DeJankins

From one collector to another

Friday, June 1 - Last full day in Europe . . . for a while

We completed our Parisian task.  We had our share of French pastries!  Below is Janice's chocolate pastry for breakfast.  Our day this last full day in Europe would include a bus tour through the city, a visit to the Musée de l'Orangerie and the Louvre.  

Our first hop-off stop on the bus tour was at the chapel at the Invalides, originally a hospital for injured French soldiers.  Twenty years after his death, Napoleon's remains were moved to this chapel.  We didn't go in to see him, just took a quick photo and hopped back on the bus.

Our first hop-off stop on the bus tour was at the chapel at the Invalides, originally a hospital for injured French soldiers.  Twenty years after his death, Napoleon's remains were moved to this chapel.  We didn't go in to see him, just took a quick photo and hopped back on the bus.

A view below from the bus of the Arc d'Triomphe.  An interesting fact about the traffic circle that goes around it is that twelve streets intersect the circle at regular intervals, so a view from above shows a large star shape.

A view below from the bus of the Arc d'Triomphe.  An interesting fact about the traffic circle that goes around it is that twelve streets intersect the circle at regular intervals, so a view from above shows a large star shape.

Another view of this couple that we kept seeing on this trip . . .

Another view of this couple that we kept seeing on this trip . . .

One view below of Monet's Water Lilies at the  Musée de l'Orangerie

One view below of Monet's Water Lilies at the Musée de l'Orangerie

My lunch plate at a park café between the   Musée de l'Orangerie and the Louvre.  Yummy!

My lunch plate at a park café between the Musée de l'Orangerie and the Louvre.  Yummy!

Janice snapped the photo below of one of the flower beds as we entered the arms of the Louvre.

Janice snapped the photo below of one of the flower beds as we entered the arms of the Louvre.

An arc through which we walked on our way to the glass pyramid beyond which was our entry point into the Louvre.

An arc through which we walked on our way to the glass pyramid beyond which was our entry point into the Louvre.

The main entrance to the Louvre.  There were a lot of people here this day, but I am sure it was not as many as have been here on other days.

The main entrance to the Louvre.  There were a lot of people here this day, but I am sure it was not as many as have been here on other days.

A view of one side of the Louvre from the glass pyramid.

A view of one side of the Louvre from the glass pyramid.

A bust of Dean when he had a full head of hair.

A bust of Dean when he had a full head of hair.

Some of the French crown jewels.

Some of the French crown jewels.

This is what Janice most wanted to see, and though I was able to get the photo below from behind about 50 people, she got to within about three or four people of it.  It was a mad house in this room, with many younger women getting to the front of the crowd and then staying there primping and taking selfies.  That was a real disappointment as folks who were just there to see and enjoy the paining were not able to do so very well because of the crowd of people that just wanted selfies.

This is what Janice most wanted to see, and though I was able to get the photo below from behind about 50 people, she got to within about three or four people of it.  It was a mad house in this room, with many younger women getting to the front of the crowd and then staying there primping and taking selfies.  That was a real disappointment as folks who were just there to see and enjoy the paining were not able to do so very well because of the crowd of people that just wanted selfies.

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In spite of the crowd in front of the Mona Lisa, we had a great time at the Louvre, in Paris, on this entire trip.  We really enjoyed all the sights, and though we weren't looking for more friends, we did make many of them and I really expect that we will stay in touch with a number of them.  I hope that some of you may be able to take such a trip to Europe sometime.  And if you do, we could pass on a couple of tips if you'd care to hear them.  Thanks for the time you spent keeping up with us as we had this great adventure!

- Dean and Janice

Thursday, May 31 - Paris - the city of Lights

Our bus ride from Beaune to Paris was much shorter than many of the rides we'd had on this trip.  For almost three weeks, Dirk has been our driver (and a very good one).  He is an easy going fellow who became quite animated while I chatted with him at dinner one evening about motorcycles.  Anyway, we arrived in Paris a little after lunch and Dirk dropped us off on a busy corner.  We all had told him goodbye while still on the bus before our stop as we knew we were going to have to make a quick exit on a busy street.

The pastry shop below was very near our hotel, and we came back here to grab a quick lunch before beginning our orientation walk around the part of Paris we were staying in (the Rue Cler area).

I should know what the buildings in the image below are, as I am sure that Jesse told us while we were walking, but I cannot remember them.  We ended up on the little island in the Seine River where Notre Dame and Sainte-Chappell are. 

I should know what the buildings in the image below are, as I am sure that Jesse told us while we were walking, but I cannot remember them.  We ended up on the little island in the Seine River where Notre Dame and Sainte-Chappell are. 

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We passed a small park on our way to see Notre Dame and Sainte-Chappell.

We passed a small park on our way to see Notre Dame and Sainte-Chappell.

And here it is, the cathedral of Notre Dame, gargoyles, flying buttresses and all!

And here it is, the cathedral of Notre Dame, gargoyles, flying buttresses and all!

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Huge bronze sculpture of Charlemagne outside of the cathedral (below).

Huge bronze sculpture of Charlemagne outside of the cathedral (below).

Inside the chapel upstairs at Sainte-Chappell, beautiful stained glass windows all around.  Janice's observation of all these beautiful old churches and cathedrals that we've seen is that they are sad.  Sad that the original thoughts and vision which lead people to make great structures for God and for His work are now little more than museums of ancient history.  That is sad.

Inside the chapel upstairs at Sainte-Chappell, beautiful stained glass windows all around.  Janice's observation of all these beautiful old churches and cathedrals that we've seen is that they are sad.  Sad that the original thoughts and vision which lead people to make great structures for God and for His work are now little more than museums of ancient history.  That is sad.

Jesse said that a picnic in the park was an excellent way to spend an evening in Paris.  We thought it sounded like a good idea, so most of our group descended on a small grocery store and bought all sorts of bread, meats and cheeses, drinks, chips, vegetables, cookies, and other picnic foods and went to the Luxemborg Gardens.  We had so much food, and it was so nice sitting in the grass and talking with our friends.  When we were all stuffed, we put all the leftovers in a couple of bags, and Janice and Kim gave it to some Spanish college guys (the three guys on either side of Janice in the second photo below).  They were amazed and pleased and seemed so happy to have received this "leftover" gift!

Jesse said that a picnic in the park was an excellent way to spend an evening in Paris.  We thought it sounded like a good idea, so most of our group descended on a small grocery store and bought all sorts of bread, meats and cheeses, drinks, chips, vegetables, cookies, and other picnic foods and went to the Luxemborg Gardens.  We had so much food, and it was so nice sitting in the grass and talking with our friends.  When we were all stuffed, we put all the leftovers in a couple of bags, and Janice and Kim gave it to some Spanish college guys (the three guys on either side of Janice in the second photo below).  They were amazed and pleased and seemed so happy to have received this "leftover" gift!

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After walking 19,000 steps (a little over seven miles), and after dinner, we walked down to the Eiffel Tower.  The photo below was taken at 10PM.  It's just so amazing to us how it stays light so late.  And this must be do to the more northerly latitude of France compared to Yadkinville!

After walking 19,000 steps (a little over seven miles), and after dinner, we walked down to the Eiffel Tower.  The photo below was taken at 10PM.  It's just so amazing to us how it stays light so late.  And this must be do to the more northerly latitude of France compared to Yadkinville!

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Wednesday, May 30 - from Stechelberg Switzerland to Beaune France

I think that of all the views from our rooms, this has been my favorite.  The Lauterbrunnen Valley is something that I didn't even know existed before we began planning for our trip.  But now that we've been here, I think I could recommend it highly to anyone.  In the shadow of these huge cliffs and waterfalls, it seems much easier to let issues and problems just kind of drift away in the beauty of this valley.  Notice the horse outside of the barn in the lower right part of the image below.  He's got a friend that we often saw with him, a small donkey.  Sometimes we'd wake in the morning to the sound of chickens, but sometimes it was the donkey we'd hear.

So, we left Stechelberg and wound our way out of the mountains and valleys of the Alps.  We passed through many old cities and towns on our way to France.  I've forgotten the name of the one in the picture below, but there was a narrow pass through which the road ran, and this castle was up on the hilltop overlooking that pass.  I don't suppose we'll see many more of these in the coming months. 

So, we left Stechelberg and wound our way out of the mountains and valleys of the Alps.  We passed through many old cities and towns on our way to France.  I've forgotten the name of the one in the picture below, but there was a narrow pass through which the road ran, and this castle was up on the hilltop overlooking that pass.  I don't suppose we'll see many more of these in the coming months. 

For lunch today, we stopped near a shopping mall not too long after we passed into France.  There were many options for us, including a Mexican restaurant called Nachos.  But rather than go for the local cuisine, or a French flavor of the Mexican, we opted for good ol' KFC.  Janice had talked about fried chicken a few days before, and once this restaurant was spotted, half a dozen of us went there.  The chicken was good, but they didn't have mashed potatoes.

For lunch today, we stopped near a shopping mall not too long after we passed into France.  There were many options for us, including a Mexican restaurant called Nachos.  But rather than go for the local cuisine, or a French flavor of the Mexican, we opted for good ol' KFC.  Janice had talked about fried chicken a few days before, and once this restaurant was spotted, half a dozen of us went there.  The chicken was good, but they didn't have mashed potatoes.

The image below shows us in the courtyard of the hotel we stayed at in Beaune.  The lady that runs the hotel (barely out of the photo on the right) is so thankful for what the Americans did for the French in World War II, that she wanted to give us a brief welcome to her city of Beaune (pronounced Bone).

The image below shows us in the courtyard of the hotel we stayed at in Beaune.  The lady that runs the hotel (barely out of the photo on the right) is so thankful for what the Americans did for the French in World War II, that she wanted to give us a brief welcome to her city of Beaune (pronounced Bone).

Our room is up 50 steps in a small winding circular staircase.  The first third of the steps were stone, the last two thirds were wood.  The architecture, the "bones" of the house, were clearly displayed for us in this room.

Our room is up 50 steps in a small winding circular staircase.  The first third of the steps were stone, the last two thirds were wood.  The architecture, the "bones" of the house, were clearly displayed for us in this room.

The Hospices de Beaune (or Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune) is now a museum, but was an almshouse setup by Nicholas Rolin in the 1440's to care for the sick and dying of the area.  It has been beautifully preserved.  The next five images show different views inside and outside of the hospital.  Other than our evening meal, we didn't do much in Beaune as we arrived in the late afternoon and only stayed one night.

The Hospices de Beaune (or Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune) is now a museum, but was an almshouse setup by Nicholas Rolin in the 1440's to care for the sick and dying of the area.  It has been beautifully preserved.  The next five images show different views inside and outside of the hospital.  Other than our evening meal, we didn't do much in Beaune as we arrived in the late afternoon and only stayed one night.

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For dinner, a group of us took our guides recommendation and ate at one of the restaurants near our hotel.  Part of the meal was the appetizer.  I had the escargot, and shared one with Janice.  Kim (from our group) was with us there an also ordered them.  I shared another of mine with her, even though she had her own order of six.  Now that I can say that I've had escargot, I won't need to have them again.  They weren't bad, as I was expecting.  But I didn't like them so much that I'll be giving up burgers or tacos for them! 

