More of Prague

September 4th, 2013

Wednesday in Prague, we set a new walking record.  We walked for 6 hours.  Prague continues to excite our senses. We started our day with a walk on the Charles Bridge to take a closer look at a few of the statues.  The Calvary statue has “holy, holy, holy” in Hebrew brass letters affixed to it in addition to the Latin “INRI”.  Apparently, a Jewish man had to pay to put the phrase on the statute because he had been accused of profaning the cross.  We also revisited the Lorraine cross where John Nepomuk’s body was thrown off the bridge.  John later became a saint.  He refused to tell the king what the queen had told John in confession.  After the Charles Bridge, we made our way to the Prague Castle Area on a hill dominating the Prague skyline.  The Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world.  The Castle area also contains St. Vitus’s Cathedral containing the tomb of John Nepomuk, and St. George’s Basilica, which was built in AD 921.  Also, located on the hill is the Loreto, which is a Baroque pilgrimage site because it has a replica of the original Santa Casa in Loreto, Italy, where it is believed the Virgin Mary received the annunciation from Gabriel.  After lunch, we went to see the Dancing House, which was designed by American Frank Gehry.  The house got its name because it is said to resemble Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, but we think that is a real stretch. We also visited the Old Town Square and St. Nicholas’ church.  In the evening, we walked to dinner at Kampa Park, a river-side restaurant with a view of the Charles Bridge. We had chicken and monkfish, both of which were much better than our first Czech dinner and we had the best Sancerre wine to drink.  It was so good, we actually had two bottles, but we did have a 3-hour dinner, so it was definitely a great “night out” for us. 

Love and Miss all of you.

Norm and Rita 

 

 

St Vitus Cathedral

St Vitus Cathedral

Stained glass behind the alter

Stained glass behind the alter

Such craftsmanship inside the cathedral

Such craftsmanship inside the cathedral

St. John Nepomuk

St. John Nepomuk

Again, our camera might not be doing these justice

Again, our camera might not be doing these justice

There are windows like this that line the church on all sides

There are windows like this that line the church on all sides

The entrance to the Prague Castle / Palace

The entrance to the Prague Castle / Palace

These guys were playing beautiful music for everyone in front of the Palace entrance.

These guys were playing beautiful music for everyone in front of the Palace entrance.

These rooms never cease to amaze us, even after we've seen so many.

These rooms never cease to amaze us, even after we’ve seen so many.

This is the oldest original piece of furniture in the Palace. Very nice condition.

This is the oldest original piece of furniture in the Palace. Very nice condition.

Ceiling painting in Palace is very intricate.

Ceiling painting in Palace is very intricate.

This is the Santa Casa of Loreto ( a replica of the original) it is decorated on the outside with stories of Mary's life.

This is the Santa Casa of Loreto ( a replica of the original) it is decorated on the outside with stories of Mary’s life.

This is the shrine inside of the Santa Casa Loreto

This is the shrine inside of the Santa Casa Loreto

Painting on the inside of the Santa Casa Loreto

Painting on the inside of the Santa Casa Loreto

A statue dedicated to Mary on the grounds of the santa casa Loreto

A statue dedicated to Mary on the grounds of the santa casa Loreto

The oldest working astronomical clock in the world

The oldest working astronomical clock in the world.  At the top of this clock in the two windows, they open and little people dance around on the hour

Bigger picture of its workings

Bigger picture of its workings

Another Picture of the workings of this clock

Another Picture of the workings of this clock

This is the dancing house from the left

This is the dancing house from the left

This is the view from the other side. Pretty cool, yah?

This is the view from the other side. Pretty cool, yah?

View of one of the city streets of Prague

View of one of the city streets of Prague

Yep, Rita's missing her grandchildren, she's thinking these two are going to talk back to her! Never gonna happen!

Yep, Rita’s missing her grandchildren, she’s thinking these two are going to talk back to her! Never gonna happen!

Rita forgot to mention this……

This is from Helsinki.  

While we were there, I was waiting on the elevator in our hotel building and lo and behold when it opened, a japanese lady got out of it and I literally bumped into her, or she bumped into me, not sure.  Now mind you, we’ve been bombarded by japanese tourists everywhere we have traveled so I didn’t think anything about it.  We both stopped, and paused for what seemed like eternity, and she looked at me in a very UNFRIENDLY WAY as if I was supposed to bow and say excuse me to her or something like “I’m so sorry”.  Usually, I would have been the first to say “excuse me”, as I know how to use my manners.  But,  I was then suddenly thinking.. maybe that wasn’t just an ordinary japanese women, because she looked so familiar to me.  Who was that?  I know I’ve seen this women before. I never mentioned it to Norm, because of course, it was nothing….. RIGHT?????  Well, later on that day, we were walking through the square where the round chapel was and on a sign there in the square was a picture of the lady!!!!

Yes… it was Yoko Ono.   OMG!!!   I couldn’t believe this!!

I told Norm what had happened, and he said.. too bad, not gonna validate this, you should have told me when it happened.  

But who would have thought that

          a.) Yoko Ono was in town for a concert;

                                 and 

         b.) that she was staying at our hotel!  

So of course, I went online and confirmed all of this.  I’ve been trying to remember to post this ever since, but I seem to not have enough time to get EVERYTHING done!! 

I just thought you all would enjoy this, as we seem to run into some very popular people on our journey around the world.  

RITA 

Delayed Posting on Potsdam!!

From August 30th, and our time in Potsdam! 

We forgot to post this information on Potsdam and the Sanssouci Park/Palace Grounds.  Hope this helps all of you while viewing the pictures of Sanssouci.  

We visited Sanssouci Park in Potsdam.  Sanssouci Palace, is a one story, ten room summer palace, one of two palaces built by Frederick the Great in the park that contains 700 acres!!!  We walked for 3 hours around the entire grounds.  Frederick the Great was king of Prussia, which was a kingdom including, what is now Germany, plus Poland and a large part of Russia.  The name sans souci means “with out a care”.  The unique thing about Sanssouci is that it is one of the best examples of the rococo style which riles upon the seashell design and the six terraces that dominate the back of it with 132 steps leading down to fountains and the park.  The terraces were built to be his vineyards and the palace was to be his vineyard home where he would come and enjoy during the summer months. Each terrace is braced by glazed metal niches that are about 12 inches deep in which to grow figs inside of them and further divided by strips of grass. 

The other palace which Fredrick the Great built 20 years later, is Neues Palais which was to be more grandeur, show his power and strength and created in the baroque style.  There is also a Chinese Tea house, and the Communs.  This is a UNESCO sight, one of several we have visited.  When we walk through these palaces, even the so-called SMALL summer palace, it is hard to image how these people really lived with all this wealth.  One example we thought interesting is that the library in the Sanssouci Palace was reproduced 9 times in its entirety with over 3000 books in it for each of his homes because it was to burdensome to travel with all of these books. 

 Norm and Rita 

 

First impressions of Prague

September 2, 2013

We are in Prague.  We arrived late in the afternoon on Monday, (Happy Labor Day to all of you!) after a short 4-hour drive.  We passed through Dresden on the way.  I read the Internet version of the firebombing of Dresden to Rita while she drove.  You will remember that Indianapolis’s Kurt Vonnegut was a POW in Dresden at the time of the bombing and later wrote the “Slaughterhouse Five” about the experience.  Sixty years later the strategy for the bombing and the motive for the bombing are still being debated by historians.  As we crossed the border into the Czech republic, the landscape changed from farming to rolling hills and then some not so tall mountains.  The drive was lovely and so is the Czech countryside.

Norm after reading Dresden history to me with his iPad and this is how he gets his best reception.

Norm navigating, after reading Dresden history to me, with his iPad and this is how he gets his best reception.

On Monday night, Rita was eager to get bread dumplings and be back in the land of goulash, since the Czech’s make their goulash similar to the Hungarians.  Unfortunately, it turned out to be the worst meal we have had on our trip even though the concierge recommended the restaurant to us.  The dumplings were NOTHING like Sophie’s bread dumplings that Rita was hoping for.  Oh, well, life is filled with little disappointments.

Bread Dumplings in Czech are these, slices of thick white bread and NOT cooked!

Bread Dumplings in Czech are these, slices of thick white bread and NOT cooked!

On Tuesday, we did some sightseeing. We went to the Old Town Square and watched the oldest working astronomical clock in the world do its thing with all its working parts that tell the time, keep track of the movements of the sun, moon and planets and entertain the tourists!  It also has a bell that rings, a rooster that crows and statues that dance.  We strolled over the Charles Bridge, a local landmark that is used in many film shots.  The bridge has 30 statues and is a pedestrian bridge filled with tourists, musicians, beggars and souvenir shops. From the bridge, you can see the Prague Castle that is today the home of the President of the Czech Republic, and the spires of St. Vitus’ Cathedral.  We are sorry we saved Prague till last because it is a lovely city of narrow cobblestone streets, richly decorated buildings and numerous tree lined streets and squares and we may not have time to do it justice.

Today we want to take a tour of the Castle and the St. Vitus Cathedral, yes another church.  We also want to see the old Little or Lesser Quarter and the Dancing House that the Czech’s call the Fred and Ginger house.  Finally, we hope to see The Loreto, which is a replica of the original house where it is believed the Virgin Mary lived and received the Annunciation from Gabriel, ah…yes another Marian shrine. Do you think we’ve hit them all?  And none of this was planned at all.   Ah, being a tourist is such a busy life.

Love and miss you all.  –Norm & Rita

Prague was an exciting city for us!

Prague skyline with Castle in background.

Prague skyline with Castle in background.

View from our room. Reason why we pick our hotels by location.

View from our room. Reason why we pick our hotels by location.

Nice building along the side of the town square.

Nice building along the side of the town square.

Such beautiful tree lined streets with great architecture.

Such beautiful tree lined streets with great architecture.

Church of Our Lady before Tyn, since 1385

Church of Our Lady before Tyn, since 1385

View of the Vltava River from the Charles Bridge

View of the Vltava River from the Charles Bridge

View of the Castle at night

View of the Castle at night

Berlin

September 1, 2013

Today is Sunday; we arrived in Berlin on Friday. It was a 45-minute drive from Potsdam.  Initial impressions have been favorable. It is a city of about 3.5 million.  It is modern, with tall buildings and wide streets.  There are lots of shops and the people on the street seem more prosperous than some other places we have visited.  Unlike, some cities, Berlin offered many hotels in our price range.  We chose the Regent because of its location in the “mitte” of Berlin so we can walk everywhere because Berlin is really spread out compared to other European cities.  On Saturday we walked 4 hours!  We saw the Dom, which is an evangelical Lutheran cathedral. It was damaged by a firebomb in WW II, but has been rebuilt.  We visited the Brandenburg Gate, a well-known city landmark that was formerly a gate to the city, but was isolated and hard to visit until the Wall was demolished in 1989.  We also visited a revived area of the city known as Potsdamer Plaza, which has skyscrapers, multinational corporations and luxury hotels. On our walk back to the hotel, we saw Checkpoint Charlie, a Berlin Wall crossing point between East and West Germany during the Cold War and which has also seen its share of real life and Hollywood spy exchanges. Last night, we went out to eat at Borchardt’s, it specializes in wiener schnitzel.  Rita was shocked when they brought her one and it covered the entire plate!

Norm and Rita

Berlin, Germany, great city to walk and take in the sights.

Französische Friedrichstadtkirche The French Cathedral

Französische Friedrichstadtkirche The French Cathedral

The German Cathedral

The German Cathedral

This Opera House is in between these Cathdrals.

This Opera House is in between these Cathdrals.

The Dom of Berlin

The Dom of Berlin

Beautiful Alter - Evangelical - Protestant

Beautiful Alter – Evangelical – Protestant

The organs here are amazing.

The organs here are amazing.

The interior of the dome

The interior of the dome

These are in the four corners of the church

These are in the four corners of the church

You can see the edge of the previous picture here above the pulpit. This view is from the upstairs balcony.

You can see the edge of the previous picture here above the pulpit. This view is from the upstairs balcony.

Brandenburg Gate

Brandenburg Gate

These people were trying to get ANYONE to join them just for ONE MINUTE of exercise just outside of Brandenburg Gate

These people were trying to get ANYONE to join them just for ONE MINUTE of exercise just outside of Brandenburg Gate

There must have been something in the air this day, we saw about 10 of these during the day.

There must have been something in the air this day, we saw about 10 of these during the day. They are bicycling these  – no motors.

But only saw this one with the Lederhosen on all of the guys.

But only saw this one with the Lederhosen on all of the guys.

Must be another wedding, and we've seen tons of bridesmaids.

Must be another wedding, and we’ve seen tons of bridesmaids.

These are the NEW HIP outfits for Octoberfest. We are thinking of getting an outfit since these look so updated!!

These are the NEW HIP outfits for Octoberfest. We are thinking of getting an outfit since these look so updated!!

The Holocaust Memorial

The Holocaust Memorial

Different view of the Holocaust Memorial

Different view of the Holocaust Memorial

Check Point Charlie

Check Point Charlie

Hot Damn! We are in Potsdam!

Good Morning. It is August 30, 2013, Friday and we are in Potsdam, Germany, a suburb of Berlin, Germany. We left Copenhagen yesterday morning around noon. We drove two hours and boarded Ole Betsy on a car ferry for an hour trip from Denmark to Germany. Then, we drove until 6:30 PM. Rita did a great job of getting us here on the autobahn. Everyone at Andretti Autosport would be very proud of her. She drove 170 KPH which is 105.653 mph!! I kept complaining that the scenery I came to Europe to see was just one big blur out my window!! While she is a great driver, I will post a photo of her parking skills which leaves a little to be desired. I will also post of photo of another strange thing we saw on a German roundabout. Today we are going to see Sanssouci, a palace which means no worries in French. After Sanssouci, we will travel into Berlin to spend a night or two.

For those of you who are keeping track, today is our 91st day on the road. We are halfway through our trip. We have been to 16 countries, taken 5 train trips, 7 flights, stayed in 35 hotels, eaten 91 straight days in restaurants, taken over 5500 photos, and taken 4 car ferry trips. Quite a milestone. None of this could have been possible without the love and support of everyone back home helping us. We truly mean this. So, we want to sincerely thank all of you for your love and support. Please keep it up.

We are still having a good time. We are still speaking. We have been together 24/7 for all 91 days. Try that sometime with your loved one!! We are not tired. We are not homesick, although we dearly miss our kids, grandchildren, friends and work colleagues. (But, your emails help and encourage us greatly!). We are still excited about the places we have to visit. We are having a great time and enjoying ourselves. The food is great. Breads are wonderful where ever we go. Goulash, wiener schnitzel, beef stroganoff, herring, chicken kiev, pasta, pates, cauliflower and broccoli gratin, asparagus, black rice, wines and cosmopolitans have never let us down. The attractions are breathtaking. The people are kind and helpful. We are very blessed to be able to take this trip.

