Gothic Spires of the Milan Cathedral, Italy – Photo by Gig Gwin
A Life of Travel and Adventures
“Drawing on four decades of adventure and over three million miles of travel, I hope you will enjoy this anthology of my world explorations.”- Gig Gwin
Cruised the Norwegian Fjords, Baltic, the Clyde, the Seine, the Rhine, the Mozelle, the Danube, the Volga, the canals of France, plus five Mediterranean cruises; savored black caviar at 1300 miles per hour while crossing the Atlantic on the British Air Concorde.
Albania - In Saronda, watched children begging for food being beaten by the local Communist hotel guards.
Andorra -Convinced my father to join me on a public bus for a ride through the Pyrenees Mountains from Barcelona to the small principality of Andorra.
Austria - Attended a performance of Mozart in the grand style at the Vienna State Opera; after an ambitious climb to the top of Salzburg Fortress, munched on pastries and hot chocolate and sang all of the words I knew from the Sound of Music. Entering Vienna via a beautiful river cruise took a local bus to Prater Park and rode the famous 100 year old Ferris wheel. Continued into downtown for a performance of the Lipizzaner Stallions and like any tourist, enjoyed a sacher torte.
Belgium - Drove from the Grand Place in Brussels to tour the countryside and visited the quaint water canal city of Bruges, a little gem of Europe. Ate chocolate in Ghent, a university town filled with merchants and grand houses, famous for its lace shops.
Croatia - Walked the ramparts of the medieval port city of Dubrovnik, before and after war damage. Embarking off a cruise ship, took a group of 20 and "walked the wall" around Dubrovnik.
Cyprus - Walked through "no-man's land" guarded by UN troops, between the Greek and Turkish areas of Nicosia.
Czech Republic - Ate pork and dumplings, then walked through the spiraled streets of Prague over the statue-lined Charles Bridge; was captivated by one of the great Gothic cities of the world. Spent three days in Golden Prague and took a side trip to Kutna Hora to visit the Ossuary bone church. Took a second excursion to visit the original Budweiser Brewery in Budvar.
Denmark - Hired an entire high school marching band to perform at the entrance of Kronborg Castle, then later in Copenhagen, hugged the little mermaid statue beside the icy shores. Sailed from Copenhagen on a deluxe Scandinavian cruise, enjoyed gourmet meals, grand cathedrals and castles; then spent a childlike afternoon with my wife at Legoland Theme Park.
England - In the late 80's, invited all of my employees to London and painted the town from high tea to pub crawl, from theater to the changing of the guards; toured Stonehenge and Bath and never enjoyed driving on the left side of the road.
Estonia - Got lost in the narrow cobblestone streets of Old Tallinn.
Faroe Islands - In the North Atlantic, landed atop a mountain on the shortest jet runway in the world.
Finland - Ate reindeer stew in Helsinki then spent the afternoon with friends on the local trolley touring the city.
France - Engaged in gluttony at Maxim's Restaurant in Paris, took endless pictures of Mont Saint Michel as the tide ebbed, walked Omaha Beach where my father landed in World War II, admired the architecture of the French Chateau country on the Loire River and fell in love with immense Fountainebleau Palace; dined at a street cafe in Lyon before driving the length of Provence region, ending up in the double-walled city of Carcassonne, a fairy tale town if ever there was one; on the Riviera, rode a Harley-Davidson on the La Croissette promenade and became a crew member on a sailing regatta in the Bay of Cannes. Sipped on local rose in the walled city of St. Paul de Vence, and selected different perfumes in Grasse.