For dinner, a group of us took our guides recommendation and ate at one of the restaurants near our hotel.  Part of the meal was the appetizer.  I had the escargot, and shared one with Janice.  Kim (from our group) was with us there an also ordered them.  I shared another of mine with her, even though she had her own order of six.  Now that I can say that I've had escargot, I won't need to have them again.  They weren't bad, as I was expecting.  But I didn't like them so much that I'll be giving up burgers or tacos for them! 

Tuesday, May 29 - The Swiss Alps, waterfalls and more waterfalls

Being in the Lauterbrunnen Valley is almost like stepping back in time.  Most of the area is either mountainous terrain, mountain meadows, fields, or small yards with old houses or farm buildings.  After breakfast, we got ready to go to ride a cable car up from the valley floor to the top of one of the nearby ridges.  It didn't take long, seems like only about five minutes.  We went from an altitude of 2624 in Lauterbrunnen to 4875 in the town of Grutschalp.  The view below is of another of the falls which pour off the top of these very high cliffs near our hotel.  The photo was taken from the ride up on the cable car.

After we got off the cable car, we walked up for a ways, to a small train station.  On the way, we saw a number of different snails on the trail.  The one below is almost white.  We also saw black ones without the shell, slugs I guess.

After we got off the cable car, we walked up for a ways, to a small train station.  On the way, we saw a number of different snails on the trail.  The one below is almost white.  We also saw black ones without the shell, slugs I guess.

There was beautiful scenery all around us on the walk.

There was beautiful scenery all around us on the walk.

Some of our group decided against the walk/hike, and opted for a ride on the train.  Frank and Patti were on this train.

Some of our group decided against the walk/hike, and opted for a ride on the train.  Frank and Patti were on this train.

Before we reached the next train station, we came across a café which had not yet opened for the season.  This large wooden bench out front was made from a huge log. 

Before we reached the next train station, we came across a café which had not yet opened for the season.  This large wooden bench out front was made from a huge log. 

This waterfall is not too far from our hotel, and we walked pretty close to it on our day's hike.

This waterfall is not too far from our hotel, and we walked pretty close to it on our day's hike.

This is one view of the Trummelbach Falls.  This is a waterfall that has cut it's way through the inside of one of these mountains.  There were ten different viewing areas inside the mountain where we could see all that water just rushing down through the channel it has cut over the years.  The force of the water was just tremendous, it was really something to see.

This is one view of the Trummelbach Falls.  This is a waterfall that has cut it's way through the inside of one of these mountains.  There were ten different viewing areas inside the mountain where we could see all that water just rushing down through the channel it has cut over the years.  The force of the water was just tremendous, it was really something to see.

Janice offered to take a photo for a young couple, and come to find out they are newlyweds from Asheville, and their parents live not very far from us in East Bend.  What a small world!

Janice offered to take a photo for a young couple, and come to find out they are newlyweds from Asheville, and their parents live not very far from us in East Bend.  What a small world!

We caught a thief in the act of stealing an orange Porsche after we came down from the Trummelbach Falls.  Once the would-be thief saw that I had snapped their photo, they quickly moved away from the car.

We caught a thief in the act of stealing an orange Porsche after we came down from the Trummelbach Falls.  Once the would-be thief saw that I had snapped their photo, they quickly moved away from the car.

This scene is one of many similar ones we saw as we walked back to our hotel from the Trummelbach Falls (we walked for a little less than two hours).  The sides of these mountain cliffs seem to make walls around this quaint farming area.

This scene is one of many similar ones we saw as we walked back to our hotel from the Trummelbach Falls (we walked for a little less than two hours).  The sides of these mountain cliffs seem to make walls around this quaint farming area.

Another of the waterfalls we walked past with some lazy cows which made it that much neater.

Another of the waterfalls we walked past with some lazy cows which made it that much neater.

Another view of this waterfall - the wind would blow mist from it all the way out to the trail which we were on, a good hundred yards from the base of the falls.

Another view of this waterfall - the wind would blow mist from it all the way out to the trail which we were on, a good hundred yards from the base of the falls.

Someone spent a bit of time next to the runoff from the falls stacking some of the stones along the side of this very fast running stream.

Someone spent a bit of time next to the runoff from the falls stacking some of the stones along the side of this very fast running stream.

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Monday, May 28 - Leaving the Italian coastline for the Swiss Alps

Most of our day today was spent on the bus.  We left the Cinque Terre by train, back to the bus park in Levanto, and then started for the Alps again, but this time the Alps of Switzerland, not of Germany or Austria.  We passed many small villages, homes, churches, and the like on the sides of the highways we travelled.  Some of them our guide mentioned, some he did not.  The image below was like many of the small towns we saw on our trip, but I do not have the name for this one.

After quite a few switchbacks and hairpin turns, we got to a scenic overlook where the bus stopped for a few minutes.  This view is of a pretty large lake which we had driven past.  In just a few hours we had gone from the warmth of the Italian coast to the crisper and cooler air of this Alpine setting.  Up in these high passes, we spotted a goodly amount of leftover snow from the past winter, and there was no shortage of it above the tree-line.

After quite a few switchbacks and hairpin turns, we got to a scenic overlook where the bus stopped for a few minutes.  This view is of a pretty large lake which we had driven past.  In just a few hours we had gone from the warmth of the Italian coast to the crisper and cooler air of this Alpine setting.  Up in these high passes, we spotted a goodly amount of leftover snow from the past winter, and there was no shortage of it above the tree-line.

The views of the grand mountains were breathtaking.  I don't know which peaks these are, but they are so beautiful with their snow dotted summits and swirling clouds of fog moving from one to another.  What a great site to see!

The views of the grand mountains were breathtaking.  I don't know which peaks these are, but they are so beautiful with their snow dotted summits and swirling clouds of fog moving from one to another.  What a great site to see!

We found another high altitude pull-off, basically just a small parking lot along the road.  But there was a small shop selling trinkets and some drinks.  A secret friend bought Janice a cup of hot chocolate and left it in her seat on the bus.  She was so happy.  Of course, those who know her know how much she appreciates unexpected gifts of kindness like this, and she just teared up and was so sweet being thankful to whoever and everybody.  We later found out the giver was our friend Ken (Eileen's husband).

We found another high altitude pull-off, basically just a small parking lot along the road.  But there was a small shop selling trinkets and some drinks.  A secret friend bought Janice a cup of hot chocolate and left it in her seat on the bus.  She was so happy.  Of course, those who know her know how much she appreciates unexpected gifts of kindness like this, and she just teared up and was so sweet being thankful to whoever and everybody.  We later found out the giver was our friend Ken (Eileen's husband).

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Another small hamlet, this one I think is in Switzerland

Another small hamlet, this one I think is in Switzerland

Small rivers like this one are fed directly from the melting snows from the tops of these mountains.

Small rivers like this one are fed directly from the melting snows from the tops of these mountains.

I am not sure, but this may be Lake Lucerne in Switzerland.

I am not sure, but this may be Lake Lucerne in Switzerland.

Another beautiful view on our long bus ride into Switzerland.

Another beautiful view on our long bus ride into Switzerland.

We finally arrived in the Lauterbrunnen Valley in Switzerland.  This is just one of over 70 waterfalls which can be seen in this valley, and it is very near to our hotel.

We finally arrived in the Lauterbrunnen Valley in Switzerland.  This is just one of over 70 waterfalls which can be seen in this valley, and it is very near to our hotel.

This is the inside of room 32 where we spent two nights.

This is the inside of room 32 where we spent two nights.

Another of those glacial streams carrying water down from the mountain top snows.  This is such a gorgeous place to visit!

Another of those glacial streams carrying water down from the mountain top snows.  This is such a gorgeous place to visit!

Otto is the owner and primary worker at the Stechelberg Hotel.  Our first night here, as part of our dinner, he gave a fondue demonstration.  I think this is the first time I've had fondue.  And if I'm wrong, I'll modify my statement to say that it's the first time that I've had fondue in a valley in Switzerland!

Otto is the owner and primary worker at the Stechelberg Hotel.  Our first night here, as part of our dinner, he gave a fondue demonstration.  I think this is the first time I've had fondue.  And if I'm wrong, I'll modify my statement to say that it's the first time that I've had fondue in a valley in Switzerland!

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Sunday, May 27 - Exploring the Cinque Terre

There are five small towns in the Cinque Terre.  We stayed in Monterosso al Mare.  The others, moving south from Monterosso are Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.  After breakfast, we got on a boat and headed out to see all the cities we could (four of the five).  Corniglia does not have a docking location for the boat as it is further up the hill, but we did go to all the other three, starting with the southernmost, Riomaggiore
The image below is of Monterossa as we left the dock.  You can see in the lower part of the photo, just above the water, an old Nazi bunker.  There is another one but it is not in this photo.
 

The towns of the Cinque Terre are nestled in valleys, on the hills around the valley all the way down to the Mediterranan Sea.

The towns of the Cinque Terre are nestled in valleys, on the hills around the valley all the way down to the Mediterranan Sea.

On Janice's right (our left) in the photo are Patti, Eileen, and Eileen's husband Ken.  We've spent a lot of time with this folks on our trip, they are really fun to be around!  

On Janice's right (our left) in the photo are Patti, Eileen, and Eileen's husband Ken.  We've spent a lot of time with this folks on our trip, they are really fun to be around!
 

The photo below is of Riomaggiore, the first city we visited.  This town was a tall town, stone stairs going everywhere, especially up!  We spent about an hour here before catching the boat north to Manarola.

The photo below is of Riomaggiore, the first city we visited.  This town was a tall town, stone stairs going everywhere, especially up!  We spent about an hour here before catching the boat north to Manarola.

 I don't remember who we got to take our photo here in Riomaggiore, but I guess they were wearing a Big Bird suit or something, just look at the expression on the ladies faces on  the right side of the image below.

 I don't remember who we got to take our photo here in Riomaggiore, but I guess they were wearing a Big Bird suit or something, just look at the expression on the ladies faces on the right side of the image below.

Sorry, but I'm not sure if the photo below was taken in Manarola or Riomaggiore.  But it sure is beautiful scenery.

Sorry, but I'm not sure if the photo below was taken in Manarola or Riomaggiore.  But it sure is beautiful scenery.

Boats anchored just off the port of this town, bobbing around in the Mediterranean.

Boats anchored just off the port of this town, bobbing around in the Mediterranean.

The image below is of Vernazza.  This was Janice's favorite of the four we visited.  Its a very pretty town, and much easier to walk around in than Manarola and Riomaggiore.  The grade is not so steep.  We spent a good while here, almost two hours.  We walked up the hill through the center of the town, all the way to the car park on the upper end.  Such a nice place.

The image below is of Vernazza.  This was Janice's favorite of the four we visited.  Its a very pretty town, and much easier to walk around in than Manarola and Riomaggiore.  The grade is not so steep.  We spent a good while here, almost two hours.  We walked up the hill through the center of the town, all the way to the car park on the upper end.  Such a nice place.

One of the things that Janice thought was so charming was seeing peoples wash drying out on clotheslines outside their windows.  The view below is in Vernazza, not far from the harbor.

One of the things that Janice thought was so charming was seeing peoples wash drying out on clotheslines outside their windows.  The view below is in Vernazza, not far from the harbor.

Back in Monterossa, this is one view of the beach.  This big old rock is just right there, and we saw people climbing up on it at one time earlier.  Selfies are the thing here, lots of folks like taking them, including one of the women in our group.  I don't remember her name, but I think her initials are JW . . . 

