Bush enjoys slower pace in traveling Europe this time

Tea at Windsor Castle with Queen Elizabeth II, bike rides in a Paris park and the lush German countryside, a stunning view from a Renaissance villa outside Rome, a rare stroll with the pope in the Vatican's private gardens?

Not a bad life. It seems President Bush is learning to enjoy the perks of traveling abroad as the most powerful man in the world.

The usual Bush foreign trip is packed from dawn (or earlier) to dusk (or later) with meetings, roundtables, official dinners and speeches. All those things are present, too, on this week's European farewell, the fifth of eight or more overseas jaunts he is taking this year. Iran, Iraq, climate change, trade, the Middle East – all those weighty and difficult problems have dominated his discussions with fellow leaders.

The difference on this super-glam European tour, probably Bush's last one to the continent as president, is the pace.

He hasn't gotten going on a couple of days until 10 or 11 in the morning. There was downtime in the afternoons, and even one day, in Rome, that ended about 4 p.m.

Evenings were busy for the typically early-to-bed president. On five of his seven nights away, he was the guest of honor at a lavish dinner.

But each one was held in a beautiful old-world setting, like a baroque lakeside castle north of Berlin, Paris' elegant presidential Elysee Palace, 10 Downing Street in London and the ornate residence of the American ambassador to France.

Sunday offered one sight after another.

Waking up in Paris, Bush ventured through the city's almost-empty early-morning streets to the Parc de St. Cloud, a former French estate on a green, wooded hillside, where he rode his beloved bike for about an hour. He went to church at the American Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, an Episcopal-Anglican church in the gothic style near the Eiffel Tower, calling the experience a joy afterward.

He and his wife, Laura, then flew to the sweeping lawns of Windsor Castle to visit the queen at her favorite residence, a rarity for the monarch who usually greets world leaders at Buckingham Palace in London. Soldiers in black bearskin hats and red tunics heralded their arrival at the 11th century royal fortress, high above the Thames River.

The queen and her husband, Prince Philip, had tea with the Bushes before taking them through the massive and ornate St. George's Hall.

Back in London later, Bush met privately with British troops before being greeted for dinner with smiles and warm handshakes from Brown and his wife, Sarah, at the prime minister's residence. The foursome posed for pictures outside the black door of 10 Downing Street. Brown made the point of including historians in the evening, as well as the usual British officials and U.S. expatriates.