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17 Search Results for ""pink buildings""

  • Rajasthan Tourism - A Fantasti Rajasthan Tourism - A Fantastic Experience to Explore

    • From: abhishektch
    • Description:


      Rajasthan, the area of kings, is the biggest condition of the Republic of India. It is one of the most sought after holiday destinations in the country. It possesses unique social and geographical features which have made a prominent India vacationer getaway. The condition is visited by a lot of domestic and international vacationers each year. Tourist in this royal and imperial India condition provides the vacationers an excellent encounter to take pleasure from for life-time.

      The traditional condition of Rajasthan is well known for its beautiful fortifications, stylish palaces, delicately designed wats, designed havelis and prosperous museums. Hence, the condition is also sometimes described as the Property of Ancient typical monuments. You will have a amazing opportunity to some most outstanding India fortifications & typical monuments while checking out the traditional places of the condition.

      Jaipur is the capital and biggest town of the condition. City Development, Hawa Mahal, Jantar Mantar and Jordan Hall Art gallery are most well-known points of interest in the town. Due to many lilac painted houses and buildings this town is also known as the Pink Town of India.

      Jodhpur is a adventure town located at the edge of the Thar Leave. It is also known as the Pink Town of India due to glowing blue homes. It is the second biggest town of the condition. Mehrangarh Ft, Umaid Bhawan Development and Jaswant Thada are main points of interest to see in the town.

      Udaipur, known as the Venice of India, is a romantic town in Rajasthan. It is also known as the Town of Ponds & Development due to many lovely lakes and stylish palaces. City Development, Pond Development, Jagmandir Development, Pond Pichola, Jagdish Forehead, Monsoon Development and Saheliyon-Ki-Bari are points of interest in the town which will never fail to surprise you.

      Bikaner is a beautiful town which is well known for fort, palaces, havelis and wats. Junagarh Ft, Ft Art gallery, Lalgarh Development, Deshnoke Rat Forehead and Camel Reproduction Farm & Research Center are major points of interest to see in this town.

      Jaisalmer, the Fantastic Town of India, is a amazing vacationer getaway to see in Rajasthan Tour. It is famous for Fantastic Fort, Jain Temples, Havelis and Sam Sand Sand hills.

      Apart from traditional places and spectacular fortifications & typical monuments, Rajasthan tourism is also well known for creature’s sanctuaries and nature. The condition offers ample opportunities for creature’s tourism at its creatures stocks and recreational areas. Ranthambore Nationwide Park, Sariska Tiger Reserve and Bharatpur Bird Refuge are very well-known on Rajasthan tours in India.

      Rajasthan tourism is imperfect if you do not discover its desert areas. Camel opera is the most well-known way to discover the desert and ripping sand dunes.

      Hence, it is but obvious that tourism in Rajasthan is an excellent encounter to take pleasure from for life-time.

    • Blog post
    • 2 years ago
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  • Royal Hawaiian Royal Hawaiian

    • From: Linda Brannen
    • Description:

      I can never get enough of the Royal Hawaiian and against the blue, blue sky...

    • 4 years ago
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  • "Wanderlust Tales"-Craig, Alas "Wanderlust Tales"-Craig, Alaska

    • From: bevandlee
    • Description:

      ……..Craig, Alaska


      It seems to me that there is something inherently unnatural for a girl raised in the flat, dry lands of North Dakota to be out at sea without reassuring  terre firma underfoot. Rich black dirt runs through these veins as surely as the salt-water courses through those of John, our captain.


      I had been agonizing for days over my fears of being on the water, stuck for 3 days on a fishing boat with no options to return to the security of the shore until our limits were caught or until the rest of the group’s thirst for adventure had been sated. I scan the gray sky above and visions of “The Perfect Storm” pops into my mind. Our boat, the “Annandale” quickly morphs into the “Andrea Gale II”. The thought makes my stomach lurch like a dose of seasickness.


      And now here I am, anxious to put into words the exhilaration I feel at the end of “The Perfect Day”. It all started with the floatplane ride from the Ketchikan airport to the tiny village of Craig. Boarding a small skiff, we jet headlong across the waves to a spot near Noyes Island. Ted, our guide, kills the engine and readies the poles and hooks for three rookie fisherman.

      “ Plop!” “Plop!” “Plop!”– our three lines hit the water, then, as if on cue, “Whoosh!”  a magnificent humpback whale blows before breaching just yards from our boat. In the split second that we turn to watch, two of the lines are hit by silver salmon and so, the action begins.


      Quickly catching our limit, we move out to deeper waters where the halibut lay waiting on the bottom for our tender chunks of pink salmon bait. The line goes in, a fish comes on and it begins again. Reeling in a halibut is like lifting waterlogged timber from the 250 ft. deep ocean floor. Once to the boat, Ted grabs his bat and deals it a swift, practiced blow to the head before flinging it into the fish hold. Within minutes we have our limit and head for the “Annandale” and the scrumptious feast that Paul, the chef, has been preparing.


      I retired to my cabin and after a quick change of clothes and a brush through wind blown hair, head up to the dining/common room. The scent of baking bread fills the air, replacing the salty sea spray. Paul is pulling fresh oysters and clams off the grill and piling them on plates as quickly as we can drown them in lemon butter or Tabasco and toss them down. Our appetites totally whetted, we were ready for the feast laid out for us—succulent King crab legs, sweet smoked salmon, seasoned grilled salmon, herbed potatoes, steamed vegetables, fresh greens with balsamic vinaigrette and loaves of the still warm, fresh bread. The room goes silent as each of us hardly stops for a breath as we gorge on the feast that, for the most part, was swimming in the ocean below us just hours before.


      It wasn’t long after that our eyelids began to droop and one by one we each drifted off to our cabins, bellies full and bodies exhausted from the day.


      “Gale Wind Warnings”. That was the forecast for day two. The pre-trip fears start stirring in the back of my mind. The crew looked slightly apprehensive but decided that it was possible to indeed go out in the skiffs to pull more red-fleshed bounty from the sea without too great of risk. “Body count,” Bryan, our host, jokes,  “is important.” Referring to the need of coming back with as many people as we left with. I look at the choppy water and decide this is a perfect morning to stay put in a large, warm, comfortable boat and enjoy the scenery and a cup of hot Chai tea. As the others don their rain gear and jostle awkwardly into the bouncing skiffs, I retire back to my cabin with the “Alaskan Cooking” cookbook and devour the contents like a short novel.


      Soon I hear the engines roar to life and the “Annandale” starts bullying her way through the bumpy sea to Steamboat Cove. I join John and Mel, the engineer in the control room. Expecting to see John at a huge steering wheel helm, I was surprised to see him navigating the ship with a mouse and cursor, surrounded by electronic equipment to guide us through the shallow spot we were approaching.


      I walked out the door and was slapped in the face by the wind driven rain and climbed up the stairs to the crow’s nest. It was warm and cozy inside, yet here the winds were more obvious as you could feel that even this 90 ft. boat was being tossed around a bit. I could only imagine what it would have been like for me on the skiff and thankful I was experiencing Alaska’s rugged scenery from this comfy little nook.


      The fishermen return, windblown and ruddy, and had once again caught their limit within a few hours.  Time to feast again on the creamiest chowder with chunks of halibut so tender and sweet it melted in your mouth.


      Mel had just pulled up the crab traps and dropped the harvest into a huge pot of boiling seawater. I watched him as he removed the cooked crustaceans from the pot and plunged them into ice water to chill quickly. Grasping one of the crabs he shows me how to clean them—rip off the back shell, tear off the front and back pieces, break it in half and give it a shake to remove the “crab butter” before rinsing in cold, clean water. He hands me a piece of the leg and I suck out a meaty chunk. It was the sweetest crab I had ever eaten.


      By mid afternoon, some of the others were getting restless. They had come to fish and the day was still young, but they had already caught their daily limit. The weather was still too questionable, gusting winds swept the rain sideways and broke the tops off the rolling waves. So we watched movies, played monopoly and ate fresh baked cookies.





      The next morning, the seas had calmed and I was once again ready to take on any Coho that would find my herring tasty. The fishing was a little slower this morning but Andrew, today’s guide, did his best to find the pockets of hungry salmon. Slowly the ice chest began to fill with our bounty and we eventually headed back to the “Annandale”. Paul hadn’t disappointed us and had made a wonderful artichoke and crab pizza for us to devour.


      In the distance, off the bow of the boat, we could view an old, abandoned cannery. We loaded into the skiff and headed toward it for photos of the picturesque structure. John had told us stories about the eccentric caretaker, Jim, and his three wolf-bred dogs that made the cannery their home. There, standing to greet us on arrival was the legend himself. A toothless grin and shocks of wild hair jut out from under his weathered hat and he invites us in for a tour.


      Expansive rooms built from the huge logs of old-growth timber held up remarkably well through time and neglect. Jim showed us the processing areas and some of the antique equipment that had been used for years, sharing his life’s experience in the business. A highlight was a bar right in the cannery which looked like it had just closed the day before. Billiard balls were still scattered on the pool table and the days specials where written on the board.


      Waving goodbye to our new friend and his large furry companions, we leave the past and head back to the present and a tour of one of the very nemesis that outdated the old cannery—the great processing ship, “Independence”. The convenience of having the processor go to the fishing areas instead of visa versa, had left many such buildings vacant.


      Workers fervently scrubbing every inch spotless on each of the many levels of the ship, prepare for the next load delivered to process. Modern equipment and sparkling clean controlled environments were a sharp contrast to the dated methods and relaxed atmosphere of the cannery.


      It was time to go home. One last time I climbed to the top of the “Annandale’s” crow’s nest to watch the beauty of Alaska pass by on our journey to the floatplane. An eagle overhead, a whale’s wide tail sinking below the surface, a salmon tugging on my line, mist shrouded craggy peaks and waves crashing white spray on the rocks—all vivid images permanently etched in my mind, creating fond memories ready to call up on demand anytime a pleasant little “mental escape” is needed back in the real world.

    • Blog post
    • 4 years ago
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  • Mexico City 3 Mexico City 3

    • From: toreyhickman
    • Description:
    • 4 years ago
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  • Aruba Downtown Square 2 Aruba Downtown Square 2

    • From: shattman
    • Description:

      One of the few remaining groupings of colorful buildings in Oranjestad.It was quite surprising that I could actually get a picture downtown without any tourists or native Arubans in it, and I did not have to wait long for it--

    • 4 years ago
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  • Aruba - Wedding Cake 2 Aruba - Wedding Cake 2

    • From: shattman
    • Description:

      This shopping center building is one of two similar units along the harbor. I remember hearing it referred to as the wedding cake - it does look tasty.

    • 4 years ago
    • Views: 629
  • Why is everything moving? Why is everything moving?

    • From: shattman
    • Description:

      I deliberately tilted the camera to see what effect it would create on this fascinating staircase-- to me, it makes it appear as if it is swaying [as if it were on the high seas].

    • 4 years ago
    • Views: 332
  • Aruba - Wedding Cake 1 Aruba - Wedding Cake 1

    • From: shattman
    • Description:

      This shopping center building is one of two similar units along the harbor. I remember hearing it referred to as the wedding cake - it does look tasty.

    • 4 years ago
    • Views: 620
  • Aruba Downtown Square 1 Aruba Downtown Square 1

    • From: shattman
    • Description:

      One of the few remaining groupings of colorful buildings in Oranjestad, which seems to be slowly deteriorating.

