Monday, March 19, 2007

Mulling Things Over

This weekend we talked about travel plans.

In truth, none of us HAVE any travel plans--not my parents, not my brother, not Josh and me. Nonetheless, we discussed potential--VERY potential--trips abroad, and it seems that everyone is very keen to go somewhere, but that no one knows when it will be possible to go and what the destination should be.

My parents love to travel to Europe. However, they are at an age at which they no longer like to travel to Europe on their own. My parents are still very young (my mother is only in her very late fifties, and my father is only in his very early sixties) and they both are in excellent health, but nevertheless they no longer want to take "stimulation" vacations by themselves--they only want to take "relaxation" vacations by themselves now.

This accounts for the fact that they were perfectly content to spend a few days by themselves in San Diego ten days ago--San Diego was a "relaxation" vacation. This also accounts for the fact that, for their trip to Hamburg, they wanted to be joined by my brother and by Josh and me--Hamburg was a "stimulation" vacation.

My father probably will not retire for another five years or so but, after he is retired, I suspect that he and my mother will want to do some serious traveling--but I do not think that they will want to do that serious traveling on their own.

My older brother loves to travel in Europe, but he cannot do so at present, as he and his wife are raising an infant.

My middle brother also loves to travel in Europe, but he does not like to go to Europe by himself. Since my older brother is out of commission for the time being, my middle brother must now look to Josh and me as his prospective travel companions.

I love to travel to Europe, whether by myself, whether with my middle brother, whether with both of my brothers, whether with my parents, or whether with all of them.

Josh has been to Europe, but only with his Dad (except for last November's Hamburg trip), and he looks forward to some serious explorations of Europe with me. I promised Josh that our next trip to Europe would involve him and me alone, and no one else, and he and I had tentatively settled upon London as the ideal city for our first trip together.

However, my middle brother wants to go somewhere during the first two weeks in September, and he wants Josh and me to join him. He does not really care where we go, but he wants to go somewhere during that particular two-week period because it suits his work schedule.

My brother's favorite destination is London, and this is because there is so much to see and do in London. There is more to see and do in London than any other city, anywhere, and London's plethora of attractions is enhanced, for him, because it has so many military museums: the National Army Museum, the Imperial War Museum, the National Maritime Museum, the artillery museum, and the RAF museum near Cambridge, each of which he could move into and establish residence.

My brother also likes London because there is always something to do in the evenings. The main London museums--the National Gallery Of Art, the National Portrait Gallery, the British Museum, the Victoria And Albert Museum, Tate Britain, Tate Modern--all have specified late night openings, and my brother does not object to spending a couple of hours in art museums in the evenings. London also has theater, in English, and my brother enjoys going to the theater in the evening when he is in London (although he NEVER goes to the theater in the U.S. unless my parents or I initiate the outing). My brother has become a true fan of Britain's National Theatre, and he is always happy to see just about anything presented there--even plays I would not necessarily expect him to enjoy. He also does not mind spending the occasional evening at the Royal Opera House or at the Coliseum.

I love London, too, and for all of the same reasons that make London so appealing to my brother. London is hardly the most beautiful city in Europe, or the most charming, or the most intoxicating, or the most exotic. London is, however, never boring, and it IS possible to be bored, on occasion, in Paris or Vienna or Florence or Madrid or Prague, especially in the evenings, when everything interesting has closed for the day.

I have spent the equivalent of four months of my life in London, and yet there are many, many important London attractions I have still never visited. I have never been to the Dulwich Picture Gallery or Kenwood House or Leighton House or Spencer House or Kensington Palace or the Guildhall or The Royal Academy Of Art or the many small Christopher Wren churches in "The City". I have never bothered to explore the Victoria And Albert Museum, although I have gone inside, on three occasions, to sit down and examine The Raphael Cartoons for an hour at a time.

Josh and I have been talking, and we are now reconsidering whether our first trip, by ourselves, should be to London. Perhaps Josh and I should go to London with my brother, and go to Paris by ourselves. My brother much prefers London to Paris, and he will have a better time in London than Paris (or practically anywhere else). On the other hand, Josh and I will have a good time no matter where we go.

As for my parents, my mother has a hankering to visit Munich again, and my father wants to do a serious exploration of Spain.

My parents have been to Munich, but only briefly, and my mother fell in love with the idea of returning to Munich after my last trip there, in 2003. On that visit I spent a lot of time at the Alte Pinakothek, and upon my return I gave my mother a painting-by-painting description of the Alte Pinakothek's holdings, and she was entranced. The Alte Pinakothek has probably the greatest collection of Old Master paintings in the world--the Wittelsbachs were extraordinary collectors, much more astute than the Habsburgs or the Spanish and French royal families--and the gallery's holdings are equally strong in Italian, German, Spanish, Flemish and Dutch paintings. Only French paintings are under-represented at the Alte Pinakothek, but that under-representation may be forgiven in view of the rest of the holdings: 900 utterly top-drawer masterpieces, without any of the second- or third- or fourth-tier "filler" paintings that one must wade through at the Louvre or at the Prado. After my Munich trip, my mother made me promise that I would go with her and my father to Munich to show them the Alte Pinakothek (and the Neue Pinakothek and the Pinakothek Moderne and the Glyptothek--home of the Barbarini Faun--and the Residenz and the Nymphenburg Palace and the many magnificent Munich churches) and I would truly love to go back to Munich in my parents' company and see all of those things again through my parents' eyes.

My parents have been to Madrid (and did not even like it--in fact, they hated it), but my father wants to visit some of the other cities in Spain: Segovia, Avila, Salamanca, Seville, Cordoba, Granada, Valencia, Barcelona, Bilbao, Compostela. Seeing all of those cities would be a wonderful experience, but it would involve a great deal of time and planning and preparation, and I very much doubt that my parents would want to go on such a complicated journey by themselves.

So Josh and I are mulling things over, and we will talk again with my brother on this subject over Easter, and we will talk again with my parents on this subject until we arrive at some conclusions.

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