REST of THE WORLD - Capitals of Mainland Europe

Capital "Punishment"- Part One

Monday, January 29, 2024

By The Spanish Fly


Not a punishment at all, rather a pleasure. I like to travel, although I'm not so keen on long-haul.

Perhaps because of my background in foreign languages, I developed a real wanderlust from my late teens onwards.

As a result, over the course of half a century I've clocked up a surprising number of capitals, thirty-four, in fact.

Surprising for me, a working class lad from the sticks. Others, like my younger brother, Simon, or my friend Nick, will no doubt scoff and say: "Is that all?"

Well .....

Here's Part One - The Western European Mainland. 18 capital cities.


Western Europe

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam is the official capital, but see The Hague (below). Have visited a couple of times, once privately and once with work. Canals are great. Rijksmuseum also.


 Andorra la Vella, Andorra



Andorra is a tiny principality squeezed in between France and Spain. Went for a day when I was in my 20s. Don't remember much, except that the duty free was cheap.


Athens, Greece



Athens I have been to a few times, pre- and post-kids, on the way to the islands of the Cyclades. Impressive monuments, Acropolis and Parthenon, and a great atmosphere.


 Berlin, Germany


Surprisingly, I've only been to Berlin once. That was in the winter of 2009, while courting Rita. We stayed with her younger son in the former East Berlin. Jojo did a great job as our tourist guide. I liked the atmosphere. An interesting, vibrant and cosmopolitan city.


Berne, Switzerland 

I passed through Berne when I was hitch-hiking my way round Europe in 1977 with my first wife, Jeryl. We didn't linger - too expensive! And pretty boring.


Bonn, West Germany

The former capital of the Federal Republic of Germany before re-unification. I found Bonn drab and boring, quite unlike Berlin.


Brussels, Belgium

Brussels is often regarded as a boring and dull place, far from it in my experience. I loved it when I went with my wife Jeryl way back; again with my daughter Amy following her graduation in 2004, and subsequently, in 2005, as leader of a Socrates group of sixth-formers from St Helens, Merseyside, where I was the adviser for modern languages with additional responsibility for EU educational programmes (now no longer available since Brexit!).


Cardiff, Wales

I've been the odd time over the years, notably for a Six Nations rugby match at the then new Millennium Stadium, since renamed Principality Stadium.


Douglas, Isle of Man

Douglas, Isle of Man -  I spent a week working on the Isle of Man in around 2003. A colleague and I were loaned out to the Manx Education Department to inspect the modern languages  provision in the island's secondary schools. Got to see a lot of the island, as we travelled around to different towns. A nice, friendly place with fantastic countryside and great beaches.


 Dublin, Ireland

Dublin. Only been there once, which I don't really understand as I loved the place. My wife Jeryl had business there so I tagged along. We stayed at the Sheldon Hotel for a long weekend. Apart from the fact that they wanted to charge us extra to use the pool, sauna, etc, everything was fine. Big argument, where I pointed out that in England hotel facilities are free for guests. We used the facilities a lot and didn't pay a penny!

We took the DART north and walked back. 

The Guinness was spectacular, if expensive. This was in the late 90s. It's even dearer now, I hear.


Edinburgh, Scotland

Shortly after meeting Rita I suggested a Magical Mystery Tour. All she knew beforehand was that she needed to pack warm clothes. It was January 2009. When we got to Malaga airport and checked in she realised we were flying to Edinburgh, Scotland. What she didn't know was that we were travelling onward to the Isle of Arran. I had a timeshare there and it was the AGM. We enjoyed a fascinating dinner with a Murder Mystery theme. Rita didn't understand a word of what was said at our table. To be honest, nor did I? The Scots accent is rather impenetrable.

We did some walking and viewed most of the island. It was lovely.

On the last day, Rita ricked her back, so our last two days in Edinburgh, she stayed in bed. I, on the other hand, had a great time. I did the free walking tour of the city centre. Wow! Our guide earned his generous tip.


Lisbon, Portugal 

Rita and I went to Lisbon in 2014. My English cousin Alison is married to a Peruvian diplomat, Jesus. They had been posted to Lisbon and it was an important wedding anniversary. So they threw a party and invited us. We drove from Ronda and enjoyed a fabulous few days. My brother Simon and his wife Marilyn, my cousin Gloria and another distant relative Wendy were also there. Other than that, we didn't know anybody.

Lisbon disappointed me. I'd always wanted to go, but I found the centre grubby and shabby.

London, England


Of course, I've been to London umpteen times. The first was a school trip to visit art galleries (I did Art A-level). The second time was to watch a friendly between England and Germany at the old Wembley stadium, when I was a university student. All that was when I was a youngster.

I had cause to go later in life, as both my kids were living there. When I was courting Rita around 2009/2010 we went also. We've been a few times since. We did the main tourist stuff, ie Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Tower of London, etc. We also saw Tom, my actor son, in several plays in the West End, A Clockwork Orange, Waterloo Sunset, Yerma, to name but three.

But, London is not for us. Too big, too noisy, too dirty, too loud, too expensive.


Luxembourg City, Luxembourg

I've been to The Grand Duchy a few times. Jeryl and I went often pre- and post-kids. Our hosts were always Jac and Dan, a Welsh couple and our good friends from university. They both worked as translators at the European Commission.

Dan committed suicide when their two kids were really young. Jac decided to stay in Luxembourg, where she had carved out a good social life and was a leading figure in the international church there. She stopped working at the EC and set herself up as a piano teacher. She does it to this day.

After my divorce from Jeryl, I visited Jac a few times. I'd fancied her when we were undergraduates, but Dan got in first. We enjoyed a summer romance when she invited me to spend the summer of 2008 in Luxembourg helping her daughter Miriam and hubbie to renovate a house for them to live in.

Madrid, Spain 


De Madrid al Cielo. The first time I went was with my first wife, Jeryl, when she had a business trip there. That was in the month of May and it was already way too hot and humid!

The second time was when I was an invited guest at an educational conference there on Inspecting Schools in around 2006.

My third visit was as recently as 2022, when I took my second wife, Rita, there to buy a car. See here.


Paris, France -

Beautiful Paris. I've been there a number of times. What a fantastique city! I've done all the sights, I think: Eiffel Tower, Montmartre, Pigalle, Arc de Triomphe, Rive Gauche, Notre Dame.


The Hague, Netherlands 


The seat of the Dutch government and the administrative capital. I attended a study visit there as part of the European Union's Socrates programme. Educators from all corners of Europe attended.

 Vienna, Austria


Went with Jeryl before kids. Very impressive city. The Prater was delightful. Memories of the film "The Third Man", starring Orson Welles 


© The Spanish Fly



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