    • 4 years ago
    • Views: 932
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  • The Boating Lesson The Boating Lesson

    • From: GlassSpider
    • Description:

      One of our stops on our Mediterranean cruise was Monte Carlo, Monaco. While we sailed into port and enjoyed the view of the city from our balcony, my eye was automatically drawn to these tiny, bright pink boats in the water. I just loved the contrast of the fairly monochromatic colors of the buildings in the background and these fun, pink boats. A friend of mine recently commented on how funny it was that there were these multi-million dollar yachts in the background, but what you really see are the little sailboats. I don't think I ever really noticed the yachts before he mentioned them!

    • 5 years ago
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  • Trier Germany Roman ampitheatr Trier Germany Roman ampitheatre ruins

    • From: Karen Philips
    • Description:

      One of our days in Germany, we traveled by car to the city of Trier.  It was a short distance from Steinwenden where we were staying with family and the countrysidewas beautiful on our drive. Trier lies in a low valley near the border of Luxembourg and is an important Mosel wine growing region.  The Moselle River runs through the city and Trier is known as the oldest city in Germany.  It was founded in 16BC by Emperor Augustus and our destination was to see one of the oldest known ruins, the Roman Ampitheatre and Baths.  At the beginning of our walk we passed by the Palace of Trier, a beautiful pink building, viewing the old Roman wall as we walked.  A very interesting and informative visitor center is located at the entrance to the Ampitheatre and a small admission fee is required to walk around the ruins.  Well worth the price, we were able to visit the baths with their underground maze of tunnels that once housed the water heating system, pearing in openings and crevices all over the grounds, the spectacular sight of the Ampitheatre, imagining it in its glory days.  We continued walking to the heart of the main market of Trier, passing by the famous Cathedral of Trier, the oldest church in Germany.  Well worth seeing this church, it was built by Constatine the Great and houses many pieces of art and holy relics, including the robe that Jesus was wearing when he died.  Visually, it is a stunningly beautiful experience.  Next to the Cathedral is St Gangolf Church, a city market church that is said to rival the Trier Cathedral, although this one was closed to the public for refurbishing.  We continued our walk, browsing the streets and viewing the heart of old Trier, seeing the half-timbered houses and buildings, a medieval fountain, and at the end of the city, the Porta Nigra, or the Black Gate.  This is the original Roman built entrance to the city, it dates back to 180AD and is the best preserved structure of its kind north of the Alps.

    • 5 years ago
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  • Venice for first-timer Nov 08 Venice for first-timer Nov 08

    • From: joleighva
    • Description:

      What a first trip to Europe!! Can I go back now please???

      Pros for going in November: cheaper (off-season), Opera season opening, cooler (upper 50s to low 60s during the day and 40s at night), less-crowded, some sales going on for end-of-season

      Cons for going in November: usually cooler but if not the air conditioning has been turned off in most hotels, and if you open your windows at night the bugs can get ya, Acqua Alta starts in November - most of the city is flooded between a few inches and a few feet http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nO9WWaIP46Y&feature=related  which happens randomly, mostly in winter and there are elevated walkways set out in larger walkways and piazzas and it doesn't seem to keep the shops and most attractions from opening, some shops or outdoor restaurants are closed or close early

      Getting there: I finally bugged my ex-Navy husband until he relented to go with me to a few places he'd already been, but I hadn't. We left VA on November 5 and flew to Venice on a red-eye thru JFK in NYC. We were in coach. If I had to do it again, I would break it up more. That was an awfully long (7 hour?) flight where sleep did not come easy. So, book first class, go thru Paris, or take a sleeping pill. Arriving in Venice on the 6th we had decided to take the 12 euro Alilaguna water service to the St. Marks area where our hotel was located. Be advised that this is a separate system than the vaparetto service and has different drop offs. One of the routes takes about an hour, the other 90 minutes. Our hotel had a vaparetto stop out front, but the Alilaguna dropped off about 2 blocks away. Knowing this we were certain to pack as efficiently as possible. Make sure your suitcase is not too heavy and has functioning wheels, cause even the 'flat' places can be difficult to get over, let alone the bridges. You can also take taxis or busses to Piazzale Roma if you're staying in that area, or the train if you're in that area.

      Hotel:We chose the Monaco Hotel & Grand Canal for three reasons: proximity to vaparetto service, central location, and decent price. The two blocks we dragged our luggage were relatively easy, though you can pay 90 euro (plus tip) for a water taxi (up to 6 people and their luggage) from the airport and never have to touch your luggage again as they drop you off into the lobby. The hotel was lovely and had a pricey though fabulous restaurant right on the Grand Canal. It is on a street of designer boutiques, and while the lobby and hallways are quite modern, the rooms retain the Venetian furnishings that remind you where you are. We paid 250 euros for a superior double which was essentially a suite. They do have canal view rooms, but they are 600 euros or more a night...no thank you. Also, there is an ATM NEXT DOOR, which could not have been more convenient to get euros. The only complaint I had was the bed was hard. However, the soaking tub in the huge, all marble bathroom MORE than made up for that. Also, there may be language barriers existing here, so call or email your prospective hotel prior to booking. In this hotel, a single is ONE bed, a 'double' is TWO beds and all may be queen sized or may only be twin. So check.

      Getting around: I brought a pocket sized laminated map I had bought at a bookstore at home. That WAS helpful, in finding the general area we wanted to go to. Especially if you speak little Italian. Memorize these words "Bonjourno!" (bon-JOR-no) which is "Good day!" and used as you would Hello, "Grazie" (grrr-at-zi) "thank you" use it often and with feeling, and "Dov e" (dO-vay) emphasis on the 'O' which is "Where is?" and follow it with the name of what you're looking for. They will serve you well, and you can get around quite well with only these words.

      Walking:There are signs on the ends of buildings (occasionally) that say things like "ACCADEMIA ---> " And can be as confusing as helpful sometimes. I personally love the ones that have San Marco with arrows pointing BOTH ways. But I found that from around 8 AM to 9 PM, if you watched, you could see snaking lines of people following certains routes, and those routes were usually in the direction you wanted to go, especially if you were going to a landmark or near one. Look up occasionally and check for signs on the corners of buildings to make sure you're going in the right direction. If you need something off the beaten path, you may have to ASK *gasp* a Venetian. Generally, I found most to be quite helpful when I started off in their language. "Scuzi, dov e  San Marco?" (roughly, very roughly, Excuse me, where is Saint Marks?) Most will act short or bored with you, because you are the twelfth tourist this morning who has asked, but some will surprise you and be quite amiable, even speak to you in english if they know it.

      Boating: Tronchettos ONLY go directly across the Grand Canal, in place of Bridges, and you may have to stand up in it's canoe-like space with many others, like sardines. Hubby had to try it. I walked down and took a Vaporetto. If you'll be there for more than a day and will take a Vaparetto more than twice a day, buy the pass (right there at the airport OR at the vaparetto dock) it'll be more economical. Make sure your map has the Vaparetto stops on it. You will be grateful, and you feet will thank you. If you don't have a map, you can get a photocopied one from your hotel lobby.


      First day itinerary starting at approx 1 PM...

      Accademia: We went here first. Walked to the Accademia Bridge which I took a minimum of 100 pictures from. There's a cute little restaurant just to your left after you exit the bridge, and we stopped there and had lunch. Venetian style pizza and beer. The food was good, the view, sitting right there next to the Grand Canal, was AMAZING! Really made us feel we had arrived in Venice. The Accademia itself is full of mostly medieval era religious art from paintings to tapestries to accoutrements. I'd rate it an 8, but def not one I need to go back to. It took us about an hour at a lope. I did find the paintings of the old Doges, elected rulers of Venice, painted into scenes of the crucifixtion next to Mary and others quite amusing. If you're into religious art, add an hour.

      Friari Church: A definate 10! We walked here from the Accademia within 10 minutes. We had added this to our itenerary on the advice of a friend. I wasn't prepared for what we found. First, from the outside, the church doesn't look like much. But after you pay your 3 euros each, you enter the church on the side. It's bigger than it looked. You walk to the middle and to your left is a huge choir area. As you walk around or thru it, you realize that there is not one nave but three, all of which are incredibly beautiful. Make sure you take a seat, and take it all in. There are huge, priceless works of art everywhere. There are crypts of medieval rich people in the walls. It's fascinating. A DEFINATE DON'T MISS!

      Rialto Bridge: Made sure to hit this just as it was getting dark. During the day a 9, at night a 10. All the lights off the Grand Canal were amazing. The Bridge is lined on both sides with tourist-type shops. There are alot of the same glass objects here. However, it is also the cheapest place to buy glass (prices are at least 1/3 more in San Marco square shops). Make sure you inspect your purchases well before buying cause few give refunds, even after 5 minutes. The shops continue down onto the lanes leading from the bridge. Be advised tho that most of the shops close early in the off season, so by 8 or 9 pm, most of them are closed. But that's okay, cause just strolling along the streets and over the tiny connecting bridges back to our hotel was unbeleivable. Venice is truly different at night than during the day. In the best possible way.

      We were fine with turning in early that night since we had little sleep the night before!

      Second day intinerary:

      Murano: A 10 for me, prob an 8 for you. The next morning at 8:30 am, we took the FREE MURANO TOUR (there AND back, "running every 30 minutes") thru our hotel. I'm a glass artist, and there's nowhere I'd rather be than glass heaven. Fortunately we knew what we were in for. Here's how it works: your hotel has a deal with a factory (there are several) on Murano. The water taxi picks you up and takes you to their dock (don't forget a few euro tip for the boat guy), where you're met by a 'personal tour guide' aka 'personal glass pusher' and taken into the furnace room where you watch a 'glass master' working on a 'masterpiece'. Well lemme tell ya, if that was a glass master, I'm a purple pig. That was a demo man, an apprentice at the most, probably making only the most basic of the trinkets sold in the cheap glass store. Next to the pieces straight from China, of which there are plenty in Venice. The true masters would never be interupted by gawkers while they're working. But it was amusing to watch the dozen other people there ooohing and ahhing. Heehee. Then you're 'invited' aka 'required' to walk thru their showroom and look at the true masterpieces, none of which are less than several hundred or several thousand euros. I LOVED THIS PART. Rooms and rooms and rooms of gorgeous glass art, most of which was imported, not made at this factory. It took a very knowing look, and an explanation of being a glass artist myself, to elicit from our 'guide' which two rooms of the dozen were truly made in this factory. I would have considered buying a piece from here, however it was all still overpriced. Oh well. So we thanked him for his time, and asked to be shown the door. We did end up tipping him 5 euro, but that was not asked for or necessary. But I would've paid more for a glass museum, so there ya go.

      Head to the canal that parts the sides of Murano and look up and down the way for the Vaparetto stop. If you can see it, you're on the expensive end of Murano. Take the big green bridge and go down the side where you can't see it. I found several lovely gifts for peeps back home, but most shops have all the same crap, so find the ones selling them as close to 10 euro as you can get. If you want a nice vase, bowl or plate of a decent size, don't spend more than a 100 euro unless it's excellent quality or larger than normal.

      Now, here's where we made our first mistake. We didn't allow enough time for me to wander in paradise and get all the gifts I was needing. BTW, don't let them talk you into the glass bottle openers unless they will be for display only. They don't work and fall apart if used. If you want something cheap peeps can actually use, go for a letter opener, and expect to spend 15 to 20 euro on it...12 if you're really lucky, or the glass bottle stoppers for no more than 12 euros. And don't be afraid to try to make a deal, especially if you're not having it shipped or you're buying multiples. I found six bottle stoppers for 12 euro each, and all I had to say was "Do you offer discounts for several?" and Voila! I had six for 50 euro!

      Now for our second mistake. We beleived the 'every 30 minutes return'. Uhhh no. Try an hour and a half. We were late meeting our friends who flew in that day and were staying in our hotel. In the future, we'll take the vaparetto back. And mark my words, i will go back!!!

