My recent trip to Europe would mark the first time in 11 years that I would return to the continent where some of the most memorable childhood memories were created. As I write this blog and count the 220 days since my mother passed, I’ve had moments of mixed emotions for the past few months. It’s been on an emotional rollercoaster with fluctuations of sadness and happiness. Gratitude and anger.
Traveling to Europe with my mom back then was a real treat, filled with educational moments and opportunities to drink from the “well of Hazel Lett”; which was filled deep with knowledge of travel, culture, food, etiquette, and fashion. We walked around London not knowing where trains would take us. We traveled from London to Paris not understanding any French. My mom was just crazy about flying, adventure and was a “culture junkie” that took those types of risks.
We got lost together; figured our way around together; cussed out some French people together; and we ate French banquets, shared French pastries and split meals together.
All of this at age 12 in 1996.
Fast forward to September 2018.
Samone and I went to Europe to pursue creative inspiration; my wife experiencing life through food and me experiencing beauty and design through the lens of my camera. We explored regions of France, the Swiss Alps, four different cities in Italy, Austria, Germany, The Netherlands, and Belgium. But we didn’t do it alone. Thanks to our amazing Expat Explore Tour Leader, Helena Kachellek we were able to see, do and experience so much as a group without breaking our bank accounts. The 12-Day Europe Escape Tour covered breakfast and hotels, and we purchased snacks and meals as needed.
The tour group met in Greenwich UK; an area southeast of London to check in, board the bus and head to Dover to take a boat across the river to Calais, France (pronounced “Ka Lee”). Plus we got to build quality relationships with some people along the way like Blanca, Carl, Prakriti, Jules, and Raul, who ended up being our traveling family for two weeks; watching and looking out for one another and sharing great memories together.
This Is Our Visual Diary. Enjoy!
Home to the Royal Observatory, the National Maritime Museum, the Old Royal Naval College including the fabulous Painted Hall, London’s cable car, Greenwich Market, Greenwich Park, and The O2 arena.
World-famous landmarks in Paris include the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, and Notre Dame Cathedral. The only place I didn’t get to check out was the Louvre, but I exchanged that for the opulence of The Palace of Versailles.
Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France
Palace of Versailles, France
The original residence was primarily a hunting lodge and private retreat for Louis XIII and his family, who reigned from 1610–43. In 1624 the king entrusted Jacques Lemercier with the construction of a château on the site. Its walls are preserved today as the exterior facade overlooking the Marble Court.
Rome, Italy – The Vatican / The Colosseum
We experienced the cuisine at the Alfredo alla Scrofa Restaurant. Walked the Spanish steps in Rome. Threw money in the Trevi Fountain to make a wish. Walked the halls of the Vatican and saw the Sistine Chapel (which we could not photograph). We got to see The Statue of Laocoön and His Sons in person. Walked throughout the Colosseum thinking about Russell Crowe’s character in the movie Gladiator. Took an authentic Italian cooking class and was mesmerized by the history and beauty of Rome.
Built by the Medici Family in the 13th Century. Florence has huge collections of famous artworks located at the Uffizi, Accademia, Pitti Palace, the Bargello and other places around the city. The Medici family was an Italian banking family and political dynasty. The family prospered gradually until it was able to fund the Medici Bank; the largest in Europe during the 15th century. This is the famous city that Kim Kardashian and Kanye West tied the knot in 2014.
Piazza del Duomo Piazza dei Miracoli, or “Piazza of Miracles” located in Pisa, Tuscany, Italy, is recognized as an important center of European medieval art and one of the finest architectural complexes in the world. One of the most heart moving works of art was the statue of the “Fallen Angel” by Polish sculptor Igor Mitoraj.
The Gondolas + River Canals + Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica of Saint Mark
The Rhine Valley, Germany
The fairy-tale world of legends, inspirations behind the Disney movies, and more robber-baron castles per square mile than anywhere else in Europe. We even got to learn about the home of the Ice Wine in Boppard Germany.
Holland + Belgium + Netherlands Region
Interlaken + Jungfrau Mountain, Switzerland
Interlaken is located at the base of the Jungfrau mountain and is a strategic travel destination for anyone who wishes to see a lot of the Jungfrau region of Switzerland. One train ride north will lead you to the mountains to see the snow cap mountains.