such grand plans

July 8, 2010

I had such grand plans.

Plans to post from each new place we visited on our trip. (But we didn’t always have internet. And three of us with computers had to share we one Northern European adapter. Plus, there wasn’t always time for blog posts: we were on vacation.)

I had plans to keep a journal as we traveled. (When the kids were younger, we all kept great travel journals. We’d sit in cafés in Paris and write in our journals and glue in empty sugar packets. The kids drew pictures of Picasso’s art, and I listed the meals we ate. But somehow it was harder this time, keeping an eighteen-year-old and a fourteen-year-old and an eight-year-old happy all at once.  We didn’t do a lot of lingering in cafés–unless there happened to be free Wi-Fi, in which case everyone was happy to linger. The ever-resourceful Lulu did, however, manage to keep a journal with admirable diligence on this trip.)

I had plans to–at the very least–jot down notes as we went. I’ve always appreciated Pico Iyer’s advice that one ought to write down first impressions of a place right away, while everything seems new. (Did I do it? Nope. And I call myself a writer. Sheesh.)

We’ve been home for a week. I had big plans of catching up, posting about the places I hadn’t blogged about yet: Ribe, Denmark; Munich; Salzburg. (But two days after we got home–when Mr. T was still jet-lagged enough to wake up every night at 2:00 a.m. and stay up the rest of the night playing–we left again, for a long holiday weekend at the lake with family. Which was relaxing and all, but it didn’t leave me any time to catch up in this space.)

The trouble with grand plans is that they freeze you up, and make it impossible to accomplish anything. I wasn’t sure how to catch up here. Should I post about the places I hadn’t written about yet; should I post about traveling with kids in general? Should I write about how this trip was bittersweet–the last before H. goes to college, and the first in which he’d have preferred to be home with his friends rather than traveling with us?

I finally decided to stop planning this post and to just write it. Plow forward with a few highlights of the rest of the trip as they come to me, before I forget them–since I didn’t take Pico’s advice when I should have.

So, random highlights from the rest of the trip:

Making dinner in our little kitchen nook, in our bed & breakfast in Ribe, Denmark, with nothing more than a tiny toasting grill. Open-faced sandwiches, green salad and Greek salad. Not very Scandinavian of us–but we were craving veggies. * Eating it in the gorgeous courtyard garden, which we could only get to by walking out our small front door, going down the cobble-stoned street and around the corner, and through a fence. We finally hit on the idea of passing our plates out the bathroom window.

not so danish dinnerdanish garden

Visiting the original Legoland in Billund, Denmark and being just as amazed that so many kids in one place could have blond hair as we were with the Lego models of the world’s cities. And amazed too at the fact that Ben and Jerry’s is a big hit in Scandinavia. There’s something funny about hearing Scandinavians order Cherry Garcia * Being in Ribe for their midsummer celebration, which involves having everyone in town follow a woman dressed as a witch alongside the river, as the sun begins begins to set at 9:30 p.m., while local children dressed in old-fashioned rags berate her in Danish, and then everyone gathers to sing a song about some fellow named Sankte Hans, and watches a scarecrow-replica of the witch lady get shot down a zipline across the river into a great bonfire (and, apparently, as the old lore dictates, back to Germany.)

badgering the witchburning the witch in denmark

Re-watching The Darjeeling Limited with Chris and H on H’s computer before our own sleeper train overnight to Germany. Sweet lime, anyone? * Finding out, on said sleeper train, that sleeper train compartments sleep six, while we are a family of five. Which meant, of course, that someone (who came to be known as The Stranger) would be joining us to sleep. This freaked the kids utterly out. Turns out that The Stranger didn’t board the train until 12:30 a.m., after we had already gone to bed. Although I did mumble a little awkward hi in the dark as he stowed his backpack under my bunk. He climbed up the ladder and on to his upper bunk, and then disembarked before the kids woke up. Although I woke up when he left. And couldn’t help singing to myself lines from the old Supertramp song: Goodbye stranger, it’s been nice… * Drinking 1-liter large steins in a Munich beer garden, and watching the locals carefully salt and then eat heaping plates of shaved white radishes. Next time I’m trying those.

half a liter to gogiggling at the beer garden

Commenting on a few favorite blogs in the Apple store in Munich as Chris waited in a very long line to buy an iPad cover. * Seeing the beautiful sanctuaries built in recent years at the concentration camp at Dachau, to promote peace and healing.