      So, my suggestion for murano is GO! Go early before it gets crowded. Use the FREE boat ride from the hotel to save you a vaparetto ride and get you in some cool showrooms and to see how they make the glass. DON'T feel pressured to buy anything. And if you do see something you can't do without, know you're paying an elevated price for it and try to get them as low as possible. Shop on the cheaper side, away from the vaparetto stop, then use the Vaperetto to get back so you do it in a timely manner.

      We caught up with our friends who were eating lunch without us on the Grand Canal, and went into St. Marks for the afternoon.

      St. Marks Area: Thanks to an arch at the opposite end of St Marks from the Basilica, we had only a block and a half to the square. Be advised, due to the influx of cruise ship passengers and other day-trippers, St Marks is often quite packed after about 9 AM. However, we got up early ( 8 am) the next day and were able to get pics with very few peeps, and have it mostly to ourselves.

      Also, if you're going to go into the Basilica, which I highly recommend, in essentially may thru october, there will be a HUGE line to get in, and every third person WILL be a pickpocket. Here's the trick, for every two people you have, take a backpack or tote, filled with crap if ness. They don't allow anything larger than a small purse inside, (which is fine cause you should ASSUME YOU WILL BE PICK-POCKETED) so once you get to the head of the line (sometimes after an hour and a half wait) they will send you round the corner to check your bag (free) and get a white head-of-line ticket in return for two people. So why wait in the line to start with? Instead, walk past the Basilica on the left, past the lion, and the first street you come to on the left, turn in. The second door on the right is the check in area. Thank you Rick Steves for that suggestion. DO NOT MISS ST MARKS BASILICA! Go directly to the head of the line, wave your white ticket and they will send you to the counter to pay. BUY THE PASS THAT INCLUDES THE MUSEO Di SAN MARCO, http://www.museosanmarco.it/index_eng.bsm it is up a narrow flight of stairs that will give you the best workout EVER, and handicapped of ANY kind will not be able to be accomodated, but it soooo worth it. They have the original brass horses, an inside balcony you can look out into St Marks from, and the most amazing outdoor balcony you can see the whole square from. Take your camera! Allow one hour for the Basilica and 45 minutes for the museum, depending on how much gazing you do from the outside balcony.

      Tip for the Campenielle, the huge tower just opposite the Basilica (yes there is an elevator). The view is amazing, but DO NOT go up near the top of the hour...it IS a bell tower, and the bells DO ring on the hour. You will be deaf for the rest of the day.

      The building to the left of the Campeneille is the Correr Museum. I'd rate it a 7, BUT if you buy the museum pass there, you get into the Doge's Palace for free essentially, or vice versa. Plus you don't have to wait in line for the Palace. You can even buy them online before you go and include ALL the museums or just those. http://www.tickitaly.com/galleries/museums-venice-italy.php     DON'T MISS THE DOGE'S PALACE! IT IS AMAZING!! Truly incredible. The entrance is at the end of the building across from the water. Allow yourself at least two hours for this. Really. It also includes walking onto the Bridge of Sighs and going into the dungeons. There's also a special tour on the above site you can pay for. I've heard from a friend it's awesome.

      We then took our friends back to the Rialto Bridge, stopping to shop on the way. We had some dinner there at a restaurant the hotel got kickbacks from, but was good anyway. If you can barely communicate with the waiter, you're in the right place. The food will be authentic. Then we wandered, arm-in-arm bu couple, lazily around the San Polo district until we were tired and chose to head back to our hotel. At no time did I feel unsafe, even though I kept alert for it, and we stuck to large streets and not alleyways. The Venetians eat late and there are lots of restaurants with outside tables on the larger streets. Only once did I catch a young man behind us for longer than most would follow us, since we were walking slowly. And as we passed a storekeeper sweeping up outside, I saw him smack the guy square in the chest with a broom and start telling him off. So, there are more Venetians looking out for you than there are looking to hurt you. But don't tempt fate.

      The following morning we ladies returned to St Marks for shopping...mostly window shopping. BUT I did find an excellent deal on a millifiore pendant light that was perfect for my kitchen. I greated the storekeeper with a sunny "Bonjourno!" and he smiled and came over immediately and asked in english if he could help us find something. In nearly better english than I. I perused his excellent selection until a horrid woman came rushing into the shop literally screaming "ENGLISH?? ENGLISH??" And the lovely gentleman who had been so kind to me suddenly looked quite confused and acted as if he knew little. I was standing there with my mouth hanging open as she spoke louder and louder as if it would make him understand. She was definately American. I was apalled. He managed to find what she was asking for, charged her twice what it had been marked, and she was leaving when I showed his employee which one I wanted, then excused myself leaving my friend there for a moment. I caught the woman a few steps away from the shop. I told her I knew she was probably in a hurry, looking for her last trinkets as I was, but that going into a store screaming "ENGLISH!" and talking loudly to make people understand was rude. And if she wanted to get a better reception and therefore better prices, she may try speaking in a normal tone and remembering that anyone who spoke english to us was being KIND, that we were in THEIR country. And that I didn't think we'd find Venetians coming to our country without knowing english and expecting people to know italian. And I walked away. She huffed off, but maybe she heard me. Little did I know that because we were in the arch there, everything I said was heard in the store. So suddenly the pendant I was expecting to pay 140 euros for had become 100. Huh. Well GRAZIE!!!

      After a half-hour long political discussion with another shop keeper (it was less than a week after Obama was elected) we joined the men who had tried to balance our spending by going to the now free Correr museum (hubby's rating of 7) and picked up our luggage at the hotel. We stepped out of the lobby into our private water taxi, never touched our luggage again, and were taken straight to our cruise ship around 1 pm. Which was really the easiest embarkation EVER. But that's for the next blog.

      WHEN I go back to Venice:  I will definately stay for more than two nights. I could use an entire day just strolling around arm in arm with my husband, taking in the sights and sound of Venice. Will see the Doge's Palace, the Friari Church and the Rialto bridge again, taking our time this time. I truly can't put into words how gorgeous their pink sunsets are as night settles over the city, with the water lapping at the edges of everything and the bells tolling over it all. It will take your breath away. I hope you'll go. And I hope this blog can help ya know what to do when you get there!

    • Blog post
    • 5 years ago
    • Views: 1237
  • Antarctic adventure Antarctic adventure

    • From: bberwyn
    • Description:

      Penguins ... but no polar bears!Austral sunrise

      Sipping a Beagle beer at the Banana Bar in Ushuaia,Leigh and I contemplate the trip ahead. If everything we've heard about the Drake Passage is true, we figure this may be our last pint for quite a while. 

      We're about to board the M/V Professor Molchanov for a 10-day adventure cruise to Antarctica, and the formidable weather of the Southern Ocean is on our minds. Unimpeded by land, the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans all mingle in a circumpolar maelstrom of waves, current and wind. It can be rough — very rough, according to the guidebooks and blogs of previous Antarctic voyagers. Nearly everyone gets seasick during the crossing, we read. Alcohol may not be the best idea, but despite the warnings, we chug the last of our brews and head for the pier.

      Ushuaia HuskyOur short stay in Ushuaia has been exceedingly pleasant. Ana, Marcello and the rest of the staff at the Posada del Fin del Mundo have made us feel completely at home. On the first day, we share the cozy breakfast nook with several researchers who just returned from Antarctica. We eagerly listen to their stories, hardly believing that soon we'll be floating among icebergs.

      The gritty little harbor town puts on a clean frock for tourists, dressing up its main street with shiny souvenir stands, electronic shops and internet cafés. But what we enjoy the most is hanging out with the many well-behaved and friendly dogs that each patrol a section of sidewalk. Every morning, there's a parade of canines outside the posada, all wearing collars and purposefully trotting down the street toward some unknown destination or rendezvous. We befriend an especially cute mutt living just down the street for our lodge. He runs the length of his fenced-in yard each time we walk down Rivadavia to reach the waterfront.

      Ushuaia HuskyToothy crags decorated with ice form a dramatic backdrop. There's even a small ski area at the Martial Glacier, near the head of a heavily forested drainage just a few miles from downtown. Lupines, Shasta daisies and rose bushes are still blooming in the surprisingly warm maritime climate. Strolling the commercial district and residential neighborhoods, we find a pleasing hodgepodge of houses, from tiny wooden A-frames reminiscent of Icelandic huts, to new wood-framed homes built with brightly painted corrugated metal. 

      The local history museum tells the story of the early explorers who first traveled these waters in their quest to circumnavigate the globe: Sir Francis Drake, Captain James Cook and Ferdinand Magellan are all among the notables who sailed the maze of fjords and headlands of the archipelago at the tip of South America. 

      After sending a few postcards, we visit a waterfront fishmonger to buy portions of seafood salad studded with chunks of apple. It's made from king crabs. The spiny, long-legged denizens of deep southern ocean waters are starting to move south closer to Antarctic shorelines as currents and water temperatures shift under the influence of climate change. It’s a first taste, literally, of what we’re going to learn about how global warming is affecting Antarctica, and especially the Antarctic Peninsula, where temperatures have warmed five times faster than the rest of the planet during the past few decades.

      Drake PassageWanderer

      Our first day at sea is mellow. We make good speed, heading almost due south and averaging 12 knots, with huge albatrosses and petrels swerving and swooping alongside to keep us company. Trying out a borrowed 300 millimeter lens keeps me busy for hours, as I try to steady myself, while keeping the horizon straight and focusing on the speeding birds at the same time. Finally, I manage to snap a half-way decent shot of a petrel skimming so close to the cobalt-blue water that it's wingtip touches the surface.

      "Mr. Drake is sleeping," says Russian Captain Nikolay Parfenyuk. "He is not hungry today. Mrs. Drake is saying, hello to all of you," the captain jokes. 

      M/V Professor MolchanovThe Molchanov is a Finnish-built ice-hardened vessel previously used by Russia's polar research program. The ship is now leased to Oceanwide Expeditions for tourist expeditions on both ends of the Earth. In most conditions, the bridge is open to passengers, so we're able watch Parfenyuk and his crew of officers plot a course through the Southern Ocean and scan the radar screen for errant icebergs.

      The swell increases during the second night, tossing a few chairs around our cabin. Evelin Lieback, the ship's doctor, hands out motion-sickness patches to several passengers, and a number of places remain empty in the dining room during the evening meal. Leigh and I don't succumb to the dizziness at all. Instead, we enjoy the rocking and rolling in our comfortable berth and take in the exhilarating spray of wind and sea foam as often as we can.Fin whale

      But by noon the next day, it's smooth sailing once again. Just as the kitchen crew starts serving desert, expedition leader Jan Belger says whales have been sighted. We all drop our forks and rush on deck, marveling as the gentle giants flash their dorsals and blow clouds of mist into the gold-tinted sunset. Fin whales are the second-largest cetaceans. Males in the southern hemisphere grow up to 88-feet long and weigh 70 to 80 tons.

      For more information on the ecology of fin whales visit the IUCN Red List web site.

      The Molchanov is full for the voyage, 52 passengers in all, with a large contingent of jolly Dutch. There are a few Germans, a couple of Israelis, a well-traveled couple from South Africa and some Brits. the passel of Americans includes eight from our own home state of Colorado as well as a few Midwesterners. One young traveler from California is making the most of the recent economic malaise, using his severance package to finance a world trip, including the jaunt to Antarctica, booked last-minute in Ushuaia at a significant discount.Two of the experienced guides are Dutch, the third is a French biologist, and our cooks are Malaysian, so the good ship is bit like a floating United Nations. 


