Europe Trip Recap

It has taken me a couple of days to get around to writing up the Europe tour. I picked up a little cold on the way home, combined with the jet lag, and I was pretty out of it. But I’m semi coherent now, so here goes.

I’m not going to post all the pictures. My wife was posting those on Facebook the whole time, and I’m pretty sure Jack would get angry if I overloaded the website and crashed it again. Anyways, the pics are all up on my and her Facebook pages if you want the full on tourist slide show effect. We took Unabashed American Selfies at pretty much every landmark we came across.

We’ve been married for 18 years, and this was the longest trip we’ve taken together in that whole time.  This was also the first time in Europe for both of us, and we were motivated to see as much as possible. We were there for a couple of weeks, so I’m going to leave a lot out, but we were busy the whole time.

My new phone has an app that tracks how many steps you take and how many flights of stairs you climb. To put “busy” in perspective, during this trip we walked 118 miles and climbed 274 flights of stairs.

You will notice some themes in this report. Bridget loves the history, the culture, the sights, the art… I mostly travel for the food. But hey, 274 flights of stairs, so I was hungry.

I also learned that I do remarkably well with jet lag. Bridget, not so much. I was adjusted to Europe time in the first 24 hours. It took her about a week and a half. Plus we picked up a cough on the plane ride over, so that made it fun. Interesting side note, there is this cold medicine in England called “Night Nurse” and I don’t know what the hell they put in it, but it kicks Nyquil’s ass. I’m betting we can’t get it here because you can cook it into meth or something, but damn, it is awesome, and it will knock you the hell out… Either that or I just took way too many of them.

We started in London. I was there for London Book Fair, some parties related to that, and a signing at Forbidden Planet.  Jim Minz was there for Book Fair too, which meant we ate with Jim a lot, because Baen Company Credit Card, and Jim is even more of a foodie than I am. Score. So people ask me, snidely, about the quality of British food… I wouldn’t know. We only ate at really nice places the whole time.

For example, one night the owners of Titan (fantastic people) took us out. And then Mick Jagger shows up and sits a few tables away. That kind of restaurant. So as far as I know, British food is awesome. Though we did also hit some pubs, because Pub Food, and I needed to check authentic fish & chips, and meat pies off my list. And cheeses… Oh man, I tried like 48 kinds of cheeses while I was in London.

As far as sights, we walked up and down the Thames. We spent a whole afternoon at the Tower of London (it was raining, so hardly any crowd, which made it nice). We toured the National Gallery. We spent one day just doing the hop on and off tour on the Big Red Bus, and did the Thames River boat tour. We visited the Imperial War Museum. I climbed to the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral (beautiful, and that day took the record with 47 flights of stairs). Kind of quiet and out of the way, but the Temple Church—where they signed the Magna Carta—was fascinating.  We ate at the restaurant at the top of the Shard, which I believe is the tallest building in Europe, but don’t quote me on that.

Of my tourist adventures, just one funny thing about the Imperial War Museum. It has this super amazing in depth section on WW1. Extremely well done. Lots of details, going through the war month by month, from the events leading up to it, until the very end. So I’m going along (from Grimnoir, I really know this time period well) loving it, get to the Russian revolution, see a bit about how this was now make or break time for the allies, because the Germans made one last push before the Americans could get there, desperate battles, details about the struggles, there’s one little tea set with a bust of Black Jack Pershing (scowling, obviously)… and then YAY! WE WON! THE WAR IS OVER!  And I was like hey, wait… Where’s the part where AEF showed up? I thought I’d missed a display. I mean really, they had displays for the Turks, and countries like Luxembourg, where’s America? Oh, there’s an American gun over there… Nope. That’s the IRA. So apparently America didn’t actually participate in WW1. I know it’s the British War Museum, and we didn’t show up until the tail end, but come on, guys. We did mobilize like 4 million men, had like 300k casualties, and kind of wrapped the thing up for you.

No wonder Black Jack was scowling.

The signing was fun. Forbidden Planet is geek heaven. This is where Simon Pegg and John Boyega shopped before they became famous. I got to meet a few people I know from the internet, and we had a good time.

I didn’t attempt to drive in London. Too short a time to try and figure out how to drive on the wrong side of the road. Also, note, if you’re going there, you will quickly discover that when you’re crossing the street, you are looking the wrong way first. Not that it matters, since apparently it is impossible to actually drive more than six miles an hour anywhere inside London, because it is all one lane streets crowded with bus lanes, and bike lanes as big as the bus lanes.

Another fun little story—kind of the opposite of the Ugly American Tourist stereotype, while still being my culturally insensitive self—Bridget and I are riding on the train one day. We rode the train in London a lot (we were staying over on the west side in Shepherd’s Bush), and the train was always crowded. Now I’ve got this thing that if I’m ever on public transportation, if I’m sitting down, and a woman or someone older than me has to stand, then I immediately give up my seat for them. Period. That’s just how I was raised.

So we’re riding along, rush hour, we got on at a quiet stop, so Bridget and I are sitting. The train stops again, fills up, and this woman is stuck standing. So I immediately offer her my seat and stand up. (note, there are a bunch of British dudes sitting around us, and none of them would offer their seats). Apparently this is odd enough that another woman sitting next to my wife remarks on it. I don’t notice. I’m standing. Then we stop, a bunch of people get off, and I sit down again.

Next stop, same thing, more people arrive, there’s a woman standing, so I get up and give her my seat. Each time this repeats, the British women are all surprised, happy, and thankful, with an increasing number of British men scowling at me, because shockingly enough, the women were all very friendly and surprised by the gesture, and now the lady sitting next to Bridget loudly remarking on what a gentleman catch I am. Last time, I stand up again, this time for an attractive young woman (seriously, you guys won’t even offer your seat to a pretty girl?) and she says something to the effect of how you don’t see men give up their seats on the train here, and I just can’t resist, so I (loudly) say (with my obvious accent) “Oh, that’s just how we do it in America.” All of the men just kind of look at their shoes.

That’s right. That’s payback for the War Museum leaving out Black Jack.

Seriously though, I really enjoyed London. It is a cool town. My favorite part had to be walking to the top of Saint Paul’s. I don’t recommend it for anybody who is scared of heights. The little stairwell along the dome is very narrow, and I could only get my toes on the steps, but worse was the newer metal staircase that’s just kind of hanging in the middle of an open space between the walls. Amazing view from the top though. Beautiful city.

From London we hopped a little jet down to Nantes in Brittany. My French publisher L’Atlante is headquartered there, and we had a fun signing. Luckily at the event there was an American from Tennessee who’d married into a cognac making family who was able to jump in and translate. Thanks!

This part of the trip was my first experience with navigating around without speaking the language. I’d been told by seasoned travelers that the best thing to do in France was to learn enough phrases to at least attempt to communicate, that being taken as far more respectful than just blundering your way through starting out in English. Problem was apparently I said Bon Jour way too good a couple of times, and the person I was addressing assumed I understood the torrent of words that they immediately responded with, until they’d realized I was standing there, going, dur, erp,… uh…. And then they took pity on me.

