It’s nearly the end of August and that means most everyone has used their vacation time - if they had any to use in the first place.
Most farmers and ranchers are still hard at work harvesting crops, putting up hay and moving cows from one pasture to the next. If they were able to sneak in a day or two of visiting relatives, attending a niece’s wedding or even a little fishing, they were lucky.
Let’s face it - the majority of us spend our vacations fixing up, cleaning and painting our houses, weeding and watering gardens or mowing lawns, and cleaning out basements or garages. It’s those kind of things we’d like to do on weekends - but there’s never enough time.
Last night, I was sitting out on my lawn with my two beautiful puppies and my older dog, who is still so lovely and sweet and I was thinking it felt like a nice vacation ought to. No work - just play. Sitting there watching people walk by with their toddlers in strollers and dogs on leashes on a warm August evening, it felt like heaven.
It got me reminiscing about when I used to take what anyone would consider real vacations - back a very, long time ago when I was single and there wasn’t a house to constantly clean or fix up.
There were lots of vacations back then because I was carefree and young and I wanted to see and do everything.
It was very nice being in the Army for 10 years and spending nearly five years of it overseas in Germany.
The Army sponsored inexpensive weekend bus trips all over Europe and we all took advantage of at least a few of them. We brought back lots of souvenirs, some that I still have - like a Hummel figurine of a little boy and a real crystal ashtray from a factory in Germany. It looks nice on my bookshelf.
On one of those weekends, we went to Paris, France. We stayed at a hotel right in front of the Eiffel tower. I didn’t go up in it, but took lots of pictures. But I wasn’t very impressed with it. It looked very dirty, like it needed someone to hose it down with soapy water.
I remember I was very excited to practice speaking my four years of French I had taken in high school to anyone who would listen. I was busy asking where the nearest restaurant was, and watching people snub me and walk right on by.
It is true what they say about French people not being the nicest folks in the world. But when I spoke English to them, I got my answer to my question.
The only thing I bought to eat all weekend were ham sandwiches because I didn’t bring a lot of money with me and they were cheap. Of course, I had to have coffee for breakfast and could not believe how awful it tasted. One thing about Paris though - the statues were huge and beautiful.
I did go to the Louvre and really wanted to see the Mona Lisa. The Louvre is filled with paintings from the old masters that are room-sized paintings. When I got to the Mona Lisa, I couldn’t believe how disappointed I was. There were two armed guards standing on either side of it and it was a tiny painting - the size of a piece of typewriter paper. I always thought it would be huge!
We also went to Copenhagen one weekend. There were lots of inexpensive souvenirs to buy - and they were all made in China! Some things never change. We crossed the ocean to get to the country on a ferry and I can remember being so sea sick, I thought I would die.
And there was no running water in Copenhagen - at least none that we could drink. Today, bottled water is common but back then it was really weird having to drink water from a bottle and not a faucet.
I also remember taking a weekend trip to Holland, and searching everywhere for windmills to take photos of. There were none. Finally we got to one area of the country, and there were a few tulips growing and there was a windmill.
The people there speak perfect English. They said everything in their country was destroyed, flattened in World War II. A couple of windmills are still there for tourists to take photos of but most of the country is extremely modern - and not very picturesque.
We went to a movie theatre in Holland and the movie screen was the size of a television screen. We were sitting in these nice, soft chairs and watching this little screen. I can’t remember what the movie was about either.
I still have a couple of photos of me in Holland, one standing on top of a dike, which looks just like a regular hillside and the other getting out of a Volkswagen in front of a restaurant. Fortunately, I wrote letters every week and sent photos by the tons to my grandmother. She saved them all, and now I have them for my memories.
I did take a week’s trip to Italy because I was hoping to see the sun after what had been a very cold summer in Germany. I was looking forward to seeing the ocean and seaside in Italy.
Italy, as it turned out, is not the place to drive a car through. There is one toll road after another, and when you get to your destination, you don’t have a lot of money left to spend on anything.
There was a little sun in Italy and we walked in the sand by the ocean.
I also remember going to Switzerland on a weekend and thinking it was one of the most beautiful countries I’d ever seen. It was very clean, just as if they had janitors up in the mountains cleaning off the trails and planting flowers. The river was a crystal green color, very pretty.
Austria and Germany were both nice countries and I can remember being amazed how much money even people with jobs like working in a hotel made. It seemed everyone made a good living.
One strange thing about the Germans. They would throw out their beautiful, antique dressers and cupboards all the time and buy modern ones. The antiques would be out on the streets once a week where we Americans (and the Turkish people, too) could come by and pick them up and take them home to use.
If no one picked them up, they would be carted off to the dump.
The food was excellent in Germany and you could bring your dog with you into the restaurant to eat. I had brought my dog with me to Germany that I had gotten at the dog pound in Tacoma, Wash. She only cost $25 to buy from the pound, but it cost me over $300 dollars to ship her overseas!
She loved to eat lots of pork schnitzel at the German restaurant, and so did I!
I’ve never been sorry I traveled so much when I was young, because I have no desire to go anywhere anymore.
In fact, just sitting on the lawn with my dogs and watching all the people go by is one of my favorite things to do these days.
Hope you are all enjoying the last, beautiful days of summer, too.