If you know me, or if you've read this blog for long, you will know that I am a passionate supporter of the European Union. And yes if you didn't know this you will probably find it odd for an Englishman to be a mad Europhile.
Anyway in a conversation the other day it occured to me how little of this group I actually know. I mean really know. So I've decided to do something about it. I'm setting myself a little target. I am currently, as I sit here typing this, 42 years old. Before I am fifty I would like to be able to say I have been to the capitol city of every EU country. That's currently 27 different cities, although I would like to belive it might be more like 35 by the year 2018 (if the EU ministers decided to get Enlargement back on track following their recent loss of interest - but that's another issue).
Even if I were to limit it to just the 27 I have a few to go. And this is mainly because I realised just how few I've been to.
Being a mad Italophile I have of course been to Rome - and it's a city I would recommend to anyone - and do to anyone who hangs around long enough. Being English I've been to London - hell I used to live there - so that takes my count to two.
My holiday last September saw me in Brussels again - a second wonderful visit. So Belgium can be ticked off an I get to three.
A work Christmas party in the boom years (or about five years back) saw us visit Dublin for two days - my only trip to Ireland as yet, which I know is really poor as it's a short ferry ride across the North Sea. But those two days were wonderful. The Irish are an incredibly hospitable and friendly race and I need to get back there at some point. Anyway - that makes four.
And here's where I begin to struggle. At four. I mean I've never even been to Paris.
I've been to France a number of times but each trip has been by car and I just don't have the nerve to try driving a British (right hand drive) car in Pairs. Hell, to be trughtful I don't think I'd want to drive a French (left hand drive) car there either. I'm not the best driver in the world and I'm honest enough to admit it.
I might increase this count later in the year. We're thinking of popping back to Belgium, only this time basing ourselves in the East of the country, near Liege. And from there it's not a long drive to Luxembourg. So I might well get to count that as five. But that would mean another year over and only one added. I'd only have seven left then to hit the other 22.
So it's time to start planning. I'm thinking of a big trip for 2012 - to celebrate being with my wife for 20 years (yes you can call me a softie). Here's idea one. Fly to Warsaw. That would make it six (assuming I've done the Luxembourg trip). Have a quick look round and then head for the Baltic states. Than way I could get Vilnius, Riga and Talinn and move straight to nine.
But that wouldn't be all. From Talinn you can virtually see Helsinki so take a ferry across and make it ten. Then catch a plan across to Stockholm in Sweden and then drive or train to Copenhagen and we're at twelve. Hell if I can get enough time of work and have enough money to spare I could even drive or train from Copenhagen to Berlin - assuming I haven't already done it by then.
So I have eight years. It could be fun.