Letters from Europe

For a couple months in 1999, Traci and I travelled through Europe, occasionally writing back to family. Below is a lightly edited selection of those emails and postcards. This is a snapshot in time, when we were young and didn't know exactly what we were doing. It was an amazing trip.

March 31, 1999 email from Traci

hope you are all well… we hiked the big hike today, almost 5 hours (including rest stops and long lunch stop). but it was fun… we are quite tired tonight and must get to bed early, as we are leaving italy tomorrow for switzerland! we reserved a hostel in Interlaken, in the Jungfrau region. there is a web cafe there so if we can’t connect this computer we will still be able to be in touch. we’ll be there through easter, until next tuesday, april 6. after that, not sure.

we keep hearing from other americans the the kosovo conflict may expand into greece. but we’ll see how things go over the next 2 weeks… but do you think it’s not a good idea to go there, especially since we’ll need to fly out of the athens airport? what do you think about that? everyone (even strangers) is telling us to not go…

wish i could write more but we are paying for this time here. and i have to get some work out of the way… thanks for opening the lsu letter, was hoping it was the financial aid results. sorry you are my letter-opener… i hate to deplete time from your day. i had a feeling scully1 would grow! i can’t wait to see her and you again. getting to the homesick stage here… week 3! that’s about right.

we are still having fun though, more later from swissland.

April 5, 1999 email from Traci


don’t remember when my last message was, but we are on our last day in interlaken. thanks for the easter message, we had a very nice day bike-riding through interlaken, from one lake to the other.

thanks for making arrangements for scully next weekend, i owe tony! that’s very generous of him. hope you have a great time at easter.

we are leaving for munich tomorrow. one night in a hotel with a phone, then two more in a hostel. don’t know how long we’ll stay though. probably not long, as germany is very expensive.

we checked a few travel websites about travel to greece, and i’m not as freaked about it as before. and YES PLEASE IF YOU CAN MEET US PLEASE MAKE EVERY EFFORT!!!!!!!! don’t know how else to convince you, manton would also REALLY like you to come. hope it all works out.

clock is ticking, must send this before my time runs out.

much love to everyone,


April 7, 1999 email from Traci


we are now in munich, at a very nice little pension which has a phone. so we are able to connect with the powerbook to a local munich apple number.2 yay! i found out, rather late, that US 800 numbers are in fact NOT toll free at all, but rather $2 per minute. we have spent hours and hours online to the apple 1-800 number through MCI… so i’ll be either paying a very large bill to them or hiring a lawyer… before i left i called them and one of their employees told me in no uncertain terms that a call using the toll-free MCI access number to a US toll-free 800 number would in fact be “no charge”. her words… i’m afraid to call and find out my balance (probably over $2000) so i’m tempted to just wait until i get home to cancel my account and all that… yikes! so luckily we have these local apple numbers to see us through. except… none in greece… hmmm… it’ll be what it’ll be right? i’m just thankful that we have a warm bed and food to eat, unlike millions of people in this world

this is the first time i’ve been able to use the computer stress-free. it’s raining today so we’re not in a hurry to go anywhere, and there’s no one waiting to use a computer, and we’re not looking at a big tick-tock timer on the screen. much better!

we relaxed so much in Interlaken though, i’m ready again to do something interesting. last night we walked to the munich city center, saw the glockenspeil that marks the 9pm hour rather nicely, with an angel escorting a little boy to bed. very pretty! we had some beer, then as we were walking home passed by a street band, who played the best english songs, and were very entertaining. we watched them for over an hour. the funny thing is, you would have liked this, when one of the men who had a rather deep voice would speak, one of the dogs in the audience would bark. “bark, bark bark bark” to every thing he said. the man said the dog was the most intelligent in the audience, since he was participating! it was cute.

not sure what we’ll do today, probably go to the store down the street which is much like target - either find some patches for my jeans or buy new ones. they are falling apart. thank god for the pants you gave me! they are so comfy and practical… but i’m ready to throw these jeans away. i’ve already thrown away one other pair of pants, one undershirt… freedom!

well, manton is waiting to bump me off, tick tock i guess is what he’s saying. hope you have a very nice weekend, and thanks again for having tony feed scully… i miss her so much! every time we take out her pictures, we both cry. it’s pathetic, you should have seen us the other day at a little cafe during our bike ride. we took out all of her photos (i brought 3) and laid them out as in a little shrine. too funny!

love and miss you, give cleo3 a pat on the head for me… if you can… :)

April 7, 1999 postcard from Traci

Guten Tag! We are quite impressed with München so far. Lots to do here and things are open late! Today we went to the Alte Pinakothek, a very nice museum of middle-ages to Renaissance (early) art. Many Rubens and Dürer! So beautiful but manageable size to handle in one afternoon. Was raining and cold today, perfect museum day. We’ll check out of the phone hotel tomorrow and head for the hoster with a kitchen to cook weinerschnitzel, right? 🙂

Old buildings with mountains in the distance.

