European Trip 2012

Well - it really was a great trip. We traveled first to Ireland, arriving at dawn to be met by a taxi driver who, in normal circumstances would be retired. The economy and a tough housing market keep him behind the wheel. His only good news during our cab ride: great grandkids.
Meals were good and Guinness changed its taste from place to place. The best Guinness, interestingly enough, was not at the Storehouse. The scenery is beautiful in the Irish countryside, but we found our guides, drivers and train hosts constantly complaining about the state of the economy in their country.
A gem: we found a great pub just outside the gates of Blarney castle and enjoyed one of our best meals in Ireland while the rest of the tourists tromped through Blarney Castle. By this point, Karen had already kissed the Blarney Stone, therefore, was eloquent enough for both of us!
Trinity College and the Book of Kells was a slight disappointment, but the library at the college is something to behold – it was like being in a Harry Potter movie. Incredible library – like nothing we have seen before. The arrival of the tall ships on our last day was a bonus that we had not anticipated. Our final morning was spent walking the banks of the Liffey to see the ships. The walk took me back to my days as a Sea Cadet. We ended our stay in Ireland with some good, freshly made gourmet sandwiches at Dublin airport (who knew?), purchased for our flight to London.
On arrival at London’s Gatwick we were met by a great driver who took us to the City of London, where we were staying. A quick tour of London over the final miles to our apartment was a good introduction. We were driven past Big Ben, Parliament, Trafalgar Square, and the London Eye to give Karen a great first impression of London. My son joined us for dinner the first night and our meal was not fish and chips, but a wonderful Italian meal paired with a couple of bottles of great Chianti.
Buckingham Palace was quite an insight as we are not used to being “tourists on tours”. We experienced lots of waits, lots of people, and a lot of relief to leave. After a lunch of mussels and coq au vin paired with a lovely bottle of Champs du Moulin Colombard from the South of France, we moved on to Harrods and more crowds! We lasted about 30 minutes in the throngs before ducking out and taking a nice long walk.
Stonehenge was delightful, and one of the most magnificent sights we have ever seen. Seven days in England was not enough. Seeing my son was the highlight of the trip. We also took in lots of sights and I met a group of friends I have known for more than fifty years.
But all good things end and so it was on to Paris by Euro Star. Paris: the city of lights, lovers and food. Brasserie Lipp was the best meal that we enjoyed on this 15 day whirlwind trip. Rustic French country food: a cassoulet paired with a Sancerre from the Loire Valley. We are still talking about our meal at Lipp.
Memories of Paris: The Seine, being in the middle of those museums, the impromptu weddings on the bridge, walking under the Eiffel Tower, Montmartre, sitting side by side at the sidewalk cafes and eating/drinking/watching the world go by, and miles of walks through this beautiful city. We will be back.
So what’s next? We have to sit at the Dock at Crayton Cove, in Naples, Florida, to plan our trip to Naples, Italy next spring. With that in mind, wine that will be of interest in the future will be from Tuscany. Podere Grattamacco, Casanova di Ceri and Lazeretti will have to be sampled and enjoyed with some good pasta and seafood!
We travel to enjoy and we love to share our experiences. I recently visited Kansas City for the last time and I was asked to make notes of great wine and food on our Italian trip, so I can send them to a friend who will take his family to Italy next year. He plans to follow our footsteps after we share our adventures and discoveries with him. So we go to explore and send back messages of good food paired with great wines/beers/spirits!