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  • Mark Shupe

My Top 22 Travel Experiences in Europe in 2022. Because there is no time like last year.

Last year was my busiest travel year ever because, you know, first year of retirement. I surely won’t be able to keep this pace as I went to Europe eight times. Every single time I went by plane. The items are presented more or less in the order I experienced them. I will recap at the end with a definite ranking, once I figure that out!

These highlights are gathered from visits in the following countries: France, Scotland, England (Isle of Guernsey), Italy, San Marino,Germany, France again, Czech Republic, Austria, Turkiye and Hungary. I am not including any place I went to visit the second time. So no Eiffel tower, no Venetian canals, no Versailles. At a later date I'll do a post on places that I visited for the second time, and which stood up the best, and which were not as amazing the second time.

Everything on this list was truly enjoyable and worth the trip. So without further ado, come travelling with me.! (For this time only, I will keep the sarcastic amounts to a minimum). This post will be in three parts, so I can give you the quality insight you deserve. (Okay maybe the odd sarcastic comment.)

One: Mont Sainte Michel.

On the Normandy coast, not far from Brittany, this amazing Benedictine abbey, castle and town complex rises from a rocky promontory jutting from a tidal island. It is a candidate for one of my top ten all time travel experiences. It's the opening picture for this blog entry! Developed beginning in the tenth century, a a gilded statue of St. Michel rises high from the top of this magnificent structure. What I didn't know is that there is a whole supporting town built right onto the rock, with shops, restaurants and hotels. The place is way too crowded with tourists on bus trips during the day, so best to stay overnight or two, and wander around later in the day when it is much quieter. At low tide, you can walk around the island. Sunsets and views are amazing. You can also find a few quiet gardens for solitude and contemplation.

Logistics: We flew into Lyon and took the train from Lyon Part Dieu station.

Two: Strasbourg.

Part of France, but a long history of German influence. An incredible scenic town with medieval homes many perched on the edge of river banks. The cathedral is one of the most magnificent in the world. From 1439 until the 19th century, it was the tallest building in the Christian World. I was lucky to have a terrific room for about 122 dollars Canadian that had a panoramic view of the cathedral. Don't try to get that kind of view and rate in Paris.

I liked this place so much, I started looking for an apartment to move into. Oh, and the McDonald's? Especially tasty. French taste served with German efficiency!

I liked Strasbourg so much, I got a quote on the apartment!

Logistics: A direct high speed train goes from Paris. And returns directly to Paris airport. Easiest way to get back to airport, especially when you have to catch a flight home for a family emergency.

Three: City of Saint Malo

Saint Malo is one of those unexpected travels experiences that turns out to be a sheer delight. Saint Malo was supposed to be just an overnight stop to pick of the ferry to Guernsey. But when we arrived, we fell for the place and then crammed every moment with enjoyment. We walked the ramparts surrounding the walled city on the Atlantic with amazing sea and island views, enjoyed terrific food, walked several swimmable, sand beaches, and visited charming craft shops. The highlight though was the underwater stone roadway that becomes uncovered at low tide. It deserves the widescreen photo treatment. You can take the roadway to several islands for a variety of views of the sea and back to the city itself. As long as you don't get caught by the tide! You want to feel like Moses, but the Red Sea is too far? This is the place.

Logistics: We took the train from Mont Ste Michel

Four: Hauteville House.

This is the home that the writer Victor Hugo lived in exile for 11 years. (He wrote a couple mildly succesful books including Les Miserables and Hunchback of Notre Dame).The seating area in the picture below is where he penned the last words for Les Miserable! How cool is that? It takes only a couple of hours to tour this mansion. What makes it incredible is that the whole house is decorated with symbolism. In his master bedroom, he has set up a judges table in front of his bed (pictured above) so that he can feel that he was being judged as he slept. Every other piece of art in the house has symbolic meaning. I have seen a lot of decor and art in my travels, but never this kind of mesmerizing symbolism. Some of its pretentious, some of it tells his story; all of it fascinating. The house is in Peter’s Port on Guernsey island, one of the channel islands which has a surprisingly warm climate. A well educated and captivating guide will explain the symbolism in the decorations. If you are a literary fan, or just like pretentious stuff, this could be the place for you!

Logistics: We took a pleasant ferry from Saint Malo.

Five: Rouen and Joan of Arc

One of the pictures above is where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, here played by an incredible actress, the other is Saint Joan contemplating unruly tourists with hideous backpacks. "This is what I gave my life for?" she said to me in a ghostly whisper. Can you tell which picture is witch?

Rouen is like the second city to Paris. History, architecture, food, at least one famous writer, (Flaubert) and on the Seine. Some of the scenery was like looking at paintings. The Joan of Arc Museum experience was fascinating. And burning unruly citizens at the stake? No comment. Some pretty mesmerizing clocks too. Food prices were incredibile and for a reasonable price you can stay in a hotel with a Turret! I did!

Logistics: We took ferry from Guernsey to Chamford, then train to Rouen. We took a direct train to Paris to complete our journey,.

Six. Basilique Cathedrale de Saint- Denis. Paris

You know the magnificent tourist attraction that was forgotten by time? Well Saint Denis is it. It starts with the legend: He was a martyr who's head was cut off, and he carried in from the hill of Montmartre six miles to the location of Saint Denis' church. Coincidence? I think not. The cathedrale use to hold the mortal remains of most the kings and queens of France in an orderly fashion. Monuments to the members of the French royalty are still there, but the bones were ransacked during the French revolution. Some of them are still there, but whose is whose? A number of them are deposited together.

The cathedrale is a masterpiece and set standards for many cathedrales to come. The archtecture lesson is worth the visit, but the history and statues of the kings and queens are the star attraction. You could spend all day here and you should. You won't find this tourist site mentioned highly in many tourist brochures or guidebooks but it should be. Below some of the kings, including that most modest Holy Roman Emperor, Charlemagne. Plus information on Clovis. He was one tough dude. But mild compared to his wife.

The heart of Louis the 17th (or thereabouts) is there and the church is a beauty. If you visit there and love it, no need to thank me, I'm just a humble public servant

That's it for this week. Come back next week for Part II as we got to Scotland and Italy. The attractions don't get any weaker.

Oh and for good fun, one more dramatic photo below. I apologize for any spelling mistakes. I was up late putting this together. Tune in next week to see how I divide 22 highlights into three sessions!!!

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Apr 10, 2023

I love travelling with you, and your lovely wife, while remaining quite comfortable in my own home! Thanks for sharing your adventures. Stunning photos! Sarah Butland

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