Jim's European Notes

reworked for clarity more than once!
This was originally planned as a day-by-day, continuously-updated journal of our trip. That failed swiftly for several reasons, most notably the inability to keep my baby computer charged. It sat unused for half of the trip due to a failure of either the 240v converter or the 110v plug. Despite all that, here is the story.
OK, first a little bit of background. Both my father and my monther's dad were born in Ireland, so a visit there has been a goal for all family members. Both sisters had been there before, and my brother Larry and I hoped to get there in the near future. We (and our spouses) had in fact agreed that we would both go at the same time and meet in Ireland. Therefore, when they announced at Christmas 2000 that they would see Europe in 2001, it was a sign that our time had come as well! While Larry and Julie made their plans, I hammered out a September trip that focused on Ireland but hit other Continental highlights as well. To sync with Larry in Ireland was at the top of the list, but then I became aware that Munich's Oktoberfest was also in reach. The final result was that our trips would be in reverse loops: Larry & Julie would begin in Germany in mid-August and end in Ireland, while our trip would begin in England and Ireland and end in Germany. Tickets, passports and rail passes were obtained, and on September 10 2001 the adventure began!

Irish Images!England and the Continent
big telescope at Birr Castle (Jim at left)
Clonmacnoise monastic ruins, high crosses
the Rock of Dunamase ruins
Larry and Julie at Kytlers Inn, Kilkenny
Browne's Hill dolmen
Jerpoint Abbey
Kells Priory, with intact walls
the Rock of Cashel lit after dark
Ladies View, south of Killarney

Beara Peninsula
· Uragh stone circle
· boats and inlet, Iveragh Peninsula behind
· near the north-west tip of Beara
· tallest ogham stone in Ireland? near Eyeries (17.5 ft)
· Leitrim Beg standing stone, west of Glengariff

the Cliffs of Moher
Askeaton Abbey with friendly horse
Millifont Abbey near Drogheda
Newgrange entrance

Westminster Abbey, London
Magical Mystery Tour bus
deep within the Cavern Club

Views of the Continent
Alps from Kleine Scheidegg:
· Eiger's north face, and the Mönch
· Jungfrau peak
· Wetterhorn and Grindelwald below

the colorful Oktoberfest
ein Maß Bier, bitte!
(note the Oregon Brewers Guild shirt!)

What worked, What didn't

For the most part, everything worked very well. Our improvisations seldom came to grief, and even failures became successes in their own time. Other than leaving the video camera on the train at Munich, most other problems were external - the wrong tickets at Interlaken, Ireland's day of mourning - and were solved with no more than imagination and just a bit of stress-induced adrenaline. My prime regret from a packing standpoint was my choice of tiny computer - had I brought the one that lives on AA batteries, this narrative could have remained entirely real-time. The other regret is the time constraint, but every traveler hits that one. Each open door representes a thousand closing doors, and our leisure on the Beara peninsula cost us views at Dingle, Galway and other spots. Nothing should be explored halfway; to rush the Beara would mean it would need to be seen again, so losing Dingle and Sligo is a choice we will live with. Clearly Ireland will need three more weeks to see, and maybe more. Other lost sights along the way - Chamonix is my best example - will simply move up the priority list for next time. We saw some amazing stuff in wonderful weather; what more dare we ask? The camcorder never did reappear, so replacing that hurt a bit also. Considering that most of the videotape was not lost, though, it could have been much worse.

This entire trip was put into perspective by the tragedies in New York and Washington. I personally had never been to either city, living three time-zones away, but such unspeakable damage was done that the shock could be clearly felt in London and all over Europe. BBC1 showed nothing else for the entire time we were in London, and Ireland in effect shut itself down on Friday the 14th. The Irish never lose their own, it seems, and every missing American with an Irish name was as painful as their own missing nationals. Nearly everyone expressed their sympathy to us personally throughout our trip, and we were touched by these statements. Whenever I would begin to mutter or complain about travel issues, I would simply recall those who would gladly exchange our little problems for their huge ones - and accept my small burden.