Germany - During the communist years of East Germany, endured the ponderous passport procedure at Checkpoint Charlie, leading into a world of dirty black, coal-sooted buildings, hopeless people and a government notorious for lies and hypocrisy; then, after the Berlin Wall fell, escorted a Lutheran group to Wittenberg, sat in a pew as Lutheran Hour Minister, Dr. Dale Meyer, preached at Martin Luther's City Church; ate a frankfurter in Frankfurt, drank steins of beer in Munich's Hofbrauhaus and munched on strudel at Neuschwanstein, "mad" Ludwig's castle in Bavaria. With my wife and three boys, stood before Cologne's imposing cathedral, then cruised the Rhine past vineyards and medieval castles on the way to the Guttenberg Museum in Mainz; decided that Linderhof Castle wins the "coolest" architectural design of Europe. Visited Nurnberg and saw the Nazi Party Rally Grounds and Courtroom 600 where the Nurnberg trials were held after WWII. This is one of the great medieval towns of Europe and the old town is nothing short of spectacular.
Gibraltar - Atop "The Rock", looked across toward Africa and never once thought of Prudential Insurance. On another trip, rode the gondola up to the caves and fed the Barbary Apes.
Greece - Over a glass of ouzo, near the Acropolis in Athens, listened as a long-time Greek friend made history come alive; later drove to Meteora and stayed in a monastery with the monks, prayed, ate, and listened to Greek Orthodox scripture; the following day, with an old travel director friend, took six hours to climb Mount Olympus but never had a chance to talk to any of the gods; on a foggy morning, sailed past the mystical Santorini and imagined the lost continent of Atlantis. On a romantic cruise through the Aegean Sea, visited Mount Olympus and Athens, then cruised south to feed the pelicans in Mykanos, wandered with my son and wife to Delos through the ancient and sacred ruins dedicated to Apollo. Rode a mule up to the top of Santorini and toured the Grand Masters Palace in Rhodes.
Guernsey - Joined with a local Rotary Club, in the Bailiwick of the Channel Islands and toasted Her Majesty, the Queen.
Hungary - Flew into Budapest for a 10-day Danube River Cruise. Walked across the Chain Bridge and toured the town including the famous Parliament building. On the Buda side, my wife and I visited a Marzipan museum full of intricate cake-like statues, then enjoyed Hungarian Goulash complete with a gypsy violinist.
Ireland - In Kilarney, found ten pubs in three blocks and danced the jig with a red-haired Irish lass. In the quaint town of Kenmare met with, among others, the travel editors for "National Geographic's Traveler" and "Travel and Leisure" magazines, before touring Waterford, Limerick and Galway. On a further trip sponsored by the Society of Incentive Travel Executives, started the trip by reluctantly driving on the left side of the road; but the reward was visiting the Cliffs of Moher, driving around the crescent shaped Galway Bay and sleeping the night at Ashford Castle, an 800 year old stone fortress. Drove across Ireland to Dublin's fair city and enjoyed two nights at 5-star hotels before joining the group south to Druids Glen. Played the magnificent Marriott course and sang & drank with all my Irish cohorts.
Isle of Man - Organized a motorcycle group of enthusiastic bikers and traveled to the TT Road Races, known for a famous cross-country contest.
Italy - At his Roman restaurant, watched the original Alfredo proudly mix with gold fork and spoon his famous fettuccini; led a select group to a private audience with the Pope; squeezed wine from a sheep skin at a toga party for 300 Buick dealers, fell in love with the Renaissance cities of Venice and Florence; took an evening stroll around the Coliseum, feeling the legacy of what was once the greatest empire on earth. Aboard a Holland America cruise ship, sailed past the Island of Stromboli and watched a midnight display of fire and lava. Another trip to Venice allowed time for an evening gondola ride, had a morning confrontation with numerous pigeons in St. Mark's square. In Florence, saw the magnificent artwork of the renaissance and shopped on the Ponte Vecchio crossing the Arno River. Crossed the Roman Ponte St. Angelo Bridge and viewed the Tiber and Hadrian's mausoleum. In Rome, took a cab around the Vatican and realized it is a walled city. Ordered a lemoncello drink in Positano, a quaint town on the Amalfi Coast, boated by the cliffs of Cinque Terre and ate a gelato in Vernazza. In the walled city of Lucca in Tuscany - climbed Guinigi Tower for a panoramic view of the town. Discovered the simple beauty of Portofino and the trompe l'oeil paintings of Santa Margherita, Spent a luxury night at Villa d' Este on the lake shore of Como and agreed that this is probably the best hotel in the world. Had lunch with my wife in the lake town of Bellagio enjoying perch and risotto then drove across Italy with a short stop in Lago di Grada before boating into Venice to the beautiful Cipriano Hotel. Purchased glassworks on Murano Island then boarded the Simplon Orient Express Train for a grand train trip through Austria and France before arriving at London's Victoria Station.