      The big milestone for this part of the trip is the Antarctic Convergence, where cold water flowing northward from Antarctica mixes with warmer water from the adjacent oceans. The turbulent upwelling is zone of high biological productivity, where phytoplankton nurtures vast swarms of krill, which in turns is food for whales and seabirds. The convergence is part of a circumpolar current — the world's largest, carrying 130 million cubic meters of water per second, or 100 times the volume of all the world's rivers combined. The current delineates a discrete body of water and a unique ecologic region. In 2000, the International Hydrographic Organization designated the waters south of the current as the Southern Ocean.

      StormyIt's still a productive life zone, but increased solar ultraviolet radiation through the Antarctic ozone hole in recent years has reduced phytoplankton productivity by as much as 15 percent and damaged the DNA of some fish. Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing has depleted stocks of some species unique to the area, including Patagonian and Antarctic toothfish, sold commercially as Chilean sea bass.

      There are also concerns about how climate change might affect the circumpolar current, which is known to be important to regulating the world's climate, but those potential impacts are poorly understood.

      Antarctic SoundIce floes

      South of the convergence zone, the sea is still. The ship slows to maneuver between giant ice floes and we awaken to a magical world of icebergs tinged lipstick-pink and tangerine-orange by a spectacular Antarctic sunrise. Only a few passengers are awake and perched on the bow of the Molchanov to watch a group of penguins arch through the water like mini-dolphins. They're powerful swimmers, using their wings to propel themselves under water with flying motions. 

      "They're trying to fly," says  expedition leader Jan Belgers. Even though the birds gave up the sky for the deep sea eons ago, they still have some genetic memory of what it must be like to soar through the air, Belgers explains.

      OrcasLater, we spot a pod of orcas cruising between the fantastically sculpted bergs. Leopard seals lounge on flat floes, looking fat and happy after feasting on this year's crop of penguin chicks.

      Paulet Island

      Our first landing in Antarctica is on Paulet Island, a small circular chunk of volcanic rock that's home to a major adelie penguin colony during the Austral spring and early summer. In early March (late summer in the southern hemisphere) the penguins are mostly gone but the remains of their rookery, in the form of pungent pink guano, was still evident. The acrid smell wafts across the water as we approach the shore in Zodiacs and getting across the beach to the uplands involved a hike through the smelly turf.

      A few straggling adelies remained, along with dozens of fur seals lounging on ice floes and along the beach, along with a group of blue-eyed shags, the only members of the cormorant family to venture to Antarctica proper.Paulet Island

      We hiked to the remains of a stone hut that served as shelter for Captain Carl Anton Larsen and the crew of his ship, the Antarctic. Larsen, a whaler, was exploring the region in 1903 when his ship was trapped and crushed in the ice offshore, leading to one of the many epic stories of polar survival. Part of Larsen's party traveled over the ice by sledge seeking rescue. Eventually, all the men but one were rescued by an Argentine vessel. A simple wooden cross set back from the beach marks the grave of Ole Kristian Wennersgaard, a 22-year-old sailor who died on the island in pursuit of science and exploration.

      Dundee Island

      Although more and more people are visiting Antarctica these days (up to 40,000 annually), it's still a remote tourism location compared to other hot spots on the global travel circuit. Our second stop is at  Petrel Cove along the shore of Dundee Island. It's part of a group of islands known collectively as Graham Land, closer to South America than any other part of Antarctica. It was named by Scottish whalers in 1893 and served as the take-off point for American pilot Lincoln Ellsworth when he made the first trans-Antarctic flight in 1935.

      When we got back to Summit County, I did some research on Petrel Cove to try and find out how many people have been there. A list maintained by a group that monitors environmental impacts shows that, during the past 15 years, only two commercial trips with a total of 107 visitors have landed at the remote site.

      A few metal buildings, painted rust-red, are left over from an Argentinian settlement. Although it was supposedly a science station, our expedition leaders dismissively calls it a political site, established to help the South American country bolster territorial claims in Antarctica. 

      Under existing international law, the continent belongs to nobody and is managed for the purposes of scientific research through a consultative process. Still, several countries, including the United States, maintain that they have the right to exercise those claims in the future. With potential for vast reserves of precious resources, including offshore oil and gas, some observers think it's only a matter of time before some countries try to assert some level of sovereignty.

      Fur sealHundreds of fur seals, along with a few Weddell seals, lounge on a broad beach covered with red seaweed. Clumps of miniature icebergs melt in the warm days of late summer. A large glacier on the island appears to be in retreat, crumbling at our feet. It feels like just a few days since the last ice age ended. 


      Brown Bluff and Deception IslandGentlemen Gentoos

      Setting foot on mainland Antarctica is a big step for some of the Molchanov's passengers, who are visiting their seventh, and final, continent. The brown basalt rocks are part of an unusual geologic formation called a Tuya, formed when a volcano erupts beneath a continental ice sheet. Whether it's our seventh continent or not, we all agree it's the most spectacular site so far. Ice floes fill the bay for as far as we can see, and the curved beach is densely populated by friendly gentoo penguins and ornery fur seals, who protect their turf by grunting and lunging awkwardly when a tourist wanders too close.

      Deception Island, AntarcticaThe next day we visit Deception Island, anchoring in a small cove near the crumbling ruins of a whaling station. The bay is almost completely encircled by glacier-draped ridges, with only a half-mile wide opening to the sea. It's one of the few places in the world where an ocean-going vessel can sail into the water-filled hollow of a caldera, the collapsed center of a volcano. The ice on the slopes is colored black with the ash and soot of the most recent eruption which was just a few decades ago. Geologists keep a close watch on the island to monitor for potential eruptions in the future.

      The rotting sheds and rusted metal tanks that once stored whale oil are grim reminders of a not-so-distant past, when men slaughtered tens of thousands of the giant mammals at sea, then dragged them to the stations to be rendered for oil, flayed for meat and carved up for their by-products, including baleen to make combs and corsets. Thankfully, Antarctic waters have been designated as a refuge for whales. Several species that were hunted to near extinction are making a comeback.

      Ice ArchWe hike up to the rim of the caldera and across the ash-covered glacier to reach a chinstrap penguin colony at Bailey Head. On moss-covered ground, improbably distant from the sea, thousands of the birds are molting. In some places, the feathers have piled so deep it reminds us of drifts of snow back in our hometown of Frisco, Colorado. We're amazed that the waddling birds can climb this far up a steep mountainside. At first glance, they look like precariously balanced bowling pins, but on closer observation, we see that they're sure-footed and steady walkers.

      South Shetlands

      Our last day in Antarctic waters is spent around the South Shetland Islands. In the morning it's drizzly and cold when we stop at Half Moon Island, where fur seals rule the beach. A chinstrap penguin rookery thrives in on the rocky crags above the beach. 

      Penguins are the iconic species of the frozen continent, but the simple and prolific food chain in the Antarctic region is under the gun from global warming. In the last half century, winter temperatures on the Antarctic Peninsula — the skinny spit of land sticking up toward South America — have climbed five times faster than the global average. Polar conditions have given way to a moist maritime climate, with huge impacts for the birds and mammals of the region, all of which depend on krill for sustenance.Charts

      Krill, a Norwegian word for "small fry," refers to tiny shrimp-like crustaceans found in great abundance in Antarctic waters. The krill feeds on tiny free-floating plants called phytoplankton. In turn, the krill is eaten in mass quantities by whales, sea birds, seals and penguins. 

      But changing wind patterns linked to global warming are altering the system. Researchers in the area are documenting changes in the distribution and density of phytoplankton in the ocean around the Antarctic Peninsula. In the March 13 edition of the journal Science, Rutgers University biologists reported that those changes may help explain declines of some penguin species in the area. Some of their research is documented in a paper, available online at www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/323/5920/1470.

      Adelie penguin populations, adapted to a colder climate, are declining. Warmer-weather chinstrap penguins have become more numerous and displaced adelies in some parts of the peninsula and on surrounding islands. The research is based on satellite images showing changes in ocean color, temperature, sea ice distribution and wind. It's supported by data collected at surface by University of Hawaii researchers  who are currently working in the seas around the peninsula and maintaining a blog of their voyage at http://uhmanoa-antarctic-research.blogspot.com/.

      Aitcho IslandA final landing on Aitcho Island gives us a glimpse of an elephant seal and a close-up look at hundreds of bleached whale bones littering the beach. A giant petrel is feeding chicks in a nest, and fur seals frolic on mossy ground. Our time in Antarctica is nearly done. Climbing the ladder from the Zodiac on to the Molchanov one last time, we stow our gear and prepare for the voyage home.


      Check out the Posada del Fin del Mundo at www.posadafindelmundo.com.ar/.

      Information on Antarctic voyages with Oceanwide Expeditions is at www.oceanwide-expeditions.com/.

    • Blog post
    • 5 years ago
    • Views: 6086
  • A Big Weekend in the Big Apple A Big Weekend in the Big Apple

    • From: BobSullivan
    • Description:

      My travel log will give a colorful glimpse of our family’s first ever weekend in New York City with practical tips for your own family’s Gotham Get-away.
      Thursday, July 3rd - Start Spreading the NewsDSCF2338.JPG

      Reunions are great, especially when you meet loved ones in some new exciting location. Such was the case over the 2008 Fourth of July weekend for the Sullivan Family (Bob, Rhonda, and Joanna) traveling to New York City to visit our eldest daughter, Elaina, during her storybook summer as a fashion intern at Kate Spade (KS) in Manhattan. (Picture an “Ugly Betty’, minus the ugly.)

      Delta Airlines carried the three southern Sullivans safely and comfortably from Atlanta, Georgia’s massive Hartsfield-Jackson Airport (ATL) to the much smaller - but conveniently located - Newark, New Jersey Airport (EWR). Upon arrival, we caught a cab to our budget-wise hotel in Secaucus, NJ, a veritable “stones throw” from the island of Manhattan. Our cabbie, apparently the only NASCAR driver from Ghana, drove us to our hotel in a New York minute. Consequently, I could have missed some of the scenic beauty on the NJ side of the Hudson. To be fair to Newarkians, I did have my eyes closed most of the trip.  

      A Dollar Saved is a Dollar Earned

      Our planned “family reunion” was to begin with the “something past-noon” arrival of our little fashion maven, Elaina, meeting us at the Hilton Garden Inn (HGI), Secaucus, NJ - our base of operations. This is a very nice hotel if your big city budget is not that big. While not directly on the island of Manhattan, the daily price (about half the typical cost of a New York hotel) makes the bus transit trips to and from the hotel well worth it.

      We took a short and inexpensive bus trip departing from a bus stop located right in front of our hotel. I wore comfortable shoes and brought a backpack to store maps, cameras, snack and a water bottle or two. The 2:15 PM bus #190 took us through the Lincoln Tunnel under the Hudson River. The bus stopped in Times Square at the NJ Transit Station in Manhattan. Mental Picture: Envision a giant ant farm cube, the part of the ants played by myriad humans traveling here and there in the multi-level farm. We walked toward daylight only to find many more of the ants had spilled out and were roaming 42nd Street.

      As the daughters (20 and 17) led the way through the milling crowd, a momentary flashback pictures them still as 7 and 4. I’m tempted for second to invoke the old “buddy-system” and command them to hold each others hands, but I squelch the paternal instinct. Instead, I bravely squeeze Rhonda’s hand for her/my reassurance. On we go.

      Island Survival Rule #1 - Seek Food

      Ray's Pizza I recalled reading that one of the first things you should do if you ever end up on an island is to locate a source of food. My keenly-honed survival instincts lead us to famous “Ray’s Pizza” on 7th Avenue. Bob gets the Itallian Sausage, Rhonda gets Ray's Special and adventurous Joanna gets the "white" pizza. Gastric Note: White pizza is edible only when covered with a lot of marinara sause. The Epicurean Elaina bows out and pops into the tres chic "bistro" on the corner and brings back a "twigs and branches bowl" (can you put the dressing on the side?) To each, her own! Full and refreshed, we hit the streets to see uptown Manhattan.

