SUMMER 2005 Great Ideas/Honeymoon Tour

Received first email below from Jason Spruell on his Great Ideas Tour. You may recall Jason was married just before departing so he and his wife Joy are enjoying a honeymoon Great Ideas Tour…Jay

Dear Jay,

I thought you might like to know, Joy and I have worked out a rough itinerary with dates for the Ramsey Tour. I will be emailing Jan Duvall for help in organizing with John Harris and other Ramsey Family members overseas. This is very rough and subject to change, especially because my brother and his wife are expecting twins to be born sometime in June.

May 11: Arrive Marseille, France
May 12-20: Travel in Southern France and Italy (Florence, Pisa, Rome, Venice, Milan) May 21: Arrive in Geneva, stay with family friend in Geneva May 22-27: Sightsee around Geneva and travel across Alps towards Vienna May 28: Arrive Vienna, visit with John Harris May 29-June 2: Visit around Vienna and travel north through Prague and Berlin June 3: Arrive Bremen, visit with family June 4-6: either travel north to Denmark with family or go south through the Netherlands/Belgium/Luxembourg (possibly staying with John Harris in Belgium)

June 7-10: Visit around Muenster with friends, colleagues and travel in the low countries June 11-22: Stay around Obernburg, Germany with my brother. Visit around central Germany including Heidelberg to see Josh Moore. June 22: Arrive Paris June 25: Fly to England June 26-July 11: Travel through northern England and Scotland with Joy’s parents. Also plan to visit Bill Barnard in Oxford.

Thanks again,

Received first email below from Jason Spruell on his Great Ideas Tour. You may recall Jason was married just before departing so he and his wife Joy are enjoying a honeymoon Great Ideas Tour…Jay

Hello from Cinquoterra

Dear All,

Joy and I wanted you to know that we are safe and in Italy. We have had a wonderful time so far, camping in campsites along the way. We are now in an internet cafe in Monterossa, Italy. It is part of the Cinquoterra–beautiful mountainside towns nestled on the Mediterranean about 1 hour south of Genoa. Things are going great.

We began our trip in Marseille, France and took some time to recover from our travels. The next day, we were able to find a great camping supply store where we stocked up. We filled up the back of our little Peugeot. It is a zippy little car that can compete with all of the crazy Italian drivers. We drove through small roads in France through Marseille to stay on the Mediterranean in Cassis, France. Our first camping night was quite save and provided a wonderful way to walk through the open air market in Cassis the next day before taking off for St. Tropez. St. Tropez had great views of the yachts coming and going along the French Riviera. There was a lovely couple staying near us who had been traveling around the Continent for around 30 years that had much advice about Italy and especially Venice. We took there advice to avoid Cannes and Nice during the Cannes film festival and therefore traveled on the Motorway at least until Monaco where we got back on the slow Sea road.

Monaco was a wonderful little side trip. It was amazing to see all of the buildings nestled on the cliffs with gorgeous views. It didn’t take long to drive through Monaco with the occasional stop for pictures. Italy came soon after Monaco and along with that, the desire to get back on the Autostrada. It would take two years to get anywhere on the little road, so at San Remo we found the Autostrada again and made our way to Genoa. The landscape and people are amazing in that 100 km will change the way in which people live. The farming increased with Italy and every available space on the hillsides was used. Genoa was a very industrial shipping town but we were able to find a camping stop up a hill in a very rainy canyon. It was a rainforest where we were staying but it was dry and arid down at the Sea–quite interesting. From Genoa we made our way yesterday to Levanto, Italy where we stayed in a wonderful campsite a short walk from the beach and little town. We are exploring today on the Cinquoterra–five little secluded towns that are connected by walking trail and train only. They are quite the sight and we feel so blessed to have the opportunity to see them.

Joy and I wanted to thank all of those who have made this trip possible. We will write soon again. We have alot of Italy to cover and then off to Switzerland.

Jason and Joy


Dear Ramsey Family,

We wanted to update everyone on our trip and also apologize for not writing in several weeks. We are having a wonderful time and thank you for making this possible. We arrived in Vienna two days ago and explored the tourist sites yesterday. John Harris is quite a character and has been so hospitable to Joy and I. It is a true pleasure to stay in Vienna through the kindness of John.