After that I discovered that you can pretty much maneuver your way through a foreign country as long as you know how to say Hello, Thank You, and Excuse Me. Combine that with pointing, grunting, and holding up fingers to indicate quantity and you’re golden.

I rented a car at the airport (sporty little Peugeot thingy), and immediately discovered that all of the Americans I’ve heard whining about European traffic were full of crap, and roundabouts are awesome when all the other people on them know what the hell they are doing.

Nantes is a nice town. I think the good folks from my French publisher thought I was exaggerating when I said that I wasn’t one of those wussy American tourists who wanted to eat at TGI Fridays, and that I preferred whatever the locals eat, because at dinner one night they ordered me this mega oyster bucket. And you had to eat them in order, because it was all the oysters of Brittany, in order down the coast. That was a lot of raw oysters. But I was all like, slurp, yum, slimy and salty. Next! Until I had a plate full of shells. I’m not a big Foi Gras fan, but this was the first time I’d seen actual Foi Gras fat. It was so thick and yellow that I assumed it was cheese. Ate that too. Told you guys. Local cuisine? Bring it on!

Then we took a road trip up the western side of France to Normandy. We stopped by Mont St. Michel, which is absolutely breath taking to see off in the distance all by itself. Then we headed to Bayeux, and we took a bunch of small roads through little villages. Bridget has an Art History degree, so she needed to see the Bayeux Tapestry in person. I thought it was really cool, considering that it was basically a big thousand year old comic book.

Next morning it was off to Omaha Beach. The American Cemetery there is kind of awe inspiring. We walked up to where you could see the lines of white crosses just as the bells were playing. It feels like sacred ground. Very emotional.

While road tripping across France we stopped at a gas station and I impulse bought this candy bar at the stand called Kinder Bueno. OH MY GOSH MAGIC CANDY WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE? After that I tried all the candy bars of Europe, and I came to the shocking realization that American chocolate is waxy garbage, and we are losing the Snack Wars.

Next up was Versailles, which is a magnificent giant palace. Those people truly understood the concept of “bling”.

Then we drove over to Paris and dropped off the rental car. We spent three days there. If you make a triangle of the Lourve, to the Eiffel Tower, to Notre Dame, we were right in the middle of those. We spent the whole time wandering around, checking out sights (Yes, I know it is the city of love, but I will always think of Paris as the City of Ham Sandwiches, as there are literally ham sandwiches about every fifteen feet, and the French win bread).

Now this part of the trip was very research oriented because a lot of Alliance of Shadows takes place in Paris. I’m going to have to rewrite several scenes now that I know what the actual areas feel like.

The neatest thing in Paris to me was the Catacombs and the Ossuary. If you’re not familiar with those, read up on them. Absolutely fascinating stuff. The part you can access is a tiny fraction of the tunnels. When you’re down there, you can feel that you are way, way, down. And then you get to the part with six million dead people crammed into it. Yeah, really interesting. But don’t bring your little kids, like this one Dad of the Year had done. Poor little kid was going to have nightmares for the rest of his life, while Dad’s all like “Just pose next to the pile of skulls, while I take your pic, yay.” I found it to actually be a very reverent kind of place, or at least it was once we were able to let this really loud group of Italians past us.

Food highlight of Paris, we went to a really expensive, nice fish place for dinner. I got sea bass. Why? Because I’d had sea bass at some of the fanciest restaurants in Manhattan, London, and now Paris, and it sounds really pretentious and snooty to say that.  Yes. I’m ready to be an Iron Chef guest judge!  (side note, Paris won the Sea Bass Challenge).

A quick note on the security situation, just because lots of people asked me about it. No. We didn’t see any protests or riots, but then again we were over in swanky rich shopping area tourist central. Because of the recent terrorist attacks most of the cities we visited had soldiers patrolling the streets, usually in four man teams, with armor and rifles. (first time I saw the new FA MAS, and in Prague they were all sporting BRENs). Then there were cops everywhere, usually with subguns (MP5s mostly, but also some Beretta M12s). All of the big stores we entered had security checking bags and backpacks, and some cursory wanding of people. Though that part kind of ticked me off, because as an American that conceals guns every day, it was obvious nobody had trained the security guards where and how people actually conceal guns on their bodies, and I could have smuggled an RPG into a few of the fancy establishments that I won’t name. If you’re going to have security, at least teach them how to do it right.

Speaking of security, I won’t say where we saw this, because I don’t know what they were there for, but American trigger pullers stand out. It’s that Beardly McOperator look. I’m talking full Contractor Chic. When you see a dozen guys all eyeballing something, and they’re sporting 5-11s, Tap Out, tribal tattoos, Big Penis Watches, and various Surefire and Under Armor logos, and as innocuous bystander tourist guy  I suddenly feel like I’m standing in line at SHOT Show, I certainly hope this isn’t you guys’ idea of “blending in”. Sheesh. At least have the really buffed dude ditch the paracord bracelets.

Related note, many of the locals we visited or dined with asked us about our feelings on visiting despite some recent events  (and interestingly enough, visiting some of the other countries that were right next door to them, Germans surprised we visited Paris, etc.) and my response was always the same. Fuck terrorists. They’re assholes. We can’t let them dictate shit and I’m more likely to get hit by a truck.

At other times I had to explain to various Europeans that their news was full of it, and unless you were involved in the drug trade in Chicago, your odds of getting shot in America were about the same as getting shot in Canada.

Then we rode one of the super trains to Germany.  A super smooth 300km (180 mph) train is pretty freaking bad ass. Plus we were in 1st class, where your seat is basically a recliner, and they fed me duck and fine cheeses for lunch. Of course, when I did this I posted on Facebook about how a Euro bullet train makes Amtrack look like crap, I had a bunch of people helpfully lecture the guy who lives in rural mountain Utah about how we can’t do that here because of “population density”. Gee whiz. Thanks. I was unfamiliar with the concept.

In Germany we picked up another rental car. And unlike in France and England where all the cars we’d seen had been tiny, here we wound up with a big diesel Volvo station wagon. Comfy, but not exactly a sports car, only keep that vehicle in mind, because it’ll make my autobahn adventures even cooler later. 🙂

We spent a few days in Heidelberg, which is an absolutely beautiful little college, river town. The castle overlooking the town is remarkable and has one hell of a view. I found this part to be kind of quiet and romantic, at least until the Viking River Cruise docks and a thousand old people debark.

Best part of Heidelberg though? The food. Oh man, I love German food. Our hotel manager was from there, so we asked him where was the best place in town for authentic food. He steered us to a place called Vetters in old town. And I ended up eating there three times over three days. Bridget and I have this perfect symbiotic relationship, where she eats very little, and I’m perpetually hungry, so we both order a meal, I eat mine, she eats 1/3 of hers and gets full, so I eat the rest of hers too. German food rocks. Snitzel is proof God loves us and wants us to be happy. My whole life I’ve hated sauerkraut, but that is because I’ve only eaten American sauerkraut, which is toxic sludge that merely shares a name with this magical German food.

