Paolo Does Europe - Sept. 18 - THE FINAL ENTRY

Starbucks saved me. I got into the airport last night at 10:30 p.m. -- approximately 12 hours before my flight departs. I figured I'd just sleep at the airport rather than go to a hostel for half a night. I've had a bad overnight at an airport before (last year at JFK, going to Greece), but decided to stick it out.

I wandered around the empty airport looking for a place to sleep -- a bench, or a row of chairs without armrests. Lo and behold, I went downstairs and encountered a closed Starbucks. Outside the Starbucks were large, softly padded love seats under Starbucks-green umbrellas. After some fidgeting and rearranging, I finally just grabbed the cushions off the couch and set-up a nice bed for myself on the floor and cozied up to my travel pillow in my travel blanket. I actually got a decent six hours of sleep before the airport woke up. That was more than I could have hoped for.

Sure, I've had some choice words about Starbucks in the past, mostly because I'm spoiled by Katrine's yummy Fiore coffee, but now I have a little more respect for Starbucks. I doubt I'll like their acidic coffee any more, but I do give them props for leaving me some comfortable furniture to crash on my last night in Europe.


I depart in just a couple hours now, and this is my last entry. I kind of imagined myself going off to some other continent annually to get my fix of the world. I imagine coming back in 50 years, retired, part of a large group touring Europe's major landmarks, museums and churches.

That was until just about an hour ago when I lined up behind a large group of retired Americans dangling dog tags from their necks that say their respective names and "Collette Vacations." I followed them in the nearest cafe. Upon ordering, they just opened up their hands, full of coins of various currencies, and told the cashier to take what she needed. No effort to count. No effort to seperate currencies. Just open hands and the kind of disgusted look as if a St. Bernard had just drooled on their hands.

I contently ordered a delish apple danish and cappuccino and sit now at a table across from them. They complain immediately about the food portions. Too small, no meat, they say. What'd they'd give to have a big homemade Texas breakfast with steak, eggs and gravy.

I know they're good, genial people, but I don't think I'll be traveling with that big group in 50 years. No dog tags for me. I think I'll stick to traveling just as I have this time -- a little language prep, a backpack and an on-the-go schedule. And I'll be at it 50 times in between now and then, just for practice.


Editor's Note: Thanks everyone, for tolerating this prolonged travel journaling. I hope you enjoyed it. I'll do it again in 2008. Now to flip the coin between South America and New Zealand... If you'd like to look at the various pictures I've published throughout this series, just click here.