Not all has been roses. We don’t like rain when we have sightseeing to do. We don’t like cloudy days because our photographs do not have good color. We think everything is way too expensive. We don’t like all the smokers in Europe. It would be nice to eat a snack some days instead of a meal, but snacks are hard to find. It would be great if the air conditioning in our hotels could be set lower than 68 degrees. Rita wishes she had more time to blog and more time to spend in some locations. We wish that loading photos on the blog did not take three hours. We wish the hair dryers had more watts and had an on switch instead of a button you have to hold down the entire time. We wish our luggage was lighter. Rita wishes she had brought high heels.

That’s all folks. Love and miss you. Norm & Rita

 

Potsdam, Germany was a pleasure to us, a hidden gem of a city!

Although Rita's driving skills are excellent, her parking skills need a little work.

Although Rita’s driving skills are excellent, her parking skills need a little work.

Sanssouci Palace

Sanssouci Palace

Close up of Sanssouci

Close up of Sanssouci

The levels in this garden are incredible.

The levels in this garden are incredible.

This is from the pond at the end of the gardens.

This is from the pond at the end of the gardens.

Interior of Sanssouci

Interior of Sanssouci

Just the vestibule and its chandelier

Just the vestibule and its chandelier

The gardens

The gardens

The China House - where they would go for afternoon tea. This is in back of the gardens.

The China House – where they would go for afternoon tea. This is in back of the gardens.

The "Tea Room"

The “Tea Room”

Inside the China House

Inside the China House

Pillars of gold with ornamentations

Pillars of gold with ornamentations

Ornate statues on outside of the China House

Ornate statues on outside of the China House

The Neue Palais - on the back of these same grounds of Sanssouci

The Neue Palais – on the back of these same grounds of Sanssouci

This is the servants quarters across from the Neue Palais

This is the servants quarters across from the Neue Palais

The Roman Bath house

The Roman Bath house

Another view from the Roman Bath House

Another view from the Roman Bath House

We see the strangest things again in the roundabouts.

We see the strangest things again in the roundabouts.

Moscow to Copenhagen

August 27, 2013

We caught a flight from Moscow to Stockholm to pick up our car Betsy.  The flight attendants on Aeroflot were out of the 50’s.  They had matching uniforms, including hats, scarfs, skirts, gloves, blouses, shoes and nylons.  It was a step back in time to see them.

Image

We arrived back in Stockholm, picked up Betsy and drove six hours to Copenhagen.  After checking into our hotel, we revisited the restaurant MASH so Rita could get her steak fix.  She didn’t get steak in Russia and was starting to get withdrawal symptoms.

August 28, 2013

We did a walking tour of Copenhagen.  We had a beautiful day with b right sunshine, puffy, big white clouds and lots of blue sky.  We visited the town square, took photos of a statue that is a weather tower which has a boy on a bicycle displayed when the weather is sunny and when it is raining it displays a girl with an umbrella.  We walked the main pedestrian street of Copenhagen, the longest in Europe, called the Stroget to its end at the harbor known as Nyhaven.  Nyhaven is a canal lined with homes and restaurants.  It was very crowded because cruise ships were in town.  After lunch, we made our way to, yes another church, called the Marble Church.  It has the largest dome in Scandinavia and is fashioned after the Vatican Dome.  We also saw the winter palace where the King and Queen live.  It is called Amalienborg.

Last night, we went to Tivoli Gardens, an old fashion amusement park, but also with some ride upgrades.  Tivoli is truly a garden with many trees and flowers.  We ate a Danish Dinner of fish, watched a guitarist perform, and closed Tivoli down by observing the “Illumination” where a story with music coordinated to fountains in a lake with lights is told.  Great way to end our Northern European journey that included Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia.  Now, we are headed back to Germany.

Love and miss all of you – Rita and Norm

We absolutely loved Copenhagen.  Hope you like these pictures!

Again, we find the strangest things in the round a bouts.

Again, we find the strangest things in the round a bouts.

Hopefully you can see this, but our bridge ends in the middle of the water and goes into a tunnel to finish our journey across to Denmark.

Hopefully you can see this, but our bridge ends in the middle of the water and goes into a tunnel to finish our journey across to Denmark.

Denmark has the second largest bicycle riders per capita.

Denmark has the second largest bicycle riders per capita.

Nyhaven was our favorite place on this day.

Nyhaven was our favorite place on this day.

For some reason, Vodka is everywhere we are! Must be leftover from the workers restoring this boat!

For some reason, Vodka is everywhere we are! Must be leftover from the workers restoring this boat!

Loved the name on this "toilet".. Norm knew it was for men.

Loved the name on this “toilet”.. Norm knew it was for men.

We think that we could live on this steer.

We think that we could live on this street.

But then, we'd need a new boat!

But then, we’d need a new boat!

This is the Marble Church of Copenhagen.

This is the Marble Church of Copenhagen.

Amalienborg Palace

Amalienborg Palace

Tivoli Gardens Entrance

Tivoli Gardens Entrance

NIce place to walk around and view the gardens.

NIce place to walk around and view the gardens.

Nice water fountains also.

Nice water fountains also.

This is very pretty, not sure this picture does this justice. Look on our "where are we going" page to see a better picture of this.

This is very pretty, not sure this picture does this justice. Look on our “where are we going” page to see a better picture of this.

There are all kinds of shows going on all day and night.

There are all kinds of shows going on all day and night.

Then when it gets dark, everything lights up!

Then when it gets dark, everything lights up!

Even the rides (notice the purple roller coaster).

Even the rides (notice the purple roller coaster).

Then at the end of the night a water / light show begins.

Then at the end of the night a water / light show begins.

Finishing our tour of Moscow

August 26th, 2013

On our last day in Moscow, we went on a long walking tour to enjoy the sights and the beautiful sunny day.  It was 75 degrees and no clouds.  We planned to visit the Kremlin, but so did 10,000 other tourists and the lines were extremely long, with no direction as to what you were allowed to see and which cathedrals you could tour, once inside.  So, we blew off the line for tickets and walked around the Kremlin’s outside walls, which is no easy task.  Kremlin means “fortress” and its outer walls were built from 1485 to 1495.  The area within the Kremlin covers 68 acres!!  We walked completely around the Kremlin walls which is equal to a mile and a half.  From across the Moscow River, you can see the three famous cathedrals located inside the Kremlin.  The cathedrals are, the Cathedral of the Dormition – where all Tzars were crowned, the Cathedral of the Annuciation, and the Cathedral of the Archangel.  Because of the bright sun as well as its location, we got some great photos that we probably would not have gotten if we had gone inside the Kremlin.  After the Kremlin, we walked to the Cathedral of Christ our Saviour, the tallest Orthodox Christian Church in the world at 338 feet.  The original Cathedral was blown up by Stalin and reduced to rubble in 1931 as being inconsistent with “state atheism.”   But, in 1990 permission was obtained to rebuild the Cathedral.  So, what we photographed was the replica of the original Cathedral.  Our final stop was St. Basil’s Basilica so that we could photograph the church with the right light and angle of sunlight to emphasize the beautiful colors of red, green, blue and gold.  After a grueling day of sightseeing, we went to an outside cafe at GUM’s and wiled away the rest of our day eating and drinking.  We also pondered the question:  Do you think the only things we are seeing on this trip are churches, cathedrals, and basilicas?  Does it seem that way to you?  We would love to hear from you.  We concluded that we are seeing many things other than churches, but in every city, the church was central to its development and was usually there first.  They are usually one of the main attractions to each city and seem to always have such a history behind them.  So, we don’t think we are only seeing and blogging about only churches, but would appreciate any input from you.

Norm and Rita

Moscow, Russia

August 26, 2013

The high-speed train from St. Petersburg to Moscow lived up to its name.  We made the trip in 4 hours at 200 KPH.  Of course, we arrived at 11:00 AM on Saturday in a torrential down pour that has been par for the course whenever we change cities and have limited time available to take photographs and see the sights.  But, since we had started our day at 4:00 AM, we didn’t mind being forced to stay in the hotel most of the day to nap and plan our or sightseeing “Strategy”.  When the weather did clear, we headed directly to Red Square.  Red square is 900 feet long and 210 feet wide.  It separates the Kremlin from the commercial center of Moscow. The name comes from the Russian word meaning “beautiful”.  The square was packed with Muscovites and tourists out for a stroll.  The square has the Kremlin and Lenin’s tomb on the east, Gum department store on the west, St. Basil Cathedral on the south and Resurrection Gate on the north.  It was truly an impressive sight on a monumental scale.  In fact, everything we have seen in Russia has been on a monumental scale.  To see the Kremlin wall and to remember the military parades held in Red Square to demonstrate Russia’s Communist military power was somewhat “chilling”.  It also brought back memories from my early childhood, not Rita’s, where we would get under our desks at school as a drill to prepare us for a nuclear attack by the Communists.

Yesterday on Sunday, August 25th, we awoke to cloudy skies, but at least no rain. After breakfast, we went to TSUM Department store. TSUM dates from 1908 and carries over 1000 luxury named goods from designers from all over the world.  We have really never seen anything like it, even in New York or Las Vegas.  The prices of shoes, dresses, clothes etc. are beyond all, but the super rich. Next, we visited St. Basil Cathedral, a beautiful Orthodox Church with nine separate chapels each with its own colorful dome. Ivan the Terrible built the church in 1550.  Ivan got his name by “inspiring fear”, not because he was “bad”.  Our last stop was Gum Department store, which is almost 200 years old.  It is similar to its competitor TSUM, but is aimed at a consumer level slightly below the super rich.  GUM’s had 1200 separate “stalls” at one time.  There are not that many separate stores currently, but it does have three stories and is over a quarter of a kilometer long, which is the length of three football fields.  Rather amazing…

Last night, we celebrated our visit to Moscow by eating at Cafe Pushkin, an institution open since 1999 that is on every “TOP 10” lists of places to eat in Moscow.  The place looks like a scene out of Dr. Zhivago and is in an 1825 aristocrat’s home.  It was a WOW dinner.  We had Kir Royal cocktails, home made baked meat pie appetizers called Pierogis, which are breads filled with lamb and beef, home made Russian chicken noodle soup, which had whole pieces of chicken in it and quail eggs, Chicken Kiev, and Pork Brisket with sauerkraut, Sancerre wine and flaming crème brûlée and éclairs for dessert.  We are still talking about last night’s dinner this morning.

Image

Today, we are off to tour the Kremlin. More on that and other things later.

Love you and miss you all!!

Norm & Rita

Here are a few pictures from Moscow.

You can buy this and many other wonderful gourmet items at Tsum.

You can buy this and many other wonderful gourmet items at Tsum.

Tsum Department store of Moscow

Tsum Department store of Moscow

GUM Department store in Moscow. Three levels of great shopping!

GUM Department store in Moscow. Three levels of great shopping!

First floor of GUM

First floor of GUM

Different levels in GUM

Different levels in GUM

These would make a great pair of shoes to the "Night before the INDY 500 race party"!!

These would make a great pair of shoes to the “Night before the INDY 500 race party”!!

Kazan Cathedral

Kazan Cathedral

Resurrection Gate - The only gate to Red Square.

Resurrection Gate – The only gate to Red Square.

Spasskaya tower in Red Square

Kassaya tower in Red Square

Bolshoi Theatre

Bolshoi Theatre

St. Basil Church

St. Basil Church

There are nine separate chapels under each of these nine onion bulb like spirals.

There are nine separate chapels under each of these nine onion bulb like domes.

View of the Kremiln and the cathedrals from across the Moscow river

View of the Kremiln and the cathedrals from across the Moscow river

 

 

 

 

 

Then we saw some interesting people!!!

And then what's with these two??? Can you name them???

And then what’s with these two??? Can you name them???

Azar's Big Boy!!

Azar’s Big Boy!!

Can you believe that Putin waived to me???

Can you believe that Putin waved to me???

This bridge leads right into the Cathedral of Christ our Saviour.

This bridge leads right into the Cathedral of Christ our Saviour.

Cathedral of Christ our Saviour

Cathedral of Christ our Saviour

Coyote Ugly.. they love America!

Coyote Ugly.. they love America!

This place does get hoppin!

This place does get hoppin!

St. Petersburg, Russia – The Venice of the North

August 23, 2013 – Friday

Have you noticed that we start each blog with the day or the date?  That is for OUR benefit!  We have trouble remembering the day or date unless we write it down. I guess that is one of the advantages, or disadvantages, of not being on a schedule. But, then again, it might just be a sign of bad memory or old age!!!

Today is our 85th day on the road. All of our hotels have had television. Not all of our hotels have had channels in English. When we are lucky, we get CNN, BBC, and CNBC.  But, the stations do not have enough programming for 24/7 broadcasting so they repeat the same story over, and over and over.  We have become experts on news, weather, sports and finance.  Trivial pursuit anyone?  When we are unlucky, we get re-runs of Andy Griffith or Matlock.  It is truly amazing to see Andy, Aunt Bea and Barney speaking fluent German, French, Italian, Dutch, etc.  But, “golly” is still “golly” in any language.  If you are too young to remember this show, just ignore and read on!

So, far we have used different currency in 6 countries.  We are carrying US Dollars, Euros, Danish Krone, Norwegian Krone, Swedish Krona and Russian Rubles. Keeping track of the currency is done by my finance department — you guessed it — Rita!  Sometimes it is a shock when we buy diesel for the car, and the pump says 861.00 krona, or Rita buys a coke and the cost is 330.20 rubles, or we have a dinner and the bill is 6975.00 rubles, until we convert the pump price, cost or bill to our US Dollars!

After a long, hard, tiring, hot day of sightseeing, Rita and I have been having a cocktail hour whenever we can fit it into our busy schedule.  Normally, beer and wine have been much cheaper than mixed drinks. A beer is a few dollars, depending on what you order and on whether the mug is so large it takes one or two hands to lift it.  Wine is a few dollars more depending on whether you drink the local stuff or whether you go for the “BIG Carl”.  Mixed drinks are usually $15 USD so we don’t get many of those!  But, yesterday we arrived in St. Petersburg, Russia where vodka is finally cheaper than wine.  That is the good news.  The bad news is that our hotel bar is opened 24/7!!!

St. Petersburg is 391 kilometers from Helsinki and we took the high-speed train called “Allegro”.

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For my brother- in- law Sib, a retired railroader, Allegro has a top speed of 220 kph or 136.7 mph.  The ride was smooth, took 3 hours and they served a meal. We may never fly again as it was so easy, quick and convenient.  The train only had 8 cars, plus a dining car.

St. Petersburg is known as the Venice of the North because it has so many canals.  Yesterday, we saw the St. Isaac’s Cathedral, which allegedly will seat 14,000 (think basketball arena), the Church of the Spilled Blood, which was built on the site where Tsar Alexander II was killed, and the Hermitage Museum and Winter Palace.  The Winter Palace was the official residence of the Russian monarchy from 1732 to 1917. It is opulent beyond words and is on a scale that defies explanation. For example, it is 750 feet long and 100 feet high.  It has 1786 doors, 1945 windows, 1500 rooms and 117 staircases!  We have never seen anything that compares to the Winter Palace.