Then we drove over to Ramstein, where I had an event. This was just a little one at the PX, but we met some cool people. Then we visited another little town that I can’t remember the name of, which once again convinced us that despite European food being amazing at most things, they truly suck at pizza. Okay, so we lose bread and candy bars, but America wins pizza.

Then we visited this little town called Rothenberg Something Something, where their old town is this walled in area that hasn’t changed much since the 1600s. It was neat.

Of all the languages, German was by far the easiest to pick up words and phrases for me. Despite being related to Portuguese and Spanish, French sounds totally eluded me. And Czech is HARD (they have like 46 ways to make conjunctions). But German shares a lot of word roots with English, and the actual structure is pretty straight forward. Plus it is fun to just walk around and make up vaguely German sounding names for things, like a pigeon is Das Poopinbirden.

The next day we drove across all of Germany to the Czech Republic, and I got to experience the autobahn, which my whole life has been this sort of mythical place that has no speed limits, and is filled with drivers that understand slow traffic stays right, and where they never camp in the left lane, and in fact, if you’re blocking the left lane, they’ll come right up on your bumper at 100 miles an hour, honking, and flashing their lights. It was a place devoid of mercy, unforgiving of weakness. So we set out.

Apparently there are two kinds of tourist drivers on the autobahn. Those who are weak, fearful, whose crying pillows smell of lilacs and shame, who stay in the truck lane, or who wander out into the left occasionally, timidly, to be honked at and chased aside by awesome Teutonic Super Drivers…

And the other kind is the American who manages to average 180km an hour across all of Germany in a Volvo diesel station wagon.

It was AMAZING. I felt like a race car driver across an entire country. You know why German cars don’t have cup holders? Because if you stop to drink while driving, YOU WILL DIE. And you should. You need to be on. I’d get a gap, jump out to the left, floor it (because fuel economy is for hippies I’m on the mother f’ing autobahn!),  and nobody pulls out in front of me in a minivan to enforce their personal speed limit, people ahead of me going slower (like 100mph) immediately get out of the way, and when some bad ass comes up behind me in a super car, I get out of his way, and then they blast past me like I’m standing still.

It was beautiful.

You wouldn’t think a diesel Volvo would be comfy at 112 miles an hour, but it really is. Yes. I friggin’ love the autobahn. If I lived here I would buy a giant BMW or Audi and drive very fast, all the time. Why can’t we have something like this here? I would like to institute autobahn style rules on I-15 in Utah. Sure, a few thousand people would probably die in the first weekend, but after that it would be awesome.

Then we arrived in the Czech Republic, which though it is an amazing country, has American style speed limits. And all of a sudden freeway speeds felt so very slow. (I also didn’t know how to pump gas there, which took a bit of figuring and guess work, since nobody spoke a word of English at the gas station, and it wasn’t like How Do I Operate Your Gas Pump was one of the phrases I’d tried to learn in Czech).

Now, Prague is super cool. It is a really neat city. We dropped off the Volvo (farewell my friend) at the airport. My Czech publisher had warned me that Prague taxi drivers loved to rip off tourists, so a local author met us there and got us a ride into town, where we met with some others for dinner. And the next morning we met more people who guided us around. They were excellent hosts. Truthfully, in Prague they treated us like rock stars.

The outskirts of Prague are like most modern industrial places, nice parts, rough parts, lots of graffiti, that sort of thing, but as you get closer to the heart of the city, the vibe changes. And old town Prague is simply beautiful. Big parts of it have hardly changed for centuries. I really loved Prague. The Czechs are a fun people. They have this kind of to hell with it sense of humor that meshes really well with mine. They’re big on long meals and animated conversations. They really hate socialists.

I had a couple of events in Prague, both of which were great. I wasn’t joking about the rock star treatment. I knew I sold well there, but the reception was unexpected. We were in local magazines. There were really enthusiastic crowds. People had printed off glossy photos of me from the internet to sign. I got intercepted by fans in the bathroom for signatures. They had made t-shirts with me as a cartoon character like the Heavy off of Team Fortress.

In the city we visited Prague castle, which is pretty epic, and the Charles Bridge. We spent a lot of time wandering around by the river, and hitting various things around the old city. The famous astronomical clock is remarkable. We visited the Czech military museum, and they’ve got some guns there that are extremely rare in the west (this was the part where I turned into the tour guide).

Czech food is kind of similar to German food, but a little different. They love meat in sauce, usually with some sort of dumplings, and man it is good. I had goulash, wild boar, snitzels, you name it. (and fried cheese!) And they do this traditional street food desert that’s sugar dough wrapped around a stick, cooked over an open fire into the shape of a bowl, which you can then fill with ice cream and Nuttela (Europeans put Nuttela on everything).

Our last day, Bridget and I just wandered around by ourselves, checking out shops. Pro tip, if you ever want to get a really, giant fancy crystal chandelier, go to Prague. That’s kind of their thing. And they’re used to shipping them to the US. After that we went to a grocery store and filled our luggage with Kinder and Orion candy bars.

Then we flew home, and that was one hell of a travel day. We got up at 3:00 AM, took a flight to Amsterdam, and had our flight from there to SLC delayed for an additional five hours, so we got to hang out at the airport there doing absolutely nothing, to then have a 10 hour flight home. (on that flight I read 200 pages of Brian Durfee’s upcoming book—it is good—watched Mad Max, Jurassic World, and Creed, so I kind of caught up on some of the popular movies I’ve missed lately).

But we picked up a new cold somewhere along the way (Bridget got it a lot worse than I did and she’s still wiped out) and between that and jet lag, I can’t really remember the first part of this week. Though apparently the LA Times decided my brief little Hugo blog post from then sounded “bitter”. That’s the ticket. 🙂 Yeah, you mopes should run with that.

As we drove home, and lackadaisical minivans blocking the left lanes enforcing their arbitrary personal speed limits, I realized that I would really miss the autobahn. Seriously, let’s just try it for a week. Sure. There will be lots of fiery wrecks and exploding minivans, but after that it would be awesome.

I’ve been playing catch up. I get a ton of emails every day, so it is going to take me a bit to get through all of this. I also owe Baen a Bubba Shackleford short story for an anthology ASAP. Then I need to edit Alliance of Shadows with all my European research trip stuff. Then it is on to MH: Sinners editing.

However, when I was catching up on my emails yesterday I discovered that Audible had sent me the final finished recording of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent, narrated by Adam Baldwin, and I had to drop everything to listen to the whole thing. Oh man. I died laughing (and I already knew all the jokes!) Adam absolutely rocks it. He gets into the performance, and does a full on audio play, with different voices for every character. And some of the celebrity impersonations (won’t give them away) were amazing, because I didn’t know he did impersonations.

I had a wonderful time. This was the best trip Bridget and I have ever taken together. We got to see a lot of great things, met a lot of wonderful people, and had some unique experiences. It sure does feel good to be home though!

On the Election
Behold the Awesome: JP Enterprises MHI Cazador Rifle.

157 thoughts on “Europe Trip Recap”

  1. Did you happen to stop by the Christmas store in Rothenburg? That was an annual pilgrimage when I was stationed there. If you haven’t, and even get a chance to return, it’s worth the time there.