      Island Survival Rule #2 - Seek Shelter

      We continued northward until we approached the trees of Central Park. We turned right and passed Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. A bit further east and we passed The Oak Bar, where I understand Frank Sinatra’s entourage would hang out till "The Wee Small Hours of the Morning". Just before the corner at 5th Avenue, we spotted a good place to stay if you’re "Home Alone and Lost in New York", The Plaza Hotel. Slightly intimidated, we nevertheless ascended the red carpeted stairs behind intrepid Elaina and passed through the elegantly chandeliered lobby. We stopped and spoke with Grace, the aptly-named hostess at the Palm Restaurant. Grace remembered Elaina from her late-night visit with some fashion friends after an upscale cosmetics event the previous week. Behind Grace in the center of the restaurant is a harpist, pleasantly strumming "My Funny Valentine". Everything seemed “pleasant” at The Plaza Hotel, clearly their intent.  I tell myself that at the Hilton Garden Inn, I will get a perfectly pleasant complimentary breakfast in the morning, something the Plaza guests won’t. We took photos of some beautiful floral arrangements - which probably cost more than our combined Delta airfare – and we saunter out, pleasantly.

      The Plaza's Palm Restaurant

      The Plaza Lights


      "Conspicuous Consumption Galore"

      Outside on the sidewalk, our Gotham-guide, Elaina, paused and withdrew from her large purse a pair of Kate Spade sandals with hot pink seahorses on the top. “In this part of town”, she explained, “I’ve learned that store people size you up by looking down at your feet.” She buries her walking shoes into her large KS purse and we trotted over next door to Bergdorf Goodman (BG). [Unofficial BG’s Motto: “Our prices will melt the stripe off your Platinum Plus card while it's still in your purse.”] As we breeze through the store past a rack of $500 scarves, I watch more than one impeccably dressed sales associate smile politely and nod at Elaina. As the last Sullivan in the procession passed, their eyes raised to see who is wearing size 10 running shoes. Their perfunctory smile faded slightly when they get to me and my backpack. They quickly glanced at the next, more promising prospect. I reassure myself by remembering that “All that’s gold doesn’t glitter” and I speed up to catch up with the seahorses. 

      Tiffanys is a Diamond's Best Freind ...................... Tiffany's is a Diamonds Best FriendI felt better once we left BG’s and we joined the sidewalk herd moving down 5th Avenue. Across the street, Louis Vuitton’s electra-color window display seductively gleamed at us as if to say, “Mortgage your house and I’ll make you a nice deal on a purse”. We ignore the implied offer and press onward. Next door, the stately house of Tiffany whispered demurely to us like Zsa Zsa Gabor. “Dahhhling, ve both know you vant me. Vy dun’t you come in.” The accent got us, so ve vent in.  Needing a rest, I chose to let the ladies wander around without me. I parked myself inside at the front of the store on a green velvet bench to comfortably wait for the sparkley-eyed girls to return. When the girls returned we exited with the same net worth we walked in with, “Whew”!


                                                                                              Hey Donald! Sorry We Missed Ya

      Trump TowersTrump TowersWe then popped in to Trump Towers to say “Hey!” to “The Donald” and his current wife, but somehow we missed them.  Feeling slightly snubbed, we changed direction and strolled northward, further into the “Upper East Side.” This area is, by some accounts, the most expensive residential property in New York, nay the Universe. If you walk along 5th Avenue far enough, you will come to the gargantuan Metropolitan Museum of Art (“the Met”). Still further and you come to the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Guggenheim Art Museum (currently under renovation). Hint: You can walk into the Guggenheim free of charge and see the main lobby display, if you want to only get the sense of the place (and use the rest rooms).  





      NYC July 3 4 5 6 2008 172.jpg

      I'm Late, I'm Late...

      We continued our foot-tour by trekking through Central Park (The Park). Elaina detours briefly to show Joanna, a big Lewis Carroll fan, the Park’s brass sculpture of "Alice in Wonderland". This beautiful sculpture is just north of the toy sail boat pond seen in the movie, "Stuart Little". In The Park, Rhonda and I get momentarily acquainted with a park bench. Behind us I noticed a gathering group of women donning grass skirts for a Polynesian dance practice. You will see just about anything in “The Park”.





      imagine.jpgIn a little while the family assembled again and we continued our now westward progress. We pass the gorgeous Bethesda Fountain and stop for a few pictures. Before leaving the Park into the Upper West Side, we hear 60’s music as we approach Strawberry Fields, a park tribute to John Lennon. The focal point of this 70’s Beatle shrine is a black and white tile mosaic circle with the word “IMAGINE” in the center. We saw some “fruits” in Strawberry Fields, but they were definitely not edible. Most of the shrine-dwellers appeared to be former flower children whose blossom had long since fallen off the stem. The most colorful of these was a 50-ish looking guy who had a hand-made cardboard sign which read: “Why lie, I need beer (…and love).” He got neither from us. Like I said, you’ll see just about anything in “The Park”.



      If Walls Could Talk The Dakota                          Leaving the Park, we pass by “The Dakota,” a posh behemoth residential facility where John Lennon once lived. The stately Dakota was so named because at the time of its construction - before the Dakota Territories became states - people mocked its remoteness on Manhattan as being constructed in the "Dakota Territories". This place is about a city block wide and has a drive-in motor car courtyard. It also has gas lamps which gives it an "old world" look.




      "Now That's Italian"

      Hungry again, we cross Columbus Street in search of a restaurant and reach Broadway, the longest street on Manhattan. We decide on Italian food and walk down to a place called Pomodoro’s with its bistro-style sidewalk seating. The owner, Peter, graciously seats us at the perfect sidewalk table under the awning of his restaurant. Soon, a generous plate of warm toasted foccacia bread was served with a side bowl of roasted garlic-infused olive oil and the saltiest green and black olives on the planet (this must help wine sales). Joanna had the Pomodoro (tomato) soup in a “bishop” bread bowl (Kelly Rippa spoke glowingly of this on Live with Regis and Kelly show), Elaina and Rhonda shared a salad for two and I had the mega-bowl of penne pasta with Italian sausage and portobello mushrooms. Dessert temptation is a hard thing to resist, so we share two: Tiramisu and Berries and Cream with a Cappacino. Yum! We thanked Peter for a fabulous meal and set off down Broadway.


      "Trying to Get A HEAD"

      We crossed the street to see the spectacular diamond-shaped lights at Lincoln Center. We Eddie Murphy Headpassed several other impressive buildings as we headed south, the ABC Studios, the Trump International Hotel and the Time-Warner Towers, to name a few. It was dark so we headed further south on 8th Avenue and entered the uber-watted Times Square region. There, we noticed an enormous plastic head of Eddie Murphy, a movie promotion prop the size of a Ryder truck, in the median. People lined up to actually stick their head out of Murphy's nostriles. Yuck!

      The day that started in Atlanta and ended in New York came to a close as we hopped a bus back to the Secaucus HGI, a good place to be if your home alone and lost in New Jersey. 



      Friday, July 4th : Happy Birthday America !

      Having already seen parts of the northern side of NYC, we opted to see lower Manhattan. We had been told by our friendly HGI staff several good places to watch the 4th of July fireworks over the East River after dark. After a terrific, made-to-order egg-white omlette (complimentary with Hilton Rewards Points), the Sullivan clan caught the next bus to Times Square. There we opted to purchase the 2-day GrayLine Bus Tour package for seeing the various parts of city. [Caveat Emptor: Be cautious in dealing with the besmocked Bus Tour agents that that swarm at Times Square street corners. Know which Tour Option you are purchasing and get a clear explanation of the hop-on, hop-off rules.] This two-day transportation purchase worked out well for us in that we saw far more of the city than we would have otherwise been able to see traveling by foot alone.

      At Brooklyn BridgeSince it was slightly warm, we elected to get on the clear bubble-topped, double-decker bus and cool off while seeing the City. Out of Times Square, the Lower Manhattan Route took us passed The Hotel Pennsylvania, the phone number of which was made famous by the Glen Miller song entitled, “Pennsylvania 65000”. Across the street we saw the Madison Square Garden - OK, the building is “round”, but I always assumed it was square.  We then experienced our own “Miracle on 34th Street” in that we went passed Macy’s (celebrating its 150th year) and did not buy a darn thing. Next, we passed the ever-impressive Empire State Building. The wait to the top is about an hour and it was hazy, so we passed on the Observation Deck tour. We then passed the Garment (Fashion) District where Elaina worked at KS. We also passed by Chelsea and the Greenwich Village areas and through Soho and Tribeca. We passed by Ground Zero, the current crater-like memorial to 9-11 and future home of Freedom Tower. Soon, our tour bus disgorged all its riders in the Financial District. A convenient Starbucks offered us light lunch fare and we refueled looking south at Lady Liberty from comfortable benches along the southern tip of Manhattan in Battery Park.

      A Little Bit Too Much Bronzer Remington - Live

      Heading northward on foot, we walked onto Wall Street, saw the New York Stock Exchange and nearby, the fortress-like, Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The festive sounds and smells of a street festival captured our attention en route to the South Street Seaport and nearby shops. There, Elaina and Joanna posed with a Remington-esque street performer. The seaport on the East River was crowded with holiday tourists, all of whom – it seemed - wanted to board a GrayLine bus. Eventually we boarded a bus and traveled past the Brooklyn Bridge, the Chinatown, Soho, the United Nations building, Rockefeller Center and back at Times Square.


      East River FireworksWe caught a smorgasbord dinner at a Whole Foods store (and restaurant) across from Union Square Park (a good people-watching place). After dinner, we strolled East toward the river. We were directed by New York’s Finest to an on-ramp onto the elevated FDR Drive where we, and a million of our freedom-loving friends, had a commanding view of the three fireworks barges anchored in the East River. Just as we got to the elevated FDR, the police discontinued letting anyone else go up on the ramp. Despite a slight mist in the air, the one-hour fireworks display was incredibly spectacular way to celebrate the nation‘s birthday. Afterward, we hoofed it back up to Times Square and caught our bus to the HGI. ?

      Saturday, July 5thThe Met


      "New York, I'm Glad I MET Ya"

      The misty rain the next morning directed the family to see the Upper Manhattan sights from the comfort of the GrayLine bus. We saw a lot of famous movie and TV settings in this area: When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail and Seinfeld to name a few. We went through Harlem and circled back south on 5th past Daddy Warbucks’ mansion (Little Orphan Annie) just north of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  We toured the Met for a couple of hours while the sky clears above. We saw as much as we can of their ubiquitous rooms, corridors and halls full of priceless art pieces.   


      Carnegie Deli's ReubenI Can't Believe I Ate the Whole Thing

      Later that day we ate at the famous Carnegie Deli. I ordered the open-face Reuben. The truth is, the four of us could have tried to eat the Reuben that I ordered (it was humongous). It tased better than it looks.

      Sandwich Psychology Note: Somewhere beneath the pastrami is a slice of rye bread with a severe inferiority complex.

      Rockefeller's Model
      Afterward, we strolled south and saw Rockefeller Center one more time before catching the bus to the Hilton. This art deco style building is truly beautiful, especially at night. This Freedom weekend, an artist's large metallic replica model of Rockefeller Center was on display in the Center’s courtyard. It was the perfect last impression of our amazing weekend in New York City.

      Sunday, July 6th

      Give My Regards to Broadway

      Our final day together as a family were shared at the Hilton Garden Inn in Secaucus. At noon we catch a cab to EWR and flew back to Atlanta. In six short weeks our fashionable intern would return with a wealth of her own stories and a few handbags to boot.