Back in Monterossa, this is one view of the beach.  This big old rock is just right there, and we saw people climbing up on it at one time earlier.  Selfies are the thing here, lots of folks like taking them, including one of the women in our group.  I don't remember her name, but I think her initials are JW . . . 

The water is so clear here, I don't know how deep it was, but you can see these huge rocks on the bottom.  We could see equally clearly when we were on the boat as it was nearing the various docks.  

The water is so clear here, I don't know how deep it was, but you can see these huge rocks on the bottom.  We could see equally clearly when we were on the boat as it was nearing the various docks.  

A very busy beach scene in Monterosso.

A very busy beach scene in Monterosso.

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Saturday, May 26 - On the road again . . . this time to the Cinque Terre

Leaving Rome was an experience not to be forgotten.  Jesse wanted to leave a little early so that we could add a visit to two different hill towns in Italy before we got to the Cinque Terre.  By the way, Cinque Terre is pronounced Chin-kwa Ter-ray.  Jesse has mentioned several times how our group has been the most punctual group he has had, we didn't disappoint this morning either.  We were done with breakfast, packed and ready to go by 7:15AM.  We were on the bus, and we were on our way . . . and then we were not.

Seems that in the crazy Roman traffic, a motorcyclist "was hit" by our bus.  We were pulled over by the Carabinieri and an hour and a half delay proceeded to take place.  There was a motorist, driving what looked like an Audi wagon and a fellow on a Moto Guzzi motorcycle.  We were all just wondering what was up, our tour guide Jesse would feed us info as he got it.  When all was said and done, and paperwork (seemed to be a lot of it) was completed, we got started back on the journey and heard the story.  The car was going to pass our bus on the inside of a traffic circle and saw that he could not do so.  So the driver backed off and the motorcyclist came flying into the gap to get around the bus on the right and then struck the back right corner of the bus and because of that then struck the car he had come in front of.  We all thought it was the fault of the motorcyclist, but the authorities did not consult us.  Anyway, the delay was over and we were again on our way.

In the image below, our bus driver Derek (Dirk) is in the blue shirt, Jesse in the red, and the motorcyclist is wearing the glasses.  By the time this was over, there had been 10 Carabinieri officers on the scene along with the three drivers and 29 tour people.

The Italian countryside is so pretty. Our traffic delay meant that we would not be able to see two hill towns, but we did get to see one.  We had to make a quick exit from the bus (as it pretty much filled up the intersection we briefly stopped at) and walk up a hill into the small town (I don't recall it's name).

The Italian countryside is so pretty. Our traffic delay meant that we would not be able to see two hill towns, but we did get to see one.  We had to make a quick exit from the bus (as it pretty much filled up the intersection we briefly stopped at) and walk up a hill into the small town (I don't recall it's name).

What a surprise we had when we reached the top of the hill right next to the church . . . the bride and groom had just come out of the church and were having rice thrown on them!

What a surprise we had when we reached the top of the hill right next to the church . . . the bride and groom had just come out of the church and were having rice thrown on them!

A view inside the church below.

A view inside the church below.

Another view of this small hill town below.

Another view of this small hill town below.

Isn't my sweetie just the cutest thing?!?!

Isn't my sweetie just the cutest thing?!?!

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We passed many little towns nestled down in valleys before we arrived at our ultimate destination for the day.   This little town was near (or maybe part of) Levanto.  We left the bus in a parking lot in Levanto and road the train to the next town, Monterosso al Mare.

We passed many little towns nestled down in valleys before we arrived at our ultimate destination for the day.  This little town was near (or maybe part of) Levanto.  We left the bus in a parking lot in Levanto and road the train to the next town, Monterosso al Mare.

Below is one view in Monterosso, the northernmost of the five cities in the Cinque Terre, and our home for a couple of days.

Below is one view in Monterosso, the northernmost of the five cities in the Cinque Terre, and our home for a couple of days.

We had quite a meal this evening, the main course was mixed seafood.  And boy, was it mixed!  Mussels, octopus, lobster, shrimp, various fish.  And yes, we did eat the Octopus, tentacles, suckers and all!  Kind of tasted like chicken . . . really, it did!

We had quite a meal this evening, the main course was mixed seafood.  And boy, was it mixed!  Mussels, octopus, lobster, shrimp, various fish.  And yes, we did eat the Octopus, tentacles, suckers and all!  Kind of tasted like chicken . . . really, it did!

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Friday, May 25 - Ancient Rome

Because we (and most folks checking this blog) read passages in the Bible, you can understand our excitement in seeing some of the ancient sites in Rome.  On Friday, we went to the Colosseum, the Forum, Capitoline Hill, the Pantheon, and a number of other sites along the walk that led from one major stop to another.  Below is one of our first views of the Colosseum.

An inside view.

An inside view.

The Arch of Constantine (below) is just outside of the Colosseum.  It was built in 315 A.D.

The Arch of Constantine (below) is just outside of the Colosseum.  It was built in 315 A.D.

Part of the Roman Forum, up the hill from the Colosseum.

Part of the Roman Forum, up the hill from the Colosseum.

Another view in the Roman Forum.

Another view in the Roman Forum.

Our tour group descended on this small gelato shop after we had toured the Colosseum and walked through the Roman Forum.  It was a welcome treat.  These two men worked hard to get 30 orders for gelato filled very quickly.  

Our tour group descended on this small gelato shop after we had toured the Colosseum and walked through the Roman Forum.  It was a welcome treat.  These two men worked hard to get 30 orders for gelato filled very quickly. 

This was one of the neatest and prettiest of the buildings we have toured - the Pantheon in Rome.

This was one of the neatest and prettiest of the buildings we have toured - the Pantheon in Rome.

Janice with her pals Patti and Eileen.  We've had such a great time with the other folks on the tour, just really great people to be getting to know.

Janice with her pals Patti and Eileen.  We've had such a great time with the other folks on the tour, just really great people to be getting to know.

The view from our hotel room in Rome was not quite as picturesque as it has been in other cities.  But it was interesting to see the clotheslines on the lower roofs and outside of high windows.  There were also small flocks of birds which would fly circles around in the space between the buildings.

The view from our hotel room in Rome was not quite as picturesque as it has been in other cities.  But it was interesting to see the clotheslines on the lower roofs and outside of high windows.  There were also small flocks of birds which would fly circles around in the space between the buildings.

We had another great Italian dinner, this time at the Ristorante Terme Di Diocleziano just down the street from our hotel.  The food was really good - Janice had the fettuccine with meat sauce and I had linguine al pesto.  These three men were some of the waiters we had - very nice guys.  Seems that many of our evening meals are ending at 9PM or later.  Time to call it a day.

We had another great Italian dinner, this time at the Ristorante Terme Di Diocleziano just down the street from our hotel.  The food was really good - Janice had the fettuccine with meat sauce and I had linguine al pesto.  These three men were some of the waiters we had - very nice guys.  Seems that many of our evening meals are ending at 9PM or later.  Time to call it a day.

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Thursday, May 24 - All roads lead to Roma (and some to the Vatican)!!

It is 1:30 AM Sunday morning in North Carolina, 7:30 AM here in Monterosso on the Italian coast.  Internet for the past two or three days has been pretty spotty and I am three days behind on getting updates to our travel blog completed.  Please pardon the abbreviated comments as I try to get caught up.

The image below shows the elevator shaft in the hotel we stayed at in Rome.  There were 84 steps I climbed in Florence to get our luggage up to the top floor (fourth or fifth, I don't remember for sure which).  In this hotel, we were on the fifth floor (remember that the main level is zero), so we are six floors up in this hotel.  The elevator had some weight limit, and three people with luggage were too much.  Oh well . . .  I never did count the steps here.  They were closer together and a whole lot more of them!

We visited the Vatican on Thursday.  Besides thousands and thousands of people, we saw a huge bronze pinecone which was on display.  It had at one time been a fountain at a temple in Rome. 

We visited the Vatican on Thursday.  Besides thousands and thousands of people, we saw a huge bronze pinecone which was on display.  It had at one time been a fountain at a temple in Rome. 

T  he statue of Laocoön and His Sons,which was unearthed in Rome in the early 1500's is on display at the Vatican.

The statue of Laocoön and His Sons,which was unearthed in Rome in the early 1500's is on display at the Vatican.

Everywhere you looked in the Vatican museums, there was art, even on the ceilings.  We were not allowed to take photos in the Sistine Chapel.

Everywhere you looked in the Vatican museums, there was art, even on the ceilings.  We were not allowed to take photos in the Sistine Chapel.

Inside the Pantheon looking up at the ceiling.  Um, wait, this may have been a dome inside the Vatican that looked much like the ceiling in the Pantheon, I'm not sure now.  But it is beautiful!

Inside the Pantheon looking up at the ceiling.  Um, wait, this may have been a dome inside the Vatican that looked much like the ceiling in the Pantheon, I'm not sure now.  But it is beautiful!

I think the photo below was taken inside the Basilica of St. Peter.

I think the photo below was taken inside the Basilica of St. Peter.

The inside of St. Peters.

The inside of St. Peters.

Swiss guards outside of the Basilica.

Swiss guards outside of the Basilica.

The vast courtyard in front of St. Peters.

The vast courtyard in front of St. Peters.

Hadrian's tomb in Rome at the left, and bridge over the Tiber river.

Hadrian's tomb in Rome at the left, and bridge over the Tiber river.

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Wednesday, May 23 - Firenze!

I think that every breakfast that we have had since arriving in Europe has been really great!  The selection and quality of the food has been top notch.  I really can't think of anything that I didn't like.  And there has been no shortage of food on this trip.  We've had a number of authentic dinners at small family run restaurants in the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, and now in Italy.  The food is so good, and much of it is different from what we have in the USA.

Below is a picture of a part of Janice's breakfast on Wednesday morning in Florence.  You can tell that it's Janice's as I would not have any kind of coffee and my pastry would have fruit or something besides chocolate on it.

At our hotel in Florence, we ate our breakfast in an outside courtyard garden.  In addition to something that smelled a lot like honeysuckle (though it was slightly different in the appearance of the flowers), there were orange trees in the garden.  There were signs which said that the fruit was not good for eating, but they sure were pretty trees.

At our hotel in Florence, we ate our breakfast in an outside courtyard garden.  In addition to something that smelled a lot like honeysuckle (though it was slightly different in the appearance of the flowers), there were orange trees in the garden.  There were signs which said that the fruit was not good for eating, but they sure were pretty trees.

In the nearby square was an obelisk seemingly supported on it's four corners by turtles.  We didn't pause long enough to get the story of these turtles or the obelisk on their back, but the site made us think of our friend Alicha in Virginia!

In the nearby square was an obelisk seemingly supported on it's four corners by turtles.  We didn't pause long enough to get the story of these turtles or the obelisk on their back, but the site made us think of our friend Alicha in Virginia!

We spent part of our morning looking around an open-air vendor market near one of the large churches.  The smell of leather seemed to be everywhere, and it was a pleasant smell.  There were vendors selling all sorts of things here - scarves, selling., T-shirts, belts, statues and souvenirs, purses, and all sorts of other things.  It was fun walking through and looking at what these people were selling.  It is possible that we might have come out of this market with a few less Euros in our pockets and a few nice things in our bag!

