My First Trip To Europe

Watertown Travel Blog

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Florence, Italy 1998
When I was in junior high, I read a book about Michelangelo entitled The Agony & the Ecstacy. It was then and there that I fell in love with art and the Renaissance. I even imagined that I might be a great artist someday and convinced my parents to let me take art lessons. After 6 lessons, I (and my teacher, no doubt) concluded that I had no talent. But I still loved art and the Renaissance.
 
Years passed by and in 1998 I went to Europe for the first time, accompanied by 10 wonderful students, including my oldest son, Brian. I have many strong memories of that trip and I have a box full of photos. But oddly enough one of my strongest memories of the whole trip is captured in a fairly average photo. It is a group photo of us standing on the sidewalk that runs parallel to the Arno River in Florence, Italy.
Michelangelo's David
Most of us have broad smiles and some of us look somewhat dazed.
 
Why is this one of my favorite memories? At the moment the picture was taken we had all been up for nearly 36 hours having left Minneapolis the day before. But not one of us wanted to sleep. In fact I don't think we could have slept because we were all so excited by where we were - Florence, Italy - the birthplace of the Renaissance! Ten wide-eyed kids and one wide-eyed adult from Watertown, SD, posing casually by the Arno River as if it were an everyday thing. And this was just the first real day.
 
On that first trip we saw Michelangelo's David, we went to Rome, to Sorrento, to the Blue Grotto on the isle of Capri and to Pompeii. And we stood on the Acropolis in Athens. What a great trip!
 
A few weeks after I returned to Watertown, I ran in to a teacher who had herself travelled to Italy.
Brian and Me, Acropolis 1998
She knew that I traveling to Italy and Greece and wanted to know what my favorite part of the trip was. I might have said Florence, or the Colosseum or the Parthenon. Instead, and without hesitation, I said, "The kids." All of the things I saw were very special to me but what made the whole experience ultimately meaningful was sharing these experiences with young people who seemed just as amazed by the sights as I was.
 
I have been back to Europe with seven more groups of students and I would say that I felt the same about every group: I love standing in front of a European monument or landmark and hearing my students exclaim. And in about 40 days I will do it all again.
 
Travel Tip: A Free Glass of Water At Lunch?
Not likely. A glass of water is rarely complementary in a European restuarant - which is to say that you‚ will be charged. Also, if you sit down and they bring you a basket full of bread, you most likely will be charged for that, too. I don‚t think its wrong to ask how much something might cost, especially given how costly things can be for Americans right now in Europe. Incidentally, things may cost more if you eat at a street side table. To save a little money, go inside and sit at the counter. 
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Florence, Italy 1998
Florence, Italy 1998
Michelangelos David
Michelangelo's David
Brian and Me, Acropolis 1998
Brian and Me, Acropolis 1998
Watertown
photo by: esterrene