    And, yes, German pizza is an…acquired taste. Thank God for Anthony’s, even if it is PX fare.

    1. When I was at Cambridge (1991-1992), I was reputed to be the “only person in the UK who knew how to make a decent pizza”, because I became so disgusted with the available options there that I just decided to start making them myself in my dorm room (I’d worked at a pizza place while an undergrad and pretty much knew all the basics).

      I don’t know how bad German pizza is, but British pizza (at least, the kind available in Cambridge) was basically an open faced vegetable sandwich that had had a tomato rubbed against it and lightly garnished with cheese. I once asked for a pizza with meat on it, and was given a look like I’d just committed a mortal sin.

      1. I wouldn’t say bad, but the choices of cheeses and toppings is an adjustment. Basically, if you’re looking for anything like in the States, you’re best served by trying to find a Pizza Hut or going on base. But if you don’t mind salami on your pizza or egg on your “Texas-style” pie, it’s not bad. I’d rather go for the tortellini alla panna or stop by a butcher’s shop.

      2. My oldest son did a semester abroad at the University of Kent, and when his housemates learned he was from Texas they insisted there was this great Mexican food restaurant in Canterbury. He assured them he was okay to pass, but they insisted. Needless to say it was terrible. Their idea of corn salsa was canned corn with canned Rotel tomatoes and chilies. After he told us about it we shipped him the spices and other things he needed to make honest to God migas and huevos rancheros. After that they realized they didn’t know what Mexican food really tasted like before, and insisted he make breakfast as often as possible.

    2. I’ve had good pizza in Germany once. At the tennis club next to a hotel in Frankfurt, on the bank of the Main River. Thin crust, homemade sauce, I suspect the cook was Italian or had an Italian connection. Es war sehr gut!

      1. My parents used to rave about a little hole in the wall pizza hut at the Hauptsbahnhoff in Berlin. But that’s what, thirty odd years gone now and I don’t think it even exists still. It was proper pizza; and hoo they loooooved their olives and mushrooms.

    3. When we were in Germany, my brother ordered a pepperoni pizza once; the Germans very happily provided him a pizza covered in pepperoncini. Somehow, giving a pepper laced pizza to a young child who hates bell peppers and doesn’t like spicy food didn’t go over very well.

  2. Sounds like an awesome trip! The way you mention how you always look the wrong way before crossing the street reminds me of the opening sentence of Patriot Games by the late Tom Clancy; how Jack Ryan nearly died twice that day, the first time by looking the wrong way before crossing the street and the second time while saving the Royal family. Glad you enjoyed your trip!

  3. I’m glad you liked it.

    And if you one day demolish Prague in your book and then feel an urge to return to crime scene, I will gladly guide you again.

    Oh and don’t forget to send your address so we can send you books for your trophy wall.

      1. If you had to post pictures, I think the visit in Prague ones are the ones that MUST be seen here. Just my two cents.

  4. I loved driving my 88 Chevy Beretta on the autobahn. I’d keep it at about 120ish…and then have to scramble to get over when that dick in the Audi going 200 appears out of nowhere to flash his damned 4 rings at me.

    1. Yeah, I got passed several times like I was standing still. I was doing 110 and they would go by probably 30 miles an hour faster. It was like an Audi commercial. 🙂

  5. When I was at the Imperial War Museum, they had a display of a British bomber – the Lancaster I think. The placard included the words “most important bomber of the war.” My friend and I read those words and simultaneously blurted out “What about the B-17?” Ah well, I figure any war museum without a bit of “yay, we rock!” shows the country has a self esteem issue. But glad you got them back for the lack of Pershing.

    Strange about the German pizza. I was in one of those walled towns and all the restaurants had closed. The night before we’d been at the Oktoberfest, so we uh, didn’t eat much during the day. Anyway we were starving and a little bar across from the hotel had pizza, which was pretty good, and finally filled us up.

    Sounds like a great trip!

    1. Different tactics for the Lanc.

      B-17s and B-24s specialized in daylight “pin-point” raids, targeting specific industries and targets ( and paid for it in blood ). Lancasters showed up en mass each night to fire-bomb an entire city out of existance.

      1. Just think… The B-17’s normally flew in ‘box formations’ of 10x10x10. I live near an airport that regularly has WWII airshows. 1 bomber shakes the countryside. I wonder what it must have been like when 4000 bomber engines flew overhead.

    2. If you visit the Imperial War Museum at Duxford, just outside of Cambridge, they have all sorts of American aircraft in the half-dome American Air Museum, with the centerpiece being a B-52, and everything else shoehorned around, over and under it.

    3. Avro Lancaster, number built: 7,377
      Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, number built: 12, 731
      Consolidated B-24 Liberator, number built: 19,256

      Yes, clearly the Lanc was “the most important bomber of the war“. (Maybe they meant “British” bomber.)

      1. But the Lancaster dropped the greatest tonnage of bombs (at least in Europe – 682k short tons for the Lancaster compared to 640k short tons for the Fortress and 453k short tons for the Liberator).

        Exiting singing “Rule Britannia” until I remember that “the most important bomber of the war” was the B-29, for the whole Hiroshima thing.

  6. I’m assuming you all know this already, but I’m saying it just in case, because there is no reason photos would make a site crash. All photos for sites should use your photo editor’s “save for web and devices” function, and also saved as jpegs, preferably at about 70% quality, e.g. 8 of 12 or 7 of 10, unless quality is crucial. Most eyes can’t tell the difference between 70% quality and 100%, and the difference can be crucial for small devices like phones when it comes to load times. And of course I am assuming you are pre-sizing the photos, e.g, 500 x 800 pixels.

    Facebook deals with this problem by defaulting photos to no larger than 900 pixels on the longest side and 72 dpi no matter what size and dpi you upload, because of folks trying to load 5000 pixel wide photos at 300 dpi. Their site would burn if they didn’t do this. For those who may not have a “save for web and devices,” drag the photos from your Facebook onto your desktop and use those for your website.

    1. Yeah, I know. I just usually post the full res pics without bothering to resize them first. Lack of time.

      1. And aside from the dpi resolution and pixel size, which were already correct, I once made a very large photo-heavy page shrink in size by 2/3 only by saving them at the jpeg 7/10 rather than 10/10 quality setting. There are auto-features in Photoshop which can batch save photos at a pre-set longest side in pixels, quality setting and dpi. Once you set that up, you can aim it at any folder and it’ll do the job from there on in. No more fuss. Put the kids on it.

  7. I agree about the Autobahn and chocolate. I haven’t been to the Continent but England and Ireland have way better (and more choices of) chocolate. Hershey ranks right up there with Comcast as evidence of what happens to quality when there’s no competition.

    A friend of mine spent a couple years in Germany with the Army. He loved the Autobahn too, although he didn’t have access to an urban assault vehicle like you did. He claimed he looked up traffic statistics for both Germany and the U.S. and found that even with the higher speeds in Germany, the numbers of accidents per capita were similar. The number of fatalities in Germany was a bit higher though.

    Anyway, welcome home. Hope you guys start feeling better soon.