We spent part of our morning looking around an open-air vendor market near one of the large churches.  The smell of leather seemed to be everywhere, and it was a pleasant smell.  There were vendors selling all sorts of things here - scarves, selling., T-shirts, belts, statues and souvenirs, purses, and all sorts of other things.  It was fun walking through and looking at what these people were selling.  It is possible that we might have come out of this market with a few less Euros in our pockets and a few nice things in our bag!

You really do not have to look very far to find a place selling gelato in Italy.  We treated ourselves to a couple of small cups at the shop below after a good long walk.  This time we tried the Mango, Banana, and Vanilla Cream.  All were excellent!

You really do not have to look very far to find a place selling gelato in Italy.  We treated ourselves to a couple of small cups at the shop below after a good long walk.  This time we tried the Mango, Banana, and Vanilla Cream.  All were excellent!

In the late afternoon (after 3PM) we were going to have a tour through the Uffizi Gallery.  We were done with our morning free time, so we took a walk with Kim away from our hotel and across the river to see a few sites over there before going to meet the others from our group at the Museum.  We stopped briefly to snap a few photos at this bridge over the Arno River which runs through Florence.  This bridge is the Ponte Alla Carraia.

In the late afternoon (after 3PM) we were going to have a tour through the Uffizi Gallery.  We were done with our morning free time, so we took a walk with Kim away from our hotel and across the river to see a few sites over there before going to meet the others from our group at the Museum.  We stopped briefly to snap a few photos at this bridge over the Arno River which runs through Florence.  This bridge is the Ponte Alla Carraia.

The image below shows the pedestrian walkway to the back of the Uffizi Gallery from the Ponte Vecchio Bridge.  The bridge is now full of goldsmiths and jewelers as the butchers were all kicked out of the stores on the bridge centuries ago!  There were so many people here, and cars and scooters rushing by on the street just to the left of the walkway.

The image below shows the pedestrian walkway to the back of the Uffizi Gallery from the Ponte Vecchio Bridge.  The bridge is now full of goldsmiths and jewelers as the butchers were all kicked out of the stores on the bridge centuries ago!  There were so many people here, and cars and scooters rushing by on the street just to the left of the walkway.

Looking back at the Ponte Vecchio Bridge from the pedestrian walkway.

Looking back at the Ponte Vecchio Bridge from the pedestrian walkway.

In the courtyard between the two wings of the Uffizi, there are large marble statues of many of the great artists of the time.  Below is a statue of Leonardo di Vinci.  Nearby was a person (a mime I suppose) dressed up like Leonardo, all in greyish white clothes with a white face.  He looked almost like a statue and stood very still most of the time.  Occasionally he would very slowly move around and have his picture made with some tourists.

In the courtyard between the two wings of the Uffizi, there are large marble statues of many of the great artists of the time.  Below is a statue of Leonardo di Vinci.  Nearby was a person (a mime I suppose) dressed up like Leonardo, all in greyish white clothes with a white face.  He looked almost like a statue and stood very still most of the time.  Occasionally he would very slowly move around and have his picture made with some tourists.

We saw so many treasures in the Uffizi.  Below is one of a gentleman and his wife -  The Duke and Duchess of Urbino painted by Piero della Francesca in 1465.   Our guide Cindy told us that the reason they were painted in this unusual way for the time (as profiles rather than front views) was because the couple commissioned the work to be done this way to hide the serious injuries that the Duke had on the right side of his face.  He had been severely injured, his eye was gone, part of the top of his nose was gone, but a painting done in this way did not reveal these things to the viewer.

We saw so many treasures in the Uffizi.  Below is one of a gentleman and his wife - The Duke and Duchess of Urbino painted by Piero della Francesca in 1465.  Our guide Cindy told us that the reason they were painted in this unusual way for the time (as profiles rather than front views) was because the couple commissioned the work to be done this way to hide the serious injuries that the Duke had on the right side of his face.  He had been severely injured, his eye was gone, part of the top of his nose was gone, but a painting done in this way did not reveal these things to the viewer.

Below is a view out of the windows upstairs in the Uffizi, looking back on the bridges downstream.  The first bridge is the Ponte Vecchio.  The next is the Ponte Santa Trinita, and then the Ponte Alla Carraia which we had crossed some hours before.

Below is a view out of the windows upstairs in the Uffizi, looking back on the bridges downstream.  The first bridge is the Ponte Vecchio.  The next is the Ponte Santa Trinita, and then the Ponte Alla Carraia which we had crossed some hours before.

Below is a view of one side of the Palazzo Vecchio from the Uffizi.

Below is a view of one side of the Palazzo Vecchio from the Uffizi.

On our way back to the hotel - we saw a couple of horses and buggies in the square near our hotel.  We had a full day, had walked only 6.3 miles this day but it sure felt like more than that.  We would leave Florence the next morning for Rome.  Time to get some sleep.

On our way back to the hotel - we saw a couple of horses and buggies in the square near our hotel.  We had a full day, had walked only 6.3 miles this day but it sure felt like more than that.  We would leave Florence the next morning for Rome.  Time to get some sleep.

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Tuesday, May 22 - from Venice to Florence

We left Venice in the morning, just after 8AM, but it took us until nearly 9AM to get to our bus.  For those who wondered why we packed lightly, this is one of the reasons why.  Walking from the center of the city to a canal stop for the bus transport to take us to the area where buses park carrying all your baggage, well that's a good workout.  And the heavier you packed, the more tired you get moving out of Venice.

Once on the bus, we travelled for a while before stopping for our first break.  Many of you may know that our son Matthew is something of a soda pop connoisseur.  He has told us often how good Fanta Lemon is and how its very hard to find on our side of the Atlantic.  This next image is in honor of him!

We stopped for lunch at an Auto-Grill.  These are upscale food/fuel stops along the highways.  You can get quick deli food, salads and sandwiches, even some hot food.  There is also the convenience mart and a nice dining area.  

We stopped for lunch at an Auto-Grill.  These are upscale food/fuel stops along the highways.  You can get quick deli food, salads and sandwiches, even some hot food.  There is also the convenience mart and a nice dining area.  

Below is the view out our hotel window in Florence.  We are just around the corner from the old central part of the city where all the old churches and architecture are.

Below is the view out our hotel window in Florence.  We are just around the corner from the old central part of the city where all the old churches and architecture are.

The church in the photo below is the same as the large building in the top right of the image above.  It is the  Church of Santa Maria Novella.  The church is  situated just across from the main railway station named after it. It was the first great basilica built in Florence.  Construction started in 1279 and it was opened in 1360.

The church in the photo below is the same as the large building in the top right of the image above.  It is the  Church of Santa Maria Novella.  The church is  situated just across from the main railway station named after it. It was the first great basilica built in Florence.  Construction started in 1279 and it was opened in 1360.

A building nearby (I cannot recall it's name), has niches all around it with statues of various historical persons of old Florence.  The statues in the niche pictured below represented four main merchant types in the old city of Florence, or Firenze as the Italians call it.

A building nearby (I cannot recall it's name), has niches all around it with statues of various historical persons of old Florence.  The statues in the niche pictured below represented four main merchant types in the old city of Florence, or Firenze as the Italians call it.

We saw the view below of the Palazzo Vecchio at one end of the Piazza de Signoria.  This is like the town hall of Florence.  They have their own copy of Michaelangelo's David out front along with Bandinelli's Hercules and Cacus status.

We saw the view below of the Palazzo Vecchio at one end of the Piazza de Signoria.  This is like the town hall of Florence.  They have their own copy of Michaelangelo's David out front along with Bandinelli's Hercules and Cacus status.

In Holland, we became very used to seeing bicycles everywhere.  In Florence, it seems that Mopeds and Scooters rule the road.  Here is a short stretch of the street with a huge number of them parked at the curb.

In Holland, we became very used to seeing bicycles everywhere.  In Florence, it seems that Mopeds and Scooters rule the road.  Here is a short stretch of the street with a huge number of them parked at the curb.

We visited the Galleria della Accademia before dinner.  This is where Michaelangelo's David is along with many other famous sculptures including Michaelangelo's "Prisoners".  The image below shows part of one side room with many statues and busts all up and down the walls.

We visited the Galleria della Accademia before dinner.  This is where Michaelangelo's David is along with many other famous sculptures including Michaelangelo's "Prisoners".  The image below shows part of one side room with many statues and busts all up and down the walls.

The photo below is of a painting of the old and dying Leonardo di Vinci.

The photo below is of a painting of the old and dying Leonardo di Vinci.

We had the most wonderful time at dinner this evening.  We ate at a great little Italian Ristorante not very far from our hotel.  We had a sample plate (among other things) with gnocci with cream sauce, ravioli with meat sauce, and penne with some zippy tomato based sauce.  It was all just so luscious!  We had a really fun time with the folks at our table, especially a lady from Canada and her husband - Eileen and Ken.  We are having such a great time! 

We had the most wonderful time at dinner this evening.  We ate at a great little Italian Ristorante not very far from our hotel.  We had a sample plate (among other things) with gnocci with cream sauce, ravioli with meat sauce, and penne with some zippy tomato based sauce.  It was all just so luscious!  We had a really fun time with the folks at our table, especially a lady from Canada and her husband - Eileen and Ken.  We are having such a great time! 

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Monday, May 21 - A full day in Venice, the city in the harbor.

I must admit, that we have seen so many sites over this past week, that my head must be nearing it's capacity for remembering things.  As I work on this blog entry for the day before yesterday (I can't do it on the bus or when we are out, so I have to do it late at night or early in the morning at the hotel, after I get the pictures uploaded), I am realizing that I don't remember what some of the things are.  I suppose I could make notes of all the sites I would see, but that's not really practical as we are walking quickly through crowded city streets from one place to another.  So, please "scusami" if I don't give good information for some of the images below.

We got up early today, we wanted to get out and walk around before all the crowds showed up, and what a good thing that was to do.  There were other people about, but not very many.  The Piazza San Marco had almost no one in it!  The view below is across the grand canal from San Marko.  

Another view below is one of several churches across the canal.  I believe this is the same one that we went by in our gondola ride the night before.  Many of the gondolas (there are 433 in the city) are "parked" here overnight.

Another view below is one of several churches across the canal.  I believe this is the same one that we went by in our gondola ride the night before.  Many of the gondolas (there are 433 in the city) are "parked" here overnight.

There is only one "piazza" in Venice, all the other open spaces are called courtyards, or "campos".  This is the one behind our hotel.  Our hotel is not the yellow building, but the salmon colored building on the right. Our room is on the top floor on the other side of the building.

There is only one "piazza" in Venice, all the other open spaces are called courtyards, or "campos".  This is the one behind our hotel.  Our hotel is not the yellow building, but the salmon colored building on the right. Our room is on the top floor on the other side of the building.

One of our activities this day was going to a mask makers shop and watching him show us all the steps in creating these masks that are so popular, and were such a part of the history of Venice.  We had a local guide who translated what the artist was saying.  She is to the left in the image below (her name is Corine).  It was a very fun demonstration as he picked out six from our group and decorated them with hats and masks that told a story from their history.  He was an animated story teller and Corine had a time keeping up with him! 

One of our activities this day was going to a mask makers shop and watching him show us all the steps in creating these masks that are so popular, and were such a part of the history of Venice.  We had a local guide who translated what the artist was saying.  She is to the left in the image below (her name is Corine).  It was a very fun demonstration as he picked out six from our group and decorated them with hats and masks that told a story from their history.  He was an animated story teller and Corine had a time keeping up with him! 

