Wednesday, October 27, 2010


As I read Jodi's blog post recently about her upcoming honeymoon in Europe, I was taken back in time, remembering our own European honeymoon 8 years ago.

The first thing I remember are all the good things, the sights, the sounds, the smells, the cold!
It was wonderful.

But on further pondering, I remembered that that wasn't how we felt at the time.
It was very difficult, a lot of the time.

The first thing we both said when we returned home and were asked the inevitable "How was it?"
was... "Difficult!"

Neither of us spoke any French, Italian, German or Austrian.
Both of us were not confident to try to speak it, even if we could read it.
It sounds silly, but you just feel plain stupid when you can't understand anything you read or hear.
We didn't hire a car so we walked everywhere.
We travelled by Eurail between cities which was wonderful, but once we arrived...we walked...and walked...and walked some more.
Sometimes that was more than an hour to find our hotel, with very big and heavy backpacks.
Because we didn't catch public transport around any of the cities, after about 4 - 6 hours of walking and looking buildings and museums every day, we'd had enough.
So we spent a lot of time in our hotel rooms, watching MTV or CNN because they were often the only things on TV in English.
It also gets very cold and very dark very early in Europe in Winter so that sent us indoors as well.
We didn't eat out very often due to the language factor and the dollar factor.
So we also ate a lot of takeaway or baguettes, salami and cheese from little grocery stores.
And you can buy wine in supermarkets, so we drank a lot of wine in our hotel rooms, too.
(They have 1.5L bottles of wine!!)
For someone who is a homebody and doesn't care if I don't leave the house all day, it was very difficult for me to be out and about every single full on day for five weeks.
I have a very clear memory of sitting on a park bench in Florence, crying. I'd just had enough. I didn't want to walk any more. I didn't want to not understand every single thing I read. I didn't want to feel stupid anymore. I just wanted to go home.

Having whinged said all that, we have never regretted our trip.
There is nothing like that 'Oh My God!' feeling when you see the Eiffel Tower or Leaning Tower of Pisa or Michelangelo's David for the first time....incredible.
It was the most amazing experience, and it's even better viewed through hindsight from the comfort of our own home.
We love seeing places on TV or in books or magazines and being able to say, "Remember when we were there."
And we love being about to say to our kids, "We've been there."
One day we'd love to take them.
When they're old enough to learn and speak French and Italian fluently!

I transcribed my tiny travel diary entries and added all our photos (and some that aren't mine) to a travel blog last year. It's very stilted but there are some good photos. It was pre-digital camera days (for us) so some days I don't have many photos. I'd go nuts with my camera if I went over again.

If you want to check it out it's here...

Our travel blog

If you've travelled, how was your experience?
Were you great big sooky chickens, too?
Or was that just us??


  1. I cannot wait to travel. The good, the bad.. you're right, I'm sure it will be an amazing experience, regardless of what happens.

    Great post xx

  2. Thank you rude anonymous commenter, I've deleted you. You are not welcome here!

  3. I lived in France for a year a long time ago, and I know egg-ZAC-tly what you mean. I did have basic French, but had so little confidence in using it that I really think I missed out on a lot.

    I loved weekends in Amsterdam while we were living there, because everyone speaks such good English - yes, I'm a total wimp!

    That said, I wouldn't swap the experience for anything.

    I've been told that travelling in France is great with kids as they love kids and can be a little, erm, kinder to those struggling to speak the language. Now all I have to do is find the $$ to take 3 kids to Gay Pareeee!

  4. We're lucky - Hubby speaks French, so when we went to France, Hubby just translated and ordered everything etc. Then when we took our big boys to Italy in 2005, he just taught himself some Italian (having the French helped), so he was good to use that there too!

    Altho - I think in Italy it's a bit easier. They let you give it a go, and keep helping you along. When I tried to speak French in France, I was just replied to in English, as if to say, "You know what, don't even bother."


    We're thinking about a trip to Italy again next year with all 3 boys this time. However, we're not 100% sure, because it's quite an ordeal getting over there with the kids, but it can be done. I really want to travel again.

  5. It's so strange you should write about this Thea. Husband and I were recalling one of our trips to France recently (we lived in the UK for 7 years) he told me how he loved the sightseeing and skiing but confessed how annoyed it had made him feel that I could speak French and he couldn't.
    I understood his feeling completely because he is Polish and for the entire time we have been together any phone conversation he has had with his parents has been conducted in that language and I can't understand him either or what's being said.
    Language barriers suck!


Just one little comment will make my day.