Blog 1

Listening to Calypso music on the pool deck, drinking Bloody Mary’s, and watching oversized Baby Boomers in their seventies bathing suits and you know you must be in heaven.  It is day 3, Wednesday, I think April 19th, and our adventure has begun again.  Time is going by so quickly and we will be home in just 39 days.

Things must be going great as our cabin steward is a cute Portuguese girl from Brazil that leaves our cabin than I leave my office and we are greeted by a memorable young girl from Czech Republic as we enter the dining room. Can’t wait for dinner tonight and we will most definitely be visiting Praug real soon.

Our dining companions on night 1 included a German couple in their mid 80s who met in NYC and have lived in Florida more than 30 years.  This is their 27th cruise and I believe their 15th trans Atlantic crossing.  Every year we find people with incredible travel stories.  We are newbies. 

Tuesday night we sat with a couple from Southern California and another from London.  Interesting discussion of the Brit decision to leave the EU and of course we held different political positions.  I could not understand his accent anyway.

Day 3, Wednesday, we had interesting dinner companions. One just retired for more than 30 years in the National Park service.  The other gentleman works for the Nuclear Regulatory Agency in DC.

Entertainment has been quite good and food about average for our cruise experience.  The escargot however has been wonderful.  I spent too much of day 1 at the pool deck and learned after 65 years the Portuguese people can indeed get sunburn.  I have been paying the price for it.  It might have been worth it if there were bronze toned bodies around me.

As I write from this point we have arrived on SanJuan (Thursday) and as we have been here before we will likely just walk about the town.  After this post you will not hear from us for about 5 days as we head Northeast toward the Azores.  I will try again to get a better result in seeing my mom’s neighborhood when she lived there 85 years ago.  I sure wish I would have more dialogue about all this when she was here.  I have 1000 questions for her.  Post back and let us know how you are all doing.  It is funny being amongst millions of others not knowing a single person.  See you in Punta Delgada hopefully with picture a to share.  Bon Dia

Europe 2017

Yes it is that time of the year again. For the past several years, the arrival of spring for us means packing the small and light luggage and doing last minute things that have been part of a developing master plan going back to the previous summer. Literally many hundreds of hours go into this and it always is a labor of love. Perhaps I spend at least some part of each and every day over a ten month period doing something associated with our future travels. In this process we learn so much about the history and geographical wonders of our voyage. It is all so fascinating but I get angry that I did not apply myself 50 (did I say 50?) years ago when good teachers were trying to teach me great things. How nice it would be to know how to converse in French or know more about the Renaissance and the great artists who created unimaginable things. How would I know that someday I would be standing exactly in the same spot that Vincent Van Gogh sat while painting Starry, Starry night. So much to learn, so little time.

 

Travel has enriched our lives in so many ways. Simply watching television or a movie and seeing sights where we have been instantly resurfaces great memories. These sorts of things are treasures that are never taken away. At the conclusion of this trip we will have spent six months in Europe in the past four years. We will stop when the body no longer is able or the money runs out. This travel bug has a way of wanting more and more. Believe it or not, we are actively working on travel plans for 2018 with some reservations already in place (a six week trip possibly with Wally & Nancy) that will take us on a 15 night cruise through the Panama Canal ending in San Diego, followed by driving up the California Coast with stops along the way, diversion to Yosemite for a few days, San Francisco, flying to Seattle where we will board a cruise through the inside passage of Alaska and return to visit Grand Teton, Yellowstone and Badlands National Parks before heading home after 41 days. It only is a year away. The outline for Europe 2019 is not on paper, still formulating in my mind, but I know we will visit Ireland, Scotland, France, Austria, and Germany and revisit some of wonderful Italy. Plenty of time to join us.

Back to our trip beginning on April 17. I have attached to this note, links to many places we will visit during this trip as well as a link to the blog. I will be posting to that on a regular basis, usually later in the evening before bedtime as we travel. Follow us. My postings give me an opportunity to have you travel with us while creating a diary of our travels for us to revisit.

An overview of our trip is as follows:

Leaving Tampa on our 14 night cruise on April 17 that will bring us to San Juan, Ponta DelGada, Malaga, Ibiza and finally Barcelona, Spain for three nights. We will take a train to the South of France then drive visiting Avignon, Arles, Aix en, Nimes, Villages of Cotes du Rhone & the Luberon staying in small B&B’s. Ten days later drop off our car in Nice which we will use as our base to explore the Riviera sites of Antibes, Cannes, Monte Carlo, and several of the hill towns and sea side communities. Then fly to Basel, Switzerland where we will visit Lucerne, Bern, Montreux, (most visited by scenic trains) and stay in the village of Lauterbrunnen deep in the valley of the highest peaks in the Alps. Our plans will take us on four fabulous cable & cog lifts to the summits that will provide incredible vistas. Check out some of the links. We fly home 41 days later on May 26.

