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New, fun experiences

by on August 19, 2012

As our trip (can we call it a “Europalooza”?) draws to a close, it’s time for a bit of reflection.

Renee and I didn’t drag the kids around Europe for 9 weeks, to have “Fun”. If we wanted “Fun” (and a lot less work!), we could have spent the summer at Raging Waters amusement park.

We did it to take the kids outside the boundaries of our little hometown, and show them that there’s a big, wide, crazy, fascinating, unusual and different world out there.

(If they happen to get an “A” on their “what I did this summer” paper when school starts… that’s a plus)

Seeing all the famous sights was fun and interesting (more for the parents than the kids, we think) and they may remember some of it in the coming years. But we quickly discovered that the little things were having the most eye-opening impact on them.

At the beginning of the trip, so many of their comments on things were related to Harry Potter… because that had been their biggest “international” experience.  By the end of the trip, and hopefully in the future, they’ll relate new things to what they saw and learned in Europe.

We had fun keeping a running list of the little unusual things as we saw them, so…. here they are (in no particular order).


Hordes of guys selling sunglasses, hats and scarves to tourists on the beaches and sidewalks (in every city)

Ladies on the beach not wearing tops (Spain)

Mazes of little tiny alleys in all the big cities

Ten year old kids selling junk to tourists (Morocco)

Toilets that are a hole in the floor with two foot pads (we called them “squattie potties”)

Driving on the wrong side of the road (and thinking the taxi driver was nuts for doing it)

Different languages (we spoke French, Spanish, Catalan and Italian, and heard Arabic)

Closing stores for the entire month of August and going on vacation (Italy)

Photos of naked ladies on the wall of a restaurant

Being cheated by a taxi driver who didn’t reset the meter (Rome)

Having what was absolutely the worst meal we have ever had (restaurant in Rome)

Hearing “This is a Bakerloo line train to Elephant and Castle” a thousand times (London)

Pouring rainstorm while on the top floor of an open-top bus (Paris)

Musicians with their hat out for money on streets and subway stations (Everywhere)

Shops that only sell one thing: white things (Marbella), or black things (Pisa), or ribbon (Barcelona), or…

Computer controlled subway trains with no driver (Paris)

Mr. Whippy ice cream (London)

Being forced to buy a paper shawl to go into a church if your shoulders aren’t covered (Italy)

Your credit card doesn’t work because European credit cards have an embedded Smart Chip and American cards don’t

Masses of protestors filling the streets and blocking traffic and yelling a lot (Barcelona)

Roving groups of gypsies playing accordion and drum on trains, asking for money (Naples)

Young kids walking the aisles of trains begging for money (Italy)

Ordering water in restaurants “with gas” (sparkling) or “no gas” (plain)

Multicolored coins and currency

Everyone smoking cigarettes

Feral cats prowling the cities

Tiny cars

Tiny clothes washing machines

Old churches, old churches, old churches

Streets swarming with (crazy) scooter drivers (Italy)

Children up on the streets at midnight (Spain)

Having to ask for salt and pepper at a restaurant

Being charged for the basket of bread at your table (Italy)

Not being able to use a credit card without presenting ID (Spain)

Grocery carts that you have to insert a coin to get the cart (and get the coin back when you return the cart) (London and Rome)

People yelling at each other on the street (Italy)

Bidets (two of us… not to be named… did experiment with them)

Chocolate everything… cereal, power bars, yogurt, croissants

T-shirts with writing that appears to be American but gets it wrong… e.g. “Kansas City Chiefs American Football Team” or “Palo Alto University” with Cal logo in “Orange, CA” (Everywhere)

Double level grocery stores with escalators for the carts (Barcelona)

Full grocery stores hidden in the basement of (unrelated) department stores (Barcelona and Rome)

Bagging, weighing and labeling your own produce before taking it to the checkout (Spain and Italy)

Water fountains that run all the time with no shutoff valve (Rome)

Crepes in street stands (Paris)

Being shoved out of a seat by a nasty old lady on bus (Rome)

Carrying your money and papers in neck pouches for 9 weeks

Big green neon Plus signs marking pharmacies (Everywhere)

Racks of bicycles available for use by anyone (London and Barcelona)

Little tiny elevators barely big enough for 4 people (Elviria and Barcelona)

People partying loudly on the street after midnight (Paris and Barcelona and Lucca)

People closing their shops and going home for siesta between 2-5 pm (Spain)

Having to enter a code from your receipt to get into the bathroom at McDonalds (Pisa)

“Love Locks”… locking a lock with your names on it on a public bridge or fence (Paris, Spain, Italy)

All the buildings in the city are the same height (Paris, Barcelona)

People standing in traffic to take their picture in a crosswalk (London – Abbey Road)

Paying one euro to go through the gates to get into the bathroom (Naples train station)

Nutella (Everywhere)

Tiles with images of Sherlock Holmes making up larger pictures of Sherlock Holmes in the Baker Street tube station (London)

Dogs have a lot more freedom to roam (Everywhere)

Signs with names of streets are posted high up on the sides of the buildings (Everywhere)

Unusual sports on TV for the Olympics…. judo, shooting, archery, etc.


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  1. John Beaver permalink

    “We did it to take the kids outside the boundaries of our little hometown, and show them that there’s a big, wide, crazy, fascinating, unusual and different world out there.”

    If that was your intention, you could have just taken them to Uncle Phil’s house for the summer.

  2. Uncle Phil permalink

    Wow! Quite an experience–Anna and Alex were certainly real troopers, and this will be one for the record books. Don’t blame you for cutting it a little short–as I recall the last leg of the planned trip has always been known as “a bridge too far.”
    I understand that Uncle John (“BoringUncle”) is devastated that he won’t have those final opportunities to post–he was really hoping to have one last chance to come up with something clever! Of course, you could have gone on the Crusades, posted every day for centuries, and he still wouldn’t have achieved his goal!

  3. John Beaver permalink

    Nice try Phil.

  4. Uncle Phil permalink

    If we don’t get a 20 Aug post, we’ll have to use this space here:
    All together now:
    Happy Birthday to You,
    Happy Birthday to You,
    Happy Birthday to David, you 52-year old geezer,
    Happy Birthday to You!

  5. Aunt Ginny permalink

    I will miss all the witty repartee from you all. You 3 brothers should write. Book together from 3 perspectives…it could be quite novel! Pun intended!

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