So - we decided to take a trip. To Europe. For 17 days. After some debate, we got tickets to fly into London and out of Frankfurt. As for the time and distance in between, we couldn't make up our minds. Here's how the trip finally worked out:

Saturday, 2 November 2002:
  • 11:30am - arrive at London Heathrow Airport and navigate to our Bed and Breakfast located just a few blocks from Victoria Station.
  • After a brief catnap to ward off jetlag, we venture out into the rainy London night to find Soho.
  • Somehow, we manage to take the "long" route from our room to Soho. On the way, we happen to find Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square and other lost tourists.
  • An evening of fish, chips and beer at the many fascinating bars in Soho follows.

Sunday, 3 November 2002:
  • The day begins with a walking tour of London's Westminster area; Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Jermyn Street, Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace, Royal Palaces and Soho Square.
  • 'Set Lunch' at local restaurant.
  • Walk back through Soho Square, run into the Premier viewing for the Harry Potter movie: people and TV crews everywhere.
  • Stumbled upon the Queen's Mounted Guard Houses.
  • Sauntered past 10 Downing Street.
  • A ride on the London Eye.
  • Visit to the Tower of London, Tower Bridge and the current London City Hall.

Monday, 4 November 2002:
  • Attempt to find Harrod's, and manage to 'find' Buckingham Palace again on the way.
  • Explore the 6 floors of Harrod's, including the grocery floor.
  • Tour Natural History Museum and Science Museum to view James Bond exhibit.
  • Relax in yet another pub to partake in more cider.

Tuesday, 5 November 2002:
  • Board Chunnel Train to Paris and spend 2 hours in a self-led crash course on French.
  • Navigate the Paris subway to the Eiffel Tower.
  • Ascend the Tower and observe the view at dusk.
  • Explore the streets surrounding the Eiffel Tower and partake in dinner at a streetside cafe.
  • Board night train to Nice.

Wednesday, 6 November 2002:
  • Tour of Nice's sites: the port, an old monastery and the hills above the town.
  • Walk on Mediterranean Beach.
  • Dine at streetside cafe and walk through the street shops.
  • After some struggle and anticipation, we find the correct trains to take us to Genova, Italy to spend the night.
  • Partake in a delightful Italian meal - the best food we have had to this point on the trip.

Thursday, 7 November 2002:
  • Board the 'milk train' to Cinque Terre.
  • Arrive in Vernazza. Emillio approaches us at the train station and offers us, in very rough English, a room to stay.
  • Explore the streets of Vernazza and climb the many, many steps to Castello Doria. Stop along the way to pet all the free-roaming cats.
  • Sit on the jetty and watch the waves roll in and the fishing boats row out.
  • Enjoy a serving of yummy gelato.
  • Hike the trail along the cliffs from Vernazza to Monterosso, climbing through the olive trees and grape vines along the way.
  • Explore Monterosso for several hours, then wait for the train back to Vernazza. While at the train station, we observe a group of very energetic game-goers cruise through the station on the train headed into Genova.
  • Wait until 7:15 for the restaurant in Vernazza to open. Once at a table, we order a bottle of the local wine, 5 Terre - a white. We partake in meals consisting of freshly caught fish direct off a row boat and pasta dishes dressed with pesto made from fresh local basil. We have read that this area is the birthplace of pesto, and we have to say that we have never tasted better anywhere.
  • Cross the square and enter a bar filled with locals watching a football playoff game. We quietly observe the group of men from the back of the bar. We notice that the opposing teams are wearing the same colors as the rowdy group we saw on the train a few hours earlier.

Friday, 8 November 2002:
  • More exploration of Vernazza and a stop at a local grocer for a selection of local cheese, bread and raisins (grapes) for lunch.
  • A ride on the milk train to Riomaggiore, where we hike through the town and stop at a cliffside bar for a last glass of local wine.
  • We catch the milk train once again to La Spezia, to locate the train to Rome.
  • While onboard the train to Rome, we notice that it gets fuller and fuller the closer we get to Rome. By the time we are finally there, the train is packed with people playing cards in the hallways outside the compartments. With the help of the Italian-speaking locals, we locate the main train stop in the center of Rome.
  • Again, with the help of a local, we easily find a hotel for the night. Dodging the traffic is also easy, although still hair-raising, with the assistance of a local.
  • We head out to find a place for dinner and once again discover delicious Italian food the likes we've never had before.
  • We then attempt to find a bar to hang out in for the night. This isn't quite so easy to locate, and we eventually find ourselves in an Irish Pub...

Saturday, 9 November 2002:
  • A trip past the Vatican to St. Peter's Basilica is first order, including a trip down to St. Peter's tomb and up through the claustrophobic dome stairways for a birdseye view of the city.
  • After lunch, a taxi ride takes us to the area around the Pantheon, where we meander through the tiny streets and various churches.
  • A good, long walk leads us to the Victor Emmanuel Monument and Museum.
  • After leaving the museum, we saunter through the Forum as dusk sets in.
  • On our way back to the hotel, we pass the Colosseum and view it from the outside.
  • After a short rest in the hotel, we venture out to explore another area of town to find dinner and a Trattoria (bar).