The Winter Palace also houses the Hermitage Museum, which contains the art collection of the Russian State. We saw room, after room, after room, of paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Cezanne, Gauguin, Monet, Manet, Van Gogh and Pissarro.  In one room we counted 14 Van Gogh paintings, and there were several rooms of just Van Gogh. We saw a sculpture by Michelangelo.  We saw two paintings by Da Vinci.  Apparently, there are only 14 known Da Vinci paintings.  Needless to say, the Hermitage was a WOW moment, actually 3 hours of WOW!!! for both of us.  While the Louvre may be larger, we were more impressed with the Hermitage Collection.

Today, we will wrap up our sight seeing in St. Petersburg.  Tomorrow, we take a high-speed train to Moscow.

This Saturday evening, August 24th, Rita’s daughter Stephanie, will perform with her aunt Linda, (Steph’s inspiration for becoming a Colt’s Cheerleader) and other alumni cheerleaders at the Colts pre-season game with the Browns.  It’s kind of a reunion!  She was a cheerleader a few years ago for the Colts. Rita’s daughter Melissa will be at the game cheering on her sister, hanging out for the weekend in Indy, and one of Rita’s  friends, Lynn is going to fill in as MOM for the day, since Rita can’t be there, and also Rita’s other friend, Cindy is going to video tape it for her.  Thank you all for all of your help, since she can’t be there!!!  If you see Stephanie…. say “Hi” to her for us!!

Stephanie (Smith) Hobbs

Stephanie (Smith) Hobbs

 

 

 

 
 
 

Best wishes to all and GO COLTS!

Love and miss you all. Norm & Rita

 

St. Petersburg, Russia – Venice of the North

Nice little street in St. Petersburg

Nice little street in St. Petersburg

A canal street

A canal street

One of the many canal bridges

One of the many canal bridges

St. Isaac's Church - There have been at least a dozen "brides" taking pictures in front of this church just today!

St. Isaac’s Church – There have been at least a dozen “brides” taking pictures in front of this church just today!

Interior of St. Isaac's

Interior of St. Isaac’s

The Hermitage Museum/Winter Palace

The Hermitage Museum/Winter Palace

View of the Winter Palace through the garden

View of the Winter Palace through the garden

One of Gardens at the Winter Palace

One of Gardens at the Winter Palace

Norm eating "Borscht" soup! He HATES beets and this is made out of beetroots!! But you have to eat the local food. It's a rule, kinda like the "carry-on" luggage only. LOL!

Norm eating “Borscht” soup! He HATES beets and this is made out of beetroots!! But you have to eat the local food. It’s a rule, kinda like the “carry-on” luggage only. LOL!

Church of the Spilled Blood

Church of the Spilled Blood

Interior of the Church of the Spilled Blood

Interior of the Church of the Spilled Blood

Very decorative

Very decorative

The walls and ceiling were lined with mosaics.

The walls and ceiling were lined with mosaics.

This is a decorated car that the brides drive around in and take pictures in front of the churches. This one isn't decorated as much as some of the others we saw.

This is a decorated car that the brides drive around in and take pictures in front of the churches. This one isn’t decorated as much as some of the others we saw.

One of the 20 or so brides we saw today taking pictures. Not sure the significance of the knife in her hand!

One of the 20 or so brides we saw today taking pictures. Not sure the significance of the knife in her hand!

Really??? She took about 10 different poses with this knife!

Really??? She took about 10 different poses with this knife!

Peter and Paul Cathedral at the Fortress

Peter and Paul Cathedral at the Fortress

Helsinki, Finland

August 20, 2013

Good morning from the land of reindeers, saunas, a wife carrying contest, midnight sun and Nokia.  For those who are geographically challenged, Finland is sandwiched between Sweden and Russia. It has 186,000 reindeer, 2 million saunas for 5 million people, basically 1 sauna per household, a world champion wife-carrying contest where the winning prize is determined by the wife’s weight in beer, an annual phone throwing contest, perpetual sunshine 24 hours of daylight in June, and yet it does not receive ANY sunshine for about 51 consecutive days in the winter, as it is one of the coldest cities in the world.   It is also believed that St. Nickolas lives here in Helsinki and we might be able to see him in Stockman’s, the largest department store.  We arrived by plane from Stockholm on Sunday afternoon, about an hour flight.  From what we have seen so far, it looks like a fun place to explore. Yesterday, there was an international cookout on the main esplanade where people from 40 to 50 different countries cooked food representative of their country and sold it, they call it “Restaurant Day” when anyone can become a restauranteur for the day. It didn’t take us long to eat our way through four or five countries.  There were a lot of Asian choices, which is different from what we’ve had so far.  Monday was overcast and we had some rain, but we still got some sightseeing done.  There is a very large Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Cathedral here, built from 1830 to 1852 and its plan is built as a  greek cross.  There is no ornamentation, it is very neoclassical and resembles a persons dining room with large chandeliers and pews that have a door at each end.  We walked the streets for a few hours, stopped for a little Mexican snack, (just because we were curious about Mexican food in Finland), and then listened to music on the streets for quite some time. The Russian church, Uspenski Cathedral,  is closed on Mondays, so we will have to see the inside of it today and also the famous Church in the Rock that is built underground in a cave.  There is a large design district here that is worth seeing, so we have our work cut out for us.  

Love and miss you all, 

 

Norm and Rita 

Here are a few pictures from our stop in Helsinki, Finland which we found to be a very interesting little city of over 600,000 people, and St. Nicholas is one of them !! We didn’t see him, but everyone says for sure he lives there.

Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church

Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Cathedral

The alter of the Lutheran Cathedral

The alter of the Lutheran Cathedral

And the Organ, quite beautiful.

And the Organ, quite beautiful.

The pulpit in the Lutheran Cathedral

The pulpit in the Lutheran Cathedral

And a chandelier that hangs in the middle of the greek cross plan of the church. No candles in this church that we could see.

And a chandelier that hangs in the middle of the greek cross plan of the church. No candles in this church that we could see.

Senate Square in Helsinki

Senate Square in Helsinki

A couple of boats in one of the many harbors of Helsinki.

A couple of boats in one of the many harbors of Helsinki.

Uspenski Cathedral, Largest orthodox church in western Europe.

Uspenski Cathedral, Largest orthodox church in western Europe.

Interior of the orthodox cathedral

Interior of the orthodox cathedral

These electric trolley cars are running all over town.

These electric trolley cars are running all over town.

The Finn's call this "ART"

The Finn’s call this “ART”

These are the people that were selling food for the day from all the different countries.

These are the people that were selling food for the day from all the different countries.

They even had baked goods.

They even had baked goods.

This just goes to show you that siblings are the same all over the world!! LOL!

This just goes to show you that siblings are the same all over the world!! LOL!

These gals had our favorite spring rolls.

These gals had our favorite spring rolls.

Kamppi Chapel - right in the middle of a very busy square in the heart of downtown.

Kamppi Chapel – right in the middle of a very busy square in the heart of downtown.

Kamppi Interior is entirely curved and very quiet, a place to go and get calmness during your busy day.

Kamppi Interior is entirely curved and very quiet, a place to go and get calmness during your busy day.

The ROCK church. This was amazing. Blasted out of granite, Totally underground.

The ROCK church. This was amazing. Blasted out of granite, Totally underground.

180 window panes, and there is live music playing all day long here, every day.

180 window panes, and there is live music playing all day long here, every day.

A better picture of the natural granite walls of this church.

A better picture of the natural granite walls of this church.

The ceiling is a copper wire dome.

The ceiling is a copper wire dome.

The dome of the church is made from a copper disc.

The dome of the church is made from a copper disc.

It is really unique!

It is really unique!

Laid back in Stockholm

August 18, 2013 

We spent 5 full days in Stockholm Sweden.  Stockholm is very clean, quite prosperous and extraordinarily beautiful.  It is built on 16 islands so there is water everywhere you look and boats of all kinds.  It is a flat city so we walked every place. All Swedes are taught English from the first grade on so language was not a problem. We arrived during the Stockholm Culture Festival and the Stockholm Youth Festival, called “We are Stockholm”.  These festivals offered a wide variety of musical entertainment free for adults and teens in the city parks and streets for 5 days. Rita and I got kicked out of a concert for 13 to 19 year olds.  We failed to notice the age limit sign in Swedish.  But we did get to see the Pointer Sisters who performed for the adult festival.  They are 65 and 67 years old and still put on a rocking show, they have a granddaughter that performs with them to make it three. It was really strange being at a concert where everyone rocked to the music, but did not really sing along because we guessed the Swedes did not really know the words to the hits from the 70’s and 80’s.  Rita and I were not big fans of the Pointer Sisters, but we had forgotten how many hit songs they really had.  Do you know “Jump”, I Want A Lover With A “Slow Hand”, “I’m So Excited” and “Neutron Dance’?  NOT!!!  WE DID!!! and almost word for word!! Definitely for the older crowd.  By the way, the concert started at midnight and it was packed!  Our visit to Stockholm was laid back.  It was not about seeing sights as much as it was about experiencing the Swedish culture and people.  So, we did not visit churches, fountains, museums and significant monuments and buildings. Instead we observed the Swedes from park benches, outdoor cafes and restaurants, walked through their shopping centers, and enjoyed the marvelous Swedish modern and contemporary designs for everything from furniture, home furnishings, and architecture to fabrics. It was quite nice to hang back and smell the roses casually for a few days.  

Norm and Rita 

Stockholm, Sweden  – Art, Islands, Old and New Architecture, We are Stockholm, and the Stockholm Culture Festival!

Not sure what this was?

Not sure what this was?

Grand Hotel allowed for some great viewing of the harbor.

Grand Hotel allowed for some great viewing of the harbor.

Harbor view

Harbor view

Another view from our room.

Another view from our room.

We walked across this to get to another island.

We walked across this to get to another island.

This is another island.

This is another island.

This island had the amusement park on it.

This island had the amusement park on it.

Beautiful old architecture here.

Beautiful old architecture here.

Typical city street.

Typical city street.

Did a lot of boat watching, too.

Did a lot of boat watching, too.

Part of the Stockholm Culture Festival!

Part of the Stockholm Culture Festival!

Of course, Rita had to try it!! Felt like Lily Tomlin for a minute!!

Of course, Rita had to try it!! Felt like Lily Tomlin for a minute!!

Look what Rita found as we were walking the old town!! Best quote ever!

Look what Rita found as we were walking the old town!! Best quote ever!

First concert on our first day. We have no idea who these girls are, but they all wore big black hats that reminded us of boneheads!

First concert on our first day. We have no idea who these girls are, but they all wore big black hats that reminded us of coneheads!

Ahh.. and YES, the Pointer Sisters. Boy did they Rock! They are just amazing and at their age, can't believe they still do these tours.

Ahh.. and YES, the Pointer Sisters. Boy did they Rock! They are just amazing and at their age, can’t believe they still do these tours.

How we got to Stockholm with time to spare!

August 14, 2013

Well, I woke up in Sogndal, Norway on Tuesday, August 13th and it was rainy and overcast. So, I got on the ole iPad and checked the hourly weather forecast for Sogndal. Not good I am afraid.  70% chance of rain. We had just driven 3 days and 1200 miles to see sunny, snow capped mountains surrounding Norway’s beautiful fjords.  So, I pondered our options as I listened to Rita snore, (oh and BTW… she only snores in the very early morning, when I’m awake and trying to go back to sleep or gather my thoughts).  We could stay longer and try to wait out the rain or head south to Stockholm.   I was impatient (imagine that!), bored and depressed with the weather and lack of snow capped mountains.  I knew what my decision would be.  So, I gently woke up Rita and bribed her with a promise of breakfast to get her out of bed early.  At breakfast, after I knew she had eaten her favorite waffles, I told her I thought we should turn Betsy around and head south after only one day in the rainy, snowless land of the trolls.  She caught on to my devious scheme immediately, (smart girl!) but agreed to my plan for reasons of her own.  Our hotel room in Sogndal was located next to the elevator, and the noise kept us awake all night!  So, we threw, literally, our stuff in the car and headed south at 1:00 PM.  We headed south not knowing how far we would be able to drive, but hoped to make Oslo, which was about 6 hours away.   We took a ferry from Kaupanger to Fodnes.  Then, we began our drive through long tunnels, across streams, rivers, and lakes and by farms, waterfalls, and moose, elk, deer and sheep crossing signs.  We made Oslo, by 7:30 PM, and decided to push on toward Stockholm.  We soon crossed over from Norway into Sweden and drove until we were both almost asleep.  When we got to that point it was midnight.  We had somehow managed to drive 12 hours, almost 600 miles!!!  Maybe it was the Chinese diner I found for Rita around 9:30 PM at our last stop in Norway, yeah, that’s right, we had Chinese for dinner in Norway, crazy,  or maybe it wasn’t, but whatever it was, we had made good time and traveled a great distance on our trip to Stockholm.  We stopped in Karlstad, Sweden for the night at a very pleasant hotel, nevertheless, on Wednesday I was awake at 5:00AM and I made enough noise to wake Rita up early.  Heh! Heh!   Really, Rita is fine once her eyes are opened.  (It just takes a lot of commotion to get her to open her eyes!).  We were in the car in an hour and drove into Stockholm in bright sunshine, the depression gone, and my spirits lifted.  We are staying at the Grand Hotel on the harbor until Saturday.   Enough time to re-group, catch up on photos and blogging, (as you will all notice from the many posts Rita got published already) do laundry, nails, hair, and get ready to fly to Helsinki on Saturday.

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We love you and miss you all!  Norm & Rita

These little buggers wanted our food.

These little buggers wanted our food.

This one was Norm's favorite. He started coming towards our car.

This one was Norm’s favorite. He started coming towards our car.

Then we had a road block!

Then we had a road block!

Guess the little guy was hungry!

Guess the little guy was hungry!

Finally they decided to get off the road.

Finally they decided to get off the road.

Sogndal, Norway

August 12, 2013

 

Good Morning!  This is Waldo. a/k/a Norm!!

I woke up this morning in Sognedal, Norway.  It has taken us 4 days to drive here from Amsterdam.  We arrived last night around 8:00 PM after a two-hour car ferry trip from Gudvangen to Kaupanger.  The car ferry traversed the Sognefjord  which is the largest fjord in Norway and the third largest in the world.  The fjord stretches 205 kilometers across the middle of Norway.  Unfortunately, the weather was less than ideal.  We had rain and clouds which are not good for photos.  But, the crossing was fantastic with beautiful steep mountains on both sides of the fjord coming right down to the edges of the fjord.  We saw cascading waterfalls everywhere and the sea was a beautiful glacier green.  We will spend today exploring the area by car and leave tomorrow for Stockholm which is a two-day drive.

Norm and Rita

Ferry in the fjords!

Ferry in the fjords!

Pretty scenery.

Pretty scenery.

Bergen, Norway

August 11, 2013.