If I remember correctly, there are over 100 churches in Venice, but I know I do not remember the name of the church below.  Very sorry about that.  But I do know that the entire city is built on pylons 20 feet down into the mud and silt of this swamp that was before the city was here.  Millions and millions of trees which were used to support the buildings, churches, and homes of Venice.  It is amazing to think of the work involved to make this city in the middle of former marshland.  

If I remember correctly, there are over 100 churches in Venice, but I know I do not remember the name of the church below.  Very sorry about that.  But I do know that the entire city is built on pylons 20 feet down into the mud and silt of this swamp that was before the city was here.  Millions and millions of trees which were used to support the buildings, churches, and homes of Venice.  It is amazing to think of the work involved to make this city in the middle of former marshland.  

Gelato is of course the treat of choice in Italy and we have certainly enjoyed some on our trip.  As is usual, we dig right in before we think to snap a photo to share with you back home!

Gelato is of course the treat of choice in Italy and we have certainly enjoyed some on our trip.  As is usual, we dig right in before we think to snap a photo to share with you back home!

Below is a model of the Doge's ship which we saw at the Correr Museum in San Marko.  The Doge was the leader elected by the ruling body of merchants from that body to rule Venice for the remainder of his life.  There have been a hundred Doge's in Venice's history.  The Correr Museum has many exhibits about the Doge and Venetian history.

Below is a model of the Doge's ship which we saw at the Correr Museum in San Marko.  The Doge was the leader elected by the ruling body of merchants from that body to rule Venice for the remainder of his life.  There have been a hundred Doge's in Venice's history.  The Correr Museum has many exhibits about the Doge and Venetian history.

We are (below) in the courtyard of the Doge's Palace (his home).  There is beautiful architecture everywhere!  The governing body of Venice also conducted their business in the Doge's palace.  The Basilica of San Marko next door to the Doge's palace was not a church.  It was the Doge's private chapel.  Wow!  (Photos were not allowed in the Basilica.)

We are (below) in the courtyard of the Doge's Palace (his home).  There is beautiful architecture everywhere!  The governing body of Venice also conducted their business in the Doge's palace.  The Basilica of San Marko next door to the Doge's palace was not a church.  It was the Doge's private chapel.  Wow!  (Photos were not allowed in the Basilica.)

The largest meeting room in Europe is in the Doge's palace.  The walls and ceiling (below) are all decorated with marvelous paintings and architecture.

The largest meeting room in Europe is in the Doge's palace.  The walls and ceiling (below) are all decorated with marvelous paintings and architecture.

Since I cannot read or understand Italian, I do not know the history of this hole in the wall.  You can see light shining through a small slot in the wall behind this double doored hole.  On the other side of the wall is a huge room with no fanfare around the small slot there.  I'm sure there is an interesting story behind this hole.  If anyone knows what it is, leave a comment for us and give us the scoop!

Since I cannot read or understand Italian, I do not know the history of this hole in the wall.  You can see light shining through a small slot in the wall behind this double doored hole.  On the other side of the wall is a huge room with no fanfare around the small slot there.  I'm sure there is an interesting story behind this hole.  If anyone knows what it is, leave a comment for us and give us the scoop!

A look out of a window in the Doge's Palace at the grand canal.

A look out of a window in the Doge's Palace at the grand canal.

Below is an inside view of the "Bridge of Sighs" that runs between the Doge's Palace and the prison next door.  Prisoners being taken to the prison had one last glimpse of Venice, one last breath of fresh air before being taken down into darkness for who knows how long.  One can imagine that they would sigh as they passed these last views of the city before their incarceration.

Below is an inside view of the "Bridge of Sighs" that runs between the Doge's Palace and the prison next door.  Prisoners being taken to the prison had one last glimpse of Venice, one last breath of fresh air before being taken down into darkness for who knows how long.  One can imagine that they would sigh as they passed these last views of the city before their incarceration.

A view of gondolas in one of the canals below, seen from the bridge of sighs.

A view of gondolas in one of the canals below, seen from the bridge of sighs.

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Sunday, May 20 - The road to Venice!

We knew that we would be on the bus for a long time today - 7+ hours over the course of the day.  So, we got out for a walk before breakfast this morning.  It had rained some the day before but was pretty dry when we went out.  Just down the road, not very far, we found where a river came up close to the road.  We walked across a small bridge and down a path through the woods.  As with almost everyplace we've been, we had wonderful scenery to enjoy.  Our photo (below) was taken by a fellow tour member on the sidewalk across the street from the hotel (where we saw the cows yesterday).

The image below is of a part of the river view we had through the trees from the path in the woods.  The color of the water (a sort of green) is due to the amount of finely crushed rock suspended in the water.  There are places where the water is very clear, but much of what we have seen is this hazy green color.  It's called glacier water by some.

The image below is of a part of the river view we had through the trees from the path in the woods.  The color of the water (a sort of green) is due to the amount of finely crushed rock suspended in the water.  There are places where the water is very clear, but much of what we have seen is this hazy green color.  It's called glacier water by some.

Almost all of our photos for the day (until we reached Venice) were taken through the windows of the bus on our way through the Alps.  They are beautiful mountains with many pastoral scenes.  Much of what we saw, though photo-worthy, we don't know the details about, such as the buildings below.

Almost all of our photos for the day (until we reached Venice) were taken through the windows of the bus on our way through the Alps.  They are beautiful mountains with many pastoral scenes.  Much of what we saw, though photo-worthy, we don't know the details about, such as the buildings below.

There are very strict regulations that commercial drivers must observe in Europe, and one is that they have to have breaks every couple of hours.  That works well in our case as it's nice to get out of the bus every couple of hours to stretch our legs and visit the WC  At one stop, we were able to view the highest point in Germany, the Zugspitze (which is I think the left peak in the photo below).  It is almost 3000 meters above sea level.  The peak on the right looks higher only because it is closer to our viewing spot than the Zugspitze.

There are very strict regulations that commercial drivers must observe in Europe, and one is that they have to have breaks every couple of hours.  That works well in our case as it's nice to get out of the bus every couple of hours to stretch our legs and visit the WC  At one stop, we were able to view the highest point in Germany, the Zugspitze (which is I think the left peak in the photo below).  It is almost 3000 meters above sea level.  The peak on the right looks higher only because it is closer to our viewing spot than the Zugspitze.

Just before hopping back onto the bus, I snapped this photo of a Yamaha motorcycle on top of a pole.  I didn't see any explanation as to why it was there, but thought it was a neat thing.  It had at one time been painted all over with what looked to me to be a military green paint.  Sorry I don't have any further information about it!

Just before hopping back onto the bus, I snapped this photo of a Yamaha motorcycle on top of a pole.  I didn't see any explanation as to why it was there, but thought it was a neat thing.  It had at one time been painted all over with what looked to me to be a military green paint.  Sorry I don't have any further information about it!

Our first stop in northern Italy was for lunch at a wonderful little café.  Here is a view of part of our group.  Our lunch was salad three different sandwiches (all very good, except Janice did not eat her tuna sandwich), and then gelato.  Yum, yum!!

Our first stop in northern Italy was for lunch at a wonderful little café.  Here is a view of part of our group.  Our lunch was salad three different sandwiches (all very good, except Janice did not eat her tuna sandwich), and then gelato.  Yum, yum!!

We knew before we left Austria that we would have a long walk to our hotel in Venice.  So, we left most of our stuff in storage under the bus, we took only what we would need for our two days in Venice in our backpacks.  It was a good thing.  There were lots of people and tight spaces at times.   But we finally made it to our hotel.  We are on the third floor, which is really the third floor above the main floor.  The image below is the view out our window.

We knew before we left Austria that we would have a long walk to our hotel in Venice.  So, we left most of our stuff in storage under the bus, we took only what we would need for our two days in Venice in our backpacks.  It was a good thing.  There were lots of people and tight spaces at times.   But we finally made it to our hotel.  We are on the third floor, which is really the third floor above the main floor.  The image below is the view out our window.

Jesse gave us a quick orientation walk from our hotel to the Piazza San Marko, which is the mail space on this end of Venice.  The image below shows us in front of the Basilica di San Marko.  There are many large mosaics here which show various Old Testament scenes.

Jesse gave us a quick orientation walk from our hotel to the Piazza San Marko, which is the mail space on this end of Venice.  The image below shows us in front of the Basilica di San Marko.  There are many large mosaics here which show various Old Testament scenes.

I'll bet you didn't know Moses was actually Saint Moses.  Well, I guess he really wasn't, though the name of this particular church is  The Chiesa di San Moisè.  According to Jesse, the Venetians had often been in trouble with the church in Rome for inaccuracies in their doctrine.  It seems they just wanted to have something for everyone, and a church to Saint Moses was one way of doing that!

I'll bet you didn't know Moses was actually Saint Moses.  Well, I guess he really wasn't, though the name of this particular church is The Chiesa di San Moisè.  According to Jesse, the Venetians had often been in trouble with the church in Rome for inaccuracies in their doctrine.  It seems they just wanted to have something for everyone, and a church to Saint Moses was one way of doing that!

Before our dinner last night, we took a gondola ride around the canals in Venice.  The 28 of us were in five gondolas.  The boat with only four people in it (six in all the others) was reserved for the couple who had been married the least amount of time (Nichole and Marvin, less than a year) and the couple married the longest (Connie and Phil, almost 50 years).  With them in their gondola was an opera singer and a man playing an accordion.  We were in the gondola behind them and were treated to wonderful singing and playing by the musicians in the boat ahead of us!

Before our dinner last night, we took a gondola ride around the canals in Venice.  The 28 of us were in five gondolas.  The boat with only four people in it (six in all the others) was reserved for the couple who had been married the least amount of time (Nichole and Marvin, less than a year) and the couple married the longest (Connie and Phil, almost 50 years).  With them in their gondola was an opera singer and a man playing an accordion.  We were in the gondola behind them and were treated to wonderful singing and playing by the musicians in the boat ahead of us!

Below is another view from our gondola.

Below is another view from our gondola.

I just don't remember the name of this church which was across the Grand Canal from the Piazza San Marko.  But it is an imposing site sitting there on the water.  We finished our day with another great meal.  We didn't leave for our meal until after 7PM and didn't get back to the hotel until about 10PM.  Seems that late evening meals are the norm in Europe.

I just don't remember the name of this church which was across the Grand Canal from the Piazza San Marko.  But it is an imposing site sitting there on the water.  We finished our day with another great meal.  We didn't leave for our meal until after 7PM and didn't get back to the hotel until about 10PM.  Seems that late evening meals are the norm in Europe.

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Saturday, May 19 - Neuschwanstein Castle and the Tyrol region of Austria

So, even though we had arrived in Austria last night, we went back into Germany this morning to visit mad King Ludwig's very famous castle - Neuschwanstein.  But before we left, I snapped the photo below of one of the evergreen trees in the field across the road.  I just love the look of these tall slender trees, a species of Spruce I think.  They don't have a large drip-line, but are very tall and I think very pretty.  It's been nice to see large groups of this type of tree as we see them while riding on the bus.   

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There is another castle very near to Neuschwanstein, it is called Hohenshwangau Castle, and it is the castle that Ludwig's family lived in before he built the newer Neuschwanstein.  

