Tuesday, June 9, 2015

European Experience: Observations and Reflections

It's been nearly three weeks since my wife Mary and I returned from our European vacation to London, Paris and Roma. 

Here are some reflections from our unforgettable journey:

Big Ben in London

  • Which city did we enjoy the most? We liked them all equally. I know it sounds like a cop out but they are so different and distinct from each other. London has its regal atmosphere, Paris has its opulence, and Roma has its glorious history. 
  • We had read and heard  so much about the rudeness among some Europeans, especially the French. We didn't encounter any of that in these cities. We found most of them to be friendly, and if not that, polite. I hope that means something coming from a person  who comes from a place known for its hospitality -- Kentucky.
  • We read about pickpockets being so prevalent, especially around the historic sites in Roma. I'm sure they were there, but hey, pickpockets are everywhere large crowds with money congregate, and that includes the United States and anywhere else in the world. Just use commonsense. 
    The Eiffel Tower in Paris
  • The traffic wasn't nearly as bad as we had read except maybe going from Heathrow in London to our hotel on the narrow roads with narrow lanes. And since traffic moves in opposite lanes in England, you see pedestrian warnings throughout the city to look both ways before crossing a street (look right first).  I almost got hit by a motor scooter in Roma (the driver came out of nowhere near a historic plaza and he probably thought I did as well). I will say I have no desire to drive in those cities and that's fine since they have excellent public transportation.
  • While in Roma, we encountered a young man who said he was from Kenya (he was wearing a turban and brightly colored shirt) near the Castel Sant'Angelo. He gave us three small hand-carved trinkets -- two turtles and an elephant -- and said he didn't want anything in return. It was simply out of friendship. When I gave him a euro, and then Mary handed him one, he told us he was hungry and wanted more (he didn't appear hungry/starving). We then offered to give him back the wooden trinkets, but he refused, again  saying it was out of friendship. We then had a friendly parting of the ways, at least from our viewpoint. 
    The Colosseum in Roma
  • We didn't see a lot of homeless people. That could be because we didn't travel to the underbelly of the cities (most guided tours take you to the places the cities want to showcase). Of course, there were vendors hawking items, especially in Roma. 
  • Probably the most disappointing views we had were of
    Graffiti from the Seine
     graffiti, most notably in Paris and Roma. It's a shame to have these eyesores distract from the overall beauty and grandeur of these great and wonderful cities.  
  • We felt safe and secure in each of the cities. The security areas at the airports were efficient, orderly and respectful. TSA in the United States could learn a few things from their European counterparts about moving people through security, especially in how to address and treat people. After returning to the U.S. at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, I thought about what our European visitors must think since we were all herded through like cattle. It certainly isn't a "Welcome to America"  message that TSA is conveying. 
We plan to visit Europe again, probably taking in other cities the next time (you only go around once in life). We're also thinking about going to Asian, African and South American countries if time and finances permit.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.

Until the next time...


  1. I have lived in all the cities you mentioned, and my favourite is probably Paris. It's just a pity there are so many French people there.

    1. That's funny, Roger. I sensed that there is a rivalry between Paris and London. Regardless, they are still great cities along with Roma.

  2. The rivalry is commonly referred to as loathing, but Paris is still a great city.
    Except at 07.30 when you're trying to get your boss' son to school on time and you have to drive round the dreaded Etoile. Talk about chaos.

    1. Sounds like there may be a book in there somewhere, Roger. Actually we have some of that here in the U.S. between cities -- but more rivalry than loathing.