We got up today in Bergen.  Notice I said, “Got up”.  We did not really wake up because we had really not gone to sleep!  Let me explain.  We started yesterday August 10th in Oslo and drove 7 hours to Bergen.  The drive was beautiful so we stopped to take many photos of the sites including the tallest water falls in Norway, the Voringsfossen which is 586 feet tall, one of Norway’s 900 glaciers, the Hardangervidda which covers 73 square kilometers, and many of Norway’s 450,000 fresh water lakes.  We also saw bull crossing, moose crossing, deer crossing and several other animal crossing signs along the way.  With all this hard work photographing, we did not arrive in Bergen until late on Saturday night and the Saturday night binge drinking party was in full swing.  Also, there was some festival going on, so Bergen was packed.  I had booked a hotel room but upon entering the building, I took the lift to the 5th floor, and searched for at least 10 minutes trying to locate the staircase to the 6th floor because no signs directed me to the staircase when I exited the lift.  After traversing the length of 4 hallways on the 5th floor, I located the first of two flights of steps.  I walked up the two flights of steps and located the door to my suite.  The door opened into a small vestibule that contained a very narrow spiral staircase to the next floor.  The spiral steps were so narrow and steep that I had trouble negotiating them and realized that our luggage would never make it up the tiny narrow spiral staircase.  Once I reached the next floor, there was a sitting room, bathroom and bedroom (OK, this would be considered a suite, I guess).  These three rooms were located under the roof and the ceilings were slanted so that full headroom was only available in the center of each room.  More importantly none of the rooms had any windows.  Two of the rooms had tiny ceiling skylights that were covered with dirt so badly I could hardly see through them. The skylights were very tiny which gave me concerns about how to exit the room in the event of a fire.  I returned to reception and advised the clerk that the room was unacceptable and left the hotel.  The clerk said nothing to me in response.  After leaving the hotel, I was sitting in my car in front of the hotel discussing the problems with the room with Rita when the clerk tapped on my car window, and advised me that she had “miraculously located a standard room” for me in the hotel. (Mind you there were NO STANDARD rooms available when booking!)  I pretty much told her to … well, you know the rest.  So…. Rita sat in the car using her IPhone’s  “Around Me“ app and searched hotels as I walked to door to door to each hotel trying to find a room for the night.  It took us several hours to get the last available room in Bergen which was located near the harbor and is lovely, looks like a scene from a movie set in coastal Maine, and on the main square.  After a quick bite to eat in Cafe Opera where we had to change tables because they turn the place into a disco at 11:30 PM, we jumped into bed and laid there until 6:00AM waiting for the drunks in the main square outside our hotel room window to go home.  Boy, were we relieved when it finally got quiet.  Unfortunately, the city of Bergen’s cleaning crew began work outside our hotel window at 6:30 AM with the street washer; so, it was a very long night to say the least.

We definitely got out of there quickly and headed to our next destination, to see the largest fjord.

Miss you all, Norm and Rita

View from the Ferry Boat.

View from the Ferry Boat.

City of Sogndal

City of Sogndal

Sogndal stave church

Sogndal stave church

Side view of stave church from the 12th century.

Side view of stave church from the 12th century.

Bergen was very pretty even though it was a very foggy day!

Bergen harbor

Bergen harbor

Bergen harbor

Bergen harbor

Bergen harbor

Bergen harbor

Moving on towards Oslo, Norway

August 10, 2013.  Today we left Copenhagen for Oslo.  We started our day with a short car ferry ride from Denmark to Sweden.  Then, we drove 4 hours through the Swedish countryside.  Sweden is known for all its farms having big red barns.  The barns are very large compared to those in the US and are well maintained.  The Swedish countryside was mostly rolling hills with many forests of pine trees.  Not many “wow” moments, but enjoyable and relaxing just the same.

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When the drive took us from Sweden to Norway we did notice a change in scenery and architecture.  The scenery is much more heavily wooded, more mountainous, and rugged.  The barns are still mostly red, but the houses are smaller, made of wood, with some having grass and flower roofs.

 

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Norm and Rita

Drove through many tunnels on this trip. But the longest tunnel in Norway, which is 15 miles long was closed due to a truck fire on August 5th.

Drove through many tunnels on this trip. But the longest tunnel in Norway, which is 15 miles long was closed due to a truck fire on August 5th.

Ferry boat was another mode of transportation.

Ferry boat was another mode of transportation.

Waterfalls were gorgeous!

Waterfalls were gorgeous!

These people living in this village travel by boat 99% of the time.

These people living in this village travel by boat 99% of the time.

Little village along the fjords.

Little village along the fjords.

These fjords are so large it's hard to capture them in a photo. Maybe if we had a helicopter!

These fjords are so large it’s hard to capture them in a photo. Maybe if we had a helicopter!

The fjords were inspiring!

The fjords were inspiring!

We would have preferrred a sunnier day, as Norm whined ..."why does this always happen to me?"

We would have preferrred a sunnier day, as Norm whined …”why does this always happen to me?”

Oslo to Bergen, Norway.  We saw some incredible scenery.

This barn is being held up by rocks on one side.

This barn is being held up by rocks on one side.

Lots of large farms with very large red barns.

Lots of large farms with very large red barns.

The reflections were amazing.

The reflections were amazing.

This is the Moose crossing sign, they are everywhere in Norway.

This is the Moose crossing sign, they are everywhere in Norway.

Stave church in Eidfjord

Stave church in Eidfjord

Side view of Stave Church in Eidfjord

Side view of Stave Church in Eidfjord

Camping in Norway is a favorite of the Europeans. They are usually booked for the summers.

Camping in Norway is a favorite of the Europeans. They are usually booked for the summers.

They pull their caravans up to these little cabins and park them alongside. Some look like they are attached to the caravans.

They pull their caravans up to these little cabins and park them alongside. Some look like they are attached to the caravans.

Saw many of these types of roofs along the way when crossing Norway from Oslo to Bergen.

Saw many of these types of roofs along the way when crossing Norway from Oslo to Bergen.

This was our absolute favorite one!! Seriously, how does this happen and how can these heavy trees not collapse the roof???

This was our absolute favorite one!! Seriously, how does this happen and how can these heavy trees not collapse the roof???

Notice the sheep on the right side? Must be their pet.

Notice the sheep on the right side? Must be their pet.

A little island in the middle.

A little island in the middle.

Norway's largest glacier! Yes we drove to the top of these mountains.

Norway’s largest glacier! Yes we drove to the top of these mountains.

The glacier.

The glacier.

These people living in this village travel by boat 99% of the time.

These people living in this village travel by boat 99% of the time.

We loved the colors!

We loved the colors!

Copenhagen to Oslo

August 9, 2013

We spent the night of the 8th in Copenhagen.  We drove 7 hours to get there.  It was an overnight stay on our way to Oslo to see the fjords.  We did get a chance to see Tivoli Gardens as we walked by it on our way to dinner.  We walked the Stroget street which is the longest pedestrian shopping street in Europe.  Dinner was at MASH.  It was an American style steakhouse serving beef from all over the world.  Rita needed her fix of beef on her Tour De Food!!!  Did I mention that they made a great cosmopolitan which is not always easy to find in Europe.  After dinner we visited Nyhaven, the canal area of Copenhagen.  It is filled with nice bars and restaurants.

Goodnight.  Love and miss all. –Norm & Rita

 

This is hanging in MASH. Great place to get your steak on!

This is hanging in MASH. Copenhagen.  Great place to get your steak on!

Another pedestrian shopping street in Copenhagen

Another pedestrian shopping street in Copenhagen

Copenhagen to Oslo

August 8th, 2013.  We have two tough days of driving ahead of us.  Today we are leaving for Oslo, Norway.  We have a nine-hour drive today to get to Copenhagen.  Then, we have a seven-hour drive to get to Oslo tomorrow.  I kind of misjudged the distances and now we are paying for it. (Should have checked with the IT dept. and/or used one of the 5 electronic devices we have on our trip,LOL!). We will post our photos of Brugge, Brussels and Amsterdam as soon as we find time to stop long enough to download our photos.  Sounds easy, but it is not.  It takes the IT Department anywhere from 3 to 6 hours to do the photos on our blog!!   Many thanks to our hard working IT Department.  There is a sign in our IT Department that says:  “Will work for food!”  I think it may be cheaper to pay for the services!!!!!!!    Miss you and love you all.  Kayla Smith, my granddaughter, had her 14th Birthday, on August 5th.  Happy Birthday Kayla.  My niece’s daughter, Jordan Sibley turned 20 on August 3rd!   She is attending ISU.  Go fighting Trees or Quabachi or Sycamore Sam or whatever they call themselves now. Happy Birthday to Gabi, Rita’s sister, we won’t say what age she is turning, since she is too close to my age, just that it’s a birthday on the 10th of August, and we will wish her a great day!!  

 

Norm & Rita

 

Amsterdam, Netherlands

August 5th  to 8th , 2013. 

Drove into Amsterdam yesterday.  We are staying on a canal.  The city is not as clean as the other cities we have visited.  We have seen the “coffee shops” where they don’t sell coffee, just marijuana.  Lots of customers, but mostly tourists. We walked the red-light district, again mostly tourists, and then felt a little guilty for doing so because we felt bad for the women, many of whom are forced into the trade.  We enjoyed a tour of the Rijksmuseum, which opened after being closed for refurbishing for 10 years.  We saw Rembrandt, Vermeer and Van Gogh paintings.  A great way to spend a rainy afternoon.  Rita searched out and found the Dutch pancakes, which were the kind she was raised on.  Her mother prepared them for breakfast.  Rita said the Dutch pancakes are just as good as she remembers her mother’s pancakes.  Yes, Rita does like Belgian Waffles, Dutch Pancakes, and Belgian Chocolates, Italian Profiteroles and French Crepes.  I think she is on an eating tour of Europe.  She knows more about food and restaurants than anyone I ever met. 

There are more bicycles in Amsterdam than cars.

There are more bicycles in Amsterdam than cars.

Scenery around Amsterdam

Scenery around Amsterdam

Most of the buildings in Amsterdam are crooked.

Most of the buildings in Amsterdam are crooked.

Took a dinner cruise on this boat, very nice time!

Took a dinner cruise on this boat, very nice time!

Below are some of the things we saw on our dinner boat cruise.

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Brussels, Belgium

August 4th and 5th, 2013. 

We arrived in Brussels, Belgium last night.  Had a great slow, leisurely drive from Brugge.  Saw wonderful contemporary homes along the way.  Also, we saw our first windmill.  The architecture and building materials have changed dramatically since leaving France.  Red brick seems to be the building material of choice.  Villages are not built around a “town center and church”, but around a “ town center and a public building which is a tall tower and is usually the city hall.

 

The draw to Brussels was to see the Grand Place.  A magnificent town center, which was started in the 15th century.  It consisted of a City Hall, Kings House, and Guildhalls.  It reminded us of how powerful and wealthy Belgium was at one time in history.   We also had to see the statute of the little boy peeing.  Don’t know why we had to see it, but we were not alone. About 25 adults were standing around photographing and video recording this two-foot high statute of a little boy peeing toward them.  What can I say?  You have to be a tourist some days.  Before we left Brussels, we loaded up on Belgian Chocolates; Rita didn’t think she got enough sugar from her Belgian Waffles!!    Really though, Belgium is known all over Europe as the producer of fine quality chocolates.   We can attest to the good chocolates, and may never look at a Snicker the same way again!

 

Brugge, Belgium

August 4, 2013. 

We arrived in Brugge early enough to get Rita’s first Belgium Waffle!! It was great.  We spent the afternoon in Brugge, Belgium.  It was a lovely village built on a series of canals.  We took a boat trip through the canals and saw beautiful homes, squares, churches and flowers blooming everywhere. Brugge was a nice stop on our way from Lille to Brussels. 

From Paris to Lille to Bruges to Brussels

August 4, 2013 

Paris was fantastic!  We saw all the attractions that you are supposed to see, but by far the Eiffel Tower by day or by night was the best photo we took!  The food is fabulous and you can NEVER get enough French food.  The only thing bad about Paris for us was the fact that two of our days there were in 96 degree heat.  Yes, it got a little hot for us, so we toured The Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay each afternoon when the heat was at its max!  Now that’s what I call great time management skills, to go inside where it’s air-conditioned during the heat of the day!!  Leaving Paris was difficult, but we must keep globetrotting and moving on.  

We drove to Lille as we departed from Paris to visit with… yes… again… more relatives of mine.  Poor Norm, he had no idea I had so many relatives in Europe when he asked me to do this trip with him!!  I’ve been in contact with Isabelle, who is my Aunt Anne’s granddaughter.  She has been a Godsend to me as she speaks English and has been the one I’ve had to go to for all the detailed information that was needed in order to accomplish the visits with both of my aunts.  So, when she found out that we would be just 2 hours away from her, and it was on our way to Belgium, she invited us to come and visit.  Of course, we said YES….  Let me tell you, we had the most enjoyable visit!! We were able to meet her brother, JP and his wife, Pauline and their two children, her mother Lina, daughter Jasmine and another cousin, Yanny (Jenny) and her son from Strasbourg that is another granddaughter of my Aunt Anne. 

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Norm, Rita, Lina, Isabelle, and Jasmine   (L to R)

Isabelle took us to Lille, which we thought was a small French city, but didn’t know much about it.  Boy, were we surprised; it is a sleeper city.  It has beautiful architecture, narrow cobblestone streets, many gardens and parks and a very large part of it is all a pedestrian parkway.  We walked the “old city” streets for 2 hours and were taken in by all the pretty sites. 

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Lille’s Architecture is different from all of France

Then Lina (her mom) made the most amazing French “cold” summer dinner for us.  I’ve asked for the recipes and will share them with all of you if you want them.  Shrimp, grapefruit and avocado ceviche, chicken w/pasta, vegetables w/quinoa and the dessert was fresh fruit with fresh crème that had a surprise at the bottom, a cinnamon Belgium cookie!   OMG!! We LOVED ALL of it! Thanks LINA for preparing such a great meal for us!

 We headed out to Bruges and Brussels (B squared) early the next morning.  After arriving in Bruges, of course the first thing I wanted was a Belgium Waffle.  We found a small café on the corner of the city square and enjoyed a mid morning breakfast, walked the square and then headed for a Bruges canal boat tour.  We rode on an electric boat under small bridges and enjoyed the history of the city.  In the afternoon we headed out again and drove northeast to Brussels and decided to stay in Brussels for the night.  So far, it’s square is even better than Bruges, much larger and the architecture is very baroque which dates back to the 15th century.   We’ll update you more later on the rest of Brussels as we move on to Amsterdam. 

One last thing, you all know how I wanted a GALLON sized ziplock for my hair products, etc.  and had to go with a quart sized, one.  I had to take out one product b/c the bag was too small to hold all of them.  I gave up my hair conditioner.  Well in Europe hotels, they mostly wash their hair with the same product they use as bath gel, which is the same that they use as their hand soap.  And they really do not use conditioner.  So.. when we’re not at a big city hotel, we’ve had some trouble finding some products, mostly all are easy to find, but I’ve been looking for what I call “Hurricane” hair spray, you know the kind that will hold your hair through strong winds????? Well, we finally asked Isabelle to help us find some, and we did, but it was at a small market so we thought, well if it’s anything like “Aqua Net” , it works in a potato gun so that should hold our hair.  It doesn’t hold either, so the search goes on in Amsterdam.  