Monaco - Organized a black-tie James Bond night at the Grand Casino overlooking the Mediterranean. Climbed from the dock in Monte Carlo to the Grand Casino where Saturday night brought out the rich and famous luxury cars - including Rolls Royces, Bentleys and Ferraris.
Netherlands - In Amsterdam, cruised on the canals by day and toured the "red-light" district at night. Strolled by coffee shops selling pot and enjoyed the Night Watchman and the Dutch Masters by Rembrandt at the famous Rijks Museum, and thoroughly enjoyed the Van Gogh Museum down the street. Spent a day in the fishing villages of Marken and Volendam.
Northern Ireland - In Belfast, talked politics with a haberdasher in a city pub protected by barbed wire. On a second trip, arrived by train to a new and modern Belfast, safe and featuring a robust economy. Played golf at the Royal County Down Golf Club, designed by old Tom Morris and continued north to wander through the Giant's Causeway in the Green Glens of Antrim. Finished the day with a tour of Bushmills Whiskey Distillery and ate ample amounts of fresh salmon and Irish stew.
Norway - After cruising Sognefjord, placed this steep-walled fjord on my top five most beautiful places in the world.
Poland - Was stunned by the death camp at Auschwitz.
Portugal - Off the coast of the Algarve, on a deep sea fishing boat, lost power and drifted five hours before a fishing trawler came to our aid. Enjoyed the Lisbon Coach Museum and the wonderful Maritime Museum.
Romania - Walked through Dracula's castle, then was stopped by soldiers in Bucharest as dictator Charchesu's entourage passed by. A month later, he was put in front of a firing squad.
Russia - In the old USSR, devoured caviar and toasted with vodka and friends in Red Square, then was arrested on the street by Red Army soldiers who really only wanted my blue jeans; planned and escorted six Pan Am charters to Moscow and Leningrad at the height of the Communist era.
Scotland - In the highlands of bonnie Scotland, played Gleneagles', Carnouscie Links and the Old Course at St. Andrew's; dressed in brilliant regalia for a royal Angus dinner at Glamis Castle. Had cocktails on her majesties royal yacht Britannia and was served Scottish Black Angus at a royal feast at Sterling Castle, dressed in formal kilts and sporran.
Spain - Had no problem looking for those castles in Spain and found a great one in Segovia, a tapas in Madrid's "Old Town", watched matadors challenge "El Toro" on a Sunday afternoon, and left my father abandoned on the hills of Granada when I missed a crucial turn near the Alhambra. Drove through the countryside of Mallorca and visited the caves of Drach enjoying a below-ground lake concert. Watched as enthusiastic pilgrims hiked into the square of Santiago de Compostela.
Svalbard - In the high Arctic, carried a rifle for protection against polar bears on my afternoon hike to the coalmine.
Sweden - After touring the Nobel Palace, walked the multi-level Vasa Warship Museum in Stockholm.
Switzerland - Honeymooned at the Burgenstock Resort high above Lake Lucerne and rode the cog-wheel train up the Alps to the Matterhorn.
Ukraine - Was arrested by corrupt guards and held five hours until they had the last of my U.S. dollars.
Wales - Found the original Gwin family castle in a small town in a northern county.