Time is not money, and nowadays that’s a good thought to keep in mind. If you really want to go to Europe, and you have the time, go for it!
       That was the attitude of Toy Story, of Fort Collins, Colorado. She put a fairly large dent in her fairly small fortune, and doesn’t regret it for a minute.
       “I don’t enjoy flying,” she said. She doesn’t like jet lag, she doesn’t like airports, and she’d rather take her time getting there.
       So she took Amtrak from Colorado to New York and booked passage on the Queen Mary – a six-day crossing from New York to England, paying $2,500 for the outbound voyage and $1,700 for the return.
       Toy, who’s 76, had learned of a biking-and-museum-hopping tour of The Netherlands, and the timing coincided with the voyage, so she signed up. But as luck would have it, that tour didn’t attract enough people, so it was canceled. The tour operator offered instead a one-week bike-and-barge tour that covered 50 miles a day and featured gourmet meals on the barge every evening.
       “I’m not a helmet and gel seat person at all,” she said. “But I kept up with the others just fine.” 
       After that, armed with a one-month Eurail pass good for 10 trips, she headed for Paris, spent a day there doing the galleries, and boarded an overnight express train for the beautiful coastal villages of Cinque Terre on the Italian coastline.
       “Getting a Eurail pass was the one thing I wouldn’t do again,” she said. “I spent a thousand dollars for it, and I didn’t get my money’s worth.” (That was because she used several days of her pass to take short train rides to cities near where she was staying, which otherwise would have been relatively inexpensive.)  
       Upon arriving at Cinque Terre’s westernmost village, Monterrosso al More, Toy followed an information sign to an office where a friendly clerk found her a beautiful, inexpensive room in an old remodeled villa, in the center of town.          While waiting for her friend to join her, she spent several days, hiking, exploring the area, and soaking up the sun, along with those all-day excursions.
       The friend was not content with anything less than a four-star hotel, so when she arrived, Toy moved with her into a four-star accommodation “far up in the hills, remote, a terrible choice I would not have made. But she’s a princess.”
       Then it was on to Venice for three spectacular days of walking, sightseeing, concerts and perfect weather, to Milano for shopping, and to Prague, which Toy found to be a “big, fat bore,” with its high prices and Art Deco architecture: “Not my favorite place.”
       Trip highlights? The brilliantly restored marble buildings of classic Italian cities, and the free concerts in churches and concert halls in several places. Even aboard the Queen Mary, some members of the Boston Symphony gave three concerts to delighted passengers.
       Total trip cost – Amtrak train to New York, the voyage to Europe and back, the Eurail pass, a month’s worth of hotel accommodatons, meals and all the usual extras: about $10,000. 
       Was it worth it? “Of course!” Toy said. “I’ve wanted to do this for so long.” There’s a whole world to explore, and now is the time.