Brussels Square is way larger than Brugge

Brussels Square is way larger than Brugge

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More of the architecture in the square

More Belgium Architecture

More Belgium Architecture

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This is the Little Boy Peeing that everyone comes to photograph. We haven’t found the significance of this statue yet.

We see the most interesting things in the round a bouts. This is as we were leaving Brussels.

We see the most interesting things in the round a bouts. This is as we were leaving Brussels.

Leaving Brugge on our way to Brussels, we saw typical Belgium houses, very modern houses and windmills.

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Here are a few pictures from Brugge, Belgium:

Canal Boat Tour

Canal Boat Tour

Oldest home in Brugge

Oldest home in Brugge

A very old draw bridge

A very old draw bridge

Had a nice ride on these canals

Had a nice ride on these canals

Of course, the Belgium Waffle was delicious!!

Of course, the Belgium Waffle was delicious!!

Brugge Square

Brugge Square

Brugge Square

Brugge Square

OMG!!! 195 MEALS ON THE ROAD!!! WE HAD TO BUY NEW T-SHIRTS!!! DO YOU LIKE THEM???

OMG!!! 195 MEALS ON THE ROAD!!! WE HAD TO BUY NEW T-SHIRTS!!! DO YOU LIKE THEM???

Here are some pictures from our visit in Lille, France:

This is Yanny ( Jenny ) boy, she had some stories about Aunt Anne that reminded me so much of my mom. They must have been a lot alike!

This is Yanny ( Jenny ) boy, she had some stories about Aunt Anne that reminded me so much of my mom. They must have been a lot alike!

Norm, Rita and Isabelle

Norm, Rita and Isabelle

Norm, Rita, Lina, Isabelle and Jasmine

Norm, Rita, Lina, Isabelle and Jasmine

Old town Lille, France

Old town Lille, France

Opera House in Lille

Opera House in Lille

Basilica of Notrea Dame de la Treille, very modern looking for this city's typical architecture

Basilica of Notrea Dame de la Treille, very modern looking for this city’s typical architecture

Inside the church, still modern looking.

Inside the church, still modern looking.

Paris, France

July 31, 2013…. Later that day…

Today we arrived in Paris.  Rita did a great job of negotiating her way through the streets of Paris to our hotel on the Place de la Vosges.  We are staying at the Pavillion de la Reine.  We have a nice room overlooking the courtyard.  The room has a main floor and a loft for the bedroom.  The bath is on the first floor and the toilette is right inside the door to the hotel room!  Seems a little odd to us, but it is not the first time our toilette has been in another room other than the bathroom.  Tomorrow it is supposed to be 95 degrees, so we made the best of our first day in Paris, since it is only 77 degrees today. We started walking at 12:00 noon.  We saw the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Seine, and the Pont des Arts which was used in the last show of Sex in the City, where Mr. Big followed Carrie to Paris and finally told her “she was the one”. The bridge is covered in locks, so many that you think you can’t even find a place to put your lock on it.  It is a “fad” that is taking over Europe. In 2010, one guy removed all the locks on this bridge in ONE night and made a beautiful sculpture out of them.  After a quick lunch at Chez Andre, we walked to the Champs Elysees, saw the Arc de Triomphe, and then took a taxi to Sacre Couer.  It is a beautiful white church sitting on Montmartre with a view of all of Paris spread out below.  We arrived back at our hotel at 7:30 PM after one long day of sightseeing.  I immediately fell asleep and Rita woke me up at 10:00PM and said she was hungry and could not go to bed hungry (swear she has a bottomless pit) so we went out to a small cafe and had dinner.  We walked the streets of Paris after dinner until 12:45 AM to see what the nightlife was like in our neighborhood.  Thus, ended the first day in the City of Lights.  Lights out I guess.  Tomorrow we have arranged a private tour of The Louvre.  Hope to get an art appreciation class 101 done in two hours!!! 

We miss you and love you, Norm & Rita

PARIS, FRANCE …. “These are a few of our favorite things”….. get it, still carrying on our Salzburg theme… LOL!

Statue in front of the entrance to our hotel.

Statue in front of the entrance to our hotel.

Paris Water Fountain

Paris Water Fountain

Our hotel in Place de Vosges

Our hotel in Place de Vosges

Here we are on the Pont des Arts (the LOVE BRIDGE)

Here we are on the Pont des Arts (the LOVE BRIDGE)

Lots of small cars here

Lots of small cars here

Here's one for sale. Good condition for an old car.

Here’s one for sale. Good condition for an old car.

Normal street in Paris without trees. Most of them have some trees though.

Normal street in Paris without trees. Most of them have some trees though.

First glimpse of the Eiffel Tower

First glimpse of the Eiffel Tower

Beautiful daytime view of the Eiffel Tower

Beautiful daytime view of the Eiffel Tower

Arc de Triomphe - You wouldn't believe what we had to do to get this picture. DODGE PARIS TRAFFIC!!!!

Arc de Triomphe – You wouldn’t believe what we had to do to get this picture. DODGE PARIS TRAFFIC!!!!

Maybe our new apartment???

Maybe our new apartment???

Place de la Republic

Place de la Republic

Eiffel Tower at night

Eiffel Tower at night

The real Moulin Rouge

The real Moulin Rouge

Celebrated our last night in Paris at the Moulin Rouge show. The acrobatics were our favorite parts of the show. Amazing...

Celebrated our last night in Paris at the Moulin Rouge show. The acrobatics were our favorite parts of the show. Amazing…

Sacre Couer - This is at the top of Montmartre.

Sacre Couer – This is at the top of Montmartre.

View of Paris from Sacre Couer

View of Paris from Sacre Couer

Beautiful Notre Dame

Beautiful Notre Dame

Inside are amazing sculptures everywhere

Inside are amazing sculptures everywhere

This is "THE ROSE" window. Picture doesn't do this justice, though.

This is “THE ROSE” window. Picture doesn’t do this justice, though.

Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris

Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris

It is so big, from the front we could only get the top portion in our picture

It is so big, from the front we could only get the top portion in our picture

Such a beautiful church

Such a beautiful church

Versailles via Breuillet, France

July 31, 2013.  This morning we are packing to drive from Versailles to Paris. We have spent 5 days in and around Versailles. On Saturday, we took a guided tour of Versailles. It is the largest chateau in France. At one time, it had 6000 residents!  King Louie XIV lived in Versailles as well as Marie Antoinette. The king had a public bedroom, a private bedroom and no bathroom. Figure that one out. Of course, the queen had her private bedroom also.  It is rumored that the king only took one bath in his life!  The gardens that are behind the palace stretch for 1.5 kilometers in all directions.  On Sunday, we went to mass at the Cathedral in Chartre. It was truly amazing to see the spires of the Chartres from 5 miles away. Once inside, we were overwhelmed by the beauty of the stained glass windows. Chartres is in the process of cleaning up the interior.  The difference between those portions that have been cleaned and those portions that have not are dramatic. Three hundred years of dirt have been stripped away to reveal the most beautiful stone. On Monday and Tuesday, we spent the day with Dominique and Alain Desmadryl, their adult children Yann and Aude.  You will recall that Dominique was my pen pal since 1966. We had a wonderful visit, fantastic home cooked french food and wine selected by Alain who has a passion for French wines. On Tuesday, we visited the vineyards of Sancerre, Rita’s favorite wine, for some wine tasting and also sampled the local goat cheese called Chavignol.  We were reminded that All French cheeses are named after the village from which they come from so there is an immense amount of local pride revolving around the production of cheese in the small villages. Last night, we had a 5-hour dinner in a restaurant occupying a former Abbaye des Voux de Cernay from 1118 started by monks. A great way to say “au bientot” to our French friends and a great send off to Paris, the city of lights.

We love and miss everyone. Norm & Rita.

Then we had a great visit with Norm’s French Family, the Desmadryls, Dominique, Alain, Yann, Peggy and Aude.

Dominique and Alain's house and beautiful garden.

Dominique and Alain’s house and beautiful garden.

Cool place they have.

Cool place they have.

Vineyard in a cave

Vineyard in a cave

Wine tasting room

Wine tasting room

They store Sancerre in stainless steel tanks.

They store Sancerre in stainless steel tanks.

This is their "PREMIUM" Wines.

This is their “PREMIUM” Wines.

After the tasting, Norm and Dominique pose for a picture while Alain takes care of business.

After the tasting, Norm and Dominique pose for a picture while Alain takes care of business.

Sancerre Vineyard

Sancerre Vineyard

We were worn out afterwards!!

We were worn out afterwards!!

Chavignol Cheese shop.

Chavignol Cheese shop.

They make all of this here in this tiny village.

They make all of this here in this tiny village.

Then we had a farewell dinner at the Abbaye de vaux de Cernay

Then we had a farewell dinner at the Abbaye de vaux de Cernay

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Panoramic view because it is to big to photograph!

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We had aperitif's on the patio first.

We had aperitif’s on the patio first.

Yann and Peggy

Yann and Peggy

Such a beautiful place

Such a beautiful place

Cathedral of Chartres, from 1193, known for the best stain glass windows. We had Mass here on Sunday.

Cathedral of Chartres, from 1193, known for the best stain glass windows. We had Mass here on Sunday.

This is the called the Rose Window.

This is the called the Rose Window.

View of Alter from our front row seats.

View of Alter from our front row seats.

Notice the beautiful GIANT snowballs ?? These are in the church courtyard.

Notice the beautiful GIANT snowballs ?? These are in the church courtyard.

Versailles, France

July 26, 2013

After all the beautiful sites we’ve seen in Lourdes, then St. Emillion, and the two castles, we kept on going until we arrived in Breuillet last night around 11:30 PM.  We were greeted by Yann and Peggy for a short visit.  We decided to continue on our way to find a place that was near them and yet near to what we wanted to see here, outside of Paris.  We finally got settled in Versailles around 2:00 AM.  We took the today to catch up on photos, and posting, which you all must look at, because some of them are truly amazing, and we have a tour scheduled for Versailles for tomorrow.  I’ve tried to throw in a few little tid bits of humor as I post the pictures of Norms newest love for an electronic device, how we keep Betsy clean and on the road, and of course the bathrooms.  They are such a delight (most of the time) and we are amazed at the modern-ness (not sure if that is even a word) of them.  One thing we can’t figure out is why on the hair dryers, you have to HOLD down the button on them for the air to blow.  They don’t have an ON/OFF switch.  Crazy!!  We’ve decided that “air-conditioning” is just a word used very casually here and really means nothing other than you have windows that open.  

Please say a prayer for my daughters close friends that lost their 3 yr old son, Hayden,  in a drowning accident this week, he was my grandsons little buddy at pre-school.  It has truly devastated the St. Jude’s community.  

Love and miss you all, 

Rita and Norm 

This is Versailles, 6000 residents, no bathrooms, 370 mirrors in the room called “Hall of Mirrors”,  the Gold Leaf Gate, an original chandelier and an original clock that still works and will until the year 9999.

Front of the Palace of Versailles, 6000 residents, no bathrooms.

Front of the Palace of Versailles, 6000 residents, no bathrooms.

Front gate of Versailles

Front gate of Versailles

Original Chandelier

Original Chandelier

Original Clock, astronomical clock, made in 1749, still keeps perfect time.

Original Clock, astronomical clock, made in 1749, still keeps perfect time.

Here we are in the Hall of Mirrors Room. You can rent this room for 7000 Euros a night!

Here we are in the Hall of Mirrors Room. You can rent this room for 7000 Euros a night!

A sunset picture of Versailles

A sunset picture of Versailles

Lourdes and St. Emillion

July 24, 2013

Yesterday we drove from Cap d’Agde to Carcassone.  Our route followed the Canal Midi which is a canal that runs from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea.  We saw barges on the Canal that you can rent for leisurely cruises on the Canal.  The route also had numerous tree lined sections.  Surprisingly the trees used were Sycamore trees.  The state tree of Indiana.  The trees give good shade.  But, we have no idea what the thought was about lining the routes with trees, but hope to find out.  At Carcassone, we visited the medieval city which is a UNESCO sight.  The Cite, as it is called, has been totally refurbished and was in excellent shape.  Unfortunately, our visit was cut short by a severe thunder storm.  But, the storm did not slow our progress toward Lourdes where we arrived in the early evening.  Lourdes was a surprise and truly amazing.  As blogged earlier, 40,000 people a day visit the site where the Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette Soubirous.  We visited the Grotto where the visitation took place.  Afterwards we were amazed to see a candle light parade of thousands of pilgrims around the sight reciting the Rosary and singing songs in at least 5 or 6 languages.  The Grotto and its waters are suppose to have healing properties so many of the pilgrims had disabilities, were ill or infirm from some affliction.  The parade and reciting the Rosary and singing continued for over an hour.  We were truly impressed.  When we visited Rita’s Aunt Anne we learned how important music is to life.  When we visited Lourdes we appreciated the value of faith in our lives.  The visit to Lourdes was inspiring and humbling when you see so many disabled and ill pilgrims seeking intervention by the Virgin Mary.  To have health is truly a blessing and may be a fleeting condition so enjoy it while you can.  Today we drove to St. Emillion, one of the red wine producing areas of Bordeaux.  We stopped at our first Chateau for a wine tasting and bought three bottles.  Tonight we are staying at a vineyard in an old stone building which has been converted into a hotel.  We are excited about seeing St. Emillion tonight and having dinner.

Love Norm & Rita.

I'm entering this one in the broadripple art fair. It is better than some I've seen.

I’m entering this one in the broadripple art fair. It is better than some I’ve seen.

This is the chapel which is a separate building, very unusual for the time.

This is the chapel which is a separate building, very unusual for the time.

This is incredible!

This is incredible!

Had to take advantage of the backdrop.

Had to take advantage of the backdrop.

You can rent an electric boat and ride around on the moat if you'd like.

You can rent an electric boat and ride around on the moat if you’d like.

This is the back of the castle.

This is the back of the castle.

I'm entering this one in the broadripple art fair. It is better than some I've seen.

I’m entering this one in the broadripple art fair. It is better than some I’ve seen.

Here is what we are talking about when we say "tree lined street". These are awesome!

Here is what we are talking about when we say “tree lined street”. These are awesome!

Château de Chenonceau

Château de Chenonceau

Grand Hall

Grand Hall that leads to the back door for exiting into the woods to go hunting!

What a view!

What a view!

One of about 75 flower arrangements all made from the garden of this chateau. Changed twice a week also!!

One of about 75 flower arrangements all made from the garden of this chateau. Changed twice a week also!!

Built over a river, too cool.

Built over a river.

Of course, how could you NOT stop and check out the 200 year old family owned winery for a few tastes!

Of course, how could you NOT stop and check out the 200 year old family owned winery for a few tastes!

This is something that we have seen on MANY roads, fields, intersections, vineyards, houses, everywhere. Guess that's why France is 98 % Catholic??

This is something that we have seen on MANY roads, fields, intersections, vineyards, houses, everywhere. Guess that’s why France is 98 % Catholic??

Stopped to take our buddy's pictures along the way.,, They were pretty cool about it.

