or better yet if you ask the moms and daughters who have come over the years, I think you’ll get an enthusiastic two thumbs up!

 

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It’s Not All Serious Sightseeing

Fun in NeuschwansteinTravel can be serious business. There is a lot to see, a lot to learn, a lot to experience. It can get intense in places like Rome or Paris, and you have to take time in places like that to just sit once in a while and watch the city go by. But travel is not all intense and serious all the time. Once in a while you just need to cut loose!

Tripin!Europe is, after all, FUN! And in the midst of all there is to learn and see and do, don’t forget that you are there to have a great time! You’ll probably forget a lot of the names and dates and stuff like that, but you’ll never forget the moments when you had great fun! So keep that in mind as you plan to come along with us in 2012. We’ll be some serious travelers alright, but I guarantee you we are going to have FUN!

We're Cool

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Well THAT was fun!

The 2011 Grand Tour was  GREAT trip with a GREAT group of intrepid travelers! It will go down in history as the year of the extras. It seems that everywhere we went there was something special going on that we got to be a part of. It was wonderful. We put in a lot of miles, ate a lot of good food, saw and experienced so much. I wonder what is in store for the group of 2012?

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Brand New Website!

Boats on Water

The site has just been completely redesigned! If you can think of anything that you feel is missing, please let us know via the contact form or by email at parker@kellyoramseuropeantravels.com and we will get it taken care of. I hope you look forward to your amazing journeys ahead of you!

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Death and Life in Exeter

We had talked about it. With my parents aging and me leading a tour of Europe every year there was always the possibility that something would happen while I was away and that I simply would not be able to be there, that I could not leave forty people to fend for themselves across Europe no matter how well organized things were. We had talked about it, and we were all agreed that it would be alright.

Exeter

My son Mark and his wife Stephanie are here in Exeter, England. Mark is pursuing his graduate studies in Staging Shakespeare. This year’s travel plans were to have me leaving a few days before the group and stay with Mark and Stephanie in Exeter, and see a play that Mark produced and acted in. Before I left my dad had a difficult day, but seemed to be alright. Just a lot slower. He and I sat out on his front deck for a while the day before I left. We argued a bit about him not driving anymore – of course he did not want to hear that – but most of the time we just talked. Before I left I told him not to check out while I was gone. As I walked down the path I called back over my shoulder that I’d see him later. He said “yup.”

I arrived in Exeter yesterday, after a delay at the Dublin airport, to news that my dad was in the hospital and that it was not looking good. I took that news with me to Mark’s play, Swift as a Shadow (short as any dream). It is a play that Mark and a colleague produced and directed and acted in that used Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets as an exploration of, “the moment of death itself – the instant between life and death, as it were . . . indeed, this play takes place within that instant, exploring a swift and dreamlike glimpse into the mind of a dying man.” from the director’s notes.
I was caught up in Shakespeare’s moments of death and love and dying as I thought about the passage my dad was at that very moment preparing for. It was surreal, it was sad, it was happy, it was thoughtful. It was full of death and it was full of life. I think the instant of death is just that, death and life all rolled into an instant. Half a world away by good dad was lying in a hospital bed approaching that moment at the same moment I was vicariously on a similar journey. You can’t write this stuff up. Truth is stranger than fiction.
Today, Sunday, June 6, 2010 we went to church at the Exeter Ward and to Evensong at Exeter Cathedral. After a pleasant walk in the sunshine we came back to a message that our family was gathering and that the moment for my dad was near. Mark called Holli at the hospital, and just six minutes ago my dad had slipped peacefully away.
June 6th. My dad was always very patriotic. He is a veteran of the Army Air Corps and was very proud to have been part of “The Greatest Generation.” His love of country was part of what interested me in American history, an endless subject I voraciously read about. Dad and I had talked about D-Day, and I had read a lot about it. Some years ago on one of my Europe trips I talked the group into a day trip to Normandy and Omaha Beach, site of the difficult American invasion of Nazi occupied France that had taken place on June 6, 1944. It was an overwhelming experience, and I wanted so much to share it with my dad. I borrowed my coach drivers cell phone and called him – 5:00 A.M. his time. I told him where I was, and then I choked up. I could not speak. We were both silent for minutes. Then I heard him say through a cracking voice that he understood. That was it, but I had been able to really, truly share that overwhelming moment with him, something I knew he would appreciate. It now seems quite fitting that he should leave on the anniversary of that great and terrible day.
So what we had talked about, my dad and mom and me, has come to pass. I am over here and they are over there. I will stay, and meet my wonderful tour group in Rome in a couple of days. I will show them the absolute wonders of Europe as we travel through Italy, Germany, Switzerland, France and England. In a couple of weeks, as we all stand on the beach at Omaha, and as I tell them of all that happened there 66 years ago, my dad will be at my shoulder and we will again share that moment together. I love you dad.
Death and Life – it is all one.
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Ah Venezia!

Ah Venice! I think just about everyone who has not been here must have their own romantic vision of what Venice must be like. It’s a good bet their vision is not too far from the reality! Venice is indeed that charming place of imagination and fable, even when weighed down to the water line with summer tourists! Built on wooden pilings driven deep into the clay below, Venice is very much a city of water. Canals are main streets, lined with centuries of architecture in every style from Byzantine through early 20th century.


And everyone and everything, including visitors, gets around on the water. Oh, you can walk Venice alright, and that is what you spend most of your time doing, but Venice without a least one trip on the water doesn’t give you the authentic feel of this most unique of cities.

The Venetians live this every day. Produce boats, fire boats, police boats, delivery boats, ambulance boats, even hearse boats ply the canals going about their workaday business keeping shelves stocked, the public safe, visitors provided for, and the dead buried! It is a marvel to watch!


The tourist comes to Venice for this and for the stunning architecture. Venice’s landmarks are well know, from the Doge’s palace with it’s Gothic facade, the Byzantine marvel of San Marco, and the distinct campanile (bell tower) in the Piazza San Marco.

The campanile actually collapsed in 1903, killing no one and harming only the watachman’s cat. But the Venetians quickly rebuilt their tower with the same brick and a new foundation. It proudly looks over what Napoleon called the best drawing room in Italy – the Piazza San Marco. The Piazza, surrounded as it is by the Doge’s Palace, the Campanile, and San Marco Basillica, is of course tourist central! Absolute mobs of tourists fill this Piazza and the surrounding lanes and canals during tourist season. It may be the most tourist filled outdoor setting in touristdom! Nothing too charming about that. But . . . Venice’s charms really await the visitor who is willing to stick around a while, wait until the tourists head off to their hotels on the mainland, and wander Venice after dark or very early in the morning.


Summer light comes very early to Venice. By 5:00 A.M., even on an overcast day, a cool-of-the-morning stroll reveals the stunning beauty of this crumbling wonder. Deserted streets and canals, the stillness in the air broken only by birdsong rather than tourist rumble – it is absolutely magical!

The harried pace of yesterday, the elbowing past hoards of fellows, the noise and heat and bustle – it is all gone, replaced by a serenity and beauty of a type I have never found anywhere else. The early riser is rewarded in spades here in Venice. And then . . .


. . . there is Venice after dark. The lights sparkling off the canals, late diners enjoying a quiet meal at a restaurant run by folks who don’t know what it means to rush you through your meal, and the far off aria sung by a gondolier to a group of tourists paying way too much for the priveledge . . . just plain magic! There is no other place in the whole of the great wide world quite like Venice!
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