I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

How to Maximize European Tours - Part 1

Delores E. Topliff

On the European trip I enjoyed this summer thanks to longstanding relationships with exchange students or guests who’ve lived in my home for up to a year or longer, I visited caves, castles, cathedrals, and locations dating as far back as Irish churchman St. Columba landing in Scotland in the late 500s to build a community. A friend and I even clambered into a Scottish cave above the Irish Sea that once hid St. Killean from enemies, and sheltered us from rain. Dianne is a woman after my own heart. After a quick business trip to town, she spontaneously rushed me here... and here... and here...

One key tip? Go armed with a huge camera memory chip--or money to buy more.

Our main Italy destinations, Bologna, Venice, and Ravenna, are ancient cities pulsing with major events accomplished there, as well as cathedrals and other structures going back to early times. In addition to beautiful natural scenery these cities display legacies that had this history lover eager to write, and sometimes forgetting to breathe. Here are travel tips, photos, and site reports in the order we saw them.
After flying through the June 23rd High Summer night in constant pink and blue twilight, and photographing shining white Greenland, I changed planes in Iceland. Loving the glowing air, plus the great Iceland documentaries shown on the plane, I see it offers enough fascinating history, geography, climate, and people to desire future exploration.

My first stop was a town in Denmark an hour north of Copenhagen where Jane, her husband, and four children live in a cute home one friend described as living inside an IKEA Store. I love staying with and learning from locals. We visited J√¶gerspris Castle which has belonged to Danish monarchs since the 1300s. After 1850 one king’s commoner widow made it a workhouse-school for underprivileged women. However, castle antics attributed to that time make me glad those walls didn’t talk. But my hosts were great!

Next stop? Flying to Madrid where I renewed friendships in nearby Escorial with a family whose son I taught for two years, before arranging to meet my traveling companions. Madrid’s massive Atocha train station on Emperor Carlos V Boulevard lined with impressive monuments, statues, and parks has a huge garden plaza inside perfect for meeting a friend from Spain I hadn’t seen for four years and one from Argentina I hadn’t seen for eleven. 

These wonder women found a travel package with flights to/from Bologna, and five nights in the Grand Hotel Elite (sounds like a movie title) with lavish breakfasts for $325 each--we more than got our money’s worth and because of much walking, actually lost weight (and shoe leather). 

Bologna is an Etruscan city going back to 1,000 B.C. and home to the world’s oldest university. Its Cattedrale Metropolitana di San Pietro has had a cathedral on that site since 1028, destroyed by fire in 1141, but reconstructed and rededicated by Pope Lucius III in 1184. There are lovely altars and art work inside. This aerial shot shows its location in the city center.

City officials set up one thousand chairs set up in the cathedral courtyard for a week of free 10 p.m. showings of Casablanca with star Ingrid Bergman’s daughter, Isabella Rossellini, present the first night to introduce. (We didn’t stay--our hurting feet returned us to the hotel after a delicious cooling gelato.)

I enjoyed Bologna’s elegantly dressed ladies nearly as much as her magnificent buildings. Below is Victoria, our stylish guide in the art museum. Sorry my over-worked camera blurred, (I’ve bought a new one since) but hope you get the effect. I also snapped two older ladies who shared a meet and greet during their afternoon stroll. 

And then our days based in Bologna were over.

Watch for Part II of this blog next month. Until then, what has been your best near or far trip to date? Please share your best memory or travel tip so far. 


  1. I think my best trip so far has been to Minnesota! And then on up to Canada by way of the Cliffdwellers. Next time, though, I think I'll tag along with you. :-)

  2. Agreed.. And thanks for post. With company arriving here I was AWOL :)

  3. Jenny Pullen8/25/15, 4:38 PM

    I'm looking forward to Part II.

  4. European tours with family sounds fun. Loved to read your experience. CMC World Travel to purchase best European tour and travel provide for your family. Thanks....