    • Blog post
    • 6 years ago
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  • Born with Gypsy Shoes: Family Born with Gypsy Shoes: Family Travels on the Amalfi Coast

    • From: donnamia
    • Description:

      My grandma always said that the women in our family were born wearing gypsy shoes, so it doesn’t surprise me that the love of travel has passed on to my children.  I married a man who loves to wander, too, so in June of 2008, six of us from our blended family headed for Italy.  After we visited Rome and Florence, we ended our 2 week trip with a few days on the beautiful Amalfi coast.  My husband Craig and I, as well as our kids Angela, Jack, Sandra and Ian (in ascending order, ages 14-25) rented a manual transmission minivan as we were leaving Florence and headed south on the autostratas A1 and A3, into even more heat and sunshine than the country's unusual heat wave had already afforded us. 

      Amalfi Coast HighwayAfter exiting the autostrata in Caiano, we found our Mapquest directions for Italy left something to be desired.  Fortunately we knew that in order to reach our hotel in the little town of Ravello, we needed to head uphill.  We climbed up and over the beautiful, steep and rugged Lattani Mountain range, second gear all the way, before we then began the descent to the seacoast.  Twenty-five map steps and 40 kilometers later, after too many hairpin turns to count, terrorized by speeding Vespas and wood trucks loaded with logs for the ovens of the local trattorias, we finally crossed over the mountain range.  Switchback curves aren't nearly as fun in a minivan as they are in a sports car.   Take my word for it.  Although the greater size of the minivan, necessary to accommodate the 6 of us with luggage for two weeks, turned out to be an advantage, as its height also provided dizzying, terrifying and absolutely spectacular views over the guardrails. Goats

      We knew we were getting close to our destination when we had to make a sudden stop in the middle of the road to yield to a herd of goats.  Tourists that we are, we grabbed our cameras and hung out the windows to get the shot, while the goatherd gave us his best contemptuous stare over his designer sunglasses.

      We had reserved rooms in Alborgo Torello, a lovely small hotel in Ravello. (http://www.alborgotorello.com - "Al Borgo Torello is a completely renovated building enchanting position where our guests can admire the incomparable view of the Amalfi Coast, from the peacefulness of our garden.") Breakfast at Alborgo Torello Finding it online wasn't nearly as challenging as finding it in real life.  After several stops to ask for help, we ended up dead-ending on a very narrow farm road.  The farmer, his daughter and son-in-law were nice enough to help us through a 15 point turn maneuver without landing us in a ditch, or crunching the fenders on that beast of a van.  We finally found the entrance with the help of a local teenage girl, who simply looked up from where she was standing, pointed at the building on the hill right in front of us, and said, "There."  Oh, no wonder we didn't recognize it!  It really isn't a hotel as such; it is a renovated home that dates back centuries, and it is now a 4 room inn with spectacular views of the coastal village of Minori.  Roberto, the most congenial owner, has decorated the interior of his alborgo with beautiful ceramics from Ceramiche D'Arte, the business owned by his brother-in-law Pascal.  CeramicsIf you go to one of their shops in Ravello and say, "Roberto sent me" you get a big welcome and a very fair deal on their gorgeous ceramics.  Yes, of course we bought some!  (Ravello Limoni Blue, in case you’re curious.)  http://www.ceramichedarte.com/

      After a day of hair-raising driving adventures, we were eager to get out of that van and into our hotel.  Alas, in a simple parallel parking maneuver, Craig introduced the rear fender of the van to the neighbor’s stone wall.  I then became the designated driver for the remainder of the trip, since I have been driving manual transmission vehicles since I was a pup.  (Thanks, Dad.)  The first order of business, after hauling our bags up the 18 irregular stone steps to the front door, was to cool off for a few minutes in the highly efficient air conditioning, and then head to the town center of Ravello, and the Piazza Duomo. 

      We visited Ravello just days before the town’s famous Music Festival, and we were able to watch some of the preparations while avoiding the crowds.  The soundstage was being erected at Villa Rufulo one night as we were having dinner at The Garden Hotel’s restaurant, an outdoor café that overlooked the concert site.  The stage actually hung off the cliff, providing concert-goers with a fantastic visual backdrop of the Mediterranean Ocean to complement the music.  We enjoyed a delightful dinner with lots of fresh seafood, and the waiter presented our check accompanied by glasses of limoncello liqueur for everyone.  Don’t let the stuff fool you – it’s not the innocent glass of lemonade it seems.  There was a lot of giggling at the table once we all polished off those drinks.

      Piazza in RavelloOn other visits to the village, we strolled about the piazza mingling with the local families, and eavesdropped on brides planning destination weddings in Amalfi.  We agonized over which ceramics pattern to buy. We explored every little alley, footpath, and stairway we could find, and were rewarded with spectacular views, hidden gardens, vineyards, and ancient churches.
      Each night we straggled back to the inn, a mere shadow of the enthusiastic party that had departed that morning.  Then after a good night’s sleep, we reassembled in the garden for a fabulous breakfast, served by the unfailingly charming Roberto.  He provided cup after cup of cappuccino, which was a delicious accompaniment to the fresh croissants, fruit, cheese, coffeecake, and yogurt unlike anything we had ever eaten in America.  As we enjoyed our meal each morning, shaded by an ancient olive tree, we admired the view of the village of Torello, and the surrounding lemon groves. 

      View from our hotel, Alborgo Torello
      We appreciated the fact that we were staying in a neighborhood, rather than a more touristy place, as it afforded us a chance to observe daily life. One morning the harvesters were out in full force, picking the huge lemons, piling them into large plastic crates, and then hauling them out of the groves on their backs with only pieces of foam to cushion their muscles.  Lemon HarvestAnother morning, we heard an odd clip-clopping sound, and hurried to the garden rail to discover its source.  We were amazed to see a small mule train descending the steps on the hillside just below our garden.  Each animal was carrying metal saddlebags loaded with renovation debris.  The builders used mules since large construction vehicles would not have been able to pass through the narrow passageways.  This struck us as such a contrast to the tower cranes being used to erect high-rise buildings, less than a mile away.
      Torello: Mule TrainOn our adventure trips back and forth to Amalfi, we quickly learned that the traffic signals seemingly without reason in the middle of nowhere indicated when the road became a one way.  If the light turned red in our direction, that meant that several dozen compact cars, buses and scooters piloted by hell-bent-for-leather drivers were headed our way on the narrow road, so we needed to stay put until we got the green signal.  This could take a while, as we learned when the truckful of workers in front of us unloaded, and stretched out on the grass for a cigarette and cellphone break.

      Amalfi is a sparkling, very popular resort town, and 95 degree temperatures didn't keep the crowds away.  There were hordes of smiling tourists strolling, shopping, eating, lounging, sweating, picture-taking, sunbathing.  Amalfi Coast BeachWe parked the kids at the beach for only 10 euros per person per day, umbrella and lounge chair included, and headed into town to explore.  Craig is really good with directions, so I trudged along after him, whining and threatening heatstroke, as we hiked through streets filled with shops and churches.  The side streets were purposely designed in convoluted configurations, in order to confuse invading pirates in centuries past.  Bread Delivery in AmalfiOn one of these crooked little streets, I had to stop and ask myself what century I was in, as I watched an elderly woman lower a basket on a rope from her third story window, to the bread delivery person who stood waiting below.  A few steps farther along, we came across a playful group of choirboys, looking angelic in their robes as they ran past.Choir boys in Amalfi  We were also joined in our walk by a friendly little dog-about-town (see picture below), who kept us company for a while, graciously accepted a drink of water from the kids' cupped hands, and escorted us back to our parking spot at the end of the afternoon.

      Eventually we found ourselves in a small tunnel, which led under the Duomo di Sant'Andrea and out into the Piazza Duomo, with its many cafes and wonderful fountain.  We quickly learned that fountains in Italy are meant to be used - everyone splashed some water on their faces, refilled their plastic drinking bottles, and paused for a few moments' rest on the ledge.  We drank the water from nearly every fountain we came upon, in Rome, Florence, and the Amalfi Coast, and experienced no problems with it whatsoever. 

      Fountain in Piazza Duomo, AmalfiOur agenda for day 3 included a boat ride.  From Amalfi, one can ride the passenger ferry east to Salerno or west to Positano, Capri, and Sorrento.  We opted for the half-hour ride to Positano.  The short cruise offered us an opportunity to see the imposing coastline as the invaders did centuries ago.  Ruins of ancient watchtowers still dot the coast, and the engineering feat of the archways and tunnels of the strada statale (state road) number 163 are visible in many places from the water.View of Positano from the ferry

      The ferry landing in Positano is in the center of town, next to the Spiaggia Grande.  From the beach, the town quickly rises up the hillside.  The peaks of the surrounding mountains are often hidden in the clouds.Positano From the Beach
      The walking tour of each town begins in the Piazza Duomo – the cathedral plaza.  Every town has one, and Positano was no exception.  We quickly learned that Craig’s obsession with exploring every nook and cranny paid off in terms of finding lower prices the farther we traveled away from the beach.

      Shopping in Positano
      Via Del Mulini is the central shopping street in Positano, and it heads uphill, away from the beach.  A lovely stretch of this narrow walled street is shaded by a trellis of bright pink bougainvillea, and both sides are lined with vendors selling handcrafted jewelry, artwork, and snacks.

      We explored a side alley filled with restaurants, little clothing shops, and shoemaker stalls as small as closets. Positano Here the leatherworkers sit out front, making the sandals according to the measurements they have just taken from the customer who was walking by.  At the top of the lane, we refreshed ourselves with the best Italian ice in existence, purchased from a vendor with a pushcart, who made our treat fresh on the spot using the local lemons.

      From this point, the faint of heart (or weary of feet) can catch a bus back to Amalfi, instead of the ferry.  The bus stops briefly, so the tourist who hesitates is left behind.

      Painter in PositanoThe beachfront is lined with outdoor restaurants, and the air is filled with delicious smells.  Frequent refreshment stops are mandatory, especially when traveling with four young people.  We enjoyed a fabulous seafood pizza, and the kids discovered the delight of caffe fredo, strong, sweet iced coffee.   The beachfront is also a popular spot for local artists to set up their easels to capture the beautiful surroundings.

      By mid-afternoon, our entire party was sweaty and exhausted, so we headed back to Amalfi.  The ferry ride was refreshing, but it didn’t take much walking to get overheated again.  So Jack and I decided to get the van, while the others stopped for a quick swim at the beach favored by the locals.  This was a simple pebbly beach, without an admission charge, where you swam amidst the boats and luxury yachts moored in the harbor.  Craig and a couple of the kids stayed behind at the beach, thereby missing the epic battle of the parking gate and the faulty token.Amalfi Harbor

      When we arrived in Amalfi, we parked at the wharf area, in a pay parking lot.  When we entered, we received a token.  Upon exit, we needed to first drop the token into the payment machine, and pay the exorbitant fee demanded.  We would then receive another token, to be deposited into the machine at the exit.   This would signal the gate to rise, and we could then roll merrily along toward home.  Except things didn’t go quite according to plan.

      Maybe it was because the token sat in the hot car all day, and it was overcooked.  Maybe it was because Jack dropped the token, and I had to move the car so he could retrieve it without melting his kneecaps.  Whatever the reason, that payment machine deemed my particular token as unacceptable.  No matter how many times we dropped it in the slot, no matter how much spin we put on it, or how hard we smacked it into that machine, it wouldn’t register.  Instead of connecting with the inner workings that would then announce the precise total of arms and legs we owed for a day’s parking fee, my token instead fell uselessly into the coin return slot time and again.