Sunday, 10 November 2002:
  • First order of this day is to tour the Colosseum- and it's so much bigger than we ever imagined!
  • After the Colosseum, we head to the Forum and manage to find a free tour in progress, which helps us to understand and piece together the history that surrounds us.
  • A long walk down Via Veneto leads us to Santa Maria della Immaculata Concezione and the Cappuccin Crypt beneath it.
  • The evening is spent on a night walk across Rome, leading us from Trastevere, past the Trevi Fountain, to dinner near the Spanish Steps.

Monday, 11 November 2002:
  • We board an early train to Pompeii, with a brief stop in Naples.
  • Following a short cab ride to the ruins, we spend the remainder of the day exploring the old cobble stone streets, which cover more ground than we ever expected.
  • At sundown, we take a train back to Naples and spend a couple of hours exploring the streets around the train station.
  • About 10pm, we head back to the train station to board a night train to Venice. This particular train is extremely roomy and very nice. We sleep in comfort.

Tuesday, 12 November 2002:
  • We arrive in Venice at 6am. Of course, nothing is open at this hour, so we spend a bit of time getting lost (and I do mean lost) in the streets and the cold.
  • Eventually we give up on finding our way by foot and board a Vaporetto (water taxi) to carry us down the Grand Canal to Piazza San Marco.
  • We tour through St. Mark's Basilica and stop to view the treasures found therein.
  • Next we explore the interior of Doge's Palace.
  • After a lunch break, we manage to 'sneak' into a guided group tour of the Murano glass blowing factory.
  • The afternoon is spent partially with the Pigeons on Piazza San Marco.
  • The rest of the afternoon is spent riding the Vaporetto up and down the Grand Canal and walking the streets of the city.
  • After dinner, we board another night train, this one taking us North through the Austrian Alps to Munich.

Wednesday, 13 November 2002:
  • We awake in Munich around 8am. Because we hadn't studied up on our German or the the sites to see in Munich, we spend an hour getting acquainted with the area over breakfast at a restaurant in the train station.
  • Luckily, we decide that our first order of business should be to find a place to stay for the night. We quickly learn that a huge technology convention, similar to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, has just started and rooms are extremely scarce. Because it was early in the day, we eventually find a room at a Hostel.
  • We head out to the Deutsches Museum, Germany's answer to the Smithsonian. The place is huge and it takes us hours to see just a fraction of the exhibits.
  • The next stop is the BMW Museum, where we manage to see a Z4 in action - weeks before they are actually released for sale.
  • Dinner this evening is at the Hofbrauhaus, a famous, gigantic, touristy beer hall filled with Polka bands, liter beer steins, surly beer maids and the best German food anywhere. We share our table with two local business men.
  • After a walk around Marienplatz, the oldest part of Munich, we find another beer hall, Weisses Brauhaus. This is a more local beer hall, just as large but more laid back.

Thursday, 14 November 2002:
  • The first order of business is to pick up our rental car - a Volkswagen Gulf. Finally - freedom!
  • The next difficult task is to learn how to drive - a feat that took both of us to figure out!
  • We head out of town towards the German-Austrian border. Our primary order for the day is to tour Neuschwanstein Castle, deep in the heart of Bavaria. This castle was built in the mid to late 1800's by King Ludwig II, a.k.a. "Mad" King Ludwig. The Alps are gorgeous and the castle is worth every bit of the drive.
  • As darkness begins to set in, we head off through the Austrian Alps to find Salzburg. It's starting to rain and the temperature is right around 32 degrees. Even without these conditions, learning to cope with the German/Austrian drivers in the Alps is a very hair-raising event!
  • We arrive safely in Salzburg and find a hotel. Then we meander through the Old Town to find dinner and a few drinks.

Friday, 15 November 2002:
  • After a good German breakfast at our hotel, we ride a funicular up the mountain to visit the Hohensalzburg fortress. The views are spectacular.
  • We wander back through Old Town to view it by daylight before heading off to the parking garage (cave) to retrieve our car.
  • Next, we experience our first 'true' autobahn experience - miles of unregulated highway. Kurt just can't get enough!
  • Eventually we arrive in Rothenburg, Germany's best-preserved medieval walled town. We find a cozy bed and breakfast inside the city walls and set out to find another excellent German restaurant.
  • After a few beers and a little time in an Internet Cafe, we call it a night.

Saturday, 16 November 2002:
  • After a tour of the town by daylight, we head out on the autobahn once again, to find Frankfurt.
  • Upon arriving in the city, we manage to find the Old Town district, not far from downtown. After a bit of walking around, we stop at a cafe for lunch.
  • The next order of business - find a geocache! Unfortunately, we spend several hours driving around the city, learning it well but not finding a single geocache.
  • When it gets dark, we head to downtown to find a hotel for the night. Dinner is at a small restaurant several blocks away, followed by a few drinks at a 'sports bar', where we watched another European football game.

Sunday, 17 November 2002:
  • Only one thing to do today before heading to the airport: PLANT a geocache and drop off four travel bugs, since we couldn't find a cache the day before. We plant the 'temporary' cache in a park near the airport.
  • Sadly, all that's left to do is turn in our rental car and check into the airport.
  • We arrive back in Kansas City after the LONG plane ride home. Ah... home sweet home.

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