The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

WEEKENDER / Entertainment

November 23, 2012

Long way from home

Getting the maximum out of tours of Italy, the Vatican, Switzerland, France, England


Wherever we went, until we hit London, we were whisked into establishments and given the cook’s tour by experts. At the Vatican, we were given time to be shushed by guards at the Sistine Chapel. We got to see (and photograph) the body of Pope John Paul II. We experienced the ornate majesty of the Vatican.

From Florence to Venice to Verona, Italy is a beautiful country steeped in history and culture with its ancient districts with alleys for streets that date a thousand years. Not that an errant motorcycle or little car doesn’t drive through on occasion, requiring pedestrians to plaster themselves against buildings. Cars in Europe, especially Italy, are small because gasoline tops $6 per gallon. Last summer it hit $9 in France.

Nothing prepares you for the sites of Venice, when your boat taxi turns a corner and you get your first experience with the beautiful architecture mixed with waterways. Each corner brings another feast for the eyes.

If you imagined Switzerland as a giant fairytale scene come to life, with towns that look like they came from painted clocks and gorgeous scenes of the Alps, well, that’s exactly what Switzerland is. It is candy for the eyes, especially when you journey up the Alps. We stayed in Lucerne, but also spent an afternoon in a smaller community 40 kilometers away where we took horse and buggy rides to a farm where we had a lunch of local cheeses, wines and desserts and marveled at the country’s sexy cows. Yes, Switzerland is the home of the sexy cow.

A long bus trip the next day to Paris had us viewing the Eiffel Tower at night, then going up in the Eiffel Tower to the top to observe the beauty of the City of Lights. Stops the next day included Versailles outside of Paris, opulent  summer home of King Louis X1V, the sun king. It was taken over by the masses two kings later during the French Revolution.

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