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Before we reached the castle, we were able to go out on a high bridge over a beautiful waterfall between the two castles  If you look in the photo below, the eleventh and twelfth persons from the right side are Dean and Janice.  The two photos after this one show the view below the bridge, the first one up hill away from Neuschwanstein, the next down the hill closer to the castle.  Oh, and I was just kidding about us being in the image immediately below.  I took the picture from the castle.  Ha ha!

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The foundation was laid in late 1869 and at his death in 1886, Mad Ludwig's castle was not complete.  We were able to go into the castle for a 35 minute tour through the areas which had been completed by Ludwig.  It is as impressive inside as outside, but photography inside was not allowed.  So please enjoy the next few images below from various viewpoints outside.

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Now, everyone looking at our blog has seen something in this image of our hotel below.  Do you see?

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A number of times, we've found ourselves near some Lilac bushes.  These are next to the parking lot at our hotel, and they smell wonderful!

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These friendly cows across the road in front of our hotel are waiting for their owner to come back for them.  This morning, about 20 minutes before we were to board the bus to leave to see the castle, I was looking out the front window (which opens completely out of the way to the side), and I saw almost a dozen cows walking through the hotel parking lot and across the road.  There was a man driving them into the field on the other side of the road.  But at first, I didn't see the man, only the cows meandering through the parking lot!  They have now since congregated some seven hours after they entered this field, at the very gate where they came in.  I can only expect that they are ready to go home for the evening.

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Friday, May 18 - Dachau Germany and into the Tyrol region of Austria

Today would prove to be another long day on the bus.  We left Rothenberg heading south to Austria.  The first stop for the day would be just outside of Munich at the Dachau Concentration Camp.  That would surely be a sobering time.  But as we got up to get our day started, here is the view which greeted us outside the window of our great hotel room.

I'm not going to say much about Dachau.  I'm glad we went, though it is certainly not a happy place.  Even after all the years that have passed since so much sadness and death happened here, it is still a somber place.  To hear the descriptions of the day to day life of those interred here was great cause for thankfulness for our charmed existence today where we are.  The sculpture below is right behind the main building at Dachau which is now the museum for the site.

I'm not going to say much about Dachau.  I'm glad we went, though it is certainly not a happy place.  Even after all the years that have passed since so much sadness and death happened here, it is still a somber place.  To hear the descriptions of the day to day life of those interred here was great cause for thankfulness for our charmed existence today where we are.  The sculpture below is right behind the main building at Dachau which is now the museum for the site.

The view below is of a beautiful countryside near where we stopped for a late lunch on our way to Austria.

The view below is of a beautiful countryside near where we stopped for a late lunch on our way to Austria.

The poster below (conveniently displayed on the inside of the WC door (water closet = toilet)) reminds one of the great foodstuffs available just around the corner!

The poster below (conveniently displayed on the inside of the WC door (water closet = toilet)) reminds one of the great foodstuffs available just around the corner!

Janice just loved this view of a large old barn in a meadow on the hill near the Weiskirche (White Church in the meadow).

Janice just loved this view of a large old barn in a meadow on the hill near the Weiskirche (White Church in the meadow).

We are in the foothills of the Alps here (also near the Weiskirche).

We are in the foothills of the Alps here (also near the Weiskirche).

A view below of the inside of the Wieskirche - very impressive.  And it was so quiet inside even though there were probably 20 people in there when we were inside.

A view below of the inside of the Wieskirche - very impressive.  And it was so quiet inside even though there were probably 20 people in there when we were inside.

Though it did not rain, the clouds rolling in threatened a storm.  Such clouds make very pretty backdrops for outside images, like in the two images below.  The second is the outside of the Weiskirche which we had just finished visiting.

Though it did not rain, the clouds rolling in threatened a storm.  Such clouds make very pretty backdrops for outside images, like in the two images below.  The second is the outside of the Weiskirche which we had just finished visiting.

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And finally, at the end of a long day on the bus, we arrived at our hotel in Reutte (pronounced Roy-ta) in Austria.  The rooms in the various hotels where we have stayed have not all been the same.  Some have been large, some small, some up four flights of stairs, some very old, some more recent.  What has been the same about them all (besides a working bathroom and a really comfortable bed) have been really great views of our area.  The image below, out the window of our hotel room on the third floor of the Hotel Maximilian is a super view of the Alps with snow still on them. 

And finally, at the end of a long day on the bus, we arrived at our hotel in Reutte (pronounced Roy-ta) in Austria.  The rooms in the various hotels where we have stayed have not all been the same.  Some have been large, some small, some up four flights of stairs, some very old, some more recent.  What has been the same about them all (besides a working bathroom and a really comfortable bed) have been really great views of our area.  The image below, out the window of our hotel room on the third floor of the Hotel Maximilian is a super view of the Alps with snow still on them. 

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Thursday, May 17 - Speyer and Rothenberg Germany

We spent a good amount of time on the bus today after we left Bacharach for Rothenberg Germany.  By the way, Rothenberg is pronounced as Wrote-in-borg.  We did make a short stop in Speyer Germany.  Speyer (pronounced Spire) is where the conflict between Pope Gregory and King Henry IV occurred centuries ago.  There is a very large Romanesque church there along with a wide, pedestrian friendly street running from the church through the town. We got a quick lunch here before heading back to the bus to continue our ride to Rothenberg.

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We arrived in Rothenberg early in the afternoon on Thursday and had a few hours to explore the town before our evening meal. There are a number of towers around the town, including the one in the photo below.  One of the things we noticed especially about Rothenberg was how clean the town was.  There was no loose litter blowing around the streets, no overflowing trashcans, no graffiti that I can remember seeing on any of the buildings.  Just a very nice and clean little town.   

As with all of the other small towns we've been through, the old cobblestone streets see some small (or greater) amounts of traffic.  But the traffic is not always bicycles and automobiles.  Occasionally you see some tractor or construction machinery moving through as in the image below.

As with all of the other small towns we've been through, the old cobblestone streets see some small (or greater) amounts of traffic.  But the traffic is not always bicycles and automobiles.  Occasionally you see some tractor or construction machinery moving through as in the image below.

There were a number of sites to see in the old city including a huge Christmas store, some beautiful gardens, the town square, and St. Jacobs church.  The image below shows a metal model of the town which was made centuries ago. In the church there was very little signage describing the things one would see there.

There were a number of sites to see in the old city including a huge Christmas store, some beautiful gardens, the town square, and St. Jacobs church.  The image below shows a metal model of the town which was made centuries ago. In the church there was very little signage describing the things one would see there.

In the photo below, you can see the huge pipes of the pipe organ at the back of the church.

In the photo below, you can see the huge pipes of the pipe organ at the back of the church.

Many of the buildings in Rothenberg look like you'd expect to see them, with the large visible timbers used to construct them.  Below is a public water fountain.  It is so interesting to see the ingenuity of the people who lived here so long ago.  The water in this fountain can be caught in a movable metal trough and directed out from the middle of the fountain to run over the edge and drop into your strategically placed bucket.  

Many of the buildings in Rothenberg look like you'd expect to see them, with the large visible timbers used to construct them.  Below is a public water fountain.  It is so interesting to see the ingenuity of the people who lived here so long ago.  The water in this fountain can be caught in a movable metal trough and directed out from the middle of the fountain to run over the edge and drop into your strategically placed bucket.  

The Night Watchman is easily the most popular man in Rothenberg today.  He takes people on a one hour walking tour of the city at 8PM.  He stopped about six or seven times and gave lectures on various topics of importance to the old city.  His talks were factual, but delivered in a "dead-pan" way that you'd expect to see from an English comedy.  He was very funny at times, but effectively communicated with his followers about the plague, powerful people in the town, and the saving of the town from American bombers in the last century.

The Night Watchman is easily the most popular man in Rothenberg today.  He takes people on a one hour walking tour of the city at 8PM.  He stopped about six or seven times and gave lectures on various topics of importance to the old city.  His talks were factual, but delivered in a "dead-pan" way that you'd expect to see from an English comedy.  He was very funny at times, but effectively communicated with his followers about the plague, powerful people in the town, and the saving of the town from American bombers in the last century.

One of the stops on the night Watchman's tour was in one of the towers along the old city wall.  He pointed out the "manhole", a small door in the large wooden door which closed off entrance to the city at night.  People who were late returning to the city had to pay large fines for the gateman to open the manhole to allow them re-entry after the gate had been closed for the day.  The night Watchman was able to paint a very vivid word picture of how such interactions may have gone!

One of the stops on the night Watchman's tour was in one of the towers along the old city wall.  He pointed out the "manhole", a small door in the large wooden door which closed off entrance to the city at night.  People who were late returning to the city had to pay large fines for the gateman to open the manhole to allow them re-entry after the gate had been closed for the day.  The night Watchman was able to paint a very vivid word picture of how such interactions may have gone!

This beautiful view was at the next stop on the night Watchman's tour (I mean the scenery behind those two people who got in the way of the camera).

This beautiful view was at the next stop on the night Watchman's tour (I mean the scenery behind those two people who got in the way of the camera).

Just as the tour was ending at 9PM, a few sprinkles of rain came down on us, but the sending clouds made such a beautiful sky over this great old city.

Just as the tour was ending at 9PM, a few sprinkles of rain came down on us, but the sending clouds made such a beautiful sky over this great old city.

And then it was time for a walk back to our hotel for the night.

And then it was time for a walk back to our hotel for the night.

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Wednesday, May 16 - Bacharach Germany and Rhine River cruise

 We genuinely like the people who are with us on our tour.  We're seeing really great views of the most beautiful countryside, and we're touring very interesting sites and learning of the history of little places that most of us haven't heard of before.  But one of the great things about our trip is the people that we are becoming friends with.  I don't think that folks generally take trips like this with the objective of making friends, but that's what we are doing.  And we won't be surprised to find that some of these folks may be friends for much longer than the three weeks we spend together.

Bacharach is a beautiful old city with much history.  All these places are.  But the beauty we see here is something we don't see frequently in the US.  Old streets walked by kids leaving for school in the morning.  Vineyards on the sides of very tall and steep hills.  Buildings three or four times as old as our home country.  Just a very different kind of beauty.  The image below is from our window looking up to the hills behind our hotel.  After breakfast, it was out for a walking tour of this small city.

The view below is the busy street in front of our hotel.  You do need to watch for cars as they occasionally come down the streets.  But it's certainly safe to play here or walk down the middle of many of these roads.

The view below is the busy street in front of our hotel.  You do need to watch for cars as they occasionally come down the streets.  But it's certainly safe to play here or walk down the middle of many of these roads.

Many of the homes have towers or huge wooden doors, or other interesting architectural items that give character both to the home and to the overall feel of the city.

Many of the homes have towers or huge wooden doors, or other interesting architectural items that give character both to the home and to the overall feel of the city.

In this very small town, we found also very small streets and very small alleyways.  Single file was the way we had to get from one street to another between these buildings.

In this very small town, we found also very small streets and very small alleyways.  Single file was the way we had to get from one street to another between these buildings.

Our local guide Thomas took us through the city and up onto the side of the mountain we could see from our hotel room window.  This view behind us is of the main church building in the city and the remains of another up on the hill behind the other.

Our local guide Thomas took us through the city and up onto the side of the mountain we could see from our hotel room window.  This view behind us is of the main church building in the city and the remains of another up on the hill behind the other.

The view below is essentially the same view as above, except that we have climbed further up the hill and now the Rhine is also in view behind the city.

