John & Judy's France / Italy 2019 Trip travel blog

Our €120 coffee break

An excavation site in the middle of a busy intersection.

Trevi Fountain and the crowds.

Our beloved van




























When I travel, I find it is important to spend time reflecting on my journey and what I learned and experienced. So here are some of my thoughts and reflections I would like to share with you.

Terrorism and Security - At all historic sites in both Paris and Italy, there was a heavy police and military presence. These were armed men who strolled among the crowds. This is part of the EU’s security compliance requirements. At all sights we had to go through security screening similar to our airports. On the one hand, it was reassuring to see. But on the other, one can’t help wonder what has become of this world that countries have to do this to protect their historical icons and the people who visit them. I am thankful that I live in a peaceful country away from the constant threat of terrorism. I know that it exists here but in our travels to eastern Canada 2 years ago, I did not see armed military or police at any of our historical sites.

Driving - MamaMia. I am thankful that we have rules for driving and that drivers actually follow them. Once, we had a driver in Italy that had spent some time in Canada and we asked him where he preferred to drive. His response was in Italy because they have no rules. And the motor cycles are worse. They make up their rules as they go along. But it works for them. Surprisingly, as bad as it is, we never saw a single accident. Actually, towards the end, I think Robbie and John we’re getting to be just like the Italian drivers and enjoying it.

Tourist crowds - everywhere we went, the crowds of tourists were unbelievable and I know - we were some of them. We did start out getting early starts each day and tried to maintain that as the crowds were less in the morning. However, I can see why cities such as Venice are seriously thinking of limiting the number of visitors. I am sure it has changed life for the locals and also made things more expensive for them. We were told rent in Rome for an apartment can be around €5000/mth. Who can afford that? Our guide for the Vatican said he couldn’t afford to live in Rome so lived in a town about 50 mns away. We had skip the line tickets in Paris bought online. But we didn’t in Italy so we either missed seeing it or stood in line for over an hour just to buy tickets let alone the security lines. The photo of the Trevi Ftn shows what it was like. John could not get one of the whole fountain without a hundred people in it.

History - when seeing these ancient historical sights and the history surrounding them, it makes one realize how young our country of Canada is. I hope we maintain our historical sights as well, as time goes on. Understanding the history of what went on there, helps to create a better understanding of our past which hopefully transfers to making better decisions for our future. It was very moving to be able to visit Vimy Ridge and hear of the terrible conditions our soldiers fought under during the First World War. It was made more meaningful for all of us when we saw the name of Robbie’s relative on the memorial.

Smoking - we were all amazed at the number of people who still smoke and smoke everywhere. Fortunately, we were able to get accommodations that were non-smoking but that same opportunity did not exist in restaurants, coffee shops, stores or anywhere else. I can’t believe in this day of education about the harms of smoking, there are so many people still smoking. Furthermore, especially in Italy, people made no effort to put their cigarette butt in an appropriate place. They just dropped them wherever they were. We even saw one fellow, who had an ashtray on his table, flick his butt onto the street. When going up the steps of the metro, they were littered with butts. All this makes an area look dirty.

Graffiti- everywhere in Italy buildings are covered with graffiti. Some of it looks like graffiti art but a lot is just black painted graffiti. Metal covers over shop windows are covered in graffiti also as well as the metro trains. This was everywhere in Italy but never more prevalent than in Rome. It is a real shame to have all the buildings in a city like this, defaced in such a way. It makes it look very dirty also.

Metro transit - Both Paris and Rome had a very good metro system. Rome however, only had two lines and are in the process of building a third. They want more, but every time they begin to tunnel they hit an archeological site and have to stop. (See photo) We did try the bus and tram system in Rome and got a scenic tour. We managed to find our way back home. All memorable experiences. Traveling on the metros, one was able to see the diverse ethnic makeup of Europe. What was great to see were these groups of people intermingling and communicating with each other in a perfectly natural manner.

Cost - This Trip was very expensive. Eating in restaurants particularly was expensive with restaurants charging a service charge of 2 to 3 euros each person on top of the high prices for the plates. Furthermore, the portions were extremely small. However, our biggest shock was stopping for a coffee break just outside the Vatican. We wanted coffee and a pastry. They said they only had dessert. So we each ordered a cannoli (chocolate covered rolled wafer with a ricotta cheese filling). It came with a scoop of ice cream, a dollop of whipped cream and a small amount of fruit salad. Six desserts and seven cappuccinos- €120. That is $180 Cdn. (See photo) A glass of wine was 5 to 8 euros. Needless to say, we prepared a lot of meals and drank a lot of wine in our accommodations.

Languages - As with other trips, I was amazed with the number of Europeans we met who could speak at least one more language fluently. Communicating was never a problem for us. People who said they spoke a little English did a far better job than I did with my little French. We should all be encouraging our grandchildren to learn another language. It will make for a better world as we use the language to understand each other’s culture.

Traveling companions - All of our experiences - good, bad, funny, spectacular, - all make for a memorable trip. But it is now just that - a memory. (And a big bill). Yes, it cost heaps. But, the friendship and comraderie of our traveling companions, however, is priceless.

And that’s all folks. Hope you have enjoyed the tales of our journey and John’s photos. The first few photos are in relation to this blog. The remaining photos are John’s photography. This trip he did not take his big camera and used his iPhone exclusively for the photos. Sorry, no people. Enjoy.

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