We all went to Europe with the same person.
That person was Aurthur Frommer.
Starting in 1957 with his classic travel book, Europe on $5 a Day, Arthur Frommer changed the way we travelled. In fact, without his egalitarian advice, many of us might have stayed home and never ventured overseas. Frommer capitalised on the increased appetite for travel that seems to follow social upheavals like the wars. War, despite being a piteous thing, expands horizons. Prior to the Great War, most people stayed within a few day’s distance from where they were born. When the soldiers returned home after the first global conflict, however, the jest was that they’d have lost interest in the family farm after seeing the splendours of Europe. The lyrics to the hit song, “How Ya Gonna Keep ‘em Down on the Farm (After They’ve Seen Paree?) highlighted that concern.
“… They’ll never want to see a rake or a plow,
And who the deuce can parley-vous a cow?”
Judy Garland asks the musical question: How are you going to keep ‘em down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree?
Frommer got his start in travel writing following the Korean War. Although born in Missouri, Frommer had linguistic skills and was, therefore, deployed to Europe during that conflict. While stationed in Germany, he wrote his first travel book, The G.I.’s Guide to Traveling in Europe. It was a sell-out.
War, despite being a pitious thing, expands horizons.
His next effort addressed the newly mobile North American’s desire for a version of the ‘grand tour’. The year was 1957 and prosperity combined with expanded horizons made this book, too, an instant success. The title was catchy and inspired confidence: Europe on $5 a Day.
It would be the first in a series of Frommer travel guides that provided simple equations for what was considered a major adventure.
Frommer himself was a fascinating individual. He graduated from Yale Law with honours, eventually forsaking the law to focus on his travel guides. He also wrote authoritatively on other topics and would go on to become a consumer advocate, as well as hotelier. To the best of my knowledge, he’s still alive and in his 94th year.
… I can’t recall the dollar value on which Frommer
assured me I could experience the Old World.
Immediately upon graduating from university I headed to Europe. I know I had a Frommer’s guide tucked under my arm, but I can’t recall the dollar value on which Frommer assured me I could experience the Old World. His Dollars a Day guides started out at $5 but, over the years, would go on to $85 and I think I even saw a $100 a Day version. I was poking around to revisit these guides and discovered that even reproductions of the original printing sell for hundreds of dollars. I would imagine that’s due to rarity as nary a copy made it back home in decent shape; I think I used mine as a pillow more than once. My ‘grand tour’ was a budget vacation, complete with Eurail passes, youth hostels, and sleeping rough sometimes. We would walk for blocks looking for the cheapest meals and lowest priced accommodations. On more than one occasion, we would discover that we were sleeping in brothels. Here’s my travel tip for you: I don’t recommend overnighting in brothels – there’s a surprising amount of traffic and it doesn’t let up.
The expenses were on a budget but the fun was unlimited.
I don’t think we ever completely managed to keep our expenses to the figure Frommer had set. The constant joke was that, when we returned, we hoped to be on the ‘Europe on $1,000 a Day’ plan. More money, however, would have changed everything. As it was, we were all in the same boat. Masses of us – kids, really – from all corners of the earth, but especially Australia. The expenses were on a budget but the fun was unlimited.
This week’s question for readers:
DID YOU BACKPACK EUROPE? WHAT WERE YOUR EXPERIENCES FROM GOING ABROAD? ANY LIFELONG FRIENDS?
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Submissions to last week’s question:
Are you planting a garden this year? Vegetable or floral? What have you had the best luck with? Is the looming recession or environmental issues a driver in your decision?
Gardening is my passion and it really escalated after I moved into a house with a yard. My intent was to create a wildlife friendly garden. Over the years, I’ve learned more about insects, the foundation of the food chain, and how they are in serious decline worldwide. Caterpillars and mosquitos have become “baby bird food” in my eyes as opposed to pests. I’m planting more native plants, pollinator-friendly species, leaving the leaves and perennial stems so the bugs have places to overwinter. I have a vegetable garden, too, as there’s nothing like home-grown produce, eaten shortly after picking!
When my husband retired, we moved to a rancher which had mostly lawn, front and back. My husband joined the rhododendron club. He started digging up the lawn so he could have more room for rhododendrons. The old gentleman across the street derived great entertainment watching him and speculating what he was going to plant next. We now have very little lawn, but lots of rhododendrons, hellebores, dahlias, etc. My husband has stage 4 colon cancer, but there he is, every chance he has, out there in the garden getting it ready for more planting.
Something tends to come up each August and I have no choice but to neglect my garden. You’d think I’d learn but I, too, love those seed catalogues. Hope springs eternal!
When Covid shut the world down, I was looking for something to do. I had some scrap building material so I built above ground gardens. They are not pretty and will not last forever. They’re lined with large garbage bags that are deteriorating. I had a trucker deliver a half truck of topsoil. I began the labour of construction and moving dirt into place. It was an exercise program and has continued to be so to this day. I need, and enjoy, the exercise. I planted peas, beans, beets and carrots. The mother of a friend of mine gave me some bean seeds that she brought back from Portugal. I call them ‘grandma’s beans’. These seeds have consistently produced a large yield of 20 cm long flat green beans which are delicious. I save seeds each year for next year’s crop. I have a small plot in which I plant potatoes. I have had so much fun with my grand kids having them plant the potatoes and then return for the big harvest. In truth, I am better at the exercise than I am as a gardener.
The joy of gardening is a gift I received from my parents. Memories of watching my Dad grow tomatoes in a greenhouse in England and then coming to Canada and being taken to buy gladiola bulbs and seeds for my childhood garden plot evoke blissful memories. The love of working the soil is something that has never left me and was sorely missed as a young adult with nowhere to grow a garden. In the pandemic, I won the lottery by getting a plot in a community garden. I grew anything I could and relived the childhood contentedness of seeing plants poke their heads out of the soil. I have come home from the garden filthier than Pig-Pen but could not have been happier. In addition to my own plot, I took back an overgrown area and planted flowers which provide nectar for bees and butterflies and pleasure for humans. The garden is a place where happiness and positive mental health also grows. Gardening is a wonderful way to meet new people, share the fruits of your labour and find peace of mind. I know in my soul I am first, and foremost, a gardener.
Just months after eating my longest lived 2022 tomato, this year’s crop is about 4” high in the den. Both potted tomatoes and the reliably prolific scarlet runner beans will require consistent watering through next October! I save seed for lettuces,kale, beans, peas and tomatoes every year, and try to keep the raspberries from taking over the whole garden by sneaky underground attack. I do grow flowers, preferably self-propagating and easy care! My poor 15 year old kitty was hit by a car,so my rows will be straighter this year, but I have no company digging.
This year I’m planting both vegetable and floral gardens. I like herbs because I can snip them from the backyard as needed. I also like annuals for their lasting colours throughout the summer months. Plump and juicy tomatoes are what I have had the best luck with over the years!