The view below is essentially the same view as above, except that we have climbed further up the hill and now the Rhine is also in view behind the city.

This is a gate in the old city wall.  We were told by a different guide later in the day that the mortar used in the construction of castle and city walls was very strong as it was made with (among other things), the unusable remains of animals and fish which had been caught and used for food.  The unusable parts were tossed into huge vats and kept for a long time and then mixed with other contents to make this really good mortar which is still holding all this rock together in the walls and castles we saw.

This is a gate in the old city wall.  We were told by a different guide later in the day that the mortar used in the construction of castle and city walls was very strong as it was made with (among other things), the unusable remains of animals and fish which had been caught and used for food.  The unusable parts were tossed into huge vats and kept for a long time and then mixed with other contents to make this really good mortar which is still holding all this rock together in the walls and castles we saw.

The pretzel below is not the most photogenic of pretzels.  Of course, he can't help it that someone was so hungry they started tearing him apart to eat him before they had the idea to photograph such a lovely sample of German bread!

The pretzel below is not the most photogenic of pretzels.  Of course, he can't help it that someone was so hungry they started tearing him apart to eat him before they had the idea to photograph such a lovely sample of German bread!

The view of the Rhine River below was taken from beside Castle Rhinefelz which sits high atop one of the hills outside of St. Goar .  We were told that the Rhine still handles more tonnage than any other river in the world - more than that Mississippi, more than the Yangtze in China.  It's beautiful from this height.

The view of the Rhine River below was taken from beside Castle Rhinefelz which sits high atop one of the hills outside of St. Goar .  We were told that the Rhine still handles more tonnage than any other river in the world - more than that Mississippi, more than the Yangtze in China.  It's beautiful from this height.

This is a view of St. Goar (properly said with two syllables "Go-Ar").  Janice and I were with a smaller part of our group who walked up, along a nice trail through the woods to the right, to get to Castle Rhinefelz.  It was a beautiful walk, though sometimes Janice had to pull me along.

This is a view of St. Goar (properly said with two syllables "Go-Ar").  Janice and I were with a smaller part of our group who walked up, along a nice trail through the woods to the right, to get to Castle Rhinefelz.  It was a beautiful walk, though sometimes Janice had to pull me along.

In the image below, you can see the Rhine through on of the many openings in the castle wall.

In the image below, you can see the Rhine through on of the many openings in the castle wall.

It rained on us as we began our Rhine River cruise, but it soon stopped and was a beautiful day until it started raining again and then it stopped and was again a beautiful day.  We took many photos today - almost 300!  Many of those were taken from the boat, but the views, though very clear to us just really are not done justice in the photos we took.  Things just look so far away in the photos, but with the movement of the boat, we could see so much which these images are not showing to you.

It rained on us as we began our Rhine River cruise, but it soon stopped and was a beautiful day until it started raining again and then it stopped and was again a beautiful day.  We took many photos today - almost 300!  Many of those were taken from the boat, but the views, though very clear to us just really are not done justice in the photos we took.  Things just look so far away in the photos, but with the movement of the boat, we could see so much which these images are not showing to you.

So, our cruise on the Rhine ended at the dock in front of the town of Bacharach and we were back in the beautiful town we called home for two days.  Then it was time to be off for our evening meal with a dozen of our new friends!   

So, our cruise on the Rhine ended at the dock in front of the town of Bacharach and we were back in the beautiful town we called home for two days.  Then it was time to be off for our evening meal with a dozen of our new friends!   

Tuesday, May 15 - Finishing up in the Netherlands, heading into Germany

The Ambassador City Center Hotel has been our temporary home since arriving in Europe.  It has a wonderful ancient Egyptian theme in much of it's décor.  There are a couple of statues inside the front door, and the hotel restaurant is just full of wonderful pictures of discoveries of ancient Egyptian sites.  The image below is just one of about a dozen where we had a great breakfast each of our mornings here.

According to our guide Jesse, our bus, shown below, will become our new "sanctuary".  We'll spend plenty of time on it over the remaining time here.  It's a very nice bus, quiet and comfortable, but we don't have any power ports or internet.  Our driver is from Belgium and his name is "Derek".  At least, that is how his name is said.  It is spelled Dirk, but he does not like it when it is pronounced the way it looks.  He says that it does not rhyme with jerk!!  We had a two hour ride when we left Haarlem traveling to our next destination.

According to our guide Jesse, our bus, shown below, will become our new "sanctuary".  We'll spend plenty of time on it over the remaining time here.  It's a very nice bus, quiet and comfortable, but we don't have any power ports or internet.  Our driver is from Belgium and his name is "Derek".  At least, that is how his name is said.  It is spelled Dirk, but he does not like it when it is pronounced the way it looks.  He says that it does not rhyme with jerk!!  We had a two hour ride when we left Haarlem traveling to our next destination.

We visited the Holland Open Air Museum in Arnham for the first half of our Tuesday.  This is a place to which old buildings have been moved that have been passed by time and progress.  It is essentially a place that documents how the Dutch have lived down through the ages.  There are very old barns, homes, businesses, and other buildings from Holland culture preserved here.  There are a good number of windmills also.  The paper making and laundry were especially interesting.

We visited the Holland Open Air Museum in Arnham for the first half of our Tuesday.  This is a place to which old buildings have been moved that have been passed by time and progress.  It is essentially a place that documents how the Dutch have lived down through the ages.  There are very old barns, homes, businesses, and other buildings from Holland culture preserved here.  There are a good number of windmills also.  The paper making and laundry were especially interesting.

At the Open Air Museum were some wonderful gardens, including these beautiful examples of topiary.  We were due to have a lunch of Dutch pancakes at a certain time, and ten minutes before, we found a maze made of hedges.  Janice was not amused to be going this way and that with the very real prospect of being late to lunch!  I don't think the fear was that we wouldn't have any food left (as we have been eating very well since arriving in Europe), but that we wouldn't be able to find our way out and we would not be present to be part of our "buddy-count" (maybe I'll explain that later).  As it turned out, we found our way out of the maze right across from the front door where we were to eat our pancakes, and with a few minutes to spare!

At the Open Air Museum were some wonderful gardens, including these beautiful examples of topiary.  We were due to have a lunch of Dutch pancakes at a certain time, and ten minutes before, we found a maze made of hedges.  Janice was not amused to be going this way and that with the very real prospect of being late to lunch!  I don't think the fear was that we wouldn't have any food left (as we have been eating very well since arriving in Europe), but that we wouldn't be able to find our way out and we would not be present to be part of our "buddy-count" (maybe I'll explain that later).  As it turned out, we found our way out of the maze right across from the front door where we were to eat our pancakes, and with a few minutes to spare!

The photo below shows what I think was the largest of the windmills at this site.  They are all so interesting.  A small herd of large black cows were in the field in front of the large windmill below.  The fence did not seem high enough to contain them, but we only saw them in the field, not out with all the people.   We watched a man unfurling the fabric on the arms of one windmill, getting it prepared for operation.

The photo below shows what I think was the largest of the windmills at this site.  They are all so interesting.  A small herd of large black cows were in the field in front of the large windmill below.  The fence did not seem high enough to contain them, but we only saw them in the field, not out with all the people.  We watched a man unfurling the fabric on the arms of one windmill, getting it prepared for operation.

As we were walking back to meet our group, getting ready to leave, we saw this pond on our right.  Janice said, "I want to get a picture of that!"   And she did!  What a beautiful view and now we have it with us, not just in our mind, but permanently!

As we were walking back to meet our group, getting ready to leave, we saw this pond on our right.  Janice said, "I want to get a picture of that!"   And she did!  What a beautiful view and now we have it with us, not just in our mind, but permanently!

Dirk, our driver, had a nice surprise which he shared with all of us on the bus.  Belgian chocolates!  They were, as one would expect, very good.  Jesse had a few different types of taffy for us to try including a salty type.  At least he was not able to find the super-salty!

Dirk, our driver, had a nice surprise which he shared with all of us on the bus.  Belgian chocolates!  They were, as one would expect, very good.  Jesse had a few different types of taffy for us to try including a salty type.  At least he was not able to find the super-salty!

After another few hours, we arrived in Bacharach where we will spend the next two nights.  This is a beautiful town on the Rhine River.  We are staying in a part of an 800 year old tower which was one of 16 back in the earlier years of the town.  We had to take our luggage up only three flights of stairs like the ones in the photo below.  The rooms are certainly old, but quite nice.  The internet here is very spotty in the rooms, and even in the hallway where there is a repeater, it is only marginally better.  The best signal I have found is in the dining room downstairs.

After another few hours, we arrived in Bacharach where we will spend the next two nights.  This is a beautiful town on the Rhine River.  We are staying in a part of an 800 year old tower which was one of 16 back in the earlier years of the town.  We had to take our luggage up only three flights of stairs like the ones in the photo below.  The rooms are certainly old, but quite nice.  The internet here is very spotty in the rooms, and even in the hallway where there is a repeater, it is only marginally better.  The best signal I have found is in the dining room downstairs.

The photo below shows the side of the hotel facing the hillside on top of which is a castle.  On the other side of the hotel are the railroad tracks (about 450 trains a day passing by here) and the Rhine.  You can see the windows for our room, at the top left side of the building in the small rounded mini-tower with the rounded roof with the small ball above it.  Things are very old here, but very beautiful!

The photo below shows the side of the hotel facing the hillside on top of which is a castle.  On the other side of the hotel are the railroad tracks (about 450 trains a day passing by here) and the Rhine.  You can see the windows for our room, at the top left side of the building in the small rounded mini-tower with the rounded roof with the small ball above it.  Things are very old here, but very beautiful!

Below is a view of the side of our hotel facing the river and railroad tracks.  The room at the top right side of the hotel is not our room, but the one opposite ours on the same end of the building. The castle way up on the hill in the background on the left is what we see out of that little mini-tower in our room.  Our group had a meal together this evening, pork and dumplings and perch and potatoes.  Dean had the perch, Janice the pork.  Both were great.  Our meal was followed by an ice cream and fruit dish with whipped cream and a wafer cookie.  What a way to end our day.  Tomorrow we go to Castle Rhinefels and then on our river cruise.  

Below is a view of the side of our hotel facing the river and railroad tracks.  The room at the top right side of the hotel is not our room, but the one opposite ours on the same end of the building. The castle way up on the hill in the background on the left is what we see out of that little mini-tower in our room.  Our group had a meal together this evening, pork and dumplings and perch and potatoes.  Dean had the perch, Janice the pork.  Both were great.  Our meal was followed by an ice cream and fruit dish with whipped cream and a wafer cookie.  What a way to end our day.  Tomorrow we go to Castle Rhinefels and then on our river cruise.  

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Monday, May 14 - Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Amsterdam!

So class, please take your seats and pay attention!  Today we learn a little about Amsterdam and Holland and the Netherlands.  The Netherlands is made up of 10 provinces, two of those being North and South Holland.  These two, together are known as Holland.  Holland is often used when referring to the Netherlands in total.  The capital of North Holland is Haarlem, the capital of South Holland is Amsterdam.  The capital of the Netherlands is Amsterdam.  Class, are you paying attention?