      1. As I understand it, there’s a *huge* different between American Nestlé & European Nestlé. I can’t speak from personal experience though.

        1. Trying to figure how to phrase this.

          Hershey licensed the Nestle products that would best sell in the US decades ago, and have a deathgrip on the license – which based on the taste of Nestle US products, is probably a good thing.

        1. Hershey managed to force Cadbury’s to license to them this last year as well. Had to have someone who was coming to visit bring me some authentic Cadbury’s as the Hershey version was an abomination and a crime against humanity.

          1. There are Cadbury Eggs with a toy inside, only sold in Europe. It is illegal to import them to the US (Toy choking hazard for Darwin-defying children and adults).

            Those eggs are the #1 customs seizure item in the US. Be sure to let your friend know to bring something different, unless he wants to make the children of customs agents happy.

    1. Hey now. Some of us love Hersheys. One of the easiest ways to make me happy is to present me with Hersheys chocolate.

      But I heard that that Kinder chocolate isn’t allowed in the US because of Kinder eggs – Basically a Kinder chocolate shaped into a hollow egg with a little capsule with a toy you have to assemble inside. Banned because of choking hazards, I’m told. The only reason why I found out was because a friend in the US military stationed over in Germany was asking if Kinder eggs were allowed in Australia, and he wanted to send a treat to the kids for Easter.

      I emailed back a picture of the local grocery’s confection aisle, with Kinder Surprise eggs, and asked a puzzled ‘Why would you think they’re banned???’

      This is Australia. The woman whose son got mauled because he entered a tiger pen to pet the bloody tiger here was mocked when she complained that there should be ‘things to keep the animals away from people.

  8. 1. Yes, Europeans do chocolate and cheese so much better than the U.S. it’s embarrassing. It’s good you got to try them out.
    2. If you want to do some WWI study, there’s this excellent YouTube channel that’s does weekly recaps of what happened this week during WWI exactly 100 years ago. (
    3. In Prague did you happen to check out where the Defenestrations of Prague happened?
    4. If you ever need to visit Spain for research, I can give you some tips on some great cities and other locations to visit.

    1. 3. Yeah, he did. Defenestrations were at the Town Hall (the clock thing building or next to it) and Prague Castle.

  9. Thanks for representing on the metro! You made us all look good. And come on, Brits, get some manners. I thought England was the land of gentlemen. (Although, they’re also the land of football hooligans, so…)

  10. Re: European candy
    I became addicted to Lion bars when I was in England. Strangely, for one of their biggest selling candies, Nestle has never seen fit to start making them here, tho I’ve noticed them showing up at “import” grocery stores lately. Oddly, my European friends all seem to love American chocolate, especially Hershey’s; Maybe its just the added mystique of eating something you’re not entirely used to.

  11. So Larry’s the one trying to fit the Ford F-350 in the side street in Rotenburg ob den Tauber! 🙂 I joined the other tourists and locals gawking as the guy somehow managed to get through without ripping off his mirrors or tearing down a building.

    Just kidding. That was in 2014. Still have no idea what he was thinking when he started up that street . . .

    I got to ride on the autobahn with a former Luftwaffe pilot in his big-engined Mercedes some years back. I could swear I felt the wind even though we had the windows rolled up. I did not look at the speedometer.

    Glad you had such a wonderful time!

    1. Hopefully he was thinking that bringing his Yank Tank to Germany was a bad idea, and next time he was going to get something that fit.

  12. Sounds like fun. My wife and I went on a river cruise in France (though we are not that old) and then took the train to Munich in December, just before Christmas. We had the same attitude towards the terrorists. Fuck em!

  13. Next time, we need to get you and Bridget to Brussels. And do the Chocolate Tour. Even the boring, supermarket grade candy there makes Hershey’s taste like cardboard.

    On my final trip there, I brought back 2 10 kilo bars of dark baking chocolate. The girl I got them for finally used the last of them last year, for her Christmas Baking.

    But pralines. . . .Raspberry Bells. . .and going to Wittamer, off the Grand Sablon, for Les Pyramides (filled pyramid-shaped pralines in various flavors).

    And shipping home several CASES of Guylian Shells. . .

  14. Auotbahn rules worked just fine in Montana, until federal Judge Lodge got a hair up his ass. No carnage, and the little old ladies of both sexes learned to stay the hell out of the left lane.

    All of Lodge’s decisions have been vacated ( look it up, an awesome story by itself ), so there is nothing stopping them from removing the speed limit again.

    1. All of Lodge’s decisions have been vacated ( look it up, an awesome story by itself ) …

      I’ve been trying to look it up, but Google isn’t giving me anything useful. Got a link you could share?

      And is that Judge Edward Lodge, or a different Lodge?

  15. Ok I’ll ask the question that needs asking: Did you finally get the 500 fans at your book signings that a “Real Author” gets? /sarc

    1. He had full bookstore of people during second signing in Prague and some were even waiting on street. I saw them with my own eyes.

      By my opinion definitely another proof of “realauthorness” of Larry Correia.

      1. It’s a running joke. I had forty or fifty people at a book signing in Portland once, but a Puppy Kicker walked by an hour before it started, (I got there early) saw me with the first few who arrived, and immediately went to Twitter to proclaim how my career was ruined. When confronted afterwards with photographs showing the crowd at the event, he doubled down, and said that book store ROUTINELY had 500 people come to a book signing. This came as news to the book store, where they had broken 250 TWICE. But since then the fans have been quick to point out that *real* writers get 500 people at a book signing. 🙂

    2. Hmmmm… Let’s see, 500 is for the USA with 330 million people, and the Czech Republic has 10 million people, so if we adjust for population… Then yes. Absolutely crushed it. 😀

      (actually, I don’t know the official count, but the publisher was really happy, and I had good sized crowds at two separate stores)

        1. We took so many that would take forever. 🙂 If you go over to Bridget’s Facebook page she took like a million shots.

          1. I don’t have facebook; largely because of Clamps, but I’m sure I’ve got a few friends I can ask for help on that score.

            Seriously though, the Europe tour sounded bloody awesome. If you’re ever in Florence, my father regularly recommended a restaurant named El Latino to all his friends. We went there ONCE and I still remember the food, two decades later. (And, the city of Modena is famed as a gourmand’s must-visit. We went because it’s our family surname and found out about the foodie paradise after. Win!)

  16. Your observations match up with mine…I’ve been to Europe seven times. To shoot in competitions, believe it or not. It’s an interesting place….especially if you get out of the big cities.

    But I’m a bit surprised you didn’t hit Les Invalides in Paris. Fantastic military museum. (BTW, Mr. Correia is understating how beautiful Mont St. Michel is at night. Breathtaking.)

  17. For those wondering, the main difference between Night Nurse and NyQuil seems to be the antihistamine. Night Nurse uses promethazine hydrochloride. NyQuil uses doxylamine succinate (same drug class as the diphenhydramine found in Benadryl).

  18. Had the same experience in Paris at Les Invalides war museum. Room after room of French military accomplishments and the glories of the great Resistance, one small display of American military involvement and anothet tiny room for the Holocaust. Had a hard time suppressing the urge to drop a “Kilroy was here”.
    Welcome home.

