Who is crazy enough to take a 40-day trip to Europe? Well, we did it, but that really wasn't what we set out to do. We were really looking for a two-week Elderhostel barge trip in Burgundy. Jane and I, each looking through the catalog separately, spotted a picture of the Star Clipper under full sail. After reading a summary of the trip, we couldn't resist. Even though it was about the most expensive Elderhostel tour, we promptly signed up for "From Napoleon to the Riviera II." The tour ran from 10 to 25 September 1999. It included four days in Paris, three in Monaco, and seven aboard the four-masted Star Clipper.
It was our first Elderhostel tour, and we discovered that we could stay in Europe afterwards without having to pay any additional air fare. (In fact, we got a small rebate.) So, instead of flying home after the tour, we stayed in Europe for another 25 days, doing things we had been planning to do on a separate trip. Originally that only included visiting old friends in Italy and Germany and seeing the German villages of Darrell's ancestors (in the Rhineland and in Hesse). In the planning process, though, we added visits to Liguria (the Italian Riviera south of Genoa) and to Lake Como, a drive through Switzerland, an extended visit with some new German "Internet friends," visits to Strasbourg and Trier, and a visit with American friends living in Luxembourg.
Our plans were modified only slightly when our son, Randall, asked if he could join us on the trip. He was the only one of our four sons who had not been back to Europe since our family came back from Germany in 1973. We were able to accommodate his request rather smoothly because we would be passing by Milan about half way through the trip and could conveniently pick him up at the airport there. With three of us now traveling, we decided that renting a car for the full 25 days after the Elderhostel tour would cost less than buying three Eurail passes. It would also provide us more flexibility and, in some areas (e.g., visiting ancestral villages) a car was absolutely essential. We also modified our plans to allow Randall to see some of the places (Heidelberg & Frankfurt) he might remember from when we lived in Europe.
Recognizing that a single diary covering the entire 40 days of diverse activities would challenge the attention span of even the most dedicated reader, this trip journal is divided into three distinct parts: