We flew into Houston last night, a 24 hour period between waking up in Europe and getting back to bed in Texas. I'm learning that like many things, jet lag is more of a problem when one is in his mid 60's than it is when one is in his mid 30's.
We did have a great time though the schedule was just about as much as I could deal with. Since retirement, I have just not been use to getting up at 6:00 a.m every morning any longer.
The good thing about the trip is that everything was more than I expected it to be. We were disappointed in none of the sites on our itinerary.
Because of the horrible economy in Europe, even some of the 4 star and 5 star hotels are beginning to suffer from lack of maintenance and apparent neglect. Fortunately, while I'm sure all are suffering, some are doing a great job of keeping up service and the appearance of things guest will see and experience. We stayed in some truly fabulous hotels who catered to our every need.
I took between 500 and 600 pictures, but pictures just can't do justice to the landscape and many of the treasures in museums and cathedrals cannot be photographed at all. I was a great trip, but we were ready to come home. Our joy in traveling dies a sudden death after two weeks. It will take a few months before it begins to pull at me again. And, of course, it will take a few months to pay the bills.
Travel is never entirely fun anymore. Long flights are certainly not enjoyable, but every American who can afford to travel in foreign countries should do so. There is so much to see and to learn from foreign travel. And there is much for Europeans to learn about normal Americans. In our tour group, there were people from California, Arizona, Texas, Michigan, New York, Florida, New Jersey, Massachusetts and North Carolina. Getting to know them and know something about the life they lead is interesting. One thing quickly learned is that though all of these people are in the upper middle class, they all carry their own personal bag of rocks around. Like me, one was struggling with cancer. Other had other significant health problems. Some are facing the adjustments of retirement or dealing with recent retirement. Several are dealing with the problems associated with caring for elderly parents who no longer can deal with life on their own. But the significant thing to me was all these people, in spite of the blessings they enjoy, also have their own little bag of rocks which demand their attention. They deal with the rocks, but they don't let the rocks cause them to miss enjoying the blessing of seeing the rest of the world and learning how other people live. Almost everyone in the group had seen much of the world and had plans to see still more. To me it was a great and wonderful thing. Far too many people get stuck in a rut under the weight of the bag of problem rocks they carry around.
All in all, Europeans are much more laid back than Americans. They are more inclined to live their lives and leave it to others to live theirs. We were amazed to see people walking their dogs on leashes and taking the dogs with them into the best department stores and shops. Many Europeans are friendly and helpful. Europeans don't work as hard as Americans do, but they enjoy the good things in life their work enables them to have more than Americans do. They are much more apt to stop and smell the roses each day. Americans can learn from that.
Speaking of European tolerance, the Pope's recent interview in which he said the Church was much to much into rules and not enough into caring for people is bound to be a shock for many. His suggestion that gay people should not only be welcomed in to our churches but actually cared about as human beings is sure to give great comfort to all who are not straight. At the same time, it will piss off many in the Church hierarchy. They are bound to resist with every ounce of resistance they can muster. But Francis seems like a man on a mission to me. I don't think he will be held back, and he certainly will not be restrained. This one interview will shorten the timetable for gay and lesbian equality significantly. The Church, as we have known it during our lifetimes, is going to change significantly.
Just as there are still racists 50 years after discrimination was legally ended, there will always be those who resist equality and acceptance for gays. But just as racists are now relegated to the fringes of society, those who resist acceptance of gays will find more and more they are relegated to the fringes of society as well while the gay people they hate are more and more welcomed into mainline society.
It's good to be home. As soon as I recover from the jet lag and the pace I have endured over the last two weeks, I'll post again.
Thanks to all of you who read and support this blog. You cannot possibly know how important you are to me.