This is the first in a two-part series of columns by Gayle Gennett detailing her recent tour of Europe.
We did it! We returned home from Europe unscathed and upright but not without a few minor mishaps. I was locked in our hotel room in Lausanne, Switzerland. My husband woke early to experience the fresh air of Lausanne and to watch people rush to work when he didn't have to. When he returned an hour later we communicated through a small crevice near the locked door. I was trying to talk quietly as it was still very early in the morning. I felt certain from my husband's frustration (his voice was getting louder) that he thought I was making it up when I said I couldn't open the door. I was trying to explain that I bolted the door when he left and then I heard an unnerving clunk. I realized the bolt had broken from the door that was now securely keeping me very safe and sound in a 12 by 10 foot room. A room clearly built over 300 years ago. I kept calm knowing I didn't need to catch a plane or train and felt surely a handsome fireman would greet me at my window before it was time for lunch. After the locksmith tried his best with his entire set of fine tools, he turned to his crow bar and 'voila' I was free. I was also educated with new French words from my hero who alas was not a hunky fireman.
It was hard to say goodbye to the quiet beauty of Switzerland with its graceful Alps dusted with snow. A boat trip across the clear and sparkling Lake Geneva followed by lunch in Evian was just what I needed to unwind from the eight-hour flight. Onward and forward the Euro Rail carried us to Italy where we stayed in both Milan and Venice. My goal was to ride on a gondola and see the canals of Venice up front and personally. The driver approached me as he guessed what was on my mind. His charming dark looks, buffed arms and sporting a red and white striped shirt told me I arrived in Venice. He tossed his cap aside and we set sail on the canals. He was very kind, knew a little English, but would not humor me with singing 'O Sole o Mio' even when I offered extra Euro.
The views of Italy are as beautiful as the ones I had been looking at on my screen saver for the past year. Were we really here? St. Mark's Square was spectacular in person and taking in all of the architecture, cafe's, bicycles and gondolas made my heart sing. I actually enjoyed watching the pigeons scouring for bread crumbs when years earlier I compared them to our Northern Michigan seagulls and murmured unkind words to describe them. The experience felt like being on a movie set and I half expected Audrey Hepburn to show up any minute.
We traveled light with one carry on a piece and kept close company with good friends who were brave enough to allow us to tag along. Neither my husband nor I have the ability to find destinations easily and it was helpful to have friends with a good sense of direction and the ability to follow a subway map. Having friends to travel with also makes a great buffer when your spouse is tired and cranky. I highly recommend it.
I'd return to Venice in a heartbeat because of the quiet pace which contrasted the lively markets and of course the abundance of beautiful glassware. After four days in Italy we grabbed our small bags which seem to be growing heavier with each country visited. Hmmm, can I really buy that much chocolate? This saga continues with my next article. Until then, au revoir.