April 7, 1999 email from Manton


Not sure if Traci emailed you earlier or not. This is our second night in Munich. We decided to stay an extra night at this hotel because of access to the phone line, so that we can get caught up on email and work. The place we stayed in Switzerland was hard to get email working.

We went to one of the museums today. We didn’t have to wait in line at all (unlike the almost 4 hour wait at the Uffizi in Florence). Lots of Rubens, van Dyke, some Rembrandt, and others. Spent a couple of hours there and we were lucky enough to get the student rate even though I don’t have an ID card.

Munich is a pretty modern city: lots of shops, big grocery stores, book stores, and clean, unlike Italy. All buses our electric, and the S-Bahn and U-Bahn rapid transit systems connect everything (although using a very confusing price structure that we haven’t quite figured out yet). Our hotel is right across the street from the train station, and everything we’ve done so far is within talking distance, but when we move to the hostel tomorrow we’ll see more of the city. We may go to Berlin for the weekend, and then to France.

Business stuff: Any news on the car? Did the Purity check ever come? Nathan said I got paid, so I assumed he mailed it.. A couple of days late is no big deal, but hopefully it can get in my account by the end of the week at least. According to my calculations, I should’ve had enough money in my account to cover the car deduction on the 5th, but I haven’t called to get my balance yet to confirm that.

We won’t be connecting the PowerBook to the Internet again until we get to the next city, probably, but we should be checking email the rest of the week anyway. There’s a restaurant here that gives free Internet access when you order a dinner, which should be nice if it’s true.

More next time…

April 12, 1999 postcard from Manton


This is the little town on the coast where we stayed in Italy for a couple of days. Foot paths connect this town with five others, and we hiked between four of them. (We are sending this from Boulogne, France, since we haven’t had time to mail anything in the last few weeks.)

Cinque Terre in Italy.

April 12, 1999 postcard from Manton

We were in Switzerland for five days and biked around this city and through some of the countryside between two beautiful lakes (not shown). Didn’t have time to snowboard or bungee jump, but mostly relaxed, recovering from 3 weeks in Italy.


April 12, 1999 postcard from Traci

This is our last impression of Germany. So much suffering concentrated in such a small space4… but we are in France now about to cross the English Channel and spend a couple of days in South England. Very excited for the change of pace. We are in the channel port “Boulogne sur la Mer”. Sea-cats go from here to Folkstone (W. of Dover) and we are boarding in 2 hours. Now just mailing packages and postcards.

Dachua Concentration Camp.

April 22, 1999 postcard from Traci

hi there,

not much going on today, just resting and getting ready for the 3-day journey to greece. but yesterday we went to disneyland paris, can you believe it? we had a great time actually - it’s small enough that you can do pretty much everything in a day, and it’s all so stylized and classy really. we even found some tex-mex for dinner at this country-type place called “billy bob’s”. yum! when the waiter-guy found out we were from texas, he said “welcome home!”… not quite, huh?

i guess i’m dense but i didn’t realize you really were not able to get to greece. i guess i was in denial and still hoping you could magically show up there, i really wish you could. i’ll still hope until the last minute. that’s for sure.

we are really tired. and france is so expensive! and we really haven’t seen much here or anywhere! it seems like as soon as we get oriented to a new place, we move on. but i just feel like travelling shouldn’t be about packing as many castles etc. into a visit, it’s more about just being where you are and just enjoying it. we have been talking about what we’re going to do when we get home… and we have absolutely no idea. well, i don’t anyway.. manton says he’s going straight to the bookstore, then a movie, then to kirby lane cafe. don’t blame him at all. as for me, i may just walk scully for days on end. :) i’m still waiting for the LSU financial aid letter to come, to make the final decision on if i’ll go to school there or not. i know you said i should use this momentum to apply elsewhere, but either laziness or stupidity is telling me i should take advantage of the opportunity before me instead of waiting for a better situation.

anyway, manton needs the powerbook to do work and i should do some as well (yuck) so i’ll end this here. sorry i haven’t been able to write much lately.. and i have no idea what well do in greece! no apple or earthlink numbers work there. we’ll see, maybe we will find an ISP there and just buy a month of access.

hope you all are well, miss you very much.

