As we have prepared to return home, we have talked about our favorite things on this 3 week tour that included 6 countries (5 of them first time visits for each of us), 15 UNESCO cultural/ heritage sites, numerous amazing and interesting meals, cultural lectures, discussions about maps and directions (I'm pretty sure I was mostly right) and time to talk about our family, our future and the most remarkable world in which we live.
My top 10 list is a little different than Sheila's because she previously visited some of the places that were first time experiences for me. So my list, which is pretty close to Sheila's, would be as follows:
1. At the top of our list is Chelsea's graduation from the University of London. We are so proud of her. A chance to celebrate the life and achievements of such a remarkable daughter was a moment that we will always cherish.
2. Evensong at St. Paul's Cathedral in London. Sheila has been there before. It is such a beautiful place, with music that stirred the soul.
3. Tea. I narrowed this down to 2 different tea events, both herbal, of course: Tea at the Orangery at Kensington Palace and Tea at a small tea shop in Stow on the Wold. Both of these events felt quaint, intimate and very English. The gardens were beautiful and the architecture and ambiance of these places were over the top for me.
4. Hot Chocolate in Brugges and in general hanging out in one of the coolest cities that I have ever visited.
5. Bath and the Roman baths in Bath. Historic and beautiful and fun. I would like to hang out here and read and relax and see how long it would take me to get bored. My guess is that I could make it for at least two weeks.
6. The Cathedral at Aachen. It's more than just the beauty of this place; it's the history. Charlemagne lived here; it was the beginning of the Holy Roman Empire; over 30 German kings and emperors were crowned here. Is that historic enough?
7. The classical music concert at St. George's Basilica in Prague. The venue for this amazing music was an 11th century edifice. Need I say more?
8. The Rhine river drive. It was everything I assumed Germany would be.
9. The food: Flemish stew, Belgium fries, escargots, borst, gulash, svickova, currywurst, wiener schnitzel, hot chocolate, chocolate, chocolate croissants, chocolate waffles, Belgium waffles, Liege waffles, etc. We enjoyed French, Czech, Italian, Dutch, German and English cuisines. We ate duck, lamb, fish of every variety, beef, veal, sausage and chicken. We only had one bad meal (in Brugges), but when you're spending $100 per dinner, you expect something good.
10. The Anne Frank house in Amsterdam. It reminded me of the importance of keeping a journal and what a journal is really about. Fortunately, none of us will likely ever have to face a situation like Anne Frank where her journal became a voice from the grave documenting something as horrific as the Holocaust, but there is a simpler beauty in her words that all of us can learn from--simply record the words of our life; our hopes, our thoughts and our dreams. It doesn't matter how inarticulate we might feel. Our words, honestly expressed, will be of infinite worth to our children, grandchildren, and in particular, those even further down the road. I am sure they will marvel at what we observed and felt in our every day lives.
The Rhine river.
Finding our way through various countries.
Amazed at every turn.
The Charles Bridge in Prague.
A Dickensian view from our hotel room in London.
A pilgrimage to the grave site of J.R.R. Tolkien by two super LOTR fans. I suppose I need not confirm that there were notes of appreciation written in Elven and left at the site by fellow pilgrims.
Camden market shoppers.
Chelsea and her classmates.
Chelsea and her proud parents.
Finally, through all of these travels, Sheila and I are most grateful for each other. We often have to pinch ourselves, and ask what we did to deserve the good fortunes and children with which we have been blessed. This has been such a profoundly rich experience for us and well worth the expense, as well as the time away from work, church and family.