Alexandria City Council member Carlyle C. Ring Jr. last night modified his sharp criticism of a European study trip now being taken by the city's mayor and two other officials by praising their honesty and good intentions.

"It is time on this issue to let bygones be bygones . . . The European trip has gotten more attention than it deserves," Ring said, reading from a prepared three-page statement at a council meeting.

Mayor Charles E. Beatley Jr. and two city administrators are visiting Copenhagen, Basel, Geneva, Vienna, Cologne and Hamburg studying the approach those cities have taken to their waterfronts.

Originally, the trip was to have cost city taxpayers $3,500, but following by Ring and another council member that the tour constituted a "junket," the private German Marshall Fund decided to pay all of the $7,500 cost.

Development of Alexandria's 1.5-mile waterfront is a continuing issue before the council, and Ring had questioned the value of the trip, saying much waterfront planning is in an advanced stage and that examination of U.S. ports would have been better.

Last night, he said that while he continues to oppose the trip, much of his concern was based on the fact that the $7,500 contribution from the German Marshall Fund amounted to a grant to the city and had never -- until last night -- been properly accepted by the council.

Ring, a Republican, called Democrat Beatley "the conscience of the city" Robert L. Calhoun, another member of the council's Republican majority who had criticized the trip, said the matter had been "overplayed by the press."