catholic sanctuary at dachausynagogue at dachau

Watching Lulu try on dirndls. She decided not to buy one, but not until the salesgirl had tied at least fifteen different-colored silk aprons around Lulu’s waist, one after the other, searching for the perfect shade. * Seeing the German team win their World Cup game against England in a beer garden, and then watching the Muncheners take over a wide boulevard to parade and party and celebrate.

they won!celebrating muncheners

Discovering that the laundry room in our hotel had a vending machine with giant bottles of cold bubble water for 80 euro cents. There was a heat wave in Munich, and we couldn’t get enough of that cold, cheap bubble water. The machine also sold big bottles of beer for one euro each! * Taking Mr. T to the modern art museum on Sunday morning while the older kids slept.

modern designpart of the art

Leaving H behind with a high school friend who’s in Munich for the summer, while the other four of us took the two-hour train ride to Salzburg, Austria for the Sound of Music tour. (Lulu’s choice.) Saw many of the film’s sites while our tour guide charmed us with his sounds-exactly-like-Arnold-Schwarzenegger accent and his lederhosen. I wish you could hear how he said streudel. Sht-ryoo-del. * Taking a break from the Von Trapp sites for an exhilarating summer luge ride down a mountainside metal chute.

I am fourteen going on fifteenwhere they sang doe a deer

Finding out, for the 11-hour plane ride home, that the plane had been overbooked, and we’d been bumped up to business class. Private compartments, seats that reclined to beds, chilled silverware and food that actually tasted good. What a way to end a trip.

bumped up to business class!

And so ends a trip which began as yet another grand plan. I’ll never forget the sunny hej hej we got from all the Stockholmers (it means hello and sounds like hey hey) and I’ll never forget the young Munchener who teased us when he thought we were English, after the Germans beat the English soccer team. We talked to him for a minute amidst the celebratory crowds and he whispered confessionally to Chris, “We’re a new generation. Not for Hitler.” It surprised us. We thought he knew that we knew that–that we’ve known it for decades.

No matter how carefully you plan a trip, you never know quite what will happen, or what will stay with you in the end. Which is one of the very best parts of traveling.

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

molly July 8, 2010 at 1:37 pm

it all sounds and looks wonderful! the picture of you and lulu is fab. interesting how wi-fi and electronic devices have changed travel. glad you’re back home!

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patricia July 9, 2010 at 8:27 am

It is interesting how wi-fi etc. has changed travel. I probably didn’t keep a travel journal because I spent more time uploading photos and writing the three posts that I did. I’m not sure how I feel about that. It’s great to have a public record with photos, I suppose–but I miss having my own personal journal to look back on.

Blogging also keeps me from writing in my own journal as much as I’d like to. And that’s a real loss! Hmm…I feel a blog post coming on.

(But maybe I should write about it in my journal first.)

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janet July 10, 2010 at 7:39 am

Hi Tricia, While is David is on the phone with your hubbie this morning I am milling about on the WonderFarm. As always, you take such beautiful pictures and it was a treat to catch up through them. Enjoy the rest of your summer with the whole family together. It feels strange to not have Ollie around this summer….a taste of what is just around the corner for all of us….the emptying nest. J

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patricia July 13, 2010 at 7:28 am

I slept in on Saturday morning and missed the phone conversation altogether, or I would have said hello!

I read the Amigos update. It sounds like such a neat program! H was away for a month last summer, and I think it was a good way of getting ready for that ol’ emptying nest. I’m glad mine won’t empty all at once–I’m not sure I could handle it.

Hope you’re having a relaxing summer too!

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melissa s. July 10, 2010 at 8:39 am

I’m living a little vicariously through your words and pictures. It sounds (and looks!) like such a wonderful journey!!

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patricia July 13, 2010 at 7:32 am

It was a great trip. I love vicarious traveling too, so I’m glad you enjoyed it!

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Kristin July 10, 2010 at 9:11 am

Grand plans can create a sense of disappointment and an overwhelming feeling–and yet without them, there isn’t a goal to strive towards (for me at least). –Then there’s the idea of aiming to live “in the moment.”

I hope you didn’t worry too much about posting while you were on vacation. –Just the fact that you published two updates is a lot considering you were only gone 2.5 weeks. You’d have to be without family to do more–or do less exploring–and then why bother to go and not see anything? What we (readers) got was enjoyable and the photos seemed liked you were all living “in the moment.”

