Getting Away from the Craziness of the USA

Hello all – I want to let you know what I’ve been up to. My husband and I are just back from a fabulous European vacation. Fabulous in the sense that there were no horrible mix-ups (always my fear when traveling abroad) and we had several peak experiences. Here is evidence of some of them.

Messery reunion 17

This is the 90th year reunion photo of Art’s extended family in France.

His paternal grandmother is the only one of seven children to leave France to marry an American.  Art’s grandfather was a German-American YMCA worker in World War I. The French family bought a piece of land on Lake Geneva to celebrate the survival of all four brothers who served in WWI. The highlight of the 90th reunion weekend was singing in a family production of Vivaldi’s Gloria, with a 50-member chorus, a small orchestra and three soloists – all family members or in-laws. I could barely contain my tears trying to sing with the other altos, and when I looked into the audience, I saw that many people were sobbing outright. They clapped after every movement. They knew it wasn’t proper, but they couldn’t help themselves. It was all too moving and beautiful. We in the chorus had done the same in rehearsal for the soloists.

I was also overwhelmed while watching this production of Madame Butterfly at the Roman Arena in Verona, Italy.

Verona roman arena


Verona roman arena 2

Imagine – people have been entertained here for well over 2,000 years.

The opera didn’t start until dark at 9PM. Then it got rained out, just about three minutes before Butterfly was about to commit hari-kari. I didn’t mind. I already knew how the story ended (Sorry if I ruined it for anyone!) and loved the excitement of watching the approaching storm, then fleeing with the other inveterate opera fans who didn’t start to leave until the announcement was made, the stage lights went up and the music abruptly stopped. I loved how the musicians leapt from the orchestra to protect their instruments and how the cast members stopped in place – in character until the very end.

Overall, I was feeling good about humanity and about nature, especially here, viewing the Matterhorn from our modest AirBnB in the very immodest Zermatt, Switzerland.


“Disneyland of the Alps” is what came to mind as we emerged onto the touristy, car-free main street after parking our car below in a giant underground garage and arriving by tram up the mountainside.

But the mountain hikes were spectacular.

Hiking in Alps

When we came home, I was ready, or thought I was, until we actually landed and it hit me that the horrible US news, which I’d been keeping up with, was actually happening right here, where I live. Somehow, the Atlantic Ocean and a wealth of positive experiences had kept me sufficiently mentally separated from the crazy place that our country has become.


I must tell you that whenever the word “Trump” came up in Europe, it was followed by derisive laughter – the international language that we all speak and understand.

I also must tell you that we’re heading out again this weekend to view the total solar eclipse from a small southern town that’s in its direct path. It will be good to get away again. Maybe I can forget where I live for a few days to become a creature of the universe.

Happy Solar Eclipse everyone. Meanwhile, we’ll complete the summer here at the Rational Doubt blog with a reprise of Vacation Bible School.

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  • carolyntclark

    what fabulous vacation photos, Linda. I’m green with envy. We honeymooned in Switzerland, and seeing your pics has stared us talking about an encore.
    That’s some size family in France !!!
    We’ll be watching a partial eclipse here in Maine….hoping that the accompanying rapture will transport some of the Trumpsters to other vistas in the cosmos.

    • Linda_LaScola

      Assuming your honeymoon was a long time ago, I think you’ll find a lot of changes. Europe is ahead of us in many ways.

      But the mountains will be the same.

  • mason

    Thanks for sharing your travel monologue and happy you had such a well deserved vacation to such beautiful places. Will check out the eclipse if we don’t have a cloud cover which is common in summer here in Fl. If you are driving in a small Southern town make sure you have a small Confederate flag on the vehicle to insure safe passage. Here’s what the eclipse will look like, almost a full one.

    • Linda_LaScola

      I will be on the lookout for confederate flags, but won’t be carrying my own.

      I’m hoping no one brings up religion or politics but if they do, I’m ready to express my opinions.

      • ElizabetB.

        We need your voice!

        In this cauldron.

        Last night in this small rural bible belt town I attended a remarkable candlelight vigil, called after Charlottesville to precede the regularly scheduled inter-racial dialog that’s been in process for about a year & a half. The dialog’s location happened to be a Black church, and the vigil turned out to be a string of pretty mesmerizing prayers. The white district judge gripped both sides of the lectern, leaning forward with bowed head powerfully expressing his rage and his struggle with knowing he should share the Charleston survivors’ spirit of forgiveness. The only black pray-er, an older man, spoke of loving one another. A golden-skinned Baha’i poetically spoke of the universe and our all being sisters and brothers. At the meeting, a universally respected black policeman, the white Mayoress, and the young white City Manager (guy) answered questions about Freedom-of-Speech and Parade/March permits; and plans continued for a Racial Unity Week in October that will include the arts, events, etc.

