My family and I just returned from a two week, if it’s Tuesday it must be Venice, death march through Europe. We packed as much stuff as possible into a two week “vacation.” My wife and I thought this might be the best time to introduce our teenage kids to people who don’t think that the world rotates around North America and, perhaps, to teach them that important things happened before 1620.
The trip was great, although my kids are now convinced that there are as many churches and museums in Europe as there are people. It was fun to see there reaction to all things – big and small. From my son’s disappointment with the postage stamp size of the real Mona Lisa to my daughter’s jaw dropping at the massive size of St. Peter’s.
My kids also think that I’m the most unreasonable father on the face of the planet since I made them leave all their communication gear, including cell phones and computers, at home. Somebody call Child Protective Services, I clearly should be in shackles.
After two weeks, we’re all a little tired of the travel and the memories of the sites and experiences are all sorta blurring together – which Roman emperor had those baths constructed? Was it King Henry XIII or Napoleon Bonaparte?
It was easy to keep in touch with the US, though. My daily (sometimes even more frequent) visits to ATMs always helped me remember home. I first took money out with a shovel. By the end, I was withdrawing it with a dump truck. It’s not just that the exchange rates are out of control, stuff throughout Europe is just plain expensive, especially in the big cities.
I’m no travel neophyte, I’ve been to Europe on business and vacation dozens of times and never felt this raped before. I spent half the GNP of many countries south of the equator on this trip and I’ve worn out the magnetic strip on my American Express card.
Even though I’m going to have to sell a car or kidney to pay for the trip, I think we all got a lot out of it. Loads of great sites and experiences. One, in particular, will stick with us for a long time. While visiting the Vatican, our tour guide was able to grease the appropriate palms to get us behind the scenes of the Sistine Chapel.
Just the four of us plus our guide and a Papal underling (the recipient of the aforementioned bribe). We first went into the Sacristy, connected to the Chapel and which I sacrilegiously refer to as the Papal locker room (really, that’s what it looks like with it’s 500 year old vertical wood lockers where stuff is stored). All the Pope’s robes and bling are there. Shockingly, we were allowed to handle a lot of current and past Pope’s accouterments. At one point, the underling removed a huge gold cross from a cabinet and hung it around my daughter’s neck proclaiming, in Italian of course, that it was the cross that Pope John Paul II wore when giving mass. The Queen of England has all her stuff behind 12″ of Plexiglas, surrounded by guards with Uzis. I guess the Pope has God watching to make sure a 15 year old girl doesn’t break for the exits with his priceless jewels.
We spent about an hour touring others rooms connected to the chapel including what appeared to be the private Pope museum with robes, chalices and tiaras (those pointy hats the Pope wears) plus other memorabilia from the last, geez, I dunno, 15 centuries or so. Totally mind blowing.
On the flight home, I asked my kids what they remembered most from the trip. Even after the experience we had at the Vatican, they both agreed that it was, ” the amount of walking you made us do.” I can only hope that their memories of our journey grow better with time and that helps them understand why I wiped out their college funds to pay for the trip.