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Stop this train

Sitting in a screened porch, dog at my feet, listening to John Mayer and staring out at the moody, foggy pond across the dirt road and I completely concur with his plea – stop this train.

At this moment in time, despite a lack of sunshine or resolution to a heartache, my world is so filled with positive and wonderful things that I want to just press pause and savor it. Each of my sons are healthy and exploring their worlds, my personal life is fulfilling and fun, I’m on my second major vacation of the summer and am truly feeling a complete lack of schedule or structure. I am so on holiday. I am so very fortunate.

I’m pretty sure this is my 20th consecutive summer spending time on the Cape. Not really sure how that happened so fast, but this year for the first time ever, I’m here without a single child and it really feels different. It’s kind of the exact opposite experience of how when you go to NYC as a parent with your children, you suddenly realize how many parks and playgrounds there are that you never noticed before.

Being on the Cape without children means scrolling right past all those listings in the local events calendar that fall under the heading: KIDS and looking instead at things like Reggae Night at the Beachcomber and The Mosquito Hour. It’s almost like being a child again – you get to make decisions on impulse, without much consideration of anyone else. It’s amazing.

I hope everyone reading this knows, without a doubt, that I don’t ever share any of this stuff to boast – it’s more of an encouragement. I assure you I never imagined a day when I would have a summer that included 10 days in Europe followed by a week with friends in a house perched above a pond and filled with the most sunshine-y vibes ever gathered under a single roof. You know, right, that I grew up without ever vacationing beyond spending a few nights with family friends in their homes? I certainly wasn’t ever expecting my life to include times like this.

I guess it’s no wonder that I just want to wrap my arms around every minute of it.

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History?

Terrace view

I mentioned that we had visited a number of historical sights during our July trip beginning with our excursion to Dachau. In Salzburg we took the funicular up to the ancient (700s!) Hohensalzburg fortress which was pretty interesting. The walk from the funicular stop to the very top of the hill was a good leg stretcher softened by a terraced cafe with a phenomenal view and a tasty local wine (gruner veltliner) cold and by the glass.

View from the cannon.

Liam and I split at the entrance to the fortress and went off on our casual, self guided tours. There was an animated presentation which provided an entertaining introduction to visitors, but I wasn’t there to take notes, I just wanted to walk around and take it in. I’d like to think I’m more an absorber than a consumer when it comes to travel. After about an hour of poking around in a mostly disoriented fashion, Liam and I met up and walked back down the hill to explore other parts of the city.

We planned a visit for the following day to the Salzburg Museum which had an exhibit about the rise of nationalism and Austria’s involvement with the Nazi party in the lead up to WWII. Liam and I thought that was a timely topic, so went to check it out. The exhibit was, as you might imagine, very dark. The items displayed told a story of complacency and resignation more than culpability and it bummed me out. Like I said, quietly dark. I couldn’t help but feel like our country is so fractured that we’re susceptible to the same thing these days. Dark.

Traveling in Europe, as an American, has always been an interesting experience. I’ve generally found that young people (those less than 14 or 15) were always very taken by Americans, loving our individuality and style, while those in the 20s and 30s looked upon us more as simple, irresponsible children. In my recent trips to Europe as a 50+ year old woman, the attention has once again morphed and it feels like I’m now being considered as someone who just might have something interesting to say. Maybe.Sitting in Charles de Gaulle airport, I didn’t feel interesting at all when the television displayed the president of the United States along with his tweet claiming himself as everyone’s “favorite president.” Mon dieu! His tweets make me long for the days of a maximum of 140 characters. The number of lies and exaggerations he fits into a single tweet are, as of yet, the only examples I’ve seen of his exceptionalism.

It’s a weird thing when you realize that you don’t have the words in English, much less French, to express how concerned you are about the direction in which your country is going or how much a display in an museum spooked you.

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Raindrops on roses 🎼

When I travel I try to keep my options open with regards to activities and attractions. My ultimate goal on vacation is to have unstructured time to explore my locale, not to have a schedule, so I generally book a single thing per day and fill the rest of my time with whatever happens to inspire me.

The impetus to visit Salzburg was my son’s fondness of The Sound of Music, so I reserved space for us on the Fraulein María bike tour, TripAdvisor’s #1 outdoor activity in Salzburg. Our tour began at about 9:30 when we met our guide, Kata, near Schloss Mirabell. She explained what we should expect (3.5 hours, approximately 10 miles and plenty of singing) and we began our adventure. The ride itself wasn’t particularly challenging beyond the fact that the bikes are heavy and the route unfamiliar. Our group was lots of fun and it was obvious that a number of them were big time fans of the classic movie, but, I believe Liam had them all beat when it came to familiarity with the story and music. He knew all the answers.