        It’s one of those inflection times in the country’s life, and your voice will help weigh the balance!!! Thankful you will be in the region!!!!

        Turns out one of my husband’s brothers lives in “total” path in the North Carolina mountains, and a son who’s just moving to the South and who we don’t see very often can go with us, so we will be happy Monday even if it’s rainy! But wouldn’t it be awesome to see the stars come out if it’s clear!!!!

        • Linda_LaScola

          Lucky you — looking forward to hearing about your experience.

  • Cozmo the Magician

    First of all, Welcome back. Second: You really should send some peanut butter with all that jelly you just served me (; Love the photos and am dying of jelly overdose. As to the eclipse.. As a magician, I’m planning on pulling a stunt from one of Mark Twain’s stories and do the scariest trick eva “I’m gonna make the SUN disappear until you to beg me to bring it back” O_o I’m working on the patter and the location.. Either gonna be at the park where I normally perform, or (kicking myself for NOT thinking of this weeks ago) at the Library. Either way, gonna use it to promote literacy and Mark Twain.

    • Linda_LaScola

      What a great idea, Cozmo. I fondly remember the Bing Crosby movie of Twain’s “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” when, armed with the knowledge of an eclipse during that era, Crosby wowed the crowd by making the sun disappear.

      As for peanut butter — you bring to mind another event at the French family reunion. Each branch was invited to bring food or drink from the region in which they now lived. I sampled delicious items from many locales, but avoided the American family’s contribution — peanut butter on celery sticks. It was the only uniquely American treat we could think of. And we imported the peanut butter, which is hard to find and expensive in Europe.

      • Michael Neville

        American style pizza is vastly different from what the Italians call pizza. I think that’s equally as American as peanut butter.

  • Keulan

    This makes me think of the time when I visited Europe over ten years ago. I went on a vacation with my family to Austria and Hungary. It was great, and I wish I could get the chance to travel to Europe again soon.

    I’m looking forward to the eclipse, though I won’t be directly in it’s path and I’ve been having trouble finding eclipse glasses. It seems every store is sold out of them already. Should’ve tried to get them earlier, I suppose.

    • Linda_LaScola

      Check out your public libraries — the glasses are free in DC at libraries and at the zoo.

  • Mark Rutledge

    glad you had such a great family vacation; i loved your photos!
    we’re in clayton, georgia at a friend’s house on the 100% path of the eclipse. Just bought our t-shirts

    • Linda_LaScola

      Wow — that’s three of us so far on the blog who will be in the direct path. I’ve got glasses, but no t-shirts. But bet I’ll be able to find some closer to the spot.

  • Pofarmer

    I live juat on the edge of the path in Central MO. I’m going a little further in where it will be about a minute and a half total.

    • Linda_LaScola

      Worth it, right? I was in tha path of totality and it was awesome — in the fullest sense of the word.

  • chriswinter

    Linda LaScola: I also must tell you that we’re heading out again this weekend to view the total solar eclipse from a small southern town that’s in its direct path. It will be good to get away again. Maybe I can forget where I live for a few days to become a creature of the universe.

    I’m in San Jose, CA. I went up to Oregon to view it. I first planned to visit Madras, but changed to John Day, farther east, expecting it would be less crowded. In the end I stayed in Seneca, a small town 23 miles south of John Day, where I could sleep in the car without being bothered. Yes, the trip was enough of a spur-of-the-moment thing that I couldn’t expect to get a motel reservation anywhere near the path of totality. (Walking around John Day the day before the eclipse, I did find a motel that had a last-minute cancellation. But $300 is too rich for my blood.)

    There was a friendly, diverse crowd at the campground in Seneca (named for a Portland judge, BTW) and the eclipse was as impressive as promised. I hit the road at 10:45 and so avoided most of the traffic.

    • Linda_LaScola

      Thanks for recounting your experience. I never tire of hearing about the Eclipse from people who were there. And I’m encouraging people to attend the next one in 2024.

  • anna

    “I could barely contain my tears trying to sing with the other altos, and when I looked into the audience, I saw that many people were sobbing outright.”

    How fortunate you are to be part of a family who would sing and perform together like this. I consider myself fortunate to have wandered by your post to read it this morning and then go to youtube and experience hearing Vivaldi myself. Thank you. Your trip is one of a lifetime, and I’m really glad you were able to escape (for a little while, at least) the madness of this country’s current political tragedy.