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Opportunities Missed

Year-end-reflecting on opportunities missed: while planning my 2017 “Grand Tour” itinerary, I rented a car a few times to allow me to get beyond where I might go with the Danube bike tour or my Eurail pass. After a long weekend in #Budapest, I picked up a Renault from Sixt. (The Budapest marathon was underway as I headed to the rental office.) My route to explore Hungary took me southwest, practically to the border of eastern Croatia, then east along the borders with Serbia and Romania. In my planning, I only focused on Hungary, and thus missed to chance to visit three more countries and probably about 5 more cathedrals (Subotica, Arad, Oradea.) I only realized this recently, when looking at the Eastern Hemisphere map on the #CathedralstotheGloryofGod website.

Similarly, on a one day driving trip in southern Czechia out of Brno, I was close to Katowice and Krakow in Poland. A week later, on a day trip by train from Dresden to Bautzen and #Gorlitz, I could have walked across the Lusatian Niesse River into Poland and Zgorzelec. Instead, in Gorlitz, I attended a brief Adoration service at the Kathedrale St Jakobus, which proved to be a pilgrimage site on the Camino, or Way of St James, to Santiago de Compestela.

Statue of St James in the cathedral in Gorlitz

A year later, building on a bike tour in Andalusia, I planned an itinerary starting in Barcelona and basically clockwise following the coast of the Iberian peninsula. This time in addition to online research, I sought out advice from friends who had been to #Spain and #Portugal. Instead of racing to see multiple towns in one day as with the Hungary/Slovakia and Slovenia legs in 2017, I planned longer stays in fewer locations, allowing me time to see the towns and cities, rather than just pulling up to a cathedral, running inside and snapping pictures.

What did that gain me? Well, I took a day off the bike tour to go and visit #Jaen, a gem of a small historic city in Andalusia;

Over the rooftops in Jaen

prior to arriving in Madrid, I booked private tours to Toledo and #Segovia, as well as wine tours in the Rioja and Ribera del Duero. Segovia is not to be missed in my book.

Roman aqueduct in Segovia

Biking took us to Tarifa, but I returned after visiting Gibraltar and took the ferry for a day in Tangier, gaining Morocco and Africa on my life list. And from Lisbon, I drove to the shrine at #Fatima,

Basilica at Fatima

where I had a recommendation to go to #Batalha, to find the burial place of Prince Henry the Navigator, who I remembered from history classes in grade school. Every day was a new adventure.

Crypt of Henry the Navigator

Then in 2019, my Britain trip was as ambitious as the trip two years before. My focus, at least for England and Wales, was to visit and see cathedrals. My planning resulted in missing some great castles, and Roman and early settler archeological sites. And I never left a day for down time. But I allowed time on my day trips for more than just a visit to the cathedral, to explore the town/city. Fortunately, the last two weeks, spent in Scotland with my friend Mandra, broadened my focus so we explored more of the country and fewer churches.

On the walls of Stirling Castle

I guess you can see a lot, but miss a lot, since you can't see everything. That thought caused me to reflect on my 10-days in the Luberon region of Provence in 2012 - I was fortunate to stay at my friends' place in Goult and used their weekend home as a hub for exploring. Caroline's reply - that I'd seen more in 10 days than they'd seen in 10 years - grants forgiveness that you can see what you want, and miss some places too.

My plan is to keep all this in mind as I build my itinerary for my next cruise and rail trip in Europe. Best wishes to all for this coming new year of 2020.

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