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Home > Castles and windmills...

Castles and windmills...

November 1st, 2011 at 08:24 pm

...are some of my favorite memories. It's been a week since we returned from our European trip, and our life has fallen back into a comfortable routine. We had an amazing trip visiting 8 countries in 30 days, but it is good to be home. We stayed within our budget, but I did spend on an item I couldn't resist: a carved Black Forest musical cuckoo clock. It hasn't arrived yet but I have the perfect spot for it when it does, and it can be turned off if it drives us crazy.

Life in Europe is very expensive, especially in Switzerland. For example, in most countries, gasoline ranged from a low of ~$6 a gallon to ~$8. Understandably, many Europeans walk extensively, use public transportation, or ride bikes. We certainly can't complain about paying under $3.50 a gallon in Idaho. Food was expensive, both in markets and at restaurants. Of course, if we lived in Europe we wouldn't dine out as often. A meal that is ~$40 in the USA ran ~$70-$75 in Barcelona and even more in Geneva. Two coffees and two pastries at the Starbucks in Basel was $29. (Yeah... dh had to get a Starbuck's fix.)

I loved Amsterdam with its beautiful canals and was fascinated by the Dutch custom of bike-riding everywhere. It seemed there were http://www.ski-epic.com/amsterdam_bicycles/. Not surprisingly, the Dutch, in general, seem very fit... I didn't see many overweight bike riders. People of all ages and professions cycle everywhere, often with kids, pets, and packages in tow as you can see in the above link.

What would I do differently? We had to pack for two climate zones (the warm Mediterranean and cool fall weather in Switzerland, Germany and Holland), so next time I would try to avoid this to pack lighter. Instead of taking as much cash in USD, I would just get more Euros from an ATM. Businesses give a lower exchange rate than banks when you pay with USD. It worked well to use my Chase Sapphire card when I could, and the Schwab savings debit card was used at ATMs... neither charge foreign exchange fees.

All in all, it was a great trip. We enjoyed traveling with friends during the first half, then spending time with my Switzerland family, and finally ending with a romantic week-long cruise on the Rhine. People tell us we're "lucky" to travel as much as we do, but in reality it's due more to years of focused planning and saving for retirement rather than luck.

Here are some pictures of the trip:

The view from Erice, a medieval town in Sicily, Italy.

The Parthenon at the Acropolis of Athens, Greece.

The Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey.

Montserrat... a monastery near Barcelona, Spain.

The United Nations compound in Geneva, Switzerland.

Old homes in Strasbourg, France.

Marksburg Castle in Braubach, Germany.

One of the many windmills in Kinderdjik, Netherlands, used to pump water to reclaim land from the sea.

8 Responses to “Castles and windmills...”

  1. mamasita Says:

    Just beautiful!!! Thanks for sharing!

  2. laura(momcents) Says:


  3. CB in the City Says:

    Ah, the cuckoo clock! My aunt had one and I was always fascinated with it. I would be tempted to buy one also. Someday I want to see the Netherlands. I am part Dutch and spent a lot of years in Holland, Michigan -- still have family there. Anyway, I'm very interested in Dutch culture. It's so romantic -- tulips, windmills, Hans Brinker and chocolate!

  4. creditcardfree Says:

    Thanks for sharing your pictures. And I'm happy that your hard work of saving paid off to travel.

  5. monkeymama Says:

    Very pretty pictures!

  6. Ima saver Says:

    Beautiful pictures!

  7. -Jerry- Says:

    What an amazing trip! Love the photos. This leads me to want to take some more trips, myself, if we can save enough money. It's really true about the costs of living in Switzerland. We are moving there next Fall and I am really worried about having any insurance of paying the bills in Basel. Glad you had a great time!

  8. EarlyRetireeTamara Says:

    I think I have half of these photos! Although I notice you were smarter than me in taking the photo of the Parthenon away from the scaffolding . . . why didn't I think of that!

    Regarding high propensity of bikes in the Netherlands - I know that in many Scandinavian countries there are enormous taxes levied an auto purchases, which basically doubles the price of the auto. This is a large reason why bike usage is so prevalent in these countries.

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