      1. I guess everyone is the hero in his own story.

        I think it was Stalin that said, “The British brought time, the Americans brought money, and the Russians brought blood.”

    1. Yeah, my father was a WWII vet with the 1st division, who by the way was fired on by the French in North Africa, and it always kind of pissed me off that the French government (not the people) seemed so reluctant to acknowledge what they owe us. While I detested almost everything about his politics, I do like that when DeGaulle left NATO and ordered all US troops out of France Lyndon Johnson instructed Dean Rusk to ask if that included the 60,000+ soldiers buried in France from WWI and WWII. DeGaulle was too embarrassed to answer.

  19. Interesting bit about the Metro in London. When I saw Iron Maiden at the Garden in March (kickass show), Bruce gave a little monologue about how in the UK, you wave at someone on the street, they think you’re a crazy person and how in the US, they wave back and then go on to tell you about their day. I guess constant CCTV does strange things to people.

  20. “Sure. There will be lots of fiery wrecks and exploding minivans, but after that it would be awesome.”

    You write as if the fiery wrecks and exploding minivans themselves wouldn’t be awesome!

  21. Ahem. *Italy* wins at pizza, thank you very much. *harrumph* Napoli, to be more specific, but they do a fair job in Rome as well. “America wins at pizza” …ha! America wins at many things and in many categories, of course. Pizza…pizza isn’t one of them. Of course if you subtract Italy from the equation, America might have a shot, if only because so many children of former Italians (and grandchildren etc, etc) live here… 😛

    1. Speaking as an American currently living in Italy, the two nations are tied at pizza. Your local Italian pizzeria kicks the crap out of American chain pizza, but America closes the gap by 1) better thin-crust and 2) having the good sense not to use hot-dogs and french fries as toppings.

      1. Weirdest pizza has to go to deep fried frozen pizza found at Scottish chip shops, get some black pudding to go with it.

        1. Weirdest pizza has got to be PNG kaibar pizza. I’ve spotted instances where they have used canned fruit cocktail as a topping.

    2. You obviously haven’t eaten pizza in Chicago yet. I will agree that Naples has OK pizza, kind of like New York style. They may have invented it in Italy, but we perfected it here in America.

    3. *sad face* It must’ve changed since I went backpacking there. We THOUGHT we’d find the most awesome pizza in Italy, but the only time we ever saw a ‘proper pizza’ was a small shop that served ‘American’ style pizza. Every time we saw a pizza in a bakery or any other shop, it was a chewy loaf of bread, with tomato sauce and olives on top. My family being foodies, we TRIED. Not sure what we missed.

  22. Aside from that hugely important (*grin*) quibble, *what* an awesome post! I ought to finish reading it, lol!

  23. Okay, I finished. I need that audiobook. Need. In the meantime, is there a link to the original story/stories?

  24. On behalf of British men who don’t live in London, that’s London behaviour. Unfortunately, it seems to be spreading, judging by the reactions I get when I give up my seat.

    1. My reactions are:

      A) whoops, I don’t want to accidentally microaggress anyone by ignoring their gender equality, so I’m keeping my seat, which I had to pay for

      B) it’s not my problem that the train company sold more tickets than they had seats. Which seems to be exclusively a train thing; at least I don’t hear about people standing in the aisles in airplanes or buses.

      1. Oh, we have people standing in the aisles in buses. I don’t know if they still have them, but there used to be little plaques in the double decker buses that gave the capacity – it was always specified in terms of number sitting and number standing.

  25. Thanks to all the missionaries, there’s a number of import shops in downtown SLC, including one catering to British food and one to German. If you’re missing authentic European chocolate (and the Swiss do it best—this is 8 years of living in Germany talking here), you can pick up a dozen different varieties there.

    1. Echoing what Daddy Warpig said. Lots of good import places in SLC for getting tasty Euro foods. In addition to the good Euro chocolate (including Kinder chocolate), the German place also has real German sauerkraut available as well.

  26. “Interesting side note, there is this cold medicine in England called “Night Nurse” and I don’t know what the hell they put in it, but it kicks Nyquil’s ass. I’m betting we can’t get it here because you can cook it into meth or something…”

    Promethazine, a sedative, antihistamine, and antipsychotic. Rx only in the U.S., sorry.

    And yes, it’s used illicitly as an ingredient in “purple drank” or “sizzurp” (along with codeine).

  27. My wife and I find it bizarre that people will travel abroad and not eat the local food. Glad that you and your wife tried the local cuisine.

    In the USA orange juice is almost always pasteurized. That hits some of the flavor – but it also cuts down substantially on food poisoning. The pasteurizing process impacts orange juice flavor. You can always buy your oranges and then squeeze them.

    The USA has a WW1 Museum in Kansas City, Missouri that is excellent. The Imperial War Museum does largely ignore the USA. The US troops tipped the balance, but only after the European countries bled themselves out. If you go to WorldCon, go to the WW1 museum. The Truman Presidential Library is very close by. Gates and Arthur Bryant’s has excellent BBQ. Kansas City is a very fun place to go for a visit (awesome Cabellas also) – but I’m not going to WorldCon.

  28. I grew up in a place that completely lacked public transit, so any upbringing calling for yielding seats to women would be purely theoretical.

    What is the reason why a middle-aged fat guy ought to give up his seat to a young woman just on the basis that she is female? The only thing that comes immediately to mind is that if you try to give up your seat to a pregnant woman, and it turns out that she isn’t pregnant, then you might have accidentally made an enemy. Giving up your seat to all women eliminates this risk, but I’m not convinced that this is a particularly good reason.

    1. “What is the reason why a middle-aged fat guy ought to give up his seat to a young woman just on the basis that she is female?”


      1. Manners is an effect, not a cause.

        By saying “manners”, you are saying that you were raised in a society in which the custom is that women ought to be offered a seat strictly because they are women. This is probably because of a larger complex of rules which were conceived by society to support and protect its women, because the protection of a society’s women is critical to the survival of that society.

        We tear down some of those rules at our peril. The reports I saw when the Costa Concordia cruise ship sank, that the men on board didn’t work together to see to the well-being of the women, so much as leave foot prints on their backs in their haste to abandon ship.

        It isn’t at all clear to me, on the other hand, how ceding seats to young women on buses and trains, does much at all for the protection of women. Likewise, society seems to have given up on seating women at tables. I suspect that this rule came into being when enormous hardwood dining chairs were common, like the ones that you sometimes see in Mexican restaurants. Is it even actually easier for a woman to get help from a man than it is for her to seat herself?

        Of course, women have also sought to do more for themselves because as a way to establish that they are capable of seeing to themselves, because some aspects of the rules to protect women are perceived as giving them less agency. The rule about opening doors for women is dependent in part on the woman making sure that she isn’t the first to arrive at the door, and the rule about seating women at tables is dependent on the woman waiting for a man to pull the chair away from the table.

        1. Historically, the “equality” of women can be traced to the invention of antibiotics. Prior to that gift of the Almighty, women died in childbirth with alarming frequency.

