Thursday, October 30, 2008

It's Not as Random as it Looks - Part 1

Alternate title - How a couple of tourists learn to become travelers

Late in 1999, my sister suggested the family take a Three Continent cruise to celebrate the millennium. The cruise embarked from Athens, with stops in Cairo, Jerusalem and Istanbul. I’m ashamed to admit, once we agreed David and I absolutely provided zero planning or input probably because we were racked with fear.

My mother certainly did not help our morale as she called frequently to remind us that God would protect us if he could and that we should really think twice about getting on the plane. Fortunately, much to our surprise, the destinations were wonderful and we needed little input. However, I digress. First, let’s go back to what we thought might happen. First, we thought we might contract every awful disease known to man. We made a trip to the county health department to have inoculations against malaria, cholera, hepatitis A, B, & C and who knows what other horrible worms or flesh-eating bacteria. Ten to fifteen shots later, we were safe. Fear of plague and other maladies extended to packing as well. The travel bag brimmed with all sorts of first aid and life-saving remedies. In addition, we were sure to end up lost or in a jail cell and without our passports so we made ten extra copies of them each and gave them out like candies to our loved ones – then hugged tightly because it would be the last human contact we would ever have. After reviewing checklist after checklist of insurance-minded planning scenarios, we were ready to be off to our death and a lovely vacation of a lifetime, which it was, and all the vacations since have been.

Upon arriving very safely at our ship docked at Pireaus, Greece, our lack of preparation for the vacation really hit home. With the exception of the pyramids at Giza, we had no idea of what the region had to offer. Without researching any of the tours beforehand, we blindly chose most days tours. In addition to Cairo/Giza, we felt safe in choosing Bethlehem and Old Town Jerusalem and the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. Luckily, we also chose the archeological dig at Akitiri Santorini, the Palace of the Grand Masters in Rhodes and Ephesus in Turkey. We had a wonderful time with absolutely no fore thought or planning on our own.

As we sat on the fantail watching Santorini getting smaller in the distance, my mother said, ‘where are we going next year’? “Next year”. I thought, “I can go again?” Upon reflection, we realized we loved travel and we would try it again. The following July found us in Rome on another cruise – this time the Western Mediterranean with ports that included Naples, Valetta, Malta, Florence, Barcelona and the French Riviera. It was a lovely trip and I enjoyed every minute of it. However, if the trip had any ‘aha’ moment, it was due to our friend Stephen. After the cruise, we stayed two extra nights in Rome. I was scared out of my mind. I had been lead around Europe twice by the hand – what would I do on my own? Stephen insisted we get out and see Rome. Walk among the Romans and get gelato. I found I enjoyed walking at my own pace. Right then I decided I would have to conquer my fear of the unknown and attempt independent travel.

Thanks to Stephen, we have ridden the Tube in London, rented a car in Tuscany, and David and I have argued over directions in at least seven countries. Today, many months of pre-planning goes into each trip. Guide books, internet sites, word of mouth, we use them all to make sure we are able to fully appreciate whatever region we visit.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Usual Suspects

Travel is definitely not a dish for one. It is meant to be shared. Our travel adventures are rarely just Mr. Angspar and myself. We usually travel with family or friends. Vegas with my brother and sister- in- law. Greece,Turkey, Egypt and Israel with my sister, brother-in-law and Hensler cousins. Niagara Falls with our Supper Club. Traveling with a group means there is always someone who wants to do the same thing you want to do. And if you all go separate ways, you have built in dinner conversation.

The majority of our adventures have been spent with three friends. Nancy is the most warm, funny and wonderful lady. She's been with us since the beginning. Stonehenge, Nancy was there. Guy peeing in Shakespeare's garden, Nancy was there. Dead body in Rome, Don Ho, pedicures in the Detroit airport, Nancy, Nancy, Nancy. Tim and Andrea first joined us in 2004 when we visited Rome and London. Tim is very tall and I have taken advantage of that height many times, from reading street signs to getting the last bottle of Coke Light from the top shelf. Tim and I shared an adventure in driving at late at night on the Italian Autostrata from Figline to Florence airport. Andrea comes across as very sweet and demur. But she is hiding a wicked sense of humor. Just ask her about David's father and the cat. (Photo upper left, Top row: Tim, Andrea, Nancy. Bottom row: Joan and David. Theater of Dinoysus - Athens, Greece).

Lastly there is my mother, Joan. Traveling with my mom allows us to experience the amazing things the world has to offer together. These memories are extremely dear to me.
Later this year the usual suspects are off again. This time we The Danube River begins our journey. We arrive in Vienna and end in Prague. This trip is exciting for everyone as no member of the group traveled to these countries. The majestic Danube presents up close and personal views from our above waterline cabins - everyone gets one on this cruise. The winding valley, lined with pristine towns and christmas markets overflowing to the river's edge.
The river cruise also presents the group with a new mode of travel. While many of the group cruised the ocean in the past no member of the group traveled along an intimate body of water such as this river or on a boat of this size - 150 adorned cabins. In addition with each of the more recent trips the group traveled increasingly like a "local". In Tuscany, we rented a car burned down the Autostrata and in Amsterdam, I used many of the local city transit offerings. Now the river cruise and Christmas markets like the locals.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Angspar on The Move

“I’ve got you signed up to AOL, what do you want your email address to be”? It was 1995, David and I had just gotten our first PC and were finally hooked up to the world wide web. After a blank look from us, our friend Stephen explained we needed a screen name. We had no idea, until our Scottish terrier, Angus wandered into the room. Five years earlier, when we took our new puppy to veterinarian we weren’t married yet, so on the file the office wrote ‘Angus Sparschu Phillips’ (ANGSPAR). It was the perfect screen name. Since then we have had five computers, changed our internet service many times and lost Angus to spleen cancer in the Summer of 2000. When it came time to name this blog, ANGSPAR On The Move seemed a fitting moniker.

From our early days of dating, travel has always been important to us. When we lived in Orlando, getaway weekends included St. Augustine, FL and Savannah, GA as well as our annual Christmas visit to my family in Port Huron, Michigan. After relocating to Port Huron, my sister convinced us to join her on a trip to Greece in 2000. After 10 days in Europe, we were captivated. We learned something exciting about travel, while it was great to visit new places and try new dishes; it was meeting new people and experiencing their customs that was the biggest thrill.

Over the last few years, we were fortunate enough to have acted on our new obsession and visited many different countries and cities in Europe and the Middle East. Quickly we realized that we did not have an effective avenue for chronicling our memories. The first attempt at a journal was prose and poetry about the ports as we cruised on the Mediterranean or about the countryside as we traveled through Tuscany by tour bus. Pam and I had very different ideas about how the description of events should appear in a journal and clever prose was not in her vision. The idea of blogging makes sense as we can both contribute and we can include pictures from each day’s travels.

This November we will keep in touch as we cruise the Danube and experience Prague. We would love to hear your feedback, so let us know your thoughts.