Footloose in Europe

A whirlwind vacation gives a young couple their first taste of continental culture and cuisine.

Moygara Castle, Ireland, image

Moygara Castle in Ireland was once owned by Bill's maternal ancestors.

Colosseum in Rome with Bill and Elisa Brosius

Bill and Elisa explored Roman history at the Colosseum in Rome.

London, Big Ben, image

Bill and Melissa pose in front of Big Ben at night in London.

Bill and Elisa Brosius in Munich at Oktoberfest, image

The Oktoberfest in Munich was an occasion to toast and boast about.

Eiffel Tower, Paris, image

The Eiffel Tower was one of Elisa's favorite places in Paris.

Youth is not always wasted the young. Twenty-something AAA Members Bill and Elisa decided to ride the rails through Europe before they started a family.

The Vallejo, Calif., couple had booked their Bahamas honeymoon through AAA Travel Counselor Rose Staadt of the Vallejo branch. So in September 2010, they turned to Staadt again to set up their 18-day, seven-country whirlwind Eurail vacation.

When the couple touched down in Ireland, they visited the ruins of Moygara Castle, once owned by Bill's maternal ancestors. “It was pretty cool,” says Bill, now 30, an electrical maintenance mechanic. “I was shocked that we actually owned a castle a long time ago.”

The ruins are on private land, so the couple asked a local if they should knock on the landowner’s door for permission to traipse across his property. “The guy said, ‘In Ireland you don’t need to ask that kind of stuff,’” Bill remembers. “‘Just don’t steal the sheep.’”

Sometimes little things make a big impression. In Bruges, their hotel desk clerk tipped them off about a tiny pub called Staminee de Garre. “There was a little archway leading down this alley,” Bill recalls. At the local haunt, tucked away in a cobbled alley, patrons rubbed elbows. “A couple of locals said it had the best beer in town,” Bill says.

On the continent, the couple breezed through iconic sights in London, Rome, and, Elisa’s favorite, Paris, where they savored fondue and chocolate croissants. “We met a very nice professor on the Metro who told us about local places to see,” recalls Elisa, 26, a bookkeeper for a property management company. “My five years of French class finally had a purpose!”

At the Louvre, Elisa was underwhelmed by the Mona Lisa, but she was moved by other works that depicted profound emotions. As for Monsieur Eiffel’s tower, “I was all smiles,” says Elisa. “It’s really the only building in the landscape of Paris that’s so tall, so you can see everything from the top.”

Bill’s favorite recollection of the journey was celebrating his 29th birthday with 20,000 revelers during the 200th Oktoberfest in Munich. “By the end of the night everybody is dancing on top of the tables, and that’s normal,” he says. “They sing a bunch of songs that the whole world knows, and if there’s one in German you don’t know, they teach you.”

Elisa mapped out the couple’s itinerary but let Staadt handle the details. “I did not want to take on planning the Eurail and the hotels, so we relied on her expertise. She planned the exact ticket times, the hotels that were relatively close to the train stations—she put a lot of hard work into arranging the trip,” says Elisa. “She was a tremendous help.” 

Please contact your AAA Travel Counselor or go to AAA.com/offices to find one near you.

Photography by Bill and Elisa Brosius

This article was first published in January 2012 in Traveler. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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