          That’s why women were treated with respect by the per-antibiotics generations, and why society as a whole bent over backward to take care of the young, healthy ones.

          You want to drive a feminist insane some time, just lay that one on them.

        2. Manners cause more manners. Once you learn to treat people more respectfully you develop more actual respect.

          1. At my age, I’ve come to the conclusion that manners can be a worthy end in themselves. Something you don’t always have to use, but it’s nice to have them.

          2. Heinlein had something to say on the topic of manners. To wit: “A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.”

    2. The middle-age fat man could use the exercise and he’s probably not wearing heels. There’s also chivalry and the understanding he should treat all women the way he wants other men to treat his mother, sisters, daughters, etc and so on.

    3. At the risk of sounding (gulp) progressive, I usually ask the person if they’d like a seat (or help, or whatever) before getting up to give it to them. I’m trying to not presume that I know what they need. I may be a privileged white guy, but knowing what’s best for everybody is too much work.

      But I’ll hold a door open for anybody.

  29. I ate one pizza in Germany. I believe the restaurant was owned by Italians, as were most of the ice-cream shops I encountered.

    The pizzas were sized to be eaten by one person and the ingredients were sorted into quadrants. One quadrant had pepperoni, one had mushrooms, etc. Alles in ordnung!

    1. Reminds me of the joke, in Heaven the Brits are the police, the French and Italians do the cooking and the Germans run the railroads. In Hell,the Germans are the police, the English do the cooking…

      1. When I was visiting England, I made a point of eating at pubs, because that’s probably the closest we were going to get to English cooking without ending up broke. I had no problems with the flavor of the food; in fact I was quite happy with the first experience I had with a lamb pie.

        When I visited Australia for the first time, my then-not-yet mother-in-law made a very traditional British dinner (Rhys’ parents hailed from Birmingham; Rhys himself is Australia born and Aussie) and I think I upset her when I put, out of habit, salt and pepper on my roast beef, because Rhys had to explain I did that to almost all the food he’d seen me eat up to that point, except Chinese food, in which case I would put more soy sauce…

  30. I spent some time as a passenger in an Audio on the Autobahn. We pretty much did about 160 kph. I have no idea why a German would want to stick it at 100 mph, but we more or less did. On the stretch where we were, that was a fairly typical speed. There wasn’t much passing going on. The notable exception were the motorcycles; they would whip by us like we were standing still, and the mother of the family I was riding with was definitely offering the opinion they were going to fast. I’m not sure there would have been organs left to donate if one wiped out.

    1. Oh, yeah, motorcycles went way too fast over there for their own good. I used to live in Germany (between Frankfurt and Heidelberg). Traffic around there cruised at 140-150 kph, except the motorcycles, which tended to go at least half again that speed.

      I remember driving south towards Stuttgart one day, and a motorcycle passed me going flat out. A few kilometers down the road, the road curved to the left. There were skid marks angling straight across the curve, then pieces of shredded tire leading up to a newly crushed section of guard rail. There were a few pieces of motorcycle scattered around the area as well.

      In that area, there were very tall, thick bushes growing along the Autobahn, presumably to cut down on noise. Directly in line with the skid mark and broken rail, there was a spread-eagle human silhouette missing from the bushes, at about 6 or 8 feet off the ground. Just like from a coyote and roadrunner scene. I had never thought that was actually possible until I saw it myself.

      Local joke – Why does Germany have a strict helmet law for motorcyclists? So that, if they find the head, they can identify who it was.

      1. According to the NHTSA, the median speed for fatality at a motorcycle wreck is 32 miles per hour.

        Over 60 mph the chance of survival is so small that you might as well whack the twistgrip and go for the gusto.

  31. It was great to meet you, you’re such a gentleman to pose for the camera with me, your lovely wife was charming, and Jim at Forbidden Planet. You made my day when you remembered who I was and called me the British woman who shoots.

  32. there IS some american chocolate that is decent. and I say that as someone who grew up on European chocolate (well.. Latvian, but you know). Dove dark is pretty good, for example. but hershey? to me is inedible. btw, you can usualy get kinder buenos and other stuf at European groceries in US (Russian, polish, etc) and in case there aren’t in your vicinity, there should be several online that deliver.

    that said.. I’m told its the difference between imported stuff and stuff actualy sold in England.. but to this day, I don’t understand what the hell is so special about Cadbury chocolates. the ones I tried sold in US? were horrible.

    1. There’s plenty of good American chocolate. But little-to-none of it comes from the major brands such as Hershey’s. Rather, it comes from the trendy, spendy, overly-serious artisanal chocolate makers. Take a cruise through the candy aisle of a larger Whole Foods, or a Wegmans. But expect to paaaaayyyyy for it.vvikcikecudkblbeuevrvvketutlgutrdvicetrifjhb

      1. I have tried a few of those “artisanal” chocolates. most of them are not worth fraction of the money they are asking for – at least too me. among other things, their sugar to coco ratio… doesn’t work for me at all. too much sugar, not enough cocoa. there is a local place that is.. not bad. but it doesn’t taste much better than Dove dark, but costs 3 times as much.

        that said, there is this place that is ridiculously expensive, has a branch at rockefeller center and their chocolate tastes absolutely divine. then again.. its originated in Paris, so I suppose it doesn’t count so much 😛

        I may or may not be just a bit of a chocolate snob? maybe 😛

  33. Sounds like you both had a very enjoyable and educational time! Sampling the local cuisine is definitely the way to go, English Country pubs are usually a good bet in terms of the quality of the food they serve. Having being raised on English chocolate, I could never understand how Hershey’s could be popular. It was great meeting you both in Prague.

  34. When my sister used to go to Europe we always asked for candy bars. We had favorites but we just wanted whatever she bought.

  35. Your displaced Tennessean turned cognac maker here. It was a real pleasure to meet you and Bridget in Nantes. You are most welcome for the language assistance. Look me up when you come back through France. It would be an honor to serve once again as translator to the ILoH.

    It sounds like the rest of your trip was outstanding. So true about the pizza – the French version is also, um, lacking.

  36. I agree with you re: Germany…I have been there multiple times and will be there again later this month. German food and in particular German bake good should be famous worldwide. Great stuff. The autobahn is fun, very good signage and very polite drivers so long as you do not linger in the left lane. BTW, I would call a pigeon Der Poopinvogel… anyway, I completely agree with you re candy bars. Even the cheapest candy bar there is better than the crap we get here.

  37. Yeah. Speed. The nice thing about an accident of loss of control at 200kph is that there’s no need for medical services, insurance adjuster, or a wrecker. The car is a total loss and will be identified by the VIN, everyone is dead and hopefully there’s enough teeth to do dental records, and all you need is a scrap picker -upper, some push brooms and some police to direct traffic.

    Seen a couple, the car bits are usually spread over hundreds of yards ; body work comes off first then the axles and wheels, motor & gearbox, and central roll cage about 1/2 original size.

