2. GETTING READY
This trip had actually been sorta vaguely planned for about a year from now, after my wife and I had sold our house. However, our daughters returned from Germany earlier than we had expected and graciously agreed to postpone their plans to move back to the Pacific Northwest and to house-sit here so we could leave within about a month. As attested by the tens and tens and tens of hours we’ve spent planning and reserving trains and boats and planes, oh, and lodging, a month isn’t really enough time. But to spur us on, we immediately picked a departure date and got our one-way tix to Paris right away, and we fly out tomorrow at 7 AM.
Our initial vague plans had been to just wing it in Europe. The theme song back then was “Footloose”. It became immediately apparent, however, that the trains and hostels and Airbnbs you want fill up quickly. For example, we got about the last two seats available with our Eurail passes on our chosen date on the Glacier Express from Zermatt to Chur, and these not together and not on a window. So, First Tip: reserve early. Even so, we’ve got some tricky connections and our itinerary could blow up in any number of ways. Quite a change, and some days the theme song seems closer to “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It.”
We had decided that we would only travel light, not like last time when my camera bag alone weighed almost as much as my whole backpack this time, with only carry-on luggage that can be pulled and/or carried on our backs. We pretty much followed the advice of all the travel experts: choose only items you absolutely, positively must have with you no matter what, lay them all out on your bed and then remove 50% of them. In spite of trying to follow this advice, as late as this morning we’re still removing stuff. We’ve got the total for both of us down to under 41 lbs, not counting some food we’ll have for the flight over.
And not counting what we’ll have in our pockets. Of which we have many. To avoid the need for a purse and pants pockets full of valuables and necessities that have to be emptied at airport check-ins, we each bought a 25-hidden-pockets ScotteVest, with zip-off sleeves. The idea is that one can simply remove the garment, lay it on the scanner conveyor and sail through the body scanner devices/people. (Well, other than the time spent explaining that my left hip beeps because it’s made out of titanium and chrome steel.) I’ll let you know how that works.
We were initially going to buy two wheeled backpacks, but we sensed that we’d fill them both, so we’re going with one, an Osprey Ozone Convertible 22, and my old bike-camping Trek backpack with the bladder and drinking tube removed. The Osprey has a removable day pack and is claimed to qualify as a carry-on. We’ll see. The plan is that, most of the time, I’ll carry the lighter Trek and my wife will pull the Osprey. When the terrain is unsuitable for wheels, like the steps in Corniglia from the train stop up to our hostel, I’ll backpack the heavier Osprey and she’ll backpack the Trek.
Since we’re both officially old, 66 and 73, we’ve been training with appropriately weighted packs at 3000 ft. on the hilly streets around our home. I learned at least one thing in Basic Training, the motto of the Drill Sergeants Corps (at least at Ft. Bragg): “The more we sweat in peace, the less we bleed in war.” Can’t hurt, right?
Our son is going to meet us at the apparently quite-confusing Charles de Gaulle and escort us to Angers for a couple of days of jet lag rehab. Just video chatted with him and his sense is that Le Pen is likely to get stomped on May 7. Let’s hope that the French pollsters have figured out the hidden-anger factor better than ours did. If Le Pen wins and global markets tank, I might be too broke to return to the good, old Yew Hess Hay.
Skip Christensen. 2 May 2017