This blog tells how, when & where our love for travel started! It also tells you how old we are (if I haven’t already disclosed that!)!
I’d been working as a new nurse for just as long & we had no children yet. He will say that he came up with the idea of backpacking through Europe, but I beg to differ! Ok, I’ll still give him his 6%! Floyd was on active duty in the Marine Corps & at that time, we were able to essentially take free flights to Europe. I say ‘essentially’ because we paid all of $20 for a roundtrip flight for 2 – & the $20 was for meals!
I remember planning this trip for about 3 months & think about this: There was no internet @ all in 1994, or at least we didn’t know about it NOR did we own a computer! Hell, our cell phone was a ‘brick phone’ that we literally carried in a travel bag that looked something like this, kid you not!!
Not nearly as much thought went into planning our 1st trip of a lifetime because we ONLY had 2 travel books & 1 of them was this Fodor travel book, + a handful of brochures. The travel books from back in the day were anywhere from 200-450+ pages in length & we poured through the 2 that we had to decide which countries we wanted to visit & what else they may’ve had to offer besides the ‘traditional’ reasons that WE could think of for visiting. Those 2 fat books & random brochures came along with us on the trip, too!
You all will so lol for OUR ‘traditional’ reasons for wanting to visit 2 certain countries…. But seriously, I mostly planned this trip & this was my 23yo thought process:
Belgium: I wanted to visit to get ‘authentic’ Belgian waffles!
Naples, Italy: An absolute must as we had to have ‘authentic’ Naples Italy best pizza!
Well, read on because we certainly didn’t get what we went there for……………………………
In addition to Belgium & Naples, we also decided on Paris, Barcelona, Pisa, Rome, Florence & at the last minute, Switzerland. We decided that we’d take a 20-21-day tour of Europe, using the Eurail for transportation. Not only was this my very 1st plane ride, but our 1st train rides also! We also decided that we were going to stay in hostels instead of hotels to save us some money. WHAT AN EXPERIENCE!
We also did true backpacking & bought these fairly large, black backpacks for 21 days of clothes, etc. I have no idea how I was able to do that because nowadays, I have to travel with all of this stuff! But I wasn’t wearing make-up or using hella products back then either! All that we traveled with was 2 Lever soap bars (I remember that soap specifically because it hadn’t been too long since it came out), deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, a comb, brush & some oil sheen for my hair! We wore the same pair of shoes (brand new pairs of Reebok Classics!), and a lightweight jacket (It was very chilly in Europe in April, too!).
All set!! We drove up to Dover, Delaware to catch our $10pp ‘MAC’ (Military Airlift Command) flight to our 1st stop: Ramstein Air Force Base & a German hostel. We parked our car on base there for free, boarded this monster-sized plane called a ‘C-5 Galaxy’ & began our journey.
I remember the meal that we were served to be fantastic!
We made it to Germany & spent our 1st night ever in a hostel – everything went well, we slept together, it was unremarkable. The next morning, I had my 1st taste of the breakfast I’ve come to love! European style!
BELGIUM – We were super excited to be off to our next country for those Belgian waffles & I could NOT wait!! We didn’t even plan to spend the night there, we just wanted our waffle & to see their famous statue, the Manneken Pis. Man, when I tell you that we must’ve walked around the general vicinity of where this statue was for NINETY MINUTES!!! 90 min looking for this thing… We then stumbled across the tiniest of statues, the Manneken Pis! Disappointment # 1. After working up that appetite, umm, where’s my WAFFLE!!??? WHERE. IS. MY. WAFFLE???????????????
Ok, so there were no waffles to be had in BELGIUM, LmaOFF. What we did have & what they were famous for POMMES FRITES aka FRENCH FRIES!! AND fries served with mayo at that!! We got tired of walking around, we found a restaurant that we thought we could get a waffle from… Oh no, we had fries, baby, AND they had no ketchup! They looked at us like we had 2 heads when we asked for ketchup! So let me tell you, this is my absolute favorite way to eat french fries now!! Me: Orders fries… My next? is ‘Can you give me some mayo, please?’ Smh.
We were disappointed & left Belgium in a hurry BECAUSE had we had the internet, we could’ve found out that the Manneken Pis was pretty unremarkable & that there would be no waffles to be found! Surely our next destination would prove to be ‘all of that! We were so optimistic!
