Author: Alvira, Marco

The European Punch List

Two months ago I wrote a column bemoaning the fact that my wife was forcing me to go on a 17 day European tour with her. As you might recall, I railed against airports, flying, crowded tourist sites, and almost any other possible peeve, whether imagined or real. You can probably infer that there wasn’t a whole lot of sympathy for my position, although my sentiments did seem to resonate with a few of you. Like the good pals that you are, however, most of you sided with my wonderful bride. She took great delight in reading over my shoulder the plethora of your admonishments via the Message Board, personal e-mails, Facebook postings, and yes even a couple of phone calls. Since our return, every time I run into any of you our there in the CBA community, the first words off your lips are, “How was Europe?” Following is a punch list of impressions and thought from our sojourn.

Italians are inherently elegant in style and form. Is there anything cooler than a beautiful Italian woman riding her bicycle to work in the early morning, her thin form outlined by a chic skirt and blouse, her colorful scarf fluttering in the cool breeze? Or an Italian man in his stylish slacks and black shoes with a perfectly cut coat and tie, puttering by on his Vespa on the way to early morning cafe?

Why must American tourists dress so poorly. Embarrassing… really.

Despite the seeming insanity of European drivers, cyclists appear far safer on roadways than their American counterparts. An awareness of of bicyclists and scooter operators seems to be ingrained in the psyche of most drivers (the French not withstanding). Maybe more of us Americans could fit into stylish Italian clothing as well if we walked and rode more bicycles.

While on the topic of bicycles, I was thoroughly impressed with how the Swiss go to great lengths to create safe, wide, brightly painted bike lanes that weave seamlessly in and out of major traffic lanes. I was equally impressed when I saw San Francisco doing something similar.

Even the Italian food I had at truck stops was superior to many of the best Italian restaurants I’ve been to in the States. Fresh fruit salads. Sauces, pasta, meat dishes and pastries made fresh…at the truck stops! Perfect cappuccinos…every time.

French pastries are the greatest. Their coffee is second to Italy.

Never order coffee or pastry in England…unless it’s a meat pie. Stick with tea.

Favorite city that I’ve ever been to: San Francisco, my birthplace and early home. City that takes my breath away: Paris. The French have an innate aesthetic sense. City I had never previously visited, yet feels like I’ve lived there before: Florence. At every turn there is priceless art in a piazza. Despite the massive tourist presence, I discovered seclusion when I wandered away from the crowds through small alleys that opened into secluded private courtyards, I had sense that I was in a different century. If I ever have only one more visit to Europe in me again, It would have to be Florence. (Don’t think anyone can ever get me on an 16 hour flight again)

Biggest surprise: Being in London for almost two hours before I heard an English accent. Still, It was awesome to visit the Mother Ship.

At some point in Oxford, I became weary of seeing very large stone buildings dedicated to something that were dedicated to somebody that did something important.

The Crown Jewels…those are some very big stones! And shiny too!

Gypsies…growing-up in Hayward, I had an antipathy toward them. They would steal the local grocery store blind. At school, nothing in your desk was safe. Seeing so many of them in Italy and France, nothing was done to change my feelings.

If you want to party, and loudly, hang out with guys from Liverpool.

I talked a lot of politics with folks. Seems like everyone is sick of their government. A real pandemic sentiment.

Rich folk have more in common with other rich folk across continents than they have in common with working class folk in their own country. Working class folk have more in common with other working class folk across continents than they have in common with rich folk in their own country.

The duration of ability to not touch a bluegrass instrument without going totally mad is exactly 17 days.

I learned that my ability to sit in an airplane is about 5.5 hours…about the amount of time it takes to fly across North America.

Posted:  8/3/2014

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