Hiya bookies! This is the special trip blog I’ve been promising you, and that so many of you have been emailing me about writing. As I start this I’m sick as a dog with some sort of gloppy virus (if I start growing a little twisty tail I’ll figure it’s the swine flu) that involves coughing, aching, fatiguing, and sore throating. Yuck. But don’t worry, I’m wearing a mask so you can’t catch anything reading my blog.

As a reminder to those of you who weren’t following my every move on the virtual tour guide that I promised to update hourly, but which I couldn’t because it doesn’t exist, the tour went from Memphis to Paris (France, not Tennessee), Luzern, Switzerland, then to Florence (Italy! Not Alabama. Good grief people) and Rome. (Also in Italy, not one of the dozens of others).

According to at least one podometer that was on the trip, we walked a minimum of 60 miles in 8 days. We encountered weather that ranged from mid 50’s and soaking rain in Paris to 95+ and blazing sun in Florence and Rome. Try packing for that range of temps!

Why so much walking? This trip is designed for high school kids at the school my kids attended. They have graduated long since, but as alumni are still eligible. Likewise, parents are too. And it doesn’t hurt that our head chaperon is a close friend and married to a college fraternity brother of mine. Anyway, these school tours cannot in any way, shape or form be considered a vacation. Vacations leave you refreshed and ready for return to work. These tours are grueling endurance tests that show you far more of the countries you visit than a leisurely tour could, but leave you drained and, more often than not, sick. This was our fifth time going and I hope next year will be 6. Because while the price is high, both monetarily and physically, when it’s all said and done it’s more than worth it.

There is also a real sense of accomplishment when you’re done. We hadn’t done such a trip in three years, the last one to Germany, Austria & the Czech Republic, and your friendly neighborhood bookseller was more than a little worried that he could no longer keep up with the kiddies. In the end, although sick and exhausted, I made it just fine. I’m almost always sick afterwards so this is nothing new, but knowing I could still do it, even badly out of shape, was encouraging.