Stopped to take our buddy’s pictures along the way.,, They were pretty cool about it.

Saw some interesting real estate for sale along the way.

Here is the entrance to the chateau. Yeah right.. how could we have known our hotel was here???

Here is the entrance to the chateau. Yeah right.. how could we have known our hotel was here???

Seriously??? Can you see the "RECEPTION" sign?????? It's there!

Seriously??? Can you see the “RECEPTION” sign?????? It’s there!!

They make things out of anything they can use. We thought this was pretty creative.

They make things out of anything they can use. We thought this was pretty creative.

St. Emillion - Bordeaux wine country.. Now we're talking!!

St. Emillion – Bordeaux wine country.. Now we’re talking!!

Jada, This one's for you!! Bet your JEALOUS!!

Jada, This one’s for you!! Bet your JEALOUS!!

This is where we stayed. We had our own little flat, b/c no one was occupying the upper floor.

This is where we stayed. We had our own little flat, b/c no one was occupying the upper floor.

Our view, what a great calming place to hang.

Our view, what a great calming place to hang.

BEST BATHROOM EVER!

BEST BATHROOM EVER!

YES, IT BEAT'S ROME FOR SURE!

YES, IT BEAT’S ROME FOR SURE!

We closed another town down, LOL!! at like 10:00 PM. That's all we can take.

We closed another town down, LOL!! at like 10:00 PM. That’s all we can take.

Had dinner on the square in St Emillion

Had dinner on the square in St Emillion

This place is filled with wine shops.

This place is filled with wine shops.

OK, so here are some pictures of Lourdes.  This place was AMAZING!!!  We were able to see this amazing “Torchlight Marian Procession” that takes place daily at 8.45 pm. It begins outside the Grotto and ends at the steps of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.   The procession is led by people bearing a replica statue of the  Virgin Mary.  What you must know is that there are THOUSANDS of people there to participate in this procession, starting with the wheelchairs, gurneys, some are being carried by others on different types of carts, and then walkers.  I am saying ALL ages, types, everything!!  Mostly everyone carries a candle with a paper shade to make the candle less likely to blow out.  The focus of this procession is the rosary.   All five decades are recited, with all twenty mysteries included,  AND this is ALL done in 10 different languages.  The Lourdes Hymn (Immaculate Mary)  is also sung, with the verses in 10 different languages.  ( Sorry to all you NON-Catholics out there, but this was truly worth while) 

The replica of the statue of Mary as it is being carried by the leaders of the procession.

The replica of the statue of Mary as it is being carried by the leaders of the procession.

Front view of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception

Front view of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception

Statue of Mary as she appeared to Bernadette

Statue of Mary as she appeared to Bernadette

The crowd as they start up to the stairs, notice the front rows of wheelchairs

The crowd as they start up to the stairs, notice the front rows of wheelchairs

This is the beginning of the procession

This is the beginning of the procession

This is the line of people on the other side of the river bank waiting to get in line

This is the line of people on the other side of the river bank waiting to get in line

This bridge was destroyed on June 23 from a storm and this was just restored recently.

This bridge was destroyed on June 23 from a storm and this was just restored recently.

This is how big the place is to fill up and it gets totally filled every night with this procession from people from around the WORLD.

This is how big the place is to fill up and it gets totally filled every night with this procession from people from around the WORLD.

This is the procession as night falls upon all.

This is the procession as night falls upon all.

The choir and others leading the prayers.

The choir and others leading the prayers.

A picture of the original grotto. Water still flows from the stones surrounding this shrine and you can touch it as you walk by.

A picture of the original grotto. Water still flows from the stones surrounding this shrine and you can touch it as you walk by.

If you can look at this picture enlarged, you can see that the face is of a young girl about 14 years old, just as Bernadette described her. This is different than all other depictions of Immaculate Mary.

If you can look at this picture enlarged, you can see that the face is of a young girl about 14 years old, just as Bernadette described her. This is different than all other depictions of Immaculate Mary.

The Coronation of Mary

The Coronation of Mary

Then of course, the Basilica is lined with these stories.

Then of course, the Basilica is lined with these stories.

I probably wasn't supposed to take a picture of this, but I did. The original water as it came up and started flowing.

I probably wasn’t supposed to take a picture of this, but I did. The original water as it came up and started flowing.

Another story through this picture. All of these are done in individual mosaic tiles.

Another story through this picture. All of these are done in individual mosaic tiles.

A close up of the top of the Basilica, the columns behind are separate chapels with the middle one being the largest.

A close up of the top of the
Basilica, the columns behind are separate chapels with the middle one being the largest. We walked up the sides of this ramp to the first story to watch the procession, there is also a second story to watch from.

This cave like wall doesn't look like the water is flowing from it, even close up, but when you touch it, it is totally wet.

This cave like wall doesn’t look like the water is flowing from it, even close up, but when you touch it, it is totally wet.

Carcassone France

June 23, 2013.

Yesterday we stayed at the resort Rita found for us in Cap d’Agde.  It is the Palmyra Golf Resort.  Of course, it is on a Golf Course and I don’t play golf, but It is the nicest place we could find in this small village on the Mediterranean Sea in the South of France.  We spent, from the time we woke up until 3:00 PM, catching up on personal maintenance items meaning pictures, blogs, expenses, etc.  Then, we took a break and laid out in the sun by the pool for two hours.  Last night, we went to the port for dinner. We have had great seafood meals of fresh fish, oysters, and shrimp.  The wine has been excellent also.

Today we are driving to Carcassone France to see a medieval village.  The drive is about an hour.  Carcassone has a fort from the fifth century although the history of the city goes back to 3500 BC.  From Carcassone we will drive two hours to Lourdes.  Lourdes is where Our Lady of Lourdes is located.  Apparently the Lady of Lourdes appeared some 18 times to Bernadette Soubirous in 1858.  The Lady of Lourdes is believed to be the Virgin Mary.  I believe Lourdes is the number one tourist site in France drawing some 40,000 visitors a day or 6 million visitors a year.  It should be interesting.  More later. We are spending the night in Lourdes.

Tomorrow we are driving through the wine country of Bordeaux which is famous for its great red wines.  We hope to spend the night in St. Emillion, a center for red wine production and of course tasting red wine.  We hope to sample our share of red wine.  Currently Rita is a white wine drinker only, but I hope to convert her to a red wine drinker or at least a red wine drinker on occasion.

Love Norm & Rita.

Had to get Betsy a wash. She was looking quite filthy by this time. The car wash moves around the car while it is parked. We had to get out, couldn't stay inside.

Had to get Betsy a wash. She was looking quite filthy by this time. The car wash moves around the car while it is parked. We had to get out, couldn’t stay inside.

Here is Betsy getting us lost. Not really, we think it was just a new round a bout.

Here is Betsy getting us lost. Not really, we think it was just a new round a bout.

This is Norm's new favorite electronic piece of equipment!

This is Norm’s new favorite electronic piece of equipment!

Ready to go again!!

Ready to go again!!

On the road to Carcesonne

On the road to Carcesonne

Carcesonne walls

Carcesonne walls

Side view of walled city.

Side view of walled city.

First the wind picked up, bring in the storm.

First the wind picked up, bring in the storm.

The storm came out of nowhere, we cut our visit short. Good thing we had finished our lunch.

The storm came out of nowhere, we cut our visit short. Good thing we had finished our lunch.

Le Cap D’Agde, France

July 21, 2013

Hello Everyone.  Yes, we do still exist.  We heard from so many of you wanting to know why we quit blogging.  Thanks for letting us know you read our blog and that it is missed when we fall behind on our blogging.  We fell behind because we had a few disappointing days.  Of course, not every day can be great, even when you are traveling around the world.  We are not complaining.  But, the last few days just fell short of our expectations.  Monaco had a lovely harbor with mega yachts; our hotel had cars parked in front such as Ferraris, Lamborghinis,

Bentleys, Audi A8s and some cars we had never heard of.  Monaco also has a Prince with a palace and a love story involving Princess Grace that we all grew up with.  The belle époque Casino at Monte Carlo has been used as a backdrop for many movies, and the Hotel de Paris, is stunningly beautiful.  But, it was just too much glitz for us so we moved on after two nights. The final straw was when our concierge asked why we would want to eat in any restaurant that was not “a luxury restaurant”!!! …  Maybe because we were looking for a casual dinner, duh??   Next we drove from Monaco to Nice, which anchors the eastern end of the French Riviera. On the way we visited Beaulieu and Villefranche, two of the loveliest French seaside villages you would ever want to see.   In Nice we had a nice hotel room overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.  The Sea is so blue, a special blue that can only be claimed by the Mediterranean.  It really cannot be described in words.  We walked the city of Nice, including its old town, and along the Promenade des Anglais, which is lined with palm trees and has a 4-lane street “au bord du mer” as the French would say.  We had planned to spend two nights in Nice, but we thought Nice looked a little tired and worn out.  So, we did not even unpack the one night we spent there and left early the next morning.  The drive the next morning took us along the Mediterranean Sea through seaside villages such as Antibes, Juan les Pins, Cannes, St. Raphael and St. Tropez.  All of these cities were unique and special in their own way and with their own ambiance.  We arrived in St. Tropez late and its harbor was filled with mega yachts and the women on the street were all dressed to the nines in heals while doing the most mundane and routine tasks such as buying gasoline or grocery shopping.  After our experience in Monaco, St. Tropez just did not feel right to us so we really spent very little time in it.  We decided to head west to find a small French village more to our liking.  So, we drove.  And, we drove.  And, we drove.  And 12 hours later we were in Cassis France at 8:00 PM, but there were NO hotel rooms to be had.  So, we drove further west another 4 hours and arrived in Sete, France at midnight, 16 hours after we had left Nice, where we found a room for the night.  The room was very basic, clean, and adequate.  After a very short night of sleep, we were up early and drove to Le Cap D’Agde where we found a room to our liking and headed to the beach for the day.  Between Sete and Le Cap D’Agde there are about 40 different beaches, all of which are sparkling clean, not crowded and you can stop along the road whether you are in a car or camper, park and head into the water.  We were amazed at the amount of people that do just that.  Stop their camper, park it on the side of the road and “camp” for the weekend right there.  The water was reasonably warm and so clear that we could see our toes through the water, the beach was very, very clean, and the food, of course, was excellent.  So, we are now in a better frame of mind and are going to stay here for two nights before we turn north to go to Paris and visit our friends the Popots and Desmadryls.  All is well with us.  The sun is shining and life ain’t so bad after all.  Thanks for hanging in there with us. 

Love you and miss you.  

Norm & Rita

 

This is Cap d'Agde. We ate a great french meal at L'ami Louis. It was fabulous!

This is Cap d’Agde. We ate a great french meal at L’ami Louis. It was fabulous!

Then the moon was awesome in Cap D'Agde.

Then the moon was awesome in Cap D’Agde.

We found Cassis and decided to try for a room here, but had to settle for just dinner on the harbor.

We found Cassis and decided to try for a room here, but had to settle for just dinner on the harbor.

The sun was setting when we left, thought is was very pretty colors.

The sun was setting when we left, thought is was very pretty colors.

St. Raphael, very nice place along our route. Would love to have this pool and view for sure!

St. Raphael, very nice place along our route. Would love to have this pool and view for sure!

Loved this little alcove

Loved this little alcove

Nice little village up ahead of us.

Nice little village up ahead of us.

Nice, we didn't think it was so nice. LOL!

Nice, we didn’t think it was so nice. LOL!

They do their exercising on the beach, mind you the beach is all rocks here.

They do their exercising on the beach, mind you the beach is all rocks here.

Beach, the calm before the storm

Beach, the calm before the storm

Now the storm is here

Now the storm is here

Notice the statue on top of the pole. These are everywhere here.

Notice the statue on top of the pole. These are everywhere here.

This looked like a nice place to visit.

This looked like a nice place to visit.

We didn't know we were going to be entertained during our lunch. It was very nice.

We didn’t know we were going to be entertained during our lunch. It was very nice.

We stopped here to have some lunch

We stopped here to have some lunch

Most famous hair pin turn in Formula 1 racing!

Most famous hair pin turn in Formula 1 racing!

This says it for sure

This says it for sure

A storm brewing on Monaco

A storm brewing on Monaco

It was nice to watch this come in and go

It was nice to watch this come in and go

Outside of Prince Ranier's Palace

Outside of Prince Ranier’s Palace

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Cathedral of Monaco

Cathedral of Monaco

Blitz and Bling in Monaco

Blitz and Bling in Monaco

Mega Yachts

Mega Yachts

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Nice cars here, I’d say!

Looks like a little race track going on.

Looks like a little race track going on.

Monaco View from Prince Ranier's place

Monaco View from Prince Ranier’s place

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Another View from the top!

Last days in Rome and Positano, Italy

July 15 – July 16, 2013

We made it through our 5 days in Roma even though our room was a tad bit small.  It really didn’t matter as we were out and about most of the days.  We decided to look into a private tour guide for the Vatican after we saw that the line to get in was about 2 miles long.  No kidding.  And you have to wait in the heat and sun.  Best decision ever.  We didn’t have to wait in line, walked right in, as the Guide had a special badge. We still shared the place with all the other tourists, but we were given a wealth of knowledge from this great guide, Sylvia.  We have her name and number if anyone is traveling to Rome in the future.  It was again, SOOOO AMAZING!! (And I know I’m now sounding like “The Bachelorette”) but it really was great.  The plethora of knowledge that Sylvia gave us was incredible.  She took her time in explaining things to us and if we wanted less information that was fine too, she went at our pace, which was really, really nice.  Once we finished with the museum, we went inside the Sistine Chapel, which was gorgeous and finished our tour with St. Peter’s Basilica.  After seeing St. Peter’s we decided to attend Mass on Sunday there and of course it was a beautiful service.   

Back to the room

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good thing it was too small to have a scale in the bathroom, b/c neither of us wants to EVER step on one again.  The Italian pasta, the wine, the fresh fish, homemade gelato, and everything in between are just to hard for us to pass up.  We’re going to have to ship our clothes home and buy new about half way through this trip, which is very soon!!  I believe that part of enjoying all these different places is also experiencing their food and wine.

One last thing we did in Rome was I need to get my hair cut and color that darn gray sticking out around my temples.  We found a nice place to do this very close by and I explained to the guy what I wanted, “About an inch off the back to trim it up”.  I had the color concoction written down, (thanks to my hairdresser back in Carmel).  Well this is what I ended up with…

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Oh well, guess it will grow back by the time I get home.

On Monday, we got up early and headed off to Positano, Italy.  It was an easy drive after the mountainous roads we were on.  These were just as curvy, but there were not as many.  The only thing different is that the Italian drivers have no idea what a “lane” is and do not stop at yield signs at all.  It’s like the first one here gets to go!!  We didn’t have many choices for hotels, as the “season” is getting started and much of what we wanted was already booked.  We chose the hotel b/c it was available.  Well, it did not disappoint.  We enjoyed a relaxing drink and snack on the patio of the hotel upon arrival and just sat and chillaxed!!  BTW… Norm is getting better at sitting and relaxing or is it that maybe he just needs a drink after my driving… either way we have been enjoying this place.  It is a beautiful bay built into a cliff with a small beach at the bottom.

