European Trip through 3 Countries

I just concluded a three-country European trip. Boy, I needed that! As an avid traveler, the past 18 months of lockdown due to the pandemic has been difficult to endure.

This vacation started in Lake Como, Italy, a spectacular setting for a destination wedding of two close friends from Seattle. Lake Como is one of the most picturesque places that I’ve ever visited. Up in the mountains amongst the trees, there’s a large wishbone-shaped lake (3rd largest in Italy) with communities built along its coastline. No wonder that filmmakers from the James Bond and Star Wars series have come here to film parts of their movies. The striking and unique beauty of this place re-enforced to me that there is so much more of the world that still needs to be explored.

After the wedding, my wife and I stopped by Paris to enjoy the city of lights. We reminisced walking along the Seine River and across it’s renowned bridges. We watched the hustle and bustle of le Marais from sidewalk cafes. We ate comfort foods in brasseries and boulangeries. We avoided the extremely heavy tourist areas as much as possible, and enjoyed the opportunity to recharge ourselves, just trying to blend in. Paris has a vibrance that is unique to any other city in the world. The sidewalk cafes teem with edgy, stylish inhabitants. The streets are lined by classical baroque-style buildings.

The next stop was in the south of Spain, starting at Alicante, or more specifically, Elche. There, we met up with friends who are taking a 5-month sabbatical from their jobs in Seattle to live with the husband’s family. They just had a second child, and also have a toddler. Crudos to Manolo and Bea Rico for taking this very “Europeanesque” type of break to focus on the family.

Manolo & Bea enjoying a 5-month sabbatical in Spain

With the benefit of having these local guides, we really got to immerse ourselves into the local culture. We ate so well! I’m a big fan of paella, and we got to try three different types (fideua, rabbit & snails, and black squid ink). Each were different, but wonderful in its own way. So impressed, I committed right then, to someday try to replicate those dishes. Wish me luck. I’ll share with friends once I feel somewhat confident with my efforts.

We ate warm Spanish churros for breakfast, and ended up with chocolate smudges around our mouths. We had fresh sardines, anchovies, along with octopus, clams and variety of other treasures from the sea. I love the free tapas at bars whenever we just order a “fourth” of beer. It sure beats the salted peanuts that we may get back home. We enjoyed the pristine beaches, as well as the quaint towns with charming promenades. History was all around with ancient basilicas, cathedrals and museums. And, I love the pair of Pikolinos shoes that I bought. Spanish shoes are good!

Our hosts were so gracious and warm. One night, we stayed up in the family campo estate drinking, eating, drinking, eating, drinking until 2am, which was pretty incredible considering Manolo’s parents don’t speak English and no hablamos espanol. It did not matter. We thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company and bonded over several bottles of Condado de Haza 2015 and smokey grilled lamp chops.

At the campo estate with (from left) Antonio, Yago, me, Manolo

This trip reminded me once again, that if everyone COULD and WOULD travel, the world would be a much better place!