After our last message from the Cinquoterra we drove through Pisa to see the leaning tower and then on to Florence. We camped at Camping Michelangelo–a camping site just down the street from the Piazella Michelangelo and we had the wonderful view of the Dom just out of our tent door. It was a soggy night and afternoon though and we got a little wet in the city. Florence is a beautiful city though rain or shine; we had a good time and sought sanctuary from the rain in Brunelleschi’s dome. From Florence we drove through Tuscan countryside towards Rome. It was wonderful to spend some time around the small Tuscan villages and hillside towns. San Giminano is a wonderful town of towers that provided a great afternoon walk. From there we drove on towards Rome. The threat of rain after an already soggy night helped us choose a hotel for that night. We had planned to stay outside of the city around the GRA (ring around the city) so not to have to drive all the way in but all the hotels were booked up. We ended up going right in.

Other than a minor fender bender in Rome the driving was altogether scary. But I managed to find a hotel after a few goes around the Piaza del Republica roundabout (no yielding in Italy). Our car and the car of the Japanese man that hit us were both fine.

After a dry night in the hotel we took out to explore Rome–taking a tour of the Colleseum and Forum and then going to the Vatican. It was altogether interesting and a lovely day. We managed to be in another accident on the bus into the center of the city though as our bus squeezed past a nice mercedes. After a brief (2 minutes tops) meeting between the driver and the bus driver–all was well and we were again underway. We learned a valuable lesson–stay out of the bus’ way in Rome.

We were then especially thankful to be able to drive to beautiful Venice, especially after driving in Rome. Along the way we drove through very beautiful mountains and had lunch in a very local mom and pop bicycle cafe for paninis. We stayed near Venice across the lagoon at the Punto Sabioni, a long stretch of campsites. Ours is a walk away from the ferry and isn’t too expensive. Venice was beautiful and charming and we are having a wonderful time strolling. Our ferry out of St. Marks square with the sun setting over the city is a wonderful memory.

We left Venice the next day towards Geneva with a night in the Lake district planned. We stayed on Lago Maggiori–the western most lake in a town called Stresa. The roses were all in bloom and the palm trees were amazing. The lake was lovely and the people were all very friendly. From there we drove north to go over Simplon pass into Geneva. However, coming near the pass, we were stopped by Italian policeman. Neither being able to speak English, in broken German we were able to communicate that the pass was closed but there was a train that could carry us and our car through the pass. We then got the adventure of traveling by train in our car through the pass and arrived in Switzerland. From there we drove through stunning Swiss mountains not far from Zermatt towards Geneva.

We stayed with a family friend just outside of the city center. It was great to be so close to the international center. We spent the next day walking around the city and seeing the spout on the lake. We had dinner in the charming French medieval town of Yvoire on the French side of Lake Geneva. We were so impressed with the medieval charm of the city that we decided to include more such adventures to our plan. We spent the next day northeast of Geneva in Swiss alpine country, visiting the medieval town of Gruyere and the cheese factory at the base of it. Let´s just say that everything smells like cows in the Swiss pastureland. The lush pastures run all the way to the top of the mountains.

We drove from Gruyere over Jaun pass and somewhere along the way passed back into German speaking Switzerland. The kids must be very confused. Speaking of children–Joy had a knack for spotting naked little boys off the side of this road. A brief stop in the posh ski town of Gstaad completed the tour that day.

The charm of Lake Geneva kept us near the following day as we traveled to the far side of the lake to Montreux. It was there that we saw the must fully preserved and open medieval castle that either of us have seen–Chateau Chillon. We spent several hours poking around the castle and had a wonderful dinner in the next town over on the lake.

We began traveling towards Vienna the next day. We drove north near Bern and Zürich. We glimpsed the Bodensee and made our way from there through the tangle of borders–German, Swiss, and Austian–into Austria. We entered Austria through a great pass with wonderful alpine views. We stopped in Innsbruck to stock up on groceries and to walk through the village. We then ran into a “demonstration” on the road where the autobahn was closed for no good reason and we were caught in in for several hours. The road had been closed because the locals thought the tolls were too low and therefore it carried too much traffic. Well that was fun.

Anyway, the first campsite we got too was a blessing and was open. We were able to see the little town of Vamp, Austria in the Tirol region more so than we otherwise would have. The next morning we drove to the playground of the Salzburgerland. We went to the Dürnnburg saltmines and rode down the slides that Joy had been telling me about. It was facinating to see how the Salzburg treasure was created from the Salt. We then went up to Hitler´s Eagles nest–wow what a view.

We spent the night on the Chiemsee and were able to visit Ludwig´s copy of Versailles–Herrenchiemsee the next morning. Now we don´t have to see Versailles. It was quite an amazing use of gilding, mirrors, and artwork. We then drove into Vienna.

