Monday, August 31, 2009


Saturday, October 20th, 2007 Athens’ National Archeological Museum

Jim was awake about 2 am and by four I was also awake; we both finally went back to sleep about five and woke at 8:30 am. Immediately checked email and found a message from Brian that he had to stay overnight in Venice but would definitely be on the plane today. After breakfast we headed for the Metro and a trip to the National Archeological Museum. By noon we were headed back towards the hotel to check messages and also get our rain gear as it was sprinkling by the time we arrived at the hotel. Decided to rest a bit and then the rain really started to pour which negated any plans for touring the Acropolis this afternoon as there was also lightening and thunder.

For more information about the National Archeological Museum see:

About 4 pm we decided to brave the rain and headed out for a walk. By the time we’d reached the bottom of the street…about six blocks…we were soaked and looking for a dry place to stay. Went to dinner early at Vitro’s Restaurant across the street from the new Acropolis Museum that is nearly completed; the restaurant came highly recommended by our desk clerk as it is owned by a friend of his. I had eggplant pizza and Jim ordered Greek spaghetti plus fried cheese. All delicious and well presented. The rain continued to come down in buckets.

We headed back towards the hotel, dashing from awning to awning (or as the Greek say “tent to tent”) and waded through ankle deep rushing rivers of water and mud at nearly every corner. Arrived at the hotel and called Brian’s hostel…he had not arrived yet; but being on first name basis with their clerk by now…because of calling multiple times; he promised to have Brian stay there when he arrived and call us or I would call again at 7 pm rather than his braving the elements to get to our hotel. Brian called about 6:30 and let us know that yes…he had finally arrived and would come to our hotel tomorrow morning to begin his adventure with his grandparents. I said I’d let his parents know that he’d arrived in Greece safely.

We later discovered that he joined a group of young people at the Hostel and braved the storm to explore Greece for most of the night. Ah…to be young again! But we were also happy that he’d gotten to see Athens, even though it was at night, since our scheduled time with Brian in Athens had vanished! We will be coming back to Athens at the end of our trip and we will see the things we’d saved to see with Brian at that time; he’s young and has years to come back to really explore Athens!

And so another day in Athens has ended. Tomorrow we head out by car about noon for two days of traveling south and west with Brian. His ferry boat leaves on Monday evening to take him back to Italy from the port city of Patra.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Friday, October 19th, 2007 AthensTemple of Poseidon

Woke up at 6:30 am refreshed and ready to go; turned on the computer and called family in California on the Internet system called Skype; works great but you both have to be online for it to work. They were still up…it was nearly 10 pm in California so we had a nice talk. Enjoyed breakfast in the hotel and then headed out to Syntagma Square and the #5 Tram to Gadfaya where Julie will pick us up in her car. Julie is the oldest daughter of old friends at home; she has lived her adult life in Greece and is a dual citizen of both countries. She works as a travel agent and plans to share her vast and expert knowledge with us today.

Purchased a telephone card so that we can call Julie to tell her what time we are getting on the tram; it will take about an hour to get there due to frequent stops. Arrived about 11 am and there was Julie in her car for our adventure. Due to plans at 6 pm we won’t be able to do everything that she’d planned; we decided we’d like to drive south to the Temple of Poseidon. We stopped there and over refreshments explored places and things that she thought we should see during the rest of our trip. She is in the travel business and brought books, maps and brochures on things that we should see and do.

We then headed north along the coast before stopping at a restaurant along the beach for a wonderful fish lunch compliments of Julie. She ordered calamari (whole ones not slices as we see in the USA) red mullet fish, fried zucchini, French fries, fried bread and a Greek liquor called Ouzo. We watched her select the fish before it was cooked. The Ouzo is about 40 proof and very good over ice; all of this and a view of the water. We made plans to come back to see her later in the trip when we have the time to visit her home for a BBQ and meet her significant other, Demetrius.

Soon it was time to head back into the city but this time she took us further north where we could pick up the Metro for a very fast ride back into Athens.

Walked to the hotel and arrived about 5 pm. Checked email about 6 and found a message from grandson Brian who had missed his flight and won’t be arriving between 6 and 7 for dinner after all. But, he is still coming so we’ll wait. Don’t mind resting up a bit and finally getting a start on my journal. Tomorrow will be a busy day.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

ATHENS, last!

Thursday, October 18th, 2007 Athens, Greece

Hard to believe we’re on our third day of our trip and we’ve just arrived in Athens! Watched the baggage carousel go round and round and no black bags with bright green straps. Missing luggage we soon found out was extremely common between Heathrow and Athens. Filed the necessary reports and then headed for the Airport Bus to the city. Arrived in Athens and found ourselves on the street at 4:30 am at the Panepistimio Metro Station. But, that didn’t open until 5 am. So we found the ubiquitous McDonald across the street and ordered coffee. Looked at the maps and decided we needed to stretch our legs so we started off towards our hotel located next to the Acropolis. Pulling suitcases and stopping for directions from street cleaners several times (our last directions were obtained from an Embassy guard who seems happy to talk with someone at that hour of the morning) we rolled into the hotel at about 6 am. The night clerk unlocked the door of the Acropolis View Hotel and let us in. We had some problems because of making changes early in the scheduling; they didn’t show the new one only the one we cancelled. But all is well; we won’t get the “view” room but will have a nice room with bath. And, most importantly breakfast at 7 am (part of the room fee) and we were able to get into our room by 8 am. We’re seriously tired by this time.

