We just got back on Sunday from a 12 day trip to Belgium and France. I missed y’all and AGMA!
But it was fun. Lots of fun. Beautiful cities, great Belgian beer, WWI and WWII history, great Belgian beer, wonderful food, great Belgian beer, the amazing Mont St. Michel, great Belgian beer. Brilliant!
I may have mentioned this before – I love to travel.
The travel bug bit me back in the day when, if you were a student, travel was cheap. Like ridiculously cheap. When you could fly “student stand-by” for practically nothing. Remember the classic book Europe on $5 a Day? As Archie and Edith sang, “Those were the days…” Sigh.
I took my first international trip in 1972 when I was 18. We flew from Dallas, Texas to Athens, Greece with a stop in Bangor, Maine and Shannon, Ireland to refuel. Yeah – the plane had to refuel twice. At least it didn’t have propellers…or did it?
I was hooked.
In 1976, I did the semi-obligatory post-college trip to Europe. An organization called “The International Student Exchange” advertised a fabulous eight week tour of Europe by posting flyers seemingly all over every college campus in the US. A lot of us took the bait. It was run by a man called “Uncle Roland”. Kinda creepy.
This operation was intense. Every week for probably a month – mid May to mid June – a charter took off from New York to London. Everybody on every plane was between the ages of 18 and 22. Yes – the inmates were in charge of the asylum…
Each planeload was divided into five groups. After the first night in London, group #1 left on the “official tour”. Then the next day group #2 would leave. Yada, yada, yada until all five groups had left London.
My group was J-10 because we left London on June 10th. Clever… So we did and saw everything that group J-9 did, but a day later. J-11 was a day behind us. J-12 was two days behind us. If it’s Tuesday, where the hell are we?
Each group had it’s own bus that met them in Calais after the Channel crossing. Our bus driver was Robert. He couldn’t speak English and may have been a dirty old man – he was probably all of 35 – but this man had the patience of a saint. Our guide for the eight weeks was a 24 year old man from Austria named Eric. He was only two years older than me. Again, an inmate was in charge…
So there we were – 36 hormone super-charged, ADHD, mixed gender late teen/early 20-somethings craving excitement and adventure, all crammed on a bus for eight weeks driving through 11 countries in Europe where attitudes about alcohol, drugs and sex are way different than the US. Whatever you imagination can conjure up, it probably happened. Yeah – that too.
Naturally, by the end of the eight weeks, we basically couldn’t stand the sight of each other. Some people hated each other. And nobody liked the girl who decided not to use the toilet and used the back of the bus instead. Especially Robert. Plus everybody stunk a little…
A few years ago, I found the flyer for the trip that my pack rat alter ego saved for all these years. It advertised “Come join us for eight happy weeks in Europe!” Okay – I’ll give them six happy weeks and two pretty crappy ones. But 38 years later, I remember it like it was yesterday. Good times.
Total cost in 1976 for 11 countries, 17 cities, hotels, breakfast, most dinners, tours in each city plus lots and lots of special extra events – $1195.00. Sigh.
“Those were the days….”