I always find introspection takes place after traveling–so I liked the honesty you shared in this post. Glad your back Amiga.

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patricia July 13, 2010 at 7:36 am

Actually I posted three times, so I don’t know what I’m kicking myself for! I think I regret not having much of a paper journal for this trip, more than the fact that I didn’t post more. I’m doing a lot of thinking about how technology changes things–even vacations!

And I agree with you about introspection taking place after traveling. It takes a while to let it all sink in, doesn’t it?

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Susan Paulkonis July 10, 2010 at 10:11 pm

Hm. So you mean you *had* fun, rather than *writing* about it? Weird concept.

As always, your pictures painted with words are as beautiful as your photos. So fun to read about it. And the German comment about Hitler breaks my heart. To have to feel like you need to say that must be a terrible burden.

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patricia July 13, 2010 at 7:41 am

I know, it sounds a little ridiculous when you put it that way! I’m just such a record-keeper: I worry too much will slip away if I don’t write it down. But I have the photos!

The comment about Hitler broke my heart too. Really surprised me. It was one of those travel moments where a real connection happened that changed how I look at the world.

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Jeanine E July 11, 2010 at 3:19 pm

I loved your travel synopsis. I’ve been skipping past it on my google reader for a longer set of moments to really read and enjoy it all. I think that although you had planned on blogging more, sometimes really living without documenting is important. And as a previously-well-traveled person, I wonder how much things will have changed even further by the time I get back on the road (have had three little ones these past five years…so limited travels). I always carried a journal but usually only wrote in it before bed every other day. Computers are changing so much of the way we all experience life. Can’t wait to read more of your thoughts on this topic…eventually. Welcome home!

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patricia July 13, 2010 at 7:45 am

I’m glad you enjoyed reading about our trip, Jeanine. That makes the time I took to post worth it!

I still have so many thoughts swirling around about the desire to document/to live without documenting/ to document publicly/to document privately. Funny how a vacation can set that off.

Thanks for taking the time to say hello!

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Barrie July 12, 2010 at 1:55 pm

Lovely! I, like other posters, am glad that you actually enjoyed yourself instead of spending too much time writing about it, and liked reading your impressions after having time to digest your experiences.

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patricia July 13, 2010 at 7:47 am

It all sounds so silly in retrospect. But as a chronic record-keeper, these are the things that nag at me!

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Just Peaches July 12, 2010 at 4:47 pm

Almost twenty years ago when my husband and I were just newly wed we took a trip to Manhattan. We didn’t have much money but we did some window shopping and browsed through the stores. We stopped in a Persian carpet store to admire the rugs. A salesman approached us and asked us which one we wanted to buy. We told him we weren’t planning to buy a carpet we were just looking. He chuckled and said:

“Man plans and God laughs”

Well, that saying has stuck with me because I am a PLANNER – I can’t help myself. Lists and lists of would-like-tos, must-dos and should-dos. But you know life is a little like a trip isn’t it? To quote a great writer: “No matter how carefully you plan (it), you never know quite what will happen, or what will stay with you in the end. Which is one of the very best parts “.

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patricia July 13, 2010 at 7:50 am

Being a planner is a blessing and a curse, isn’t it?

I’m squirreling away the rug salesman’s quote. It’s a good one. I’ll try to remember that when I get plan-crazed.

And oh, how I love to be quoted. 😉

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Nicole July 13, 2010 at 4:32 am

Cannot tell you how excited I am to come across your site! Just over two years ago, I pulled my girls from their school a month before school let out for the Summer and began to homeschool – without ever having met a homeschooler. While picking up lunch that week at Whole Food, I saw a homeschooling article advertised on the cover of a magazine … it was your article in Mothering. I devoured it, felt vindicated for my decision to home school and filed it away … and then I found it yesterday. I decided to look up your name – and here I am, and I am THRILLED!
and I just added this trip of yours to my bucket list 🙂

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patricia July 13, 2010 at 7:55 am

I’m glad you found me, Nicole! It’s especially gratifying to hear back from people who’ve read the Mothering piece. You generally get so little feedback from a published article. Sounds like the magazine met you at the right time! And it’s good to hear that homeschooling is working out for your family.

Thanks so much for stopping by and for taking the time to say hello!

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