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Tomorrow we head off to the French Riviera.  Not sure where we will end up but we are looking forward to spending at least a week in one place to sit back and relax.  It will be a coastline very similar to Positano, but with French food.  YUM!

Miss everyone!

Rita and Norm

Here is a view of Positano. We stopped along the curvy mountain road, jumped out, took the pic and got back in, just in time.

Here is a view of Positano. We stopped along the curvy mountain road, jumped out, took the pic and got back in, just in time.

A view from our Patio in Positano.

A view from our Patio in Positano.

Another view of our Patio in Positano

Another view of our Patio in Positano

Here we are, ready to head off again.

Here we are, ready to head off again.

St. Peter's Basilica as the sun goes down.

St. Peter’s Basilica as the sun goes down.

When we saw this, we both said " Wonder if Martha waited on Angela like this woman?" LOL

When we saw this, we both said ” Wonder if Martha waited on Angela like this woman?” LOL

Castel St. Angelo

Castel St. Angelo

Concrete door that the Pope broke through with a hammer for the Jubilee.

Concrete door that the Pope broke through with a hammer for the Jubilee.

Yet another Gelateria... This is our second favorite Gelato place

Yet another Gelateria… This is our second favorite Gelato place

St. Peter's Basilica - Chair of Saint Peter. It's hard to capture the Dove in the middle but the wings are 6 feet wide each.

St. Peter’s Basilica – Chair of Saint Peter. It’s hard to capture the Dove in the middle above the chair, but its wings are 6 feet wide each.

Roman Forum

Roman Forum

Pantheon

Pantheon

Inside the Pantheon

Inside the Pantheon

Visiting the Vatican

Visiting the Vatican

St. Peters Center Isle

St. Peters Center Isle

This is where the Pope walks as he is leaving St. Peter's

This is where the Pope walks as he is leaving St. Peter’s

Piazza Novona

Piazza Novona

St. Peter's Basilica at night

St. Peter’s Basilica at night

Interlaken to Roma

July 12, 2013 – Interlaken to Roma

Yesterday we left Interlaken early because we knew we had a 10-hour drive to Rome ahead of us. However, before we could leave Switzerland, we had to drive 35 miles through one of Switzerland’s highest passes, the Susten Pass.  The 35 miles took us 90 minutes and also took us above the tree line to 7000 feet!!!  The drive took us through waterfalls too numerous to count, snow capped mountains, luscious green mountain pastures and s-curves and hairpin curves that would have challenged the most experienced mountain drivers.  Rita did a great job on roads without guardrails with sheer drop-offs thousands of feet to the valley floor below just a few feet from the edge of the road.  Did I mention the road was a two-lane road???  Every turn in the road was a “WOW! Look at that.  Did you see that? Unbelievable!!! Stop the car, I have to take a picture of that”!!!!!  Please see our photos of our drive.  Of course, Rita did not look at a lot of these or she would have driven off the edge.

We arrived in Rome in the early evening.  Finding the hotel was a challenge for “Betsy” our GPS gal so I had to guide us in by map, intuition, luck, and of course Rita’s driving skills again. She had to drive down one-lane alleys all to find out that we were on the wrong “lane” and then had to back up the equivalent of three city blocks to get out.  All while dodging cyclists, pedestrians and Vespa’s galore!  Rita learned a lot about Rome drivers in the first 45 minutes here. They disregard lanes, use their horns a lot, yell at you and shake their heads.  We are so glad we have a French plate on our car so know one knows we are from the USA.

Rome hotels are expensive even by European standards and Rome hotels are notoriously small. It took me 5 hours on my iPad to find us a room.  It is 12 by 12 and barely enough room for us to walk around the bed.  The bath, well, it is probably 4 by 5 at the most.  I am not complaining, because the air-conditioning works great, although it does not go below 19, it has hot water, lots of water pressure and a great location for walking the city.

Last night we had some good pasta and organic baby chicken that was fabulous at a restaurant near our hotel.  Then we walked to see the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon, Piazza Navona and the Trevi Fountain.  See our photos.  Of course, we had to sample the gelato at each tourist sight and it did not disappoint our taste buds. Not sure we will be able to eat ice cream again after sampling Rome’s gelato!!!!

Today should be personal maintenance day, laundry, cut our nails, get haircuts; we are a bit shaggy after 6 weeks of traveling.  But, with so many things to see in Rome, we may have to put off personal maintenance awhile longer!!!  What do they say???  Mañana!

We love you and miss you.  Thanks for your emails and following us.  Norm & Rita

No shortage of motorcycles

There is so much fashion here, even the Police Women wear heels.

There is so much fashion here, even the Police Women wear heels.

Beautiful Trevi Fountain at night

Beautiful Trevi Fountain at night

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Coloseum

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Coloseum / different view

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Spanish Steps/ Daytime

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Spanish Steps at night

Hotel is on this beautiful street

Hotel is on this beautiful street

More curvy roads with steep drop offs

More curvy roads with steep drop offs

A couple curves along the way.

A couple curves along the way.

Just so you get the true perspective !

Just so you get the true perspective !

A little snow capped mountain up ahead

A little snow capped mountain up ahead

Ten feet of snow in July.. and NO he didn't hit me with this

Ten feet of snow in July.. and NO he didn’t hit me with this

It was only 9 celsius here, but warm

It was only 9 celsius here, but warm

Interlaken, Switzerland

July 10, 2013 – Interlaken, Switzerland

Good morning from the land of snow capped mountains, cowbells and cheese.  We last blogged about Rita’s Aunt Anne and our visit with her in Strasbourg.  It made us both reflect on how to live our lives so that they have meaning and purpose at age 90.  Certainly, keeping active mentally and physically has to be a priority.  Music may be another thing to pursue. In any event, we had to leave Aunt Anne behind, catch our breaths, and plan our next adventure.  After seeing Aunt Anne, we went for a short tour of Strasbourg.  It is a very old town founded by the Germans and most of its residents still speak German, but consider themselves French, but independent French.  Our tour included Petit France, which is built on canals and includes the oldest of buildings constructed with the exposed timbers. See photos for examples.

The next morning, July 8th, we drove to Colmar France to see its old city which has been preserved.  The buildings are also on canals and used exposed timbers.  Upon our arrival, we were immediately greeted at the exit by a 37-foot replica of the Statue of Liberty!!!!  We thought we had made a wrong turn and ended up in New York.  But, apparently, the sculptor for the Statue of Liberty was born in Colmar and the replica was there is honor him. In the afternoon, we drove to Ronchamp France.  It took us an hour longer to get there than we had planned.  We were in hot pursuit of a dream I have had for many years and that was to see Notre Dame de la Chapelle du Ronchamp.  Swiss Architect Corbusier and sits on a mountaintop designed the Chapelle. When you approach the Chapelle, it resembles a nun’s habit. It is extremely impressive to see.  No previous photos of the Chapelle prepared us for what we saw.  It was beautiful, simple, free flowing and remarkable.  It was truly a sight that was moving and will not be forgotten.  In the evening, we continued our journey from Ronchamp to Interlaken.  We arrived just in time to see the setting sunlight light up the top of the Jungfrau, a very tall snow capped mountain, which we can see from our hotel.

Today we explored the mountain towns around Interlaken including Grindelwald, Steffisburg, Wilderswill and Lauterbrunnen.  We saw numerous waterfalls; snow capped mountains, Swiss cows, and quaint and charming Swiss chalets.  All the chalets have wood firewood stacked around them for the fireplaces.  The stacking ability of the Swiss to stack firewood is amazing.  See photos for one creative example.

We have discussed our next few days, and have decided to head south to Rome.  So, we need to check maps, hotels and what to see in Rome tonight.  Never a dull minute.

Before I close, I thought I would mention some things that have caught our attention. In Germany, we observed the wait staff using white gloves to place silverware and wine glasses on the dining tables so that there would be no fingerprints.  In England, we saw a road sign that said “Give Way” instead of yield.  Smoking is prohibited in most restaurants, which means that all the smokers get the best tables outside on the patios where they can smoke.  The Europeans are into bicycle riding, hiking and other physical activities.  In fact, we see bike paths everywhere we go. Not only in the cities, but also BETWEEN cities. The Europeans eat much healthier than the other tourists.  They eat fruit for breakfast and salads for lunch dinner.  We do not see very many Americans traveling.  We see quite a few Arabs and so many Japanese that you cannot count them. They show up in buses.  Travel in groups.  Take over all tourist sites and photograph, not only everything that moves, but also anything that does not move.  We have even seen them photograph downspouts and take movies while they walk along streets.  Movies of absolutely nothing.  There are even luxury stores here staffed with only Japanese sales people.  Many of the places have Japanese ONLY tourist offices, but most everyplace have menus in Japanese, more so than English.  Crazy!

Thanks for your emails and sending us comments and questions.  We enjoy hearing from everyone.  We love and miss you.  Tomorrow we will hopefully be able to answer the question, when in Rome, what do the Romans do??????

Love you.  Norm & Rita

Sun setting in Interlaken

Sun setting in Interlaken

Switzerland is so clean the even wash the biking/hiking paths.

Switzerland is so clean they even wash the biking/hiking paths.

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Waterfall in Lauterbrunnen

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Street view of Waterfall

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View of Steffisburg landscape

La Chapelle de Ronchamp Notre Dame du Haute in Ronchamp, France

La Chapelle de Ronchamp Notre Dame du Haute in Ronchamp, France

A different angle

A different angle

Norm trying to get the best angle. He got his shoe/foot in the picture. LOL!

Really?? We thought we took a wrong turn.

Really?? We thought we took a wrong turn.

Scenery along the way in Colmar

Scenery along the way in Colmar

Rothenburg to Strasbourg

July 8, 2013 – After we left Hohenschwangau, we drove to Rothenburg (Road n burg) ob der Tauber and enjoyed the quaintest medieval town still on the planet earth!  It is a beautiful little town on the Romantic Road and the epitome of German cities. The “Old Town” is a patchwork of winding cobblestone streets lined with picturesque half-timbered houses that appear crooked, some actually are crooked. There are 40 massive towers that connect the intact walls that form a ring around the Old Town and you can walk on top of it to get great views over the city and the Tauber valley.  We took a tour of the city from the “night watchman” that was fabulous as the tour guide dressed in character and told stories that engaged the children and could bring tears to the eyes of the adults. Image

We did find out that if not for an American soldier  this city would not exist. The Americans’ ordered the city bombed and destroyed.  A general in the american army gave the Germans an option to surrender the city because he remembered his mother’s picture of this beautiful place hanging on his wall at home from her vacation she took to Rothenburg.  The Germans decided to take the option and they surrendered the city.  We waited around for about two hours to get a picture of the most photographed place in Rothenburg without any people in the way, but today we were not the “top” photographers we thought we were.  But still, we did get some great pics.  We visited the “Criminal Museaum” which was especially interesting, found out about the medieval laws and how they punished people back in the early days.  Here’s one of the funnier punishments.

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From Rothenburg, we drove to Bingen and took a Rhine River cruise.  It was spectacular and the weather was perfect.  We couldn’t have asked for a better day.  Now on to Strasbourg to meet my Aunt Anne…

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July 9, 2013 – Strasbourg, France

OK, so we came to Strasbourg to visit with my Aunt Anne…… another Aunt that I have not met.  OMGshe is a hoot.  Let me tell you, she will be 90 in August and she has more energy than Norm and I together!!  She played the harmonica for us, and danced whilst playing…about 4 songs, (we were winded after the first one) and played the piano for us too.  When she and my mom were little, there was only enough money for one of them to go to music lessons, and her dad sent my mom instead of her, which she was always a little peeved about, but her father said it was because she would never sit still long enough to get anything out of them.  So she took music lessons as an adult when she could pay her own way and now she listens to music on the TV and plays along with them.  She rides her bike with the basket on the back of it for her shopping, skis, swims and loves the 93 meter high water slide although she told us she will not be doing that again, b/c every time she gets to the top of the ladder, everyone starts clapping, then she goes down the slide and everyone cheers for her.  She doesn’t like the attention for that, b/c she doesn’t think it’s any big deal.  She tried to join several ski clubs but they wouldn’t let her join because they didn’t want the liability. She said she could ski better than most of the younger ones.  She reminds me a lot of my mom… she will say anything regardless of what anyone else thinks and on any topic imaginable!  She baked us a cake that we had to eat with our hands.  No forks.  That’s the kind of cake it was.  Damm good to, I might add.  It was a great visit and she told us next time we visit, we HAVE to stay with her and that she will be around for quite some time as we have a cousin that just passed away at the age of 102, so there are good genes in the family.  Hope I get just an ounce of those genes.

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We’re heading south tomorrow to Interlaken and will post additional pictures of these last couple stops upon arrival.  Miss you all.

Rita & Norm

Aunt Anne - she'll be 90 in August

Aunt Anne – she’ll be 90 in August

Here she had to go get her hat for the picture!!

Here she had to go get her hat for the picture!!

She warmed up by playing the piano for us.

She warmed up by playing the piano for us.

Then Aunt Anne was on a roll... playing about 4 songs on her harmonica!

Then Aunt Anne was on a roll… playing about 4 songs on her harmonica!

She is pretty damm good too!

She is pretty damm good too!

She is such a hoot! No wonder she still skis, swims and rides her bike, she never gets short of breath!

She is such a hoot! No wonder she still skis, swims and rides her bike, she never gets short of breath!

"Little Venice"

“Little Venice”

Had a "Tarte Flambe" here. It is a specialty here that is thinner than a flatbread pizza without sauce. Great, we could have eaten two of them.

Had a “Tarte Flambe” here. It is a specialty here that is thinner than a flatbread pizza without sauce. Great, we could have eaten two of them.

lenses = lentils? striped = layered? ok, we couldn't figure out what "laminated" meant.

lenses = lentils?
striped = layered?
ok, we couldn’t figure out what “laminated” meant.

We see this type of wood storage everywhere along the way.

We see this type of wood storage everywhere along the way.

But we also see things like this, too!

But we also see things like this, too!

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Rhine River Cruise

Rhine River Cruise Pictures

Rhine River Cruise Pictures

Rhine River Cruise

Rhine River Cruise

Rhine River Cruise

Rhine River Cruise

Rhine River Cruise

Rhine River Cruise

Rhine River Cruise

Rhine River Cruise

Norm looking like a tourist.....NOT!

Norm looking like a tourist…..NOT!

I made him do it!

I made him do it!

Part of the Criminal Museum.

Part of the Criminal Museum.

It was not easy asking someone to take this.

It was not easy asking someone to take this.

Here's Norm trying to take a bite of some freshly baked "B..B.. Bud.. Bundt cake" How you say it?

Here’s Norm trying to take a bite of some freshly baked “B..B.. Bud.. Bundt cake” How you say it?

These snowballs are Rothenburg's signature cookie. At first sight it reminded us of SNL's "Schwetty Balls" LOL!