April 26, 1999 postcard from Traci

funny you should say this - from the moment we got on the boat at brindisi all i could think is that you should be here with us. i could even see you sleeping on the floor of the boat with us, on the train to athens… i swear it was like you were supposed to be here. i wish i had never said it wasn’t meant to be, that was stupid of me. arghh! i don’t know what else to sav, except we are missing you so much and agonize over your absence. but i guess this does mean, as manton and i were talking about today, that we all must come back, if nothing than to take another picture at the acropolis, and lie on the beach. and yes rockport is definitely in my summer plans.

we are going to Paros (island!) tomorrow for 10 days, yay, then to thessaloniki, then home! will try to call you from paros…

much love to you scully cleo and kitkatz5

April 27, 1999 email from Manton


I’m sure Traci has already emailed you, but we are both checking our email now and I just finished working. Unbelievably, there is an Internet cafe on the island, which is really great since we will be here for 10 days.

Thanks for depositing my check. I haven’t been keeping very good track of my money lately and I knew that my account was low - I just didn’t know how low. The ATMs in Athens were pretty flaky; we had to try 3 before finding one that worked with our cards.

We spent two nights in Athens - one full day, which is really plenty to see the city. We hiked up to the Acropolis, and everything kind’ve came back to me - memories, that is. Unfortunately our camera was out of pictures, although we thought we had one left, so no pictures of us at the Acropolis. The column that you and I had a picture on is no longer there; I have a feeling they restored it to it’s original place in the Parthanon or wherever.

Paros is the perfect island for us. Not too big, not too small, not too touristy, but enough so that everyone speaks English and they have an Internet cafe. Had a great dinner tonight: grilled octopus. Things are pretty cheap in Greece so I think we’re going to be fine for money without any worries until we get back.

We find ourselves talking alot about how soon we are coming home, and it will be good to be back. Very good. We miss you and Scully and Cleo and Kitters alot. Traci has made several dog friends since we got to Greece. It’s amazing to think we are just two weeks from home. It’s all downhill from here, I think. Time to relax on the beach and wind-down.

We bought a phone card in Athens, and I’ll probably call your dad tomorrow afternoon. We are hoping to get a ferry straight to Thesoloniki from here, and they do offer them. (Our train pass worked out perfectly; we have two days left.)

More later!

Love, Manton

P.S. Please don’t be sad that you aren’t here. I have a feeling we’ll all be back before too long. There’s just too much in Europe that we still need to see.

P.P.S. We’ll be home soon!

April 28, 1999 email from Traci

we made it to paros yesterday around 2pm, and already we’re so glad we decided to have an extended stay here. 10 days! it is so beautiful, and there really aren’t too many people here. i recognized a few couples walking down the road from dinner last night… maybe about 50 people max, i’m sure of it! you would be proud of manton for the grilled octopus, i tried it and it was really good. but on the plate, it looked too weird!

did manton tell you that he was mistaken for greek? a restaurant owner came up to us as we were reading a menu and we said ‘kalispera’ (forgive the wrong spelling) and he started talking really fast in greek, and it took a few seconds of us saying ‘huh?’ and ‘sorry?’ for him to realize, and he said ‘you’re not greek?’ and we said no, but then i said pointing to manton ‘well he is one-quarter - his grandfather is greek’ and manton asked the guy if he looked greek and the guy said the face is pure greek. it was pretty funny, and i do believe manton was quite proud of it! he should be, the people here have been the nicest and most friendly this whole trip. i’m so stupid to think we would have run into trouble… i’m so glad we came. and really, it’s not SO unlike rockport, just the architecture and the hills! at least at this time of year, i’m sure this is a madhouse in july or august.

don’t know what all manton told you about where were staying… it’s a nice studio apt about 75m from the beach, with a little kitchen-ette and a balcony… i even got a little coffee-maker so i could do my own coffee in the morning, how i’ve missed that! i could really stay here a month or more. we will all have to come back, with scully if we can swing it! so many dog-friends to be had.

that’s about it from the last 24 hours… more later i’m sure. can you believe there’s an internet cafe right here by the dock…

May 8, 1999 email from Traci

howdy! ferries are running today, and we got our tickets for tonight, so we’re just killin time until we are off the island. hopefully we can hit the beach but believe it or not it’s too cold for that! i’m even wearing socks today, a first in over a week! :)

Buildings and flowers on an island in Greece.

  1. Scully was our dog. ↩︎

  2. As a contractor for Apple, Traci had access to dial-up internet access with the modem in our old PowerBook. Apple would introduce the first iBook with wi-fi a few months after our trip. ↩︎

  3. Cleo was Traci’s cat. ↩︎

  4. Dachua Concentration Camp. ↩︎

  5. My mom’s cat. ↩︎

Manton Reece @manton