The marathon trip I am planning this fall (October 1-November 9) is actually several sequential “trips”. Read on to learn how it all got started.
A few months ago, I was happily planning a 15 day trip to Germany and the Netherlands. The central planning point was purchase of a river cruise passage from Mainz to Amsterdam (7 days). My favorite flight to Frankfurt (#71 from DFW) Add in 3 nights in Mainz (20 min from FRA) to time adjust in advance, another 3 in Amsterdam at cruise conclusion to see those sights again, a train to Frankfurt, an overnight at the airport and flight home. Easy peasy! Right?
Finally, my persistence at finding vegan river cruises turned up another one.
The company is called Vegan-cruises.com. They are sponsoring a trip from Lyon to Lyon seeing the sights of Provence a region, as yet unseen by me. I queried several friends thinking there is no way that anyone will want to do this (although November 1-8 is the start of the travel dead weeks this year). And guess what? There are now 5 of us going RT Lyon with three spending four advance days in Paris. I switched my return from Frankfurt to a later, cheaper flight. (November rates) This means that rather than the typical $500 change fee for international travel, the rate is only $178.
I pondered for about 30 minutes; do I purchase a reverse round trip and head all the way back to Austin for the intervening 2.5 weeks? Or should I stick around in Europe? Since the cost of a business class roundtrip ticket would surpass the expense of staying abroad it was an easy choice. But now…how do I spend that time? The answer was hiding in plain sight.
As the executor of my mom’s estate (she passed in December 2004), I retain a few boxes with ancient family photos and the like. By chance, I happened to open one of the boxes recently and found the cigar box of postcards she had saved for decades. Inside there are about 20 dated cards, with my tiny writing which chronicle the stops I made as a college student taking a “gap year” (we didn’t call it that). I felt entitled to take my year off as I had graduated high school a year early.
Those cards were Mom’s idea. I vividly remember her suggestion that I send cards rather than “keep a diary as you’ll just lose it”. Instead “send us post cards and I’ll keep them for you…you will probably want to read them again some time.”
Those post cards will now form the framework of my 2.5 weeks in Europe between cruises. While I won’t be able to revisit very many places, I am planning on visiting a few that were most relevant to that first ever solitary trip. If ever there was a dividing point between teen and adult identity that was it for me.
This is a long way of getting to the first question inherent to the planning of any trip. Why are you going? Since there are 3 “sub-trips” that will span these 2.5 weeks, I will address each one in a separate post.
Vienna: Vienna was the home town of my high school exchange student Inge Piffel. Her presence prompted so many actions then and subsequently– to my life thus far. We maintained a relationship throughout our adult lives last seeing each other in November 2011. Sadly, she passed away as a result of ovarian cancer on Christmas Eve, five years ago. I have since stayed in touch with her widower Erich.
My agenda for Vienna is to view and scan photos from Inge’s collection as well as revisit some of the memorable sights that I now appreciate in a different way. I plan on staying in the Aldstat area. It has a reputation now as the locale of hipsters– including numerous vegan and vegetarian restaurants with high marks on social media. Since I am comfortable with public transit, I ‘ll find an AirBNB that enables easy access to the U2 tram line that begins downtown and terminates not far from where Erich now resides.
Celigny, Switzerland: Erich has all of Inge’s photos from her visit to the US as well as her time at Chateau de Bossy where she worked as a bi-lingual secretary after returning from a year in California. Given her role at this international conference center, she obtained a two month position for me as a kitchen helper and room cleaner. Not sure what my official title was, but that job allowed me to stay in Switzerland.
It was the start of my first international trip of which I have so many vivid memories. I plan on writing to the management about my desire to return and tour the facilities. I wonder if they will seem small? I don’t think they are much altered. The chateau now rents tourist rooms in addition to conference space. I was delighted to see “my room” on their website.
Somewhere in this region of Western Swizterland, I’ll secure a home base with day trips to the many places I visited while there as a 20 year old.
Lyon, France: The conclusion of my solitary sojourn has my arrival in Lyon a few days ahead of my travel companions. There, I will focus on the Roman origins of the city as well as sampling the excellent vegan cuisine on offer. And perhaps some rest and recording of my impressions and insights from the wealth of stimulating visits prior to landing in Lyon.
As the self-avowed culinary capital of France, I was delighted to learn of many vegan restaurants with high marks. As is true of Vienna, I will be writing to many in advance (using Google translate) as a means to pre-connect with other plant based thrivers and to see where that initiative takes me.
If there was one thing I learned in my “gap year” it was the power of initiative. It set me up for a lifetime of achievement and success. Stay tuned …
I am officially a big fan of Vegan Summerfest, Johnstown, PA. This was the 45th year and there are many positive features: a broad and eclectic mix of speakers and programs that run for 5 days, 6 a.m. till 10 p.m. Speaker topics range from How to work with a restaurant to offer a vegan group dinner to Michael Greger M.D. fine tuning his newest topics in the place he credits with getting him started. It’s not just speakers: Nia Movement, Line Dancing, Yoga, Bird watching and star tracking (the one that starts at 9 p.m.) Food demos from acclaimed vegan chefs as well as those less well known but with worthy tips to offer.
The best part is the food! I met more than one who attends for just that reason. Several days of some of the best vegan options I’ve ever seen. The raw “bar” was the most intriguing and included delicacies such as raw zucchini noodles with thai spiced sauce, Crispy tacos with nut meat and all the trimmings to name a few of my favorites. I used the WFPB no SOS line as much as I could, and moderated my dips into the Vegan line choices. I don’t know who their chef is, but to manage that range and quality for 5 days of 3 types of choices sure got my attention. First rate effort!