26 October 2018
Onboard SQ345 from Zurich to Singapore
|It's not every day you get to see a view like this|
The climb up Mount Titlis was unforgettable, for sure, but when I look back at our time in Switzerland, the memory that sticks out the most is our last night in Lucerne.
We wanted to find a nice restaurant or coffee shop where we could say goodbye to Europe properly. I think it was Alex or Love who suggested that we just buy drinks and snacks from the local Billa (or whatever supermarket was still open) and find a spot by the river. We rode the No. 4 bus from our hotel to the main train station, walked up to the Old Town and managed to buy what we needed from a grocery store just minutes before it closed.
Afterwards, we walked over to a bridge by the lake, with a view of Chapel Bridge and a bright full moon. There, while some of us guzzled the local beer (Eichhof!), some had iced coffee, and all of us munched on peanuts and potato chips, we started reminiscing about the trip--all the cities we visited, the food that we ate and the people we met. Almost everybody said Switzerland was their number one country, if only for the Mount Titlis experience, when we got to spend a few hours playing in the snow and in freezing weather.
|Hello from 10,000 feet up|
Cecille said she likes Lucerne because it's soulful. Branden was torn between Prague and Venice. Mark said Prague was his number one, until we got to Venice and met the Almariegos and he fell in love with Burano. I think Toni will always remember Bled. The others argued about how to rank the places we've been to--is it by country? By city? By place? Or by experience? That went on for almost two hours, I think.
All the while, I kept thinking about the genuinely unique experience we all shared. Most people travel to places with their families or maybe one or two friends, but hardly anybody gets to go on a massive Europe tour with eight other people they consider as friends. Even rarer is the fact that somehow, miraculously, we all got along, with hardly any major conflict or even petty bickering.
It's been said that one of the best ways to get to know people is to travel with them; you'll end up either hating them or loving them even more. I think it's the latter for me. It was a chance to reinforce some of the things that I adore about the members of this little group:
With Portia, it was her always-prepared attitude and her propensity to offer help to anyone, anywhere and at anytime. I've traveled with her before and I already knew this about her. She's always ready to lend a hand whether it's reminding everybody about what documents to bring or offering to split a sandwich with somebody. She also probably gets the award for most photographs taken during the whole trip.
|Portia hanging out at her villa in Salzburg|
With Alex, it was his effortless humor and how he can almost always lift everybody's spirits, even when our tongues were hanging out of our mouths from sheer exhaustion at having to lug our heavy suitcases from one city to the next. He's probably one of the funniest people I know and it's amazing to me that he doesn't even have to try hard at it. (I'll still always blame him, though, for giving me stomach cramps from laughing way too hard at his "songs").
|Alex poses in the cobblestoned streets of Salzburg|
With Susan, it was her gung-ho attitude and motherly instincts. Traveling is hard, especially in a multi-city, multi-country trip, but I barely heard any complaints from her throughout our time together. She very kindly cooked for us during the times when we chose to stay in our apartment instead of eating out. She can always sniff out a bargain and she also never runs out of stories to tell, all of which are always fascinating.
|Susan says Prague is all hers|
With Cecille, it was her wide-eyed explorer spirit, caring ways and witty banter. Cecille was always game with a funny comment, usually in tandem with Alex, which always cracked me up. She's a romantic at heart, and it was through her eyes that I felt a newfound appreciation for all the places I've visited before. She also took on tasks for the group that hardly anyone else likely wanted to do. I liked also that she shared her best moments on the trip with her family back home, first and foremost.
|Cecille feels her cheeks on Mt Titlis, Switzerland|
With Branden, it was his state of near-constant excitement and incredibly chill demeanor throughout our trip. He reminded me of a little kid the way he expressed eagerness for each new place that we visited. He's incredibly self-aware and was probably the best at getting along with everybody else in the group. If Portia wins at taking the most pictures, Branden probably gets the medal for most pictures of himself taken during our trip (which isn't a bad thing, especially when people think you look better than Alden Richards!)
|Branden looks away from the camera in Germany|
With Love, it was her free spirit, honesty and lack of pretensions. Everybody knows her as being funny, loud and always exuding a sunny personality. In Europe, I got to know her emotional side (both of us became teary-eyed as we walked inside the old concentration camp in Dachau), as well as her loving, empathetic side (she constantly spoke with her husband and daughter throughout our trip). She's also a great listener and follower; you didn't need to tell her twice about things like what time to get up or where we'll all meet at a certain time. Thanks to her, we all have video reminders of all of the places we've visited.
|Love's happy on the way up Mt. Titlis|
With Toni, it was her relentlessly good mood and unshakeable disposition. Everybody loves Toni. She gets teased a lot, but I think that's because she makes everyone around her feel comfortable and valuable. She chatted with our hosts Evan and Jasmin in Salzburg and was always ready with her pack of Chinese medicines for everything from migraines and upset stomach to itchy skin and a bad back. We all supported her quest to collect Starbucks tumblers from all the countries we visited. She deserves to be happy.
|Toni's radiant in Prague|
And with Mark, it was his overall graciousness, kindness and leadership. Mark was always ready with a joke or a laugh and it was him who came up with the TWO GOLDEN RULES for this trip. I think those two rules helped set the tone for the whole time we were together. He deferred to suggestions from everybody but was also steadfast with his decisions. He wanted to "imprint" on all the places we went to, which I thought was better than simply taking a picture and checking it off a list. I think he holds this group together, even if he doesn't acknowledge or admit to it.
|Mark's "wow" face in Prague|
So that's our big Europe trip. It wasn't perfect, we could've gone to other places or done other things, but just as I expected, it was one laugh trip after another and about as much fun as I've ever had in any of my travels. Whether this turns out to be a more regular thing, who knows? But what I know for sure is that wherever we go, what's important is we're all there together.
|Possibly the last selfie we took on our last night together in Lucerne|