These snowballs are Rothenburg’s signature cookie. At first sight it reminded us of SNL’s “Schwetty Balls” LOL!

We have found NO shortage of sausage in Germany.

We have found NO shortage of sausage in Germany.

O.K. So every time Norn's been using the "WC" (toilet) he's been thinking there was a non-flusher before him. Putting on his glasses revealed that these are painted on bugs (fly). Guess they are targets? ??

O.K. So every time Norn’s been using the “WC” (toilet) he’s been thinking there was a non-flusher before him. Putting on his glasses revealed that these are painted on bugs (fly) above the splash guard. Guess they are targets? ??

A home inside of Rothenburg turned into a hotel.

A home inside of Rothenburg turned into a restaurant.

This is the door to the oldest and largest home in Rothenburg from 1540 and the descendants are still living there. which is over 500 years! WHOAH!!

This is the door to the oldest and largest home in Rothenburg from 1540 and the descendants are still living there. which is over 500 years! WHOAH!!

Our Garden Patio. All the homes have this type of a backyard.

Our Garden Patio. All the homes have this type of a backyard.

Hey Steph and Melissa.. does this look like the one from King's Island?

Hey Steph and Melissa.. does this look like the one from King’s Island

Teddy's blowing bubbles

Teddy’s blowing bubbles

Most photographed picture of Rothenburg

Most photographed picture of Rothenburg.

Entrance to Rothenburg

Entrance to Rothenburg

Second part of entrance

Second part of entrance

Fourth section to entrance

Fourth section to entrance

Third section to entrance

Third section to entrance

Finally we're inside!

Finally we’re inside!

Hohenschwangau, Germany

July 4, 2013.   It is already Thursday.  Time flies.  I seem to have lost 4 days!  Our last blog was on Sunday June 30th.  In our first blog on Sunday, we were finishing our champagne brunch.  In our second blog on Sunday, we were trying to make sense out of the premature death of my best friend Jim Poshard      My world kind of came to a screeching stop after I received Mark Cornelius’s call advising of Jim’s death.  God has an amazing way of making us feel humble and reminding us of what is important in life.  Jim was laid to rest yesterday.  I had many emails and calls from family and friends with words of comfort.  I do really appreciate all of you that took time to email or text me.  I was comforted by your thoughtfulness.  But, as many reminded me, life goes on and Jim would have wanted me to continue my travels.  So, after 4 days, we have moved on.  We are not who we were before Jim’s death,  because we now know we are not ageless and will all face our own mortality in our own way at our own time.

   From St. Wolfgang, Rita drove us on Monday July 1st  to Mondsee Austria to see St. Michael’s church where Julie Andrew’s got married to Christopher Plummer in the Sound of Music.  It was a beautiful church and we will post some photos for you to see. From Mondsee, we drove to  Salzburg Austria where we stayed at the Arts Hotel Blue Goose on Getreidegasse which is the main pedestrian only shopping street in Salzburg.  It was a great location and the room was very modern and clean. In Salzburg, we did a walking tour of the “old” city.  We saw Mirabell Gardens where Julie Andrews sang “Doe a Deer”, the Castle/Fortress that is over 1000 years old, Mozart’s house where he was born, and ate dinner in the oldest restaurant in Europe which has been in continuous operation since 962.  The next day we did a Sound of Music Tour of the City and saw places such as the horse bath where Julie Andrew sang “My Favorite Things”, the Residenz Square and Fountain where Julie Andrews sang “I Have Confidence in Me”, St. Peter’s Cemetery where the Von Trapp family hid when they were being pursued by the Nazis, the Pavilion where “I am Sixteen Going on Seventeen” was performed, three homes used in the Sound Of Music as sets for the Von Trapp’s home. and the Nonnberg Abbey where Julie Andrews was initially residing before becoming a governess for the Von Trapp children.  It was kind of like a scavenger hunt going to all of these places!!  On Wednesday, we toured the Castle/fortress, and various churches in and around the old city.  All in all we were very busy, saw a lot and learned a lot about Salzburg.  

Today we left Salzburg and drove to Mehlweg and found the pasture used in the opening scene of the Sound of Music.  Incredible views of mountains, valleys and pine forests.  After Mehlweg, we made our way to Berchesgarden, where Hitler spent some of his time with Eva Braun.  It is a small village with quaint shops that have German scenes painted on the front of them.  About 5 minutes from Berchesgarden, is Konigssee where we took a two hour boat trip to see St. Bartholoma church which was originally built in 1134.  We will post photos for you to see.  From Konigssee, we drove to Hohenschwangau Germany.  The drive took us by the Zugspitze mountain which is the highest peak in Germany at 2962 meters.  It was snow capped and spectacular.  We are in Hohenschwangau to see two castles one of which Walt Disney used for his design for the castle in Disney Land and Disney World.  

Well, it is past midnight and I started before 6 AM today.  So, I will end this post here and post photos tomorrow when I am rested. Happy 4th of July to you all.  We love you and miss you.  –Norm & Rita

 

Hohweg Castle this is right in town and you can walk to this one easily.

Hohweg Castle this is right in town and you can walk to this one easily.

Once we got inside, this is the last picture we could take, No pictures of inside allowed.

Once we got inside, this is the last picture we could take, No pictures of inside allowed.

View of Castle from Maria's Bridge (built in 1881). Bridge has open rails that your kids could easily slip through. Norm took this obviously!

View of Castle from Maria’s Bridge (built in 1881). Bridge has open rails that your kids could easily slip through. Norm took this obviously!

Front view of castle

Front view of castle

View from our front patio of hotel room. We'll post pictures of this DISNEY castle soon!

View from our front patio of hotel room. We’ll post pictures of this DISNEY castle soon!

View from the back patio of our room. We'll post more pictures of Hohenschwangau and the DISNEY castles soon

View from the back patio of our room. We’ll post more pictures of Hohenschwangau and the DISNEY castles soon

Konigssee St. Bartoloma

Back of St. Bartholoma on Konigssee

Back of St. Bartholoma on Konigssee

Zugspitz Mountain, Can you see the rainbow on the left side of pic?

This is the church they used for the wedding. Great stairs.

This is the original church where the REAL MAREA was married.

It is sooo beautiful... It has a lot of pink in it.

It is sooo beautiful… It has a lot of pink in it.

Actual church where the REAL MARIA was married.

This is the church in Mondsee they used for the wedding in the movie.

Great stairs that resemble the original ones quite well.

The front facade of the church in Mondsee used for the wedding

The front facade of the church in Mondsee used for the wedding

The Nonnberg Abbey.. Where Maria came from.

The Nonnberg Abbey.. Where Maria came from.  “How do you solve a problem like Maria…”

The door to the Abbey that the soldiers came looking for the Von Trapp's.

The door to the Abbey that the soldiers came looking for the Von Trapp’s.

This is where the nuns hid them...

This is where the nuns hid them…

This is St. Peter's cemetery too, where they hid.

This is St. Peter’s cemetery too, where they hid.

Does this look familiar? Well, if it was nighttime, you might find the Von Trapp family pushing their car out of here.

Road look familiar too?

Road look familiar too?

The Pavilion where "I am sixteen going on seventeen" ..... you get it?

The Pavilion where “I am sixteen going on seventeen” ….. you get it?

This was used as the front of their home

This was used as the front of their home when there WASN’T a lake scene.

This was used for their home WITH a lake scene, (like when they all stood up in the canoe and fell into the lake) and also when they had back yard scenes.

This was used for their home WITH a lake scene, (like when they all stood up in the canoe and fell into the lake) and also when they had back yard scenes.

The children and Maria finished the song here as the children ran their hand across this statue.

The children and Maria finished the song here as the children ran their hand across this statue.

They sang the Do Re Me song on these steps.

The children and Maria sang the Do Re Mi song while dancing on these steps.

and along the horse baths....

and along the horse baths….

Yeah, Rita's not much for dancing in the rain... but Maria did a great job here!

Yeah, Rita’s not much for dancing in the rain… but Maria did a great job here!

Maria walked in front of this (also this had the Nazi sign hanging from it) and the fountain in front, (next pic) and also the fence line (second pic)

Maria walked in front of this (also this had the Nazi sign hanging from it) and the fountain in front, (next pic) and also the fence line (second pic) while she sang “I’ve got confidence” on her way to the Baron’s house.

Fountain

Fountain

Beautiful, but we can't describe how steep this actually was.

Beautiful, but we can’t describe how steep this actually was.

The hills are alive with the sound of music!!

The hills are alive with the sound of music!!

We had to climb over this to find the actual hill, after driving up a mountain in Mehlweg

We had to climb over this to find the actual hill, after driving up a mountain in Mehlweg

Again, loving these crazy signs.. to us they are cute.. I'm sure they all mean well. Kathryn, this ones for you !!

Again, loving these crazy signs.. to us they are cute.. I’m sure they all mean well. Kathryn, this ones for you !!

View from our walk down from the fortress.

View from our walk down from the fortress. We took a lift to get up and walked down.

We walked up to this which was pretty hard to do for us old folks, as it was very steep and once you were inside, you had to keep walking up. cool place, though. We met a couple from Carmel that live less than a mile from Rita. Jim and Deb Moore, Jim had on an IU shirt so Norm asked him if he was from Indiana..

We walked up to this castle/ fort  which was pretty hard to do for us old folks, as it was very steep and once you were inside, you had to keep walking up. cool place, though. We met a couple from Carmel that live less than a mile from Rita. Jim and Deb Moore, Jim had on an IU shirt so Norm asked him if he was from Indiana..

Great landscape from above.

Great landscape from above.

Just a pickle of a day…

A row of pickles at the University..

Can you say Bacon???

Accordion Music everywhere…I mean everywhere…

Walk out the front door of our hotel and this is the view.

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Mozart’s home

Our hotel restaurant, curved ceilings dating back 660 years old

Our hotel restaurant, curved ceilings are really cool.  This hotel dates back 660 years old.

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On our walk down from the Fortress

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Unbelievable that this is still standing and in great shape

Another dining room of oldest restaurant in Salzburg

Another dining room of oldest restaurant in Salzburg

Oldest Restaurant in Salzburg

Oldest Restaurant in Salzburg

Yep, we ate in the oldest place!! Had a great meal.

Yep, we ate in the oldest place!! Had a great meal.

St. Wolfgang, Austria

June 30, 2013.  I lost my best friend today.  Jim Poshard passed away this morning.  He died too young, as did our friends who died before him Danny Perkins and Jack Sternberg.  Jim may be gone, but he will never be forgotten by those of us that knew him and loved. him.  Jim and I talked almost daily for 38 years.  We had many discussions, a few disagreements, but never a fight during all those years.  We had a friendship that will last forever.  Jim was always a man of his word.  You may not agree with him.  But, if he told you he was going to do something, you could take his word to the bank. And, of course, if he told you he wasn’t going to do something, you could damn well count on him not doing it!  Jim would give you the shirt off his back and NEVER ask you why you needed it  He was also a big enough man to say when he was wrong and that he was sorry when he knew it and he meant it. Jim lived life to its fullest.  I will miss Jim’s love, friendship, daily calls, and most of all I will miss his sense of humor!  He could make anyone laugh and often did. No one was quicker with a funny comment or joke to fit every occasion.  He will be missed by all, especially his daughter Holly, his son in law Casey, his grandchildren that he loved so much, his companion Natasha and me.  My meager words here today will never be able to express the love I have for Jim. But tonight I will have a drink and raise my glass to you Jim knowing you are making them laugh in heaven as you did on earth!!   

St. Wolfgang, Austria

June 30, 2013.  Just finished a champagne brunch at the White Horse Inn in St. Wolfgang Austria.  We got here by driving from Lake Bled to Bad Ischl and Hallstat.  Hallstat was a wonderful little village in the lake district of Salzburg.  St. Wolfgang is close by Hallstat.  Yesterday we took a ferry to St. Gilgen and watched scenery straight out of the Sound of Music.  The mountains surrounding the lake are quite tall, I think 7500 feet, and the lower slopes are covered by pine and white birch tree forests.  Then, there are those beautiful green pastures that remind you of the opening scenes in the Sound of Music.  We have been looking for Julie Andrews, but have not seen her.  The hunt for Julie Andrews will continue.  Today we are going to mass at St. Wolfgang church which was started in 976!!   They say they incorporate pagan rites into the service to remember the past.  I am thinking virgin sacrifices, but Rita has told me not to get my hopes up.  In St. Gilgen we saw the home where Mozart’s sister lived.  I am sure we are going to hear more about this Mozart fellow in Salzburg!   We have had a rash of emails from our friends this week.  It was really nice to catch up with all of you.  Thank you for thinking of us.  It is nice that out of sight does not have to mean out of mind!   Rita continues to be a good driver.  I have only been lost twice as navigator which is slightly better than “Betsy” our GPS who has been lost three times.  We watched a wedding reception in St. Gilgen yesterday.  Yes, it was probably a slow tourist day, but it was very interesting.  All the guests wore traditional Austrian costumes.  It was lovely.  Rita acquired an ear ache on June 20th.  We are hoping to get it checked in Salzburg.  It is not really painful, but a nuisance.  And, it interferes with her hearing which makes for some pretty funny conversations between the two of us since my hearing is not terrific.  Today is our friend Jodi Barth’s birthday.  Happy Birthday Jodi.  Love and miss you.  By now we are sure that you have deciphered our blogs to know that I write the factual ones and Rita writes the humorous ones.  Sorry, travel does not change basic personalities!  The white horse inn has a swimming pool and hot tub that floats in the lake.  We were in the hot tub yesterday for about 2 hours.  It really drained all my strength out of me so I fell asleep and we missed dinner. I am bad!   First meal we have missed on the trip, but who is counting.  That is all for now.  Got to go to mass and check out the pagan rites.  More to follow.  We will post new photos later today.  Tomorrow we leave for Salzburg.  Love and miss you all.  It is great to have so many friends follow us and email us.  –Norm

Woke up to this view Monday, had to say goodbye and get going to Salzburg.

Woke up to this view Monday, had to say goodbye and get going to Salzburg.

View of the homes on the lake while boating to St. Gilgen from St. Wolfgang. Not much development here.

View of the homes on the lake while boating to St. Gilgen from St. Wolfgang. Not much development here.

Seriously???

Seriously???

We ate at a gas station. Not really... it used to be one. This place had great food. The Austrians really know how to recycle their buildings.

We ate at a gas station. Not really… it used to be one. This place had great food. The Austrians really know how to recycle their buildings.

St. GIlgen

St. GIlgen

Our boat we took from St. Wolfgang to St. Gilgen. Nice ride.

Our boat we took from St. Wolfgang to St. Gilgen. Nice ride.

Cool house in St. Gilgen

Cool house in St. Gilgen

Now the wedding party have all gone inside to start the reception. Pretty place.

Now the wedding party have all gone inside to start the reception. Pretty place.

People from the wedding we watched, hanging outside for cocktail hour after wedding and before reception.

People from the wedding we watched, hanging outside for cocktail hour after wedding and before reception.

Mozarts sisters home in St. Gilgen

Mozart’s sister’s home in St. Gilgen