Every year I say that the new trip is the most challenging but have learned that I only feel that way because it is new. They are all challenging but that only brings a greater reward. They have all been diverse. In this case from the Islands in the Atlantic to the bustle of Barcelona, the hillsides, villages and vineyards of the South of France, the French Riviera, the valleys, peaks,  villages and great cities of Switzerland. I’m sure it will all be worth the challenge.

On a personal note, with advancing years and unpredictable health these trips become more and more important. Several weeks ago while walking to a nearby PT center for a shoulder ailment, Carol tripped on an uneven sidewalk and had many scrapes and bruises and her other shoulder to show for it. We are waiting to see how a recent steroid injection helps with her shoulder mobility and pain. I have had a resurfacing of back pain that requires an epidural steroid injection next Wednesday in addition to continued problems with my right foot that got its own injections yesterday. I am packed and ready to go. Carol is ready to go but not packed (she hates to pack). Barring something drastic, we expect to be on the road driving to Tampa on April 16.

Wish us well, follow the blog, comment when you can and enjoy the links. Finally, I must again thank Rick Steves for enriching our lives. If you have the opportunity to watch him on PBS, do it. You will see much of what we have been seeing the last four years.

 

To access the blog do the following (There may be some duplications):

https://raytravelblog.wordpress.com/

 

INTERESTING LINKS:

https://www.ricksteves.com/watch-read-listen/read/articles/finding-nemo-in-nimes

Rick Steves Nimes

 

https://www.google.com/search?q=aix-en+provence+france&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiO9_69wqbRAhVFSiYKHZQeBUEQsAQIOA&biw=1280&bih=620

Aix en France

 

https://www.google.com/search?q=antibes+france&espv=2&biw=1280&bih=620&site=webhp&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&sqi=2&ved=0ahUKEwin1taJw83RAhXC2yYKHStCD5wQ7AkIPg&dpr=2.5

Antibes

 

http://www.provenceweb.fr/e/alpmarit/turbie/turbie.htm

Turbie, France

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocrQOoLPlgQ

Ibiza, Spain

 

http://www.theluberon.com/places

Luberon, France

 

http://www.provenceweb.fr/e/vaucluse/apt/apt.htm

Apt, France

 

https://www.google.com/search?q=malaga+spain&espv=2&biw=1280&bih=620&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjxrZiB2qfSAhVIfiYKHeRKBAsQsAQIQQ&dpr=2.5#imgrc=q_-mPbkFnb0oeM:

Malaga, Spain

 

http://www.hotellafete-provence.com/fr/bienvenue/

Provence, Fr – Top room pictured is ours

 

http://www.staubbach.com/

Lautenbrennen, SW We are staying in this valley near waterfall

 

http://www.swisstravelsystem.com/en/highlights-en/train-bus-boat/railway/goldenpass-line.html

Golden Pass Train – We are traveling this route

 

https://www.jungfrau.ch/en-gb/

Highest peak in Swiss Alps

 

http://www.myswissalps.com/titlis

Likely going to this peak

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9NJDSD-JYu4&list=PL-3xXAKjLAKaLXJM49uw_q_6or-RoUwBu

We are doing this !!  Must see

 

http://www.myswitzerland.com/en-us/lauterbrunnen.html

Staying here

 

http://www.sagradafamilia.org/en/

Revisiting the most amazing church anywhere … and it won’t be finished for another 25 years

 

https://www.google.com/search?q=capelas+azores&espv=2&biw=1280&bih=620&tbm=isch&imgil=tI9AZZDFI1FGfM%253A%253BYJJeYy8RNm4mjM%253Bhttp%25253A%25252F%25252Fwww.magical-azores-islands.com%25252FCapelas.html&source=iu&pf=m&fir=tI9AZZDFI1FGfM%253A%252CYJJeYy8RNm4mjM%252C_&usg=__tH-7qXcms-xFQkg8or-Ky6CZcGI%3D&ved=0ahUKEwi4q5n2h9rRAhXK5iYKHRR6DZIQyjcIMQ&ei=0eeGWPj-JcrNmwGU9LWQCQ#imgrc=J2NlNLm8nXhnkM%3A

Where my mother spent her childhood – Capelas, Azores

 

 

A Final Message

We have enjoyed our trip to Europe and glad that many of you have enjoyed following our journey. Hundreds of hours of preparation over ten months delivered a wide range of new things to see and do. There have been four flights, ten train trips, countless subway rides, three B&B’s, two hotels, one private residence, a car rental, thirteen days aboard ship crossing the Atlantic and visiting port cities, touching eight countries, thousands of stairs climbed, and perhaps two hundred miles walked.