We were able to meet John Harris in the city who moved us into our apartment in the middle of the downtown area. We are about five minutes from the Opera house. John didn´t take long to get me up on his antique Penny Farthing (a high wheeler bicycle) and I will never forget the riding lesson in front of the art school in the park.

Well we are happy and safe in Vienna. We have one more day in the city planned along with a Mozart-Strauss Concert tonight. From here we will drive north through Prague and Berlin and then into the heartland of Germany.

Thank you again for your thoughts and especially for your support.

Jason and Joy

Dear Ramsey Family,

It is great to write to you from England. Please pardon the brevity of the message and that one hasn’t come for several weeks. It is amazing that when you meet up with family, your time grows short and you don’t seem to wander in to the internet cafe. Since we last wrote in Vienna at John Harris’, Joy and I have traveled nearly as far as we had to that point.

We drove north from Vienna to Prague. Although I had been to Prague before, it was a treat to see the countryside outside of the city in the Czech Republic. We got our first passport stamps while on the continent at the real border crossing into the former east block and went directly into to arid farm land. It took quite a while to travel through the old cities on the small roads but it was an adventure. We eventually hit the motorway–which, although it had a set speed limit, was much more of a white knuckle driving experience than the German Autobahn. We soon hit Prague and camped just outside of the thriving capital. It was truly and treat to walk through and experience that old city.

From Prague we drove north into Germany towards Berlin, seeing Dresden on the way. Again we camped outside of the city and spent the following day in. It was a stormy day but we walked around the giant construction site that is a city finding itself. The Reichstag and Brandenburger Tor were impresive as well as a walk down Unden den Linden where the Wall used to be.

After Berlin we drove across northern Germany towards the North Sea through Hamburg. We camped on the beach–just behind the dyke north of Bremerhaven on the coast in a small town called Otterndorf. The North Sea lived up to our expectations and was cold and windy–a normal June day at the beach, but still quite nice. The town of Otterndorf and those surrounding it were very charming complete with old world thatched roofs.

From the north we drove down to my old home of Muenster Germany. We met up with some of my friends and co-workers. It was amazing how much at home I felt and as if nothing had changed in a year. By this point, my German had recovered from a year of neglect and we could get around Germany quite well. A traditional German Spargel (white asparagus) meal with Hollandaise sauce prepared by some of our German friends was a good welcome to a house and bed after a week of camping since John’s flat in Vienna. Muenster was a welcome sight but one that we left after a couple of days to see our new born nephews in central Germany.

My brother and his wife, who live near Aschaffenburg, Germany, had been expecting twins in July. They were born quite early though in June and we had the good fortune to spend quite a while with them. We drove into Aschaffenburg and took on diaper and bottle duty to try and ease a slightly overwhelmed set of new parents. We made some side trips out from our post on the Main river in Aschaffenburg–a day trip to Heidelberg, a day trip to Wuerzburg, and one night trip down to Garmisch/Munich–all of which were quite fantastic.

We then moved a little north of Frankfurt near Giessen to stay with Joy’s cousin. He works with the US military as does my brother and in fact, Joy’s cousin had been my brother’s first boss here in Germany. Buddy, Joy’s cousin, treated us to quite a nice time in central Germany and showed us the great towns and villages just around Frankfurt. A couple of days with Buddy wore us out and we recovered with a driving tour along the Rhein river where we met up with Josh Moore for breakfast and a small bicycle tour. It was great to be able to meet up with another Ramsey Family winner living abroad. He seems quite comfortable in his old world Rheinland existence in Walluf, Germany. He lives with his wife and daughter (they are expecting again) in a complex opposite her parents and grandparents. We met the grandmother over breakfast in the garden. Josh was a great host as we rode up the Rhein and explored the towns on the way.

Our time in Germany came to an end too soon but Paris called. We drove from Giessen to Paris in one day and turned in the car. That was quite a day along with riding the metro back to our campsite on the outskirt of Paris. We had a great time despite the heat in Paris while we were there. We explored the Louvre, the Eiffel tower, strolled down the Champs Elysee, Notre Dame and the Sacre Cear. Despite neither of us speaking French, we got around quite well and found the Parisians to be friendly.

From Paris we flew to England and arrived yesterday. We our now staying with Joy’s parents who live north of Cambridge. We hope to drive to Scottland but are mostly looking forward to poking around England together for the next two weeks so that Joy can show me where she grew up.

Thank you Ramsey Family for making this possible. We wish you all the best.

Jason and Joy Spruell