Frau, fraulein, whatever.

My own knowledge of the movie is scattered and I intend to rewatch it with my new perspective on what was accurate and what was mere Hollywood sleight of hand. The ride was a wonderful way to explore areas of Salzburg that we otherwise might not have made it to and I would definitely recommend the tour for anyone going to that beautiful little city. The ride isn’t overly difficult, but there are a couple of semi-challenging hills and bringing water is a must. You wouldn’t want to not be able to belt out Edelweiss due to a dry throat now, would you?

 

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Smitten with Salzburg

B72CE3D0-3C28-478F-8CA4-3B2E81DDB72DAfter spending a couple of hours becoming familiar with Salzburg’s historic and beautiful city center, I returned to the flat and collected my son. There was so much more to experience! We didn’t really have a plan, but I wanted him to see this picturesque city and there seemed to be plenty with which to keep ourselves occupied without the need for an itinerary.

We traced my earlier footsteps and went along the river where vendors were set up displaying and selling their artwork, artisanal food items, clothing, jewelry and crafts. While there was nothing that I was interested in enough to commit to carrying it home, there were lovely items available and the quality definitely seemed high. Continuing past the market, I shepherded Liam to the tourist office so he could collect brochures and, after some consultation, we decided that the funicular to the Fortress Hohensalzburg was a must do. Twenty minutes, and about 22 euro, later we were on top of the city.

8A1E4474-351D-4A0E-9E04-BC6162F71D07The views as we walked up to the castle were fabulous and as we went by the cafe’s terrace an open table near the vista beckoned. Sitting there in the sun sipping on a glass of gruner veltliner was a perfect moment that I hope to never forget. The castle itself, open since 1077, was great. The video presentation which told the history of the fort was really well done and the artifacts and limited furnishings were tremendous. The torture devices on display were interesting, but, for me, it was all about the view.

 

We walked down to the city center rather than taking the funicular again, and sought out a spot for lunch. I had a craving for trout and we came across Restaurant Elefant that offered a wonderful seasonal preparation with a simple brown butter and chanterelle mushrooms. It was really fantastic, perfectly cooked and fresh as hell, as was the simple green salad that I had also ordered. We finished with a local speciality that Liam had noticed, the Salzburger Nockerl, a raspberry and meringue dessert that was massive, yet fairly light. We were unable to finish it, but I’m glad we splurged on something we had never before tried.

 

It was about 4:30 when we finished lunch and I was ready for a nap or another glass of wine. Since I needed wanted to run that evening, I went with the first option. Liam was interested in a Mozart musical thing that began at 8:00, so we returned to the flat where I settled in for a power nap and he relaxed a short while before leaving solo to see his performance.

My run is a whole ‘nother post, mostly just visual, but just to give you an example of why I am so smitten with this city, I’ll tell you this – as I was running back north after covering a few miles on the east side of the river, who did I literally run into? My son. How crazy is that? I paused to chat with him for a moment and we made a plan to meet after I showered. I ran the rest of the way home with a huge smile on my face and anticipation for yet another round of gelato. How can I not love this place?

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Moments in Munich

Spending 48 hours in a city like Munich, especially when the weather is outstanding, is practically criminal. I should be embarrassed by how little I actually learned about the city or how to navigate my way around it. I concluded, though, that I do better with that sort of thing when I travel solo. If I have someone else willing to study maps and figure out directions, then I have more time to sit outside, drink beer and people watch. That’s really what I’m there for anyway.

Without a doubt, the most important part of my stay was the time spent with family and a friend from many years ago. Catching up on the last year or 26, was just awesome. Isn’t it amazing how there are people we don’t see for months or even decades, yet the connection and comfort with one another remains? Life lesson: that soul filling is worth every effort it takes to travel and connect with those kind of people in your life.

We did do a few traditional tourist things beyond consuming beer and pretzels, though, such as…

Lots of walking around the city center. The buildings are beautiful, the streets are cleaner than a New Yorker can imagine and there are bright flowers everywhere you look.

We watched Croatia beat England while we sat at a sidewalk cafe with a television monitor and a diverse and fun group of soccer fans. C0A0E0C4-442D-469F-8620-06E69A883AA3

I ate gelato, more cheese than I typically eat in a month, and a terrific white wurst served with sweet mustard. For the train ride out of town, I picked up a falafel sandwich which was dynamite, if a bit messy. I neglected to eat any pastry or cakes. Personal fail.

We spent a good part of one day visiting Dachau, but that’s another post. After that excursion, I was left wanting little more than warm sunshine and cold beer. My son went to visit Bayern-Munchen’s stadium while I indulged myself and he seemed to really enjoy the tour he received and his independence to go do something of interest to him.