Cleaned up and went to bed but set the alarm for noon. Refreshed we headed out to walk to the Travel Agency office to complete our cruise plans and pick up tickets, etc. Several weeks before leaving the cruise plans changed from seven to four days; eliminating the Istanbul portion. But the agency had put together a flight and hotel for three nights so we’re still going to Istanbul in November. We did take the Metro for a portion of the walk.

From there we walked over to check out the Hostel that our grandson is staying in and then continued on to the Metro for our ride back to the Acropolis area. Walking up the hill we stopped at a rooftop Travina for lunch; Greek beer plus soup for Jim and a Greek Salad for me while we enjoyed the view. Back in the hotel Jim catnapped while I sorted luggage and kept busy instead of sleeping. After two hours I got him up again and this time we walked around the base of the Acropolis hill; climbed up to view the city from the hill that St. Paul preached from and then down for a stroll through the Monastiraki Bazaar. Before leaving the hotel we called the airport and learned that our missing luggage had been found and would be delivered before breakfast tomorrow.

Continued walking north through the city all the way to our bus stop from the airport. Then after stopping for some light dinner we continued walking all the way home (our hotel) …arriving after dark. We estimated that we’ve walked a minimum of ten hours since arriving early this morning. Julie (the daughter of friends back home) lives in Athens and is a travel agent; she called about 9 pm for tomorrow’s plans and then we tucked in about 10 pm for a full night’s sleep after washing our undies!

Friday, August 28, 2009

GREECE & we come!

Greece and Turkey….unfulfilled travel dreams for Jim…became a reality this year. Shortly after returning from our tour in China we started to put together a loosely knit trip for the fall in Greece and Turkey. We decided to travel footloose and reservation free for some serendipity traveling in the land of antiquity.

By mid summer we had our plane reservations, a car reserved for eleven days and a seven day cruise that would include Istanbul and Kusadasi (Ephessos) in Turkey. Reservations at an inexpensive hotel in Athens for the first three days completed the core planning for our trip that would span from October 16th to November 29th. Our last two nights were scheduled for London so that Jim could visit the British Museum to see the current exhibit of the Terra Cotta Soldiers from China. The same exhibit will be at the Bower’s Museum in 2008 where he is a docent. Is this curiosity or being one step ahead? Either way it’s a chance for me to spend a day as a tourist in London; I think I’ll ride the on/off tour bus all day!

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

Our plane didn’t leave until 8:35 pm so we had all day to make those final preparations for closing the house and getting many of the Christmas decorations completed or at least started before leaving. Daughter Jennifer drove us to LAX airport about 4 pm so we were there in plenty of time for check in and the security gauntlet. Had a small detour on the way and got to see the back side of the airport from Imperial Highway because of a major road closing; but we still arrived about 5 pm. Jim sailed through security but they opened my plastic bag for liquids and took away my shampoo bottles…yep I kinda thought they might as they were 4 oz instead of 3 oz. But, to my surprise they also took the jar of peanut butter…hadn’t thought about that one. I’d added it at the last minute as a surprise gift for my grandson who is meeting us in Athens; he’s on mid-semester break from his college semester in Italy. Oh well! Not an earthshaking loss.

Met a couple of sisters traveling together while we were still in LAX; they were also headed for Athens but then going on a cruise ship. Flight to London was half hour late in leaving but we were pleasantly surprised at the short time between loading and take-off.

London is eight hours ahead so we were actually leave LAX at 9pm + 8 hours = 5 am. We arrived at Heathrow Airport in London at 3 pm on Wednesday.

Wednesday, October 17th, 2007

At Heathrow we transferred from Terminal 3 (arrival) to Terminal 4; went through security which was a breeze…almost no one in line. Then we found out we needed to go to Terminal 1. Transferred to the bus for the trip over; bad sign: the bus was packed. Sure enough this security line was huge and it took nearly half an hour plus to get through the line….then the long wait began. Found seats in the lounge; four across with no arms and EMPTY. Stretched out and tried to nap a bit. The No Jet Lag pills are helping but it’s a very long trip because of the layover in London. Arrived about 3 pm and our flight to Athens was scheduled to leave at 9 pm. Loooonnnnngggg wait!

We finally took off after a long wait on tarmac and added two more hours to our clocks. Greece and Turkey are ten hours ahead of California. So now it was 11 pm; easy flight over with everyone trying to sleep but difficult with passengers talking and watching movies. Arrived in Athens at 3 am on Thursday morning! That’s 5 pm on Wednesday. If my math is correct that was twenty hours from start to finish!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Idaho, Oregon & California: 3 days of driving

BLOG THREE OF MONTANA TRIP 3 days of driving

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

It was a