We took a couple of thousand pictures, drank lots of beer from famous beer drinking countries, ate lots of the world’s best chocolate and candy, rode in some real fast trains, had many conversations with travelers exploring as we were, dodged thousands of bikes in Amsterdam, proved I could spend 45 days alone with Carol, crossed many things off our bucket list, ate wonderful authentic German and Thai dinners at the home of our German and Thai friends. We spent a few hours with a wonderful elderly friend of Betty’s. An interesting and warm person with an interesting past.

There was some difficulty with language barriers in Portugal (imagine) and Belgium. Carol of course handled all the subways like a pro. Asking locals and officials for directions did not always get the desired result. Sometimes we knew more than they did. I have determined that the best looking women are in Amsterdam. Speaking of Amsterdam, Carol’s interpretation of that city is that it is one big college campus. It was.

My mind flashes back at …..
Oxford University
Honfleur, France
The canals of Amsterdam
The charm of Bruges
The surprise of Ghent
Visiting Shakespeare’s home
The London Eye
Memorable meals in Portugal and Cascais
Westminster Abbey
Imperial War Museum in London
Windsor Castle
Visiting Kensington Palace but never seeing Kate
Just walking the streets of these magnificent old cities and towns.
Thirteen days at sea
Viewing Castle’s and cathedrals a thousand years old
Modern and busy Frankfurt, Germany
Learning more about the complex Vincent Van Gogh and viewing some of his controversial work
The Golden Gate like Bridge in Lisbon and so much more.

Having said everything I have over the past six plus weeks we are more than anxious to return home to family and friends. We still love Newport and Bristol; Bluffton and Hilton Head and many places in between. We can’t wait for some great Italian food in the North End and Portuguese food in Fall River and sharing it all with special people.

So until next year with yet another cruise bringing us to Barcelona, The French Riviera, The South of France, and Switzerland be thankful you don’t have to watch a thousand pictures or more. Better yet, join us!

Houston, We Have a Problem

I have just started my final post as we depart Iceland for our final leg of our nearly 12,000 mile trip. The pilot has just announced that there is a technical problem with the plane and we must return to the airport. First however, we must fly for 90 minutes to burn off fuel.  Not good and not a nice way to close down our trip. I must say these are  anxious moments.

Well, we finally have returned to the airport, thankfully. I  am not going to go into detail but let it suffice to say that Iceland Air handled everything wrong. It was a disaster.We are leaving now and will be arriving Boston about five hours late. No Portuguese food tonight. This has been and will be a very long night.

Frankfurt, Germany

After a three hour high speed train ride from Brussels to Frankfurt we have settled comfortably with our German hosts and on Wednesday night had a wonderful Thai dinner at their home in the German countryside. A year ago on our cruise to Italy and on our very first dinner (with six others) we met this couple whom we have now met in each other’s homes. The special moments of travel.

On Thursday we spent the day in the heart of the city of Frankfurt. We tried some schnitzel and enjoyed it very much. We purchased some other goodies to bring home not knowing if we have room in an already overloaded suitcase. We have been fortunate to have visited some of the world’s great cities and in terms of shopping fun, Frankfurt clearly stands ahead of the rest. Joanne, it might be more than you can handle! There were so many stores with so much variety. I must say that though there likely are more places to visit nearby (like more Castles), we really are running out of steam.

We had just finished a great dinner when our hosts said leave everything as is, we are going for a ride. We found ourselves weaving through narrow German roads driving through little towns that begged you to stop. Our trip ended when we arrived at an overlook that placed us quite high looking at these small towns we just drove through. It was about 10pm and all the lights below twinkled. The drive home brought us by yet another wonderful Castle. Why not.

It is now Friday morning, our last day and nearly packed. After breakfast we are off doing more local sightseeing getting a better feel of what is like living in rural Germany. Hopefully will report before we leave tomorrow. I will wrap it all up in my final note during our long flight home which you should receive Saturday night.

Goodbye Ghent – Hello Germany

We are spending our last night in Belgium and tomorrow at this time we will be in a town south of Frankfurt, Germany for our last three nights. It is 9:35 at night and is still light out. Does not get dark until 10pm and by June 21 it will be light til 11pm. This will require an adjustment when we return.

Speaking of returning, we have become aware that a new home is being built next to us in SC. We will have new neighbors. They will be so lucky. Did Rob and Nikky catch that?

Back to Ghent. We toured the canals and that gives a different perspective on the beauty of the city. It is obvious that there are many churches in Ghent but I was shocked to learn that there are 57 Catholic churches and I think that staggering for a city of 250,000 people. The best way to understand how grand these views are is to see Carol’s most recent pictures. I think some will be enlarged when we return.

