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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.