MY WORLD TRAVELING DAYS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I traveled a lot during the 25 years with my first husband, Larry. After we had kids, we frequently took them with us. Larry, who was bipolar, was often manic when it came to traveling. One year, we took twelve trips in twelve months, often with two kids. Many of the trips were just weekend trips, but they all involved planning, packing, and logistics, which I handled. I was exhausted and drained by the end of that year.

Over the years we traveled a lot in the United States, mostly out west. In Europe, we traveled extensively in France and the UK, as well as a bit in Belgium, Holland, Germany, and Israel.

The California coast in the early years of marriage

It took me years and years to figure out how to plan a good trip. It was hard because Larry liked to move around a lot and cover a lot of territory. I liked to stay in a smaller area and cover it more slowly and in more in-depth. So we had to compromise. I learned that you have to be knowledgeable about your travel destinations to be able to tailor a trip. It takes a lot of research, all of which I did, for all of our numerous trips.

Outside of Paris before I had my kids

When we first started traveling in the UK and Europe, we over-scheduled ourselves. In America, you can cover a large geographical area and not find too many places you really want to explore. That’s not the case in Europe and the UK. Towns and sightseeing spots there are more numerous and are crammed more tightly together. The history there covers almost every square inch.

Yosemite, pregnant with my first child

I found that it was hard to cover too much actual territory and feel that you’d seen and done what you wanted to in the area, Plus, whenever we went overseas, we tried to spend a few days in London with our old and dear English friends, the Millers. After 1984, we also had a second set of close friends in London, American ex patriots named the Schiffers. We also saw them regularly on both sides of the Atlantic.

In 1984, for example, we took a long trip with our four-year old son, David. We visited London, of course, as well as several counties in the southwest of England. Then we went north to Yorkshire and Wales and over to Holland to visit the Schiffers, who were living there at the time.

When I travel, I always like to stay in charming B&B’s in the picturesque countryside. Some we stayed in were simple and some were manor homes on beautiful grounds that had been turned into B&B’s so that the families could afford to keep their homes. On this particular trip, we also thought that our son would find it fun to stay on a working farm for a few days. We did that — and got to watch a calf being born. Such an amazing experience!

Mother cow and newborn calf, 1984

On this trip I felt that we were running around too much and were missing many of the local attractions wherever we went. So I planned another trip in 1986 that I hoped would be smaller in scale. This time we were traveling with our six-year-old son and our one and a half-year old daughter. This trip covered only Devon in England, plus London and a few towns in Wales.

Unfortunately I didn’t realize how big Devon was, so we still ended up feeling rushed. But we got to do plenty of my favorite things in England — visiting magnificent National Trust estates with manicured gardens and grand manor houses. My idea of heaven.

We had the same learning curve in France. Though it was harder to rein Larry in here because he wanted to hit as many one, two and three Michelin star restaurants as possible. Need I say that our meals in France were always beyond words.

On one trip, in 1994 for our twentieth anniversary, we covered Paris, Burgundy, the Loire Valley and Provence. I fell in love with Provence. In particular, I fell in love with a B&B we stayed in which was run by an English woman. It was called Jas des Eydins. It was beautiful, peaceful and idyllic, but also warm and friendly. I took so many photos there that I ended up making a very large photo montage of photos just from this B&B.

When Larry and I went to France again two years later, in 1996, we had a considerably pared down itinerary. We traveled through Provence again and to the Dordogne region. I insisted that this time we spend an entire week at Jas des Eydins! We got to explore the incredible Luberon Valley in-depth this time. I was happy. That was one of the favorite places I’ve ever stayed in all my extensive travels.

One of the most memorable tourist spots there is a corkscrew museum at a vineyard in the wine country. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen an exhibit of pornographic corkscrews!

Pornographic corkscrews

We also traveled often in the American West. This is a totally different experience. Bear in mind that the entire UK is approximately the size of Wyoming OR Michigan OR Minnesota. So we could comfortably do a 4000 mile drive throughout the western United States and Canada in the same time we took to travel through a few small counties in England. In the summer of 1989, we took our four-year old and our nine-year old on a large loop that started in Salt Lake City Utah. We drove up through Idaho and Washington into Vancouver and across southwestern Canada to Banff. We reentered the U.S. in Montana, getting to the border crossing just minutes before it closed for the night. We then drove south through Wyoming and back to Salt Lake City.

We mostly saw natural sites, like Glacier National Park in Montana. We spent several days at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. We rode horses through the countryside, walked on a glacier, swam in a natural hot spring, and spent several days with friends at a National Bankruptcy Judge’s Conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

In the U.S, there can be long distances between points of interest. So though the distances were huge and we did a lot of driving, we saw most of what we had set out to see.

After 25 years, I burned out on traveling with Larry. Our last summer together, in 1998, I insisted we stay home and train the new puppy we had adopted. My mother was diagnosed with cancer that summer, so it turned out to have been a good decision to stay home.

I travel the world much less these days with Tom. In part, that’s because we spent six months of the year traveling locally on our boat. I’m happy these days puttering around Long Island Sound or up and down the Atlantic coast in New York and New England. It’s a different type of traveling. It takes less planning and it’s more relaxing. So I’m happy to leave by globe-trotting days behind.

18 thoughts on “MY WORLD TRAVELING DAYS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

    • Not at all. The animals in these parks are used to seeing humans. As long as you don’t spooke them or touch them, they go about their business. It’s wonderful to see them in their natural habitat. I wouldn’t go that close to an alligator in the Everglades though!

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  1. Ellin, your family (the kids) was fortunate to get a taste of life outside their comfort zone. I’m sure it broadened their appreciation of people and other cultures. My early trips abroad fell into the too much planned, not enough savored category. One of my favorite trips — travelling solo — Paris and the champagne country to the south. Best trip — probably our Irish honeymoon. Marilyn gets the credit. 3 weeks, lots of B&B’s, travel by car and meeting many locals.

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    • Your Irish trip really appeals to me. Lots of B&B’s, driving through the countryside, seeing how people live and meeting as many as you can. That’s the way to travel as far as I’m concerned. Larry liked to see as many tourist sites as possible in any area. And he liked to shop. So we often lost some of the local flavor doing the touristy things.

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      • My mother thought the world was a giant shopping mall. She would tell me what to buy in each city. Not only did I not have that kind of money, but I didn’t need that much stuff. Though we sure did improve our tweed collection in Ireland. Garry is STILL wearing those jackets. I don’t think they ever wear out.

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        • To me, shopping in foreign countries is a waste of precious time – unless you are buying iconic touristy type souvenirs. Or something you really need. We once went to the Harrod’s annual blow out sale and bought a full set of dishes and chrystal at half the price we would have paid for similar quality in the U.S.

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