C2D7DD47-A497-44D5-8DDE-19292D6488F9Our last morning and early afternoon was spent hitting a couple of spots – the BMW museum and Olympic Stadium are in the same area and we checked both of them out prior to leaving for Salzburg. For me, one engine looks like another one so I may have under appreciated the more mechanical aspects of the tour, but the cars were pretty and BMW does own Mini these days so I’m practically a shareholder, aren’t I? We didn’t really have the time to commit to a stadium tour, but did walk around the Olympic Park and saw the memorial to the athletes from the ‘72 games.

62DB0B5A-C584-47A8-9041-C49E151DB1CAWe finished with a walk through the Englischer Gardens and a last weisse beer for me. I did no shopping, nor did I splurge on any spectacular food or experiences, but I boarded the train feeling richer from my time spent in Munich and confident that one day I’ll be back.

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Soccer balls

My youngest son had his last AYSO game this weekend.  As we were getting ready to go to the field Jeter was desperately maneuvering to join us, winding all 85 lbs of himself between my legs, and under my feet, until I relented and agreed to take him. I knew he couldn’t hang out on the field, but figured I’d take him for a walk during the first half and then settle down with him for the second half somewhere with a view of the field. Off we went.

We arrived at the fields behind AHS and parked. I sent Quinn on his way and put Jeter’s harness on and headed out for our walk.  Because I didn’t want to miss the entire game, we did a simple loop and were back in maybe a half an hour. As I returned to the fields, walking across the road from the actual playing area, I overheard a woman on the opposite side of the road talking. She said something like, “Look at her walking that dog right past the sign that says ‘No dogs.’”  I don’t like passive aggressive folks and my response was immediate: “I’m walking my dog back to my parked car. My child is playing soccer.” She seemed a bit surprised by my directness but continued to insist that dogs weren’t permitted. I pointed out that the sign says no dogs on the fields. We weren’t on the field, we were across the street from the field and clearly walking to the parking lot. She said something else, again not to me, but about me. I looked at her, told her she was wrong, pointed out that I had seen a couple of other small dogs and repeated that we weren’t on the field and continued to my car.

I don’t know. Was I wrong? Does “No dogs on the field area” mean I couldn’t walk him along the road back and forth to my parked car? What do you think?

 

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21

This summer when I travel to Europe, it will be, I think, the 21st time I’ve crossed the Atlantic, which boggles my brain. What’s most remarkable, though, isn’t that I’ve been lucky enough to travel so often, it’s the fact that the next trip I will be taking will be with my now 21 year-old son. Oh! And it’s pretty much exactly 21 years since the very first time I took him to Europe.

I was running tonight and thinking about all of the places I’ve seen and all of the things I’ve learned since I began to travel, since I became a parent. For instance, I’ve learned there’s no better way to explore a new place than tying on sneakers and hitting the streets. Being strong and healthy are things I don’t take for granted and life has taught me that muscles, including the heart, need to be used.

The very first time in a new place, for me, is a consistent combination of exciting, overwhelming and mildly annoying. Parenthood can probably be described in a similar fashion. Getting oriented, making connections and finding the means to achieve a sense of competence takes some time. Again, particularly if we’re feeling optimistic, we could probably describe parenthood similarly.

When I went to London in 1988 with my brand new passport, my baggage was the heaviest among all of my friends. The excessive size of my luggage embarrassed me and caused me consider the discomfort of being responsible for a big, heavy bag. I don’t travel like that anymore. I no longer am willing to be responsible for carrying anything that is extraneous.

On our first trip together, Liam was about 5 months old. I remember organizing the transportation to the airport – a shuttle bus that made one stop in Kingston before heading to JFK, and climbing on board with my baby, luggage and breast pump without a moment’s hesitation. We landed in Dublin, got into a rental car and immediately drove west across the country to meet a friend who had decided to join us on our adventure and would be arriving the next day in Shannon. I had no reluctance or fear. It’s a big world and I was (and remain) convinced that my job as a parent was to introduce my children to as much of it as possible.

This summer Liam and I plan to visit 4 cities in 3 countries. It will be his 8th trip to Europe, something I’m kind of proud of considering my own travel abroad experiences didn’t begin until I was older than he is now. I know there will be moments when I feel stressed by the challenges involved with navigating an unknown city or transit system, but Liam has developed a great sense of direction and understanding of maps and he will be a big help. We’ll stretch our legs, figure out how to get to where we want to be, carry with us only what we need and do our best to learn by witnessing how other people live. I’m already getting excited.

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