We toured the 10th century “Castle of the Counts”. It impacts you when you are standing in the middle of history trying to comprehend how they did this. I don’ know how I climbed all the stairs but I did and was rewarded with incredible views of the entire city. Viewing their torture chambers tells you how primitive people can be. I think it also gave Carol some ideas which does not make me particularly comfortable. I have trouble sleeping as it is.

We ended the night having dinner amongst the residents of a small neighborhood Italian restaurant. A nice way to say goodbye.

I am not sure when I will post again as I have no idea where our German hosts will be bringing us. When I do I am sure it will be informative.

Save The Best For Last

It may not be the last stop but it will be the best. Those of you old enough to remember Disney World when it first opened know that you bought ticket books and they had a certain number of “E” tickets which were for the top attractions. Bruge without doubt is an E class destination. The pictures will not do it justice but this is grand place with history going back more than a thousand years. Canals, spires, steeples, brick, cobblestones, beautiful rooftop designs gives you the impossible task of deciding what to look  at.

You can move about town by following church steeples. One church we were in began construction in the thirteenth century and took 200 years to build. Would have loved to see them put the steeple on. Public squares are surrounded by unique shopping and outdoor café’s. One square leads to another.

Today we went on a boat tour of the canals that criss cross the city. Can’t describe the incredible views from that vantage point. It was during the tour that I realized how special it all is. We have seen some beautiful city/towns and this ranks with the best.

Our BB was built in the 1600’s, around the time the pilgrims were on their way to Plymouth. We are on one of the canals and I think we have walked along side most of them, many miles worth. It is a pure joy just looking at the homes along the canals as you realize how long they have been there. Today we were lucky to be at a draw bridge sight as a lengthy barge went through. I believe the canal flows all the way to the black sea about 12 miles away.

Tomorrow we have scheduled a bike trip alongside one of the canals passing wind mills to a beautiful small town called Damn. The weather is forecast to drop about 20 degrees to the low 50’s so pedalling a bike six miles might not happen. If so we will be disappointed as it was a highlight in my trip planning.

Dinner tomorrow likely to include more beer and steamed mussels. For desert we will continue to “just look” through the windows of the dozens of chocolate shops here. Last night was capped with a chocolate covered waffle but it was not I who ate it. I had the one with the whipped cream!

A week tomorrow we will be in RI. Where did nearly 40 days go? We still have two more stops which will create more adventures to report on. See you then!


Correction and comments

I incorrectly said in my previous post that the Bruges canals empty into the Black Sea. Not. They empty into the North Sea about 12 miles away.

I mentioned that Bruges has lots of chocolate shops, like more than 50. They have 10 times as many stores that sell beer. Hundreds of varieties at each store. There are more than 750 types of Belgium beer.

Carol has learned to like waffles drenched with hot chocolate. That must surprise everyone.

We went into the Bruges City Hall today. Huge structure of magnificent detail constructed in the early 1400’s. Just think it was built before Columbus voyage. Reminds me of the Tiverton Town Hall. Not.

Weather here has been cold and windy. From 75 to 50. Does not stop people from drinking beer. Everyone drinks beer all the time.

Off tomorrow to Ghent for 2 nights as we wind down our trip. Then to Germany for an unknown experience for 3 nights.This is day 40 with 5 days to go (before RI) and 15 days to go until HJ. Looking forward to RI for a short visit and then a Hilton Head visit from Rob and Nikky in mid June followed by a visit from Wally, Nancy, Pauline, and Joe in late June. It will be nice to be home and in RI with friends and family. Some Portuguese and North End food will be nice too.

Last Post from Amsterdam

Tomorrow in the early afternoon we will be arriving in Bruges, Belgium and I assume experiencing a quieter and more gentle existence. Amsterdam is a city on steroids where it seems anything goes and though we enjoyed our visit it is time to move on. We can cross this off the bucket list.

Listen to this one. We learned today from one of the hotel clerks who was pictured in a photo behind the counter that our BB has had a famous guest who perhaps stayed in our room. In 1969, former President Bill Clinton while a student stayed here. Two years ago he (along with a security entourage) revisited the BB and he took a look at his old room. Imagine the surprise of the guests and staff. It of course caused a traffic jam. Neat Dias history I think. Maybe we can stay in the same house again, the white one.

I can hear the famous song by Don McLean playing in my head. Today we travelled by tram to the Vincent Van Gogh Art Museum. Everyone knows about the piece of ear cut off and the suicide but many likely don’t know that he died at age 37 and did not start learning to paint until he was 27. In less than 10 years he did it all. He died poor, relatively unknown, and after a long battle with some form of mental illness. Nancy, you would have enjoyed this! Interesting note. In a rare note to his mother he said that he was sorry he had not written but he was painting “day and night”.

The food here is not particularly good as it really is food from everywhere else. Looking forward to an improvement in Bruges. Only ten days left until Boston.