      Local Puppy in Amalfi
      Something that must be understood regarding small town life in Italy: every happening is a community event.  Therefore, every passer-by or driver waiting to use the machine after us felt compelled to offer advice or condolences on our dilemma.  Finally the two gentlemen seated just past the obstinately unmoving exit gate decided it was time for them to weigh in.  They had nothing to do with the parking concession; they owned the little alimentari right next door.  But they were clearly more experienced with this accursed machine than Jack and I were, so we let them have the obligatory seventeen tries at getting the token to perform properly.  No luck.

      They helpfully suggested that we call the help number posted on the machine.  Great idea, except we had no cell phone.  Besides, we doubted our conversational Italian would cover this particular topic.  Reluctantly, our rescuers used their phone to make the call.  Ah, someone would be along presently.

      Twenty minutes later, our rescuers had not yet arrived.  Craig and the girls had, however, wondering why we had failed to meet them as arranged.  Craig’s refreshing swim was soon a distant memory as we continued to wait in the baking hot parking lot.  Our heroes made another phone call to the rescue crew.  Soon, soon.  We continued to melt.

      After another eternity, a couple of guys wearing municipal-logo shirts zoomed up on a scooter.  They too tried their hand at the token game, and then after a lengthy discussion with our champions, the deli guys, who insisted we not be charged for parking because of the grievous inconvenience we had suffered in the parking inferno, the officials used their override gizmo to raise the gate, and waved us through with a flourish.Ravello: tempting ceramics

      Back to the alborgo, and the beds placed so invitingly in front of the air conditioners.  Had we been at home, we would at this point have refused to budge from the comfort of our cool room and crisp sheets.  But this was Italy – who could waste time resting?  We could rest when we got old.  Back into the van, back to the piazza in Ravello.  There were parking machines to battle with, side streets to be explored, cafes at which to linger.  La dolce vita awaited – andiamo!Colorful ceramics are everywhere!

    • Blog post
    • 6 years ago
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  • A Russian Winter A Russian Winter

    • From: tfleming
    • Description:

      We saw flashes of bright shirts beneath winter coats and straw brims peeking out from carry on bags as we shuffled through security at JFK International Airport, but carried no harbingers of sunny destinations ourselves as we boarded a flight to Moscow in January 2006. There was no chance our toes would be singed on sand during the next two weeks, but neither did we realize the extent to which Russian history and culture would be burned into our hearts.


      Although my great great grandfather was Russian, jumping ship in New Orleans when he was 14, the trip was no search for ancestors, nor was it even on my list of desired destinations. We were there to adopt a baby girl, who was in an orphanage in Voronezh, a city 300 miles south of Moscow, 10 hours by train.


      The train to Voronezh traveled overnight, so there was not much to see outside the windows of our sleeper car. However, I’m certain that most of the expanse was vast snowy emptiness, punctuated by the occasional enormous, industrial-looking building or fishing shacks on small frozen lakes. As I sipped chai tea served in glasses with silver filigree holders, I half-expected to see bears in the moonlight waiting to cross the train tracks.


      In Voronezh, below a statue of Lenin bearing a wig and epaulets of snow, an outdoor New Year’s carnival awaited disassembling. If families here could celebrate this holiday outdoors, on rides that exaggerated windchill, we could walk this city without complaint, if not always upright, as many sidewalks and steps were formed with red granite left over from Hitler’s intention to make monuments of himself in Russia. Our time in Voronezh was spent mainly traveling to one of its orphanages on the outskirts of the city, over the Voronezh River, site of the first Russian naval fleet, and through the woods. But during our time away from our beautiful new baby girl, we easily walked to restaurants and shops, stopping once in a jewelry store to buy her a sapphire ring worthy of her blue eyes as a souvenir from her birthplace.


      We experienced a near constant fall of very fine snow and temperatures that froze the inside of our noses, squelching any interest in being fashionable. Fortunately, every car, hotel room, train car, restaurant, shop and museum we were in was heated or overheated, including the orphanage.


      A minor annoyance for me, exaggerated by jetlag, was the inability to “take-out” a cup of coffee or tea, or to explain nonverbally my desire to do so. My need for regular injections of caffeine could not be sated on the go, only through a ritual of sitting, conversing and reflecting. Russian coffee is well worth the extravagance.


      With our daughter ensconced in our arms and blankets, we headed back to Moscow to wait for clearance through the embassy, and took the opportunity to learn more about the city. Just as losing the hot water during a shower brings instant focus to your bathing routine, the frigid Russian air discourages a lazy exploration of the country in western style shopping districts; we easily found the will to immerse ourselves in the history and culture of Russia’s storied, and lengthy, past. You simply must find out how a country that is frozen for several months of the year has evolved, thrived, fallen, grown and shrunk over 1100 years.


      An English-speaking, car-owning, Russian tour guide is a great way to do this. Save the money on tchotchkes; for approximately $100 per person for six hours, our guide picked us up at the hotel and began with an overview of Moscow, driving along the circling outer road to see the impressive “Seven Sisters,” the city’s skyscrapers, as well as the nondescript Khrushchev era buildings. Along the way she discussed Russian history, Russian philosophy, fears and hopes. She pointed out monuments and war sites, and we toured a church where foreign invaders and their horses froze to death during a Russian winter. Then on to the Kremlin.


      An American’s grasp of history is too often a truncated one, mired in sixth grade depictions of ye olden times of 1776 and tours of historic homes that are merely two hundred years old. So to find ourselves on the grounds of the Moscow Kremlin Museums in buildings built in the 14th century was astounding. The Kremlin houses riches such as the crown of Empress Catherine I, Ivan the Terrible’s throne, elaborate royal carriages of Russian rulers and mesmerizing collections of solid gold accouterments. Standing in Red Square in subzero temperatures, just as armies and the condemned have done for centuries is a must – but demonstrate their bravery by skipping the attached modern mall. Our favorite picture from the trip is of our daughter in a carriage, bundled up to her eyes, in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral. The visit was a welcome expansion of my understanding of Russian history, previously formed through a cold war kaleidoscope.


      Sidenote: The skill of Russian drivers to avoid getting stuck in the snow, and to extricate a car laden with overweight Americans on the rare occasion it gets stuck, is an art form that must be experienced. Your fear of near misses and skidouts is eventually replaced by confidence in the driver’s dedication to the task at hand and obvious experience with the elements.


      After clearance at the Embassy, which was coincidentally on our daughter’s first birthday, we celebrated on Arbat Street, around the corner from our hotel, and shopped for souvenirs in several of the dozens of stores there. We would leave for the airport in a few hours, and inhaled in our last frozen bits of Russian winter air.


      We arrived home on February 7th in our thickest winter duds only to be greeted by one of those freakishly warm winter days that brings people outdoors in droves and short sleeves. JFK was muggy and as we peeled away the coats and sweaters, we were approached by a dog that signaled to his handler that we had contraband. I willed evil thoughts to my husband about the Cuban cigars he bought in Moscow, but we were told that this was a fruit sniffing dog. While many passengers at JFK that day may have returned with a fresh pineapple or coconut, we found hilarity in explaining that our pink cheeks were not from sun, but from frost, as we had just returned from Moscow, where fresh fruit was not in season.


      Certainly, the world faces new challenges with Russia. But we can admire periods of their history, their stamina and their driving skills without condoning their current political leaders. Visiting Russia when it was at its coldest forced us to focus on the wider history and culture of the country. It was a wonderful and life-altering experience, and we look forward to a time when we can bring our daughter to Russia when she’s older… probably during May or June though.

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    • 6 years ago
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  • Our Trip to France & Italy 200 Our Trip to France & Italy 2008

    • From: jmagarey
    • Description:

      I decided to keep a journal of our trip, so I could remember everything. You should also be receiving a link to view photos from Shutterfly soon. Enjoy! I apologize for any spelling or grammatical errors!

      Thursday, August 21st- Paris!