We learned this ourselves when speaking with a kind lady in a Blue Delft store in Amsterdam on Monday.  We spend almost the entire day in Amsterdam.  By the way, we must give a great shout out to our daughter Candace who is helping us with this blog.  It has already become very difficult to add images and text blocks to the blog from over here, but oddly enough we can upload photos very quickly to the internet.  So, Candace is helping us with the building of the blog and we will provide the details.  So here we go on our tour for Monday.  And what a tour it was!

This street view is to be found in many, many places in Amsterdam - a narrow street with building seeming (an in many cases actually) leaning towards each other, with some spire in the distance.  I do not know which church this was, but we have seen many that are no longer churches.  As the population abandoned the churches, they were turned into museums or breweries, or used for other purposes.  We found this to be pretty sad, and others on our tour expressed the same thought.

This street view is to be found in many, many places in Amsterdam - a narrow street with building seeming (an in many cases actually) leaning towards each other, with some spire in the distance.  I do not know which church this was, but we have seen many that are no longer churches.  As the population abandoned the churches, they were turned into museums or breweries, or used for other purposes.  We found this to be pretty sad, and others on our tour expressed the same thought.

After a short walk in Amsterdam, we found ourselves in the great square in front of the royal palace of Amsterdam.  It is where the king of Amsterdam lives.  I mean in the palace, not the square!  We were given about an hour of free time before we had to rejoin our group to continue our walking tour.  So, we took a few more photos (by the end of the day it was almost 180), found a bathroom for one of us, and found some coffee for one of us, and then we returned to meet our group.  Then we were on our way to our canal tour!

After a short walk in Amsterdam, we found ourselves in the great square in front of the royal palace of Amsterdam.  It is where the king of Amsterdam lives.  I mean in the palace, not the square!  We were given about an hour of free time before we had to rejoin our group to continue our walking tour.  So, we took a few more photos (by the end of the day it was almost 180), found a bathroom for one of us, and found some coffee for one of us, and then we returned to meet our group.  Then we were on our way to our canal tour!

Amsterdam has over 100 canals and over 1000 bridges, so it just makes sense to take a tour of the city by boat.  This was quite enjoyable and we saw many sites from the comfort of our boat  We were the last to board and all the other tour members skipped the first seat, so when we boarded, we sat right up front behind the captain!  I mentioned earlier that it seems that the houses lean toward each other.  That is true and it is intentional.  At least for them leaning forward.  At the peaks of their roofs is an extended arm with a pulley.  The buildings were better able to offload goods from ships in the canals because of their leaning forward.  Also, taxes were charged based on the width of the front of your house or business, so making them narrow and very tall was the way to go.  Of course, moving furniture up stairs in such a narrow house is very difficult, so the pulleys are used to hoist large items up and in through a window!

Amsterdam has over 100 canals and over 1000 bridges, so it just makes sense to take a tour of the city by boat.  This was quite enjoyable and we saw many sites from the comfort of our boat  We were the last to board and all the other tour members skipped the first seat, so when we boarded, we sat right up front behind the captain!  I mentioned earlier that it seems that the houses lean toward each other.  That is true and it is intentional.  At least for them leaning forward.  At the peaks of their roofs is an extended arm with a pulley.  The buildings were better able to offload goods from ships in the canals because of their leaning forward.  Also, taxes were charged based on the width of the front of your house or business, so making them narrow and very tall was the way to go.  Of course, moving furniture up stairs in such a narrow house is very difficult, so the pulleys are used to hoist large items up and in through a window!

We were told that fries are all the rage with the folks in Amsterdam.  We had a pretty good breakfast at our hotel this morning, so we didn't need a full lunch when we were released to find lunch on our own.  So, we thought we'd try the fries that the locals are so crazy about.  They're just fries!  They do have about 30 different sauces you can get for them (ketchup is on the list, but not at the top, that's mayonnaise (yuck!)  But the fries are just fries.  Very much like those at Wendy's, though sometimes larger.  Well, after our trip to the 1 Euro toilet, we enjoyed our fries and a Coke.  Then back to meet the group!  But wait, what is that in the window?

We were told that fries are all the rage with the folks in Amsterdam.  We had a pretty good breakfast at our hotel this morning, so we didn't need a full lunch when we were released to find lunch on our own.  So, we thought we'd try the fries that the locals are so crazy about.  They're just fries!  They do have about 30 different sauces you can get for them (ketchup is on the list, but not at the top, that's mayonnaise (yuck!)  But the fries are just fries.  Very much like those at Wendy's, though sometimes larger.  Well, after our trip to the 1 Euro toilet, we enjoyed our fries and a Coke.  Then back to meet the group!  But wait, what is that in the window?

Meringue!  A sweet shop with big cookies made of meringue!  Now, Dean's mom and daughter can both make a mean meringue, but this was not like that.  Theirs is soft and fluffy, and usually found on top of a scrumptious piece of pie, but this was a hard meringue cookie.  They had all sorts of flavors as the image shows.  We got a lemon one, which we could only barely tell was lemon.  But it was good, though very dusty as we crunched it away!

Meringue!  A sweet shop with big cookies made of meringue!  Now, Dean's mom and daughter can both make a mean meringue, but this was not like that.  Theirs is soft and fluffy, and usually found on top of a scrumptious piece of pie, but this was a hard meringue cookie.  They had all sorts of flavors as the image shows.  We got a lemon one, which we could only barely tell was lemon.  But it was good, though very dusty as we crunched it away!

Of course, many know that Holland is known for its tulips, bulbs, and flowers.  As we walked along one of the canals, there were thousands, probably millions of flowers and bulbs for sale at the canal-side vendors.  They were beautiful!  We didn't get any.  No room in our luggage!

Of course, many know that Holland is known for its tulips, bulbs, and flowers.  As we walked along one of the canals, there were thousands, probably millions of flowers and bulbs for sale at the canal-side vendors.  They were beautiful!  We didn't get any.  No room in our luggage!

Next stop - the Rijksmuseum (pronounced the Rikes Museum).  We are not anti-art.  We're not.  But we also are not educated enough about art to really appreciate it.  Well, that's not really as true now as it was before we went here.  We had another local guide, Mary Ann, to take us through the Rijksmuseum and show and tell us about what we saw.  She was great!  We learned much about early art in Haarlem, about the art of Rembrandt, about lighting and shading, and how to see details in the paintings.  At the end of the tour (after we almost ran from the main area of the tour, through back shortcuts to the other side of the museum to see two related works, then ran back to meet our group as we were leaving), three or four of the ladies in our group were talking with MaryAnn and got very teary-eyed as they talked with her about the tour, about her passion for the art in this museum.  This was a real highlight of our day.  We both have a much more informed appreciation for art.  Thank you MaryAnn!

Next stop - the Rijksmuseum (pronounced the Rikes Museum).  We are not anti-art.  We're not.  But we also are not educated enough about art to really appreciate it.  Well, that's not really as true now as it was before we went here.  We had another local guide, Mary Ann, to take us through the Rijksmuseum and show and tell us about what we saw.  She was great!  We learned much about early art in Haarlem, about the art of Rembrandt, about lighting and shading, and how to see details in the paintings.  At the end of the tour (after we almost ran from the main area of the tour, through back shortcuts to the other side of the museum to see two related works, then ran back to meet our group as we were leaving), three or four of the ladies in our group were talking with MaryAnn and got very teary-eyed as they talked with her about the tour, about her passion for the art in this museum.  This was a real highlight of our day.  We both have a much more informed appreciation for art.  Thank you MaryAnn!

The above is a self portrait by Rembrandt in his later life, not long before he died.  MaryAnn shared with us the difficulties he had in his life as well as information about the paintings he did.  Though we didn't have to, we took many pictures in the Rijksmuseum.  Why didn't we have to?  Because they have them all available in high quality for download from their website, for free!  Once we return home, I'm sure I'll be downloading some of them.  We spent a good deal of time looking at and learning about many of them, but a favorite was the Night Watch.  Check it out online!

The above is a self portrait by Rembrandt in his later life, not long before he died.  MaryAnn shared with us the difficulties he had in his life as well as information about the paintings he did.  Though we didn't have to, we took many pictures in the Rijksmuseum.  Why didn't we have to?  Because they have them all available in high quality for download from their website, for free!  Once we return home, I'm sure I'll be downloading some of them.  We spent a good deal of time looking at and learning about many of them, but a favorite was the Night Watch.  Check it out online!

One of the last things MaryAnn showed us in the Rijksmuseum was the doll houses.  These were not toys, but serious collections of miniatures by the fine women of the day.  They could be very elaborate, and very expensive!  After a very busy day in Amsterdam, we rode the tram back to the train station, and the train back to Haarlem where we went for pizza with four other travelers.  The pizza was great!  We stumbled into bed well after 11PM local time, having walked over 14,200 steps (6.2 miles).  We're getting a real work out on our tour, and we're loving it!  Thank you Candace for helping us with this blog!

One of the last things MaryAnn showed us in the Rijksmuseum was the doll houses.  These were not toys, but serious collections of miniatures by the fine women of the day.  They could be very elaborate, and very expensive!

After a very busy day in Amsterdam, we rode the tram back to the train station, and the train back to Haarlem where we went for pizza with four other travelers.  The pizza was great!  We stumbled into bed well after 11PM local time, having walked over 14,200 steps (6.2 miles).  We're getting a real work out on our tour, and we're loving it!  Thank you Candace for helping us with this blog!

A cool and rainy day in Haarlem on Sunday the 13th

On Saturday, we had wanted to go inside the Great Church, but we were a bit too late as it closed at 5PM.  A sign on the church said that there was a service at 10AM on Sunday, so we had decided that we'd just attend the service and see the inside while we were there.  We were up and ready and so walked through a light rain around the building as the entrance is on the other side from our hotel.  We were there with a couple of other people outside, but the church was locked up and dark.  We waited about 20 minutes and then gave it up and went for another walk on some of the other streets in the area.  It was a bit cool (low 50's), but we soon found a little café where we got hot coffee and tea and a croissant for breakfast.  The name of the café was Wolker's!

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After we left the café, we continued our exploring.  The buildings are (of course) old and are very interesting.  There are a variety of "tops" to the buildings, the photo below shows a couple.

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When we got back to the market area, it was a large empty spot except for some chairs and tables at one end and a food van selling herring.  We got a small tray of the raw fish with pickles and onion.  To be fair, Janice actually did eat a piece.  But it was very quickly and followed immediately by two of the pickle chips!  It was good (says Dean) but I think I like canned sardines better.  Maybe it's the salt . . .

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All of her friends and family know that Janice loves shoes.  I think she liked them, but our suitcases were full on the way here, we just couldn't take one more pair back with us.

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After we met the other 26 people on our tour, and our tour guide Jesse Blackwood, we went to an Indonesian restaurant for dinner.  Very good food!  

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After the meal, we did a walking tour of Haarlem with a local guide named Ruby.  She grew up in Haarlem and now lives in nearby Amsterdam.  We learned much about life in Holland, about taxes (at least 36% income tax), health care, attitudes about canibus and prostitution, and other things.  In the photo below, Ruby is in the center of the image, and Jesse is to the right.

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We've met some really nice people in our group and have seen a lot of very interesting sites.  Our wi-fi here at the hotel has been really good (according to our guide), but it has taken a lot of time and attempts to get these pictures and text posted.  And we've been told it does not get better as we go further into our trip.  I'd like to get posts done on the evening of the day we are documenting, but this may be difficult to do in these next days, but we'll do our best.

© DeJankins 2013