ian in spain

Ian is now nearing the end of his travels in Europe.  I’m thinking of this as his S and Vowel tour:

Spain-Sweden-Scotland-Estonia-England-Ireland.  Not the actual order of travel.  I switched Scotland and Estonia to make the gimmick work better.

For the next week or so, he will be with our friends Todd and Suzanne and their family outside of London, in Surrey.  If you have suggestions for off-the-beaten-track things he should see and do in London and environs, do tell.  (Thank you Beth, you’ve already done this.)  He’s not an extravagant spender – it’s those Scottish roots – but obviously, he’s enjoying free lodgings in a world class city, so he’s way ahead of the game.

We are grateful to Facebook for providing another way of tracking our teen, as we play our very own edition of “Where in the World is Matt Laurer?”  Ian usually calls every Saturday, and it’s always a joy to pick up the phone and hear a deep voice saying “Hi, Mom.”

When he flies in from Dublin in early December, we will finally get to hear his travel stories, complete with details and digressions – all the embroidery that completes the texture of a tale.

For now, here are some of the snippets that we know:

*On the flight from Barcelona to Stockholm, someone died.  Flight attendants asked if any doctors or nurses were aboard.  The plane made an emergency landing in France.  Police came onboard to make inquiries.  Ian’s seatmate was a Penn State student, a PR major, who kept up a running commentary about how Ryanair handled the situation.   Our friend Rob met Ian at the airport in Sweden, and emailed us grim jokes about the situation.  “Ryanair never flies with an empty seat, the stopover in France was probably to replace the dead guy.”  And “Hey, that was one passenger who didn’t complain about the lack of legroom – until rigor mortis set in!”  Apparently this was the only Ryanair flight that did not land on time, in all of 2009. 

*Rob and Anki and their daughters took Ian to a judo competition in Sweden.  Not what you think of as typical Scandinavian fare, but he loved it.   Anki was concerned that Ian was looking too skinny and I’m sure she worked to fatten him up.  It was wonderful for him to be with a family that he has known forever, in a real house with old friends in a beautiful new place.  Chris and I felt completely relaxed the whole time Ian was in Sweden, knowing he was in the best of hands with Rob, Anki, Heddy and Octavia.  Much the way we feel now with Ian under the roof of Todd, Suzanne, John, William, Leslie and Catherine.  (People often ask how we know these benevolent host families.  The dads are Chris’s friends from UVA.  Thank heavens for life-long college pals!  Who conveniently live abroad!)

*Although sad to leave Sweden (direct quote from his FB status update), Ian ended up having a great few days on his own in Scotland.  He hung out with Aussie gap year guys at the hostel who were  impressed when he chatted up Spanish beauties at the pub. 

*He got to visit a hometown friend, Sophie, at her college - University of St. Andrews.  I occasionally run into her father at our local post office, as he dutifully sends giant care packages to his daughter in Scotland.  This is the first other 18 year old Ian has visited at college, and I don’t think any other campus will ever quite compare to this magical Hogwarts-esque school on the sea, founded in 1413.


*Our son is almost qualified to write a guide to the thrift shops of Europe.  I must remember to tell him to go into Oxfam Shop he sees.  Also any Spastic Shop.  These really existed back in the 1980s.  Perhaps the name has changed by now, but these were thrift stores that benefited the Spastic Society.   My dad will attest that I could not stop laughing when I first saw the shop.  (Remember that picture you took of me posing under the sign, Daddy?)  Those Brits, they don’t   beat around the bush.  Here’s our kid at a resale shop in Barcelona, with the Jamaican owner who talked to him about Obama.

ian thrift shop

*The photo at the top of this post is also from Spain.  We don’t know who the girl is, but she’s very cute, and the room looks nice and sunny, and Ian looks healthy.   For a kid who has never traveled alone before – not even to sleep-away camp – he’s learned a lot, figured things out on his own, and gained many useful skills for later life.  And he’s already talking about a trip he wants to take next summer.  To Norway.

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