Dona and Joe’s European Vacation: 2019 Version – Day 1

So here we are in Europe for Dona’s and my big vacation. Since my blog for the last trip proved somewhat popular, I’m going to try to produce a daily report for this one. The itinerary this time is Lisbon from Dec. 22-28, Barcelona Dec. 29-Jan. 4, and Dublin from Jan 4-9. Apologies in advance if advertisements appear on these pages. WordPress does that unless you pay for an upgrade, and since these entries will only last three weeks, paying an annual fee doesn’t seem worth it.

When we’re traveling I’m mostly interested in cultural differences—those aspects of daily life that people observe without thinking about them. The ones that struck me this time around were the Euro Zone’s trust in people, and the Dutch reverence for quiet.

We’re traveled to many places over the years, and yet other people’s security practices still amaze us when compared to the U.S. For starters, our bags were labeled for transport to our final destination, even though we had a layover in Amsterdam. Last time we did that, about ten years ago, we had to go through a long customs line with bags in tow, and then recheck them for the next flight. This time we only had to show our passports. And no third degree as one traveling to the U.S. would experience. Just a simple, “How long are you staying?” Interesting that when we get back home, where we have lived, like all our lives, we may have to answer questions about our intentions, jobs, reasons for traveling, and on and on. I’ve come to think of it as an American paranoia—we’ve been raised to believe that the rest of the world is jealous of our success and is out to infiltrate/destroy us. The truth, I suspect, is not really. (Don’t ask me to explain, because then I’d have to get into theories about Calvinist influences on the American founding class, and how their fears of persecution have persisted due to the nation’s expansive geography.)

Anyway, arriving at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport you soon see signs that explain it is a “quiet airport”—there are no flight or other announcements in the public areas. Think for a minute about U.S. airports. There are constant announcements about flights, security, environmental regulations, and more, plus the drone from the many giant TV monitors in the airport and at the bars and restaurants. Imagine what travel would be like without most of that and you might actually be able to relax. Granted, at our gate there were the usual calls for various class boardings, plus we sat too close to the walkway conveyor and had to hear “Mind your step” every two seconds, but it was still an improvement.

In Lisbon, as in several Euro Zone nations, even the minimal security measures encountered in Amsterdam go out the window. We picked up our bags from the carousel and simply walked out of the terminal. No checkpoint, no customs, not even a check of our bag receipts. All we saw was a doorway with two choices: “Nothing to Declare,” and “Something to Declare,” and guess which one everyone chose. Frankly, we could have walked right past the lone guard on duty with a smile and a suitcase full of Uzis. (Note to Homeland Security: That was a joke!)

So far as we can tell, the Dutch penchant for quiet is nonexistent in Lisbon, where, as I type at 8 a.m. I’m subjected to a steady stream of car horns, backup beepers, and a construction-type guy with a squeaky wheelbarrow. Oh well. We’ll be out sightseeing in another hour or so.

Amanhã, the Food and Wine Walking Tour of Lisbon