  38. Larry,I get that the autobahn is fun,but until you buy your tank the proper way to see Europe is from a nice 50 mph Willy’s Jeep

  39. Well, if there are fiery wrecks and crushed autos as a result from the introduced autobahn rules , I would expect that mr. Correia to be skinned alive and his skin filled with straw and then stuck in a stake by enraged relatives of those dead. Or they would just sue him, as in full-of-lawsuits USA?

    1. Yes, because I totally want thousands of minivans to explode, and I couldn’t possibly have been writing that in a sarcastic manner, so you’d better get good and outraged at me. We all know that me wanting German style, non shitty, speed limits here is only because I hate people. And if by some miracle we did get awesome speed limit free freeways, and lackadaisical drivers get killed because they’re too friggin’ stupid to quit blocking the left lane, then that is all on my head. Well, me and Jeremy Clarkson.

      1. You also forgot to tell people eat sensibly, to brush their teeth, and not set themselves on fire.

        1. Darn it, I knew I forgot something. I don’t suppose anyone has a fire extinguisher handy, do they?

      2. I always felt that cross-country inter-big-state roads need to have no speed limit, because lots of land to cross. Then again, my childhood was with the Autobahn, and I recently did a ‘move across Australia’ trip. Believe me, I wished there were areas where we could’ve gone to 200kmph.

        1. A friend’s wife is from the island of Grenada. She had traveled a bit in the US and Canada, but mostly in the east, there it is wooded and hilly.

          She and her husband drove from Tennessee to Arizona. Somewhere in Oklahoma she got a mild case of the weirds.

          Later, Jay overheard her talking to her sister. “It’s like… the sea. It just goes on and on. For days…”

          A lot of I-40 there’s nothing but horizon for 360 degrees, and towns are far apart. Pretty strange for an urbanite, I guess.

          1. TRX, I’ve driven a LOT of I-40 East of the Mississippi, but it’s got nothing on the Western side. At least towards the Appalachians there’s a better than even chance any odd exit you take will have decent barbecue in the mountains. Texas and points westward? Have to take stops to “wake up” because of mental fatigue. Mp3 player and audiobooks help. Lots.

          2. Rhys took the ‘scenic route’ – which meant that occasionally, there were mountains and towns, just as a change of pace. There was a faster route, but he says it’s mostly small European-country sized farmlands.

            I got my case of panic when we were driving through a forest and saw one of those signs that denote the risk of bushfire – and the arrow was in the second-highest range of likelihood…

  40. I recommend Rome for your next trip to Europe. There’s something to standing where Caesar did, to seeing the bridge where Constantine and Belisarius fought, to descending 40ft below street level to see a Mithraic temple — that was at street level when it was built.

    Istanbul’s pretty cool, too. Their Archaeological museum is as good as the British Museum, and has its share of unique items. You can see the pillar made from the melted down arms and armor of a defeated Persian army, a sarcophagus from one of Alexander the Great’s generals, and an entire wing dedicated to Troy.

    1. If he does, it should be during the warmer months, to enjoy the sunshine and the gelato and outdoor eating. It was autumn when we went and we still ate outside and had huge gelatos because best ice cream in the whole damn world I don’t care if it’s 5 deg. centrigrade I will eat it!

  41. “It’s that Beardly McOperator look. I’m talking full Contractor Chic. When you see a dozen guys all eyeballing something, and they’re sporting 5-11s, Tap Out, tribal tattoos, Big Penis Watches, and various Surefire and Under Armor logos, and as innocuous bystander tourist guy I suddenly feel like I’m standing in line at SHOT Show, I certainly hope this isn’t you guys’ idea of ‘blending in’.”

    I chuckled at this. Yes. Spyderco clipped to cargo pants pocket. Sunglasses perched atop ballcap. Tacti-cool, brother.

    1. Hey, with all the bushwacking and downhill buttsliding I do, I love my 5-11 shorts.

      Geocaching, where the weak are killed and eaten.

  42. Ah, Larry. You made me miss Europe all over again. Glad you enjoyed the trip and the food!

  43. My wife an I fell in love with the Kinder Bueno on our Honeymoon in Ireland! FYI You can buy them from Amazon by the box! We always keep them on hand now!

  44. I just want to thank you for visiting Prague, I took a vacation for Friday to get your autograph (and thanks for your little drawing as well!). I even almost wanted to bring some phone for you to autograph it, because I enjoy your audiobooks. I decided against it and just bought all three Grimnoir books. But the guy in front of me had all of your books, that have been translated and I didn’t want to slow down the line.
    Anyway I am glad you had fun and as Jakub said before me – please come back after you explode our lovely capital.

  45. You wouldn’t think a diesel Volvo would be comfy at 112 miles an hour, but it really is. Yes. I friggin’ love the autobahn. If I lived here I would buy a giant BMW or Audi and drive very fast, all the time. Why can’t we have something like this here? I would like to institute autobahn style rules on I-15 in Utah. Sure, a few thousand people would probably die in the first weekend, but after that it would be awesome.

    “Think of it as evolution in action.” 😀

  46. “American chocolate is waxy garbage, and we are losing the Snack Wars.”

    You’re only discovering that just now? My kids’ candy stashes are usually safe from me because I can’t stand half the chocolate in there. I have minimum standards—though oddly enough, chocolate chips always pass the test.

    If you read up on chocolate, you find a quick way to determine basic quality is to look to see if they use real vanilla. Vanillin—a processed substitute—is much cheaper and indicates an overall lower quality.

    Of course, I live in California, and we not only have two good chocolatiers in San Francisco (the other one is Guittard, and they make excellent chocolate chips), we also have See’s Candy. But if you really need some decent chocolate fast, Russell Stover is the best of the cheap stuff. (Chocolate Easter bunnies…)

    … doesn’t everyone rank their candy preferences?

  47. Very glad to hear that you enjoyed your trip and that you’re back safely.

    As a Brit, couple of minor points:
    1. The Imperial War Museum, well some friends might say it’s compensation for the lack of British involvement at *some* US World War Two museums they visited.
    2. -blush- about the lack of manners on the tube. -sorry-
    3. Good point that when visiting a non-English speaking country that you know at least a few basic phrases. In my limited experience asking “Do you speak English?” in their language comes across as much more polite.

  48. It used to gall me when Europeans sneered at our chocolate. Then I was stationed in Germany and I found out why.

  49. Sounds like the times I spent in Germany courtesy of the U.S. Army. I was an atypical soldier in that I didn’t go to GI bars and tried to learn the language at least enough to get by. I don’t remember any problems in any of the countries I visited and found myself trying new foods constantly. I know you don’t drink but one of the Rhine stops is at Rudesheim. There’s all kinds of wine shops there and the saying is that “you can’t drink all the wine in Rudesheim”. Glad you spread good cheer and helped dispell the image of the Ugly American. Oh yeah, my first tour, I had a 401 cid 1974 AMX, LOVED the autobahn, passing trucks with 6 inches to spare at 120 mph is almost as good as sex.

  50. Speaking as a German, it is so nice seeing someone from America appreciate our country. You have no idea how unpleasant some commentary can be – *cough*BillBryson*cough*. So I really appreciate this. I know Heidelberg – great University town. Come back again, and we’ll show you the _really_ cool stuff. 🙂

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