      Today was very exhausting, but exciting! It started very early (1:15am NC time, 7:15am Paris time.) That was when our plane from the US landed. Wed. never really ended because neither of us got a wink of sleep on the plane. After we arrived at the airport, we took to the Roissy Bus to Paris Opera. My first impressions of Paris were lots of old stone buildings, beautiful architecture, and lots of people! The bus dropped us off at the Metro station, which was very close to our hotel. Our room wasn't ready yet, so we walked down the street to a cafe and I got my first chance to practice Fench. We had crepes and a ham and cheese baguette. We came back and checked into our hotel room (a tiny box!) and took a much-needed nap. After a couple hours, we drug ourselves up to do a Historic Paris Walking Tour (from Rick Steves' Paris book). We started at Point Zero- the center of Paris and saw Notre Dame Cathedral from the outside (lines to go in were too long!). We also visited the Deportation Memorial (in memory of Jews killed in WW2). From the outside we saw Ile St. Louis, Left Bank Booksellers, Sainte-Chapelle, Palais de Justice, Conciergerie (where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned) , Place Dauphine, Pont Neuf, and the Seine River. We decided to take the Metro to Arc de Triomphe and have dinner nearby. We ate at a french cafeteria and had chicken with veggies. I also had a fruit tart for dessert. We were so hungry and it was so good! After dinner we went up in the Arc. There were 264 steps to the top (many of them on an old spiral staircase!). The views from the top were spectacular. After that, we were so tired, we headed back and went to sleep!
      Friday, August 22nd- French Oatmeal Isn't American Oatmeal!
      We woke up this morning in Paris to rain. We found out it was going to rain most of the day, so we decided it wouldn't be a good day to visit Monet's Giverny. I was very disappointed. We headed out to a French cafe for breakfast. The choices were pastries and more pastries! The girl also told Roger they had oatmeal. He ordered that and was handed a cup of warm milk! It was good, but was a far cry from American oatmeal! I think she said "au" (pronounced o) milk (and didn't say the k at the end of milk) We also had a raisin croissant and a pastry with an apple filling. Yum! We headed back to the hotel for another nap (not over jet lag yet!) before going to the Orsay Museum. We waited in line (in the rain) for 40 min. just to get in. It was very crowded and the highlight for me (besides seeing a few of Monet's works) was lunch. I had a ham baguette, beetroot, parsnip, and carrot chips, and an apple (no dessert this time!). We went to a cafe for dinner on Rue Cler. I had lambchops for the first time since last Dec. when I went home with Roger to Australia. They also came with green beans that were really good. I'm enjoying practicing French on waiters. Later in the evening, we headed to the Eiffel Tower. The sun was beginning to set (but we couldn't see it). Roger convinced me to climb 300 steps to the first level. (I chickened out and couldn't climb to the 2nd!). The lights were coming on and the views of the city were spectacular. A blue light was shining on the Eiffel Tower. It was a great way to end the day!
      Saturday, August 23rd- Versailles
      We started the day with a trip to another French bakery for breakfast. I don't know when I've eaten so much bread! On the way there,we found out what was smelling so bad- the cheese shop! The French have over 100 types of cheese- many of them are smelly! After breakfast, we headed to the Fat Tire Bike Shop for our all-day bike trip to Versailles. We pedaled to the train station, then rode the train all the way to the town of Versailles. Before going into the estate, we visited the local market to buy food for a picnic lunch. I've never seen such decadent looking desserts as I've seen today! I only wish I knew how to make them! We then pedaled into the estate. The landscaping was impeccable. We saw Marie Antoinette's domain, then went to the end of the Grand Canal to have lunch. We learned that this was her favorite picnic spot, where she was brought by gondola. During our ride, I learned a lot about the history of the French kings and queens and the French Revolution. I actually felt sorry for Marie Antoinete who was forced into marriage at age 14. The chateau at Versailles was unlike anything I've ever seen. It was very ornate, but very crowded. After we came back, we relaxed for a little while before heading out to eat Chinese for dinner (not very French, huh?) We decided to turn in early since we have to get up at 5:30 to leave for Nice.
      Sunday, August 24th- Nice!
      Today was another exhausting, but wonderful day! We got up at 5:30 to leave Paris. We took the Metro, then the bus back to the airport. Our flight to Nice was spectacular. We flew over plains, mountains, and finally the French Riviera. The water is a beautiful turquoise color. We saw many homes perched on cliffs. It was surprising that so many of them had pools, since they are so close to the ocean. After lunch and a nap, we got on the tram and went down to the beach. The rumors about Nice being a topless beach are true. We were surprised at how a few women seemed to flaunt it. However, the percentage of topless women was very small (maybe 2 %). The majority of women were wearing bikinis. We spread our towels out on the pebbles and took turns going in the water (while the other guarded our stuff). We were glad we brought our water shoes. The water was warm, but the shoreline sloped down quickly. After spending a little time on the beach, we walked down the Promenade and up the steps to Castle Hill. Castle Hill is a park (no castle there!) with overlooks perched high above the Mediterranean. It was very beautiful there. After coming back for showers, we headed down the street for dinner. We shared delicious pizza, pasta, and crepes. It was the end of a great day!
      Monday, August 25th- Antibes and Nice
      Today we slept in, so we didn't get an early start. We decided to take the train to Antibes, a town east of Nice. Like Nice, it was founded in the 5th century B.C. by Greek traders. This town is home to Europe's largest yacht harbor, as well as sandy beaches (as opposed to Nice's pebbly beaches). We ate a sandwich on a bench overlooking the yacht harbor. We even saw a gold-colored yacht that stinks of money. After lunch, we wandered through the town and down to one of the beaches. Along the way, we walked through narrow streets with lots of shops and outdoor cafes. We forgot to pack our beach towel in Roger's backpack, so we found a shady bench near the water to sit on. We took turns going in the clear, warm water. It was also very calm without any waves. The beach was as nice as any I've been to in Australia or Hawaii, minus underwater tropical sealife. The air was warm (maybe about 80), but it wasn't humid! It was really a perfect beach day. I could have easily stayed here a few days or a week! No wonder the French vacation here! We took the train back to Nice to get a shower and to get ready for dinner. We ran into a dilemma for dinner. We didn't know where to eat, and a restaurant Rick Steves recommended was closed (many French businesses close in August so they can enjoy their five weeks of vacation!). I suggested we visit the Monoprix grocery store. They had takeaway hot food, so I got rotisserie chicken, and Roger got rotisserie duck. We also got au gratin potatoes and mixed veggies. It turned out to be very tasty. I had never had duck, but Roger insisted that I try some. It had a strong taste to it, but it was OK. The French Riviera has been nice (Roger has liked it better han Paris, even though originally he wasn't crazy about coming here!) Tomorrow we leave for Turin, Italy!
      Tuesday, August 26th- Railway Journey to Turin, Italy
      This morning we got up early and packed up to leave Nice. Roger went to the train station to pay for our tickets for Turin, where he has meetings for the next three days. We traveled along the Riviera for about an hour to Millivente, an Italian border town. Along the way, we passed beautiful coastline and hills, and a quick glimpse of Monaco. We ended up having a two hour layover in Millivente, which was surprisingly nice. Roger noticed that the beach was nearby, so we decided to walk down there (suitcases in tow!). Along the way, we passed a market and got some pizza to take with us (and cannoli, later for dessert). The beach was nice, but not as pretty as those in France. We arrived at the railway station in Turin and thought that our hotel was within distance, but it was not. Our two suitcases barely fit in a taxi (small cars are everywhere!), but we made it! Our hotel room was nicer than the ones in Paris and Nice. We found a nice Italian restaurant nearby and enjoyed dinner very much. I am looking forward to my trip to Lake Maggiore tomorrow while Roger attends his conference!
      Wednesday, August 27th- Lake Maggiore!
      I had a wonderful time on my trip to Lake Maggiore. It was a "spouse excursion" for those attending Roger's conference. I met people from different parts of the U.S., Norway, Holland, Korea, and New Zealand. They were all really nice. We boarded a bus from the conference center at 9AM to leave Torino. The trip took about two hours. Along the way, we passed many fields and flat areas that looked like we could be anywhere in the U.S. But we could make out the outline of the Alps off in the distance. Our first stop was the town of Stresa, on the banks of the lake. It was full of glamorous hotels, villas, gardens, cafes, and shops. From there, we boarded a small boat to take us to Isola Bella, one of the small islands in the lake. This island had a palace and beautiful gardens that belong to the Borromeo family. It was very ornate and lush. I took so many photos that my memory card is full! (Luckily, another lady had a spare and is letting me borrow it!). After visiting that island, the boat took us to Isola Pescadori, another small island, where we had lunch. Actually the lunch was more like dinner! We had lasagna, another kind of pasta, followed by porkchops and roasted potatoes. Then we had tiramisu for dessert. It was very good, but I wasn't able to eat it all. After lunch, we went on a boat ride on the lake. The lake has beautiful blue-green water and is surrounded by mountains. The northern part of the lake stretches into Switzerland. We went back to Stresa and walked around the little shops for an hour. I was a little hot, so I got a small cherry vanilla gelato (Italian version of ice cream). It was very good, but I don't know where I had room to put it! I guess all the walking is keeping me in shape! We boarded the bus for the ride back to Torino. Once we got back into the city, the tour guide pointed out various historical places. It was 7PM and Roger was waiting for me. He was hungry, so we went to a huge store called Eataly. The nearest thing to it in the U.S. is Whole Foods, but this was on a much grander scale. It also has numerous cafes set up inside. Roger had roast beef and I had a hamburger. The man next to us was eating RAW ground beef with some sauce on it. I don't think I could eat that! Tomorrow is my laundry/rest day before we head to Lake Como on Friday afternoon.
      Thursday, August 28th- Travel Recovery Day in Turin
      There was nothing on my itinerary today, except doing laundry. Roger and I walked down the street to the laundromat before his meeting. What looked like a five minute walk on the map turned into twenty minutes. Plus we were pulling a suitcase full of dirty clothes. When we got there, we didn't see a change machine and there was only one empty washer. A lady came out and Roger asked her if she spoke English. We were surprised when she said yes. Roger asked her where she learned English and she said her sister had a boyfriend from Charlotte, NC. We thought that was funny. She was really nice and told us she would take our clothes out of the washer and put them into the dryer. She told me to come back later, so we gave her money. When it was time to go back, I decided to take the bus. The receptionist at the hotel told me the bus ride would cost one euro. When I got on the bus, I handed the driver money, but he didn't take it. So I rode the bus for free! I found out from the lady at the laundromat (who not only had washed and dried our clothes, but also folded them!) that you have to buy tickets from the tabac (tobacco) shop and validate them when you get on the bus. I decided to walk back. I also went back to Eataly to get some lunch. I wanted some foccacio, but I had to use hand motions to make the girl understand what size I wanted, since neither of us could understand the other! When Roger came back from the conference, we decided to take the bus downtown for dinner (this time we went in the tabac shop to buy our tickets!). But then we got on the bus going the wrong direction! We had to do the loop back around. At one stop, the driver parked the bus and took a ten minute break! You can bet we ate good when we finally found a restaurant! We like Italy, but it sure is different!
      Friday, August 29th- Sunday, August 31st- Bellagio and Lake Como
      On Friday after Roger's meeting, we boarded a train bound for Varenna. We had to change trains a couple times, even in Milan. I was surprised at how easy it was for us to find our way, even though we don't know Italian. We disembarked from the train in the cute lakeside town of Varenna (not to be confused with Fuquay-Varina!). Then we got our tickets for our ferry boat trip to Bellagio. The trip only took 15 minutes and the scenery was spectacular. Lake Como is a glacial lake surrounded by the Alps. It looks similar to Lake Maggiore. When we got to Bellagio, we called Flavio, the manager of the apartment we're staying in. He met us in front of the Hotel Du Lac, and walked with us to the apartment. It was up a set of stone steps. Flavio was nice enough to carry my heavy suitcase! The apartment was really nice (and only a few euros more than we paid for that little box in Paris!). The streets in Bellagio are all narrow and have rocks in the middle. Most don't allow cars. It was amazing that cars could make it on the ones that did. However, Italians (and Europeans, in general) don't drive big SUV's and minivans. Their little hatchback cars and Minis make my Honda Civic look like a big car! Many Italians also drive scooters and motorcycles. After we got settled in, we walked down to the lakefront to have dinner at the Hotel Metropole Ristorante. We ate at a lakefront table. It was a beautiful setting and the food was good. After dinner, we walked down the Promenade to watch the sun go down. It was lined with beautiful pink and white Oleander trees, window boxes and flower beds full of marigolds, petunias, begonias, and other colorful flowers. It also had benches to sit on. Surprisingly, it wasn't crowded. I think the Bellagio Promenade is the setting for a painting we have in our living room. On Saturday, we slept in and walked around town. Bellagio doesn't have a proper grocery store, but it has a few takeaway stores. I got some more pizza. After lunch, we decided to take the ferry back to Varenna to do a walk there. We got some gelato (yum!) and enjoyed walking down Varenna's promenade. We walked through town and to one of its suburbs. Even though it was along a road (crazy Italian drivers!), we were walking parallel with the lake. We also passed some beautiful gardens. We took the ferry back to Bellagio to get ready for dinner. This time, we walked to a park that was near where the three branches of the lake join. There was a nice restaurant there. Italian restaurants don't start serving dinner until 7 (we found out) so we watched some people swim in the lake and just enjoyed the scenery. For dinner, Roger ordered fish. It was one from Lake Como. He liked it even though it had some bones in it. I had a wonderful pesto pasta and grilled veggies. On Sunday, we got up and took a walk around Bellagio's suburbs. We passed many private homes and gardens. We also passed a cemetery. The Italian gravesites are very elaborate. All the tombstones(except the very oldest) had pictures of the deceased person. They all had flowers and some had electronic candles lit. It reminded me of the cemeteries in Switzerland. In the afternoon, we took a ferry across the lake to Villa Carlotta. This villa was a wedding gift to a Princess Carlotta. Sadly, she died at age 23. I'm sure her husband's second wife enjoyed the beautiful gardens and the elaborate villa. We also enjoyed the villa's artwork. After finishing our tour, we walked down the road to the little town of Cadnabbia (I'm probably misspelling it) and enjoyed vanilla and strawberry gelato while waiting for the ferry. We finished our trip to Lake Como with a final dinner at Hotel Metropole at a lakefront table. Then we walked down the Promenade one final time to enjoy the sunset and the beautiful flowers.
      Monday, September 1st- Our Final Day: Paris (again!)
      We got up early to travel back to Paris. We had to take (in this order) the ferry, train, bus, plane, bus, Metro and walk to get to our hotel (the little box of a room, again!). We were tired when we got to the hotel (I wonder why?!) so we took a nap before dinner. We decided to go back to the Monte Carlo Cafeteria for a cheap(er) full meal. I enjoyed turkey, carrots, and a cherry tart. Then we decided to spend our final evening in Paris at the Eiffel Tower. This time, we went up the elevator to the second level. The elevator goes up the side of one of the pillars until it gets to the first level, then it goes straight up to the second level. (If we had wanted to go to the very top, we would have had to board another elevator to the top from the second level). The views were incredible again, and we were there when they had the light show. There were sparkling lights flashing up and down the tower. After we got down on the ground, we walked through the park and took some more photos of the Tower and the light show. It was the perfect end to a wonderful trip!
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