Paris, France – We ‘trained it’ 180miles to Paris & were delighted with our 1st stop: Champs-Elysées. We found a cute little brasserie & had some bread, butter & Parisian treats! Though our travel books didn’t mention a hostel in Paris, we were certain that we would be able to find 1… I don’t know how, but we were certain. Nope, nope, nope! So we had to stay our 3 planned days there in a hotel. We found one for a reasonable amount & the next day, we found out that the trains were shut down in a day or 2 for a STRIKE of city workers. This also meant that the museums were going to strike as well & we’d traveled all that far to not be able to see the Louvre & Mona Lisa.
The hotel that we stayed in was nasty – & nasty not in a bad way, but in a good-ish way. By this, I mean that it was cute & clean, but that night we turned on the TV & there was hardcore porn on the very 1st station that popped up! And, my friends, this is how our ‘Little Miss Sassy Travels’, Kira, came to be. I got pregnant that night & the next day, I was immediately sick. I somehow suspected that I was pregnant because I felt like absolute trash. This pregnant feeling affected me in such a way that I didn’t even feel like going up into the Eiffel Tower!! I should’ve fought through & just did it! We did get to see the Notre Dame Cathedral though. Since there was an imminent strike, we felt that we had to hurry & get out of Paris before we got stuck there! Our hotel didn’t want to give us our money back for the 2 extra nights that we’d booked, so that was the 1st time that we learned that we could dispute a credit card charge. Even in Europe. #successful ofc! Thanks, Capital One!
Barcelona, Spain – So we hightailed it out of France to our next destination & let me tell you this: Train tripping thru the South of France was gorgeous! The most stunning, green countryside that either of us had ever seen! I’m surprised that we haven’t made it back to Paris & South France. It was an entire train riding MOOD!
Barcelona Spain weather was ok & my pregnant tail felt relatively good. We stayed in another hotel & not a hostel. The main attraction, the Sagrada Familia church was in scaffolding! How disappointing that what we came to see was under some type of construction. Funny because, 28yrs later, it is still being ‘remodeled’. There isn’t much to say about Barcelona except the fact that I got pickpocketed for my brand new, $120 FILM camera!! I had so many pictures on that camera!! So we’ve had shenanigans from the start! After that incident, I was ready to leave Spain to go get the pizza I was so looking forward to….
Italy – The 1st stop was Pisa & there was nothing in that town other than the Leaning Tower! Now, in today’s time, I wish we’d done a pic where we are trying to hold up the tower! There were no good food places within walking distance, so we again hightailed it out of there & on to Naples where we could get some good old Naples Italy’s best pizza – pepperoni pizza!
Naples was super sketchy & we arrived AFTER DARK!!! Scary times, but you know what? I’ve never been scared with my Marine by my side. ❤️ Anyway, we got off the train in the vicinity of the hostel, had no real idea where it was… but we figured out that it was way up a hill, so we trekked up that hill & got to the sketchy, segregated hostel where we COULD NOT SLEEP TOGETHER! We were most definitely shaking, BUT, I put my big girl panties on, gave him a hug & a kiss, we said that we were only staying in this town for 1 night, & I took my scary butt to bed! The next morning’s European breakfast was #delicious!
That day, we found a random restaurant & ordered our long-awaited, much anticipated, pepperoni pizza! Man, we were disappointed again because guess what we were served????? PIZZA WITH RED PEPPERS ALL OVER IT!!!!!!! I was too scared to try & send it back because we didn’t speak even the least bit of Italian! Neither of us liked peppers back then either. Sooooo, we would no longer ask for pepperoni pizza or try to order any pizza for that matter!
Funny thing is, I met one of the nicest US citizens last summer who was living in Naples, coming to the US for treatment, & he said that Naples is still super sketchy! Guess I’ll never find out!
Florence, Italy – Unremarkable & nice. The sculpture ‘David’ was on scaffolding. All of the red rooftops there in Florence were amazing to see. We visited the Duomo & Vatican City where we had our very 1st taste of gelato!
Rome – Was amazingly dirty, but the Colosseum was great to see. We had 2 delicious meals @ a local restaurant there. I don’t remember the name or exactly what we ate, but I do remember it being so tasty! I was too pregnant to even want to take a side, unplanned trip to Venice… Again, I should’ve just fought through it & went because I honestly have no desire to go there now…
SWITZERLAND – THE FABULOUS, UNPLANNED SIDE TRIP! We ended up with extra days at the end of our trip & we were trying to think where else we could go & it not be too far from our final destination. It was a toss-up between Austria & Switzerland, & Switzerland won because it was a direct shot from there back to Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany. We didn’t do much in Switzerland @ all, but it was sooooooo beautiful – on 1st sight!!!! Which is why I’m about to go back for the 3rd time. We got off the train right by Lake Geneva & were in absolute awe! And I have no pics, but my mind remembers fondly!
There’s a true story that I was almost about to be arrested in the Swiss train station, smh. When we disembarked, I was tired of carrying my backpack (Floyd wasn’t a pack mule then!), so I grabbed a random luggage cart, and basket thing & there was a security guard there who screamed at me in some Swiss language…!! I guess he was screaming that I was supposed to pay for this cart. Floyd loves to remind me that I could’ve been arrested (insert eye roll!).
So for this little side stop, we slept in a most awesome bed & breakfast that we stumbled upon. It was $200 for the night & was right across from the lake. It had 2 twin beds & was oh so comfy! We slept sooooooo damn good!! Too bad we had to leave the next day, but this is how my fascination with Switzerland began!
Then it was time for us to head home! Since we still had a few days left of our 21 days off, I decided that we’d get back home & drive to Miami to see my BFF. DRIVE TO MIAMI???? Yes, we did!!! Oh to be 23 & 24yo again, lol!
BUT WAIT!!! Heading home was not as easy as 1 would think… Y’all, our travel shenanigans began back in the day!!!! AND WHAT A SHENANIGAN IT WAS!!!!! I was pregnant & sleeping on the floor in a German military airport!!! Why? Why did this happen to us???? Well, we were told that there was fighting in Africa & they were using all planes, helicopters, C-5s, C-11s, C-100s – you name it, to bring dead bodies back somewhere. So that affected everyone trying to fly out of this German airport. It didn’t matter if you were flying free or not. So we stayed & slept in the airport for THREE DAYS, not knowing when/ if a flight would become available! We wanted to walk across the street to the hotel to get a good night’s sleep, but were advised not to since ‘a flight could become available at any time & ‘we would have no way of contacting you………. Because we didn’t have cell phones!!! Or at least our ‘brick’ was @ home. SMH. We did, however, meet some nice people who were in the same sitch as us. We played cards, laughed & we were all bored together, but no one was worried as we knew we’d eventually get back home! They gave us bagged meals for free, too.
3 DAYS LATER – A flight became available AND we were ecstatic to be going home! It didn’t matter how!!! Listen, not knowing what type of plane it was or caring, our butts boarded a whole CARGO PLANE & flew home sitting on CARGO NETTING!!! OH MY GOODNESS! But that wasn’t the end of this shenanigan filled, 1st trip of a lifetime……………………
The flight was only going as far as New Jersey & we didn’t care, as long as we were getting back on US SOIL!!! But, it was a whole trip, literally & figuratively! We just knew we’d have no issue getting back to our car in Delaware…. We most certainly did! The couple that we’d met in the German airport flew back with us – the husband had been stationed in Germany for 3yrs & they were ‘coming home to stay. Our idea was once we got to NJ, we’d rent a car, the couple would drop us off in Delaware & they’d continue. Oh nooooooo, that was not a good plan AT ALL because they, of course, no longer had American driver’s licenses & couldn’t rent, but Floyd & I was under 25 & too young to rent!!!!!!!! LordT, Jesus, take the wheel, Father!! So the man that we were with ended up calling a military buddy of his who came to pick us up in a sketchy white van. Thank goodness because we were this close, I mean this close, to renting a U-Haul truck & hopping in the back of that! Geez!!!!
The super nice couple that we met & the husband got us home
And this is the start of our love of travel & the shenanigans that often come along with it!!!
Thanks for reading!! Oh & yes, we made it back to our car & home in Quantico. Then the next day, after 3331 European train miles, we drove to Miami to see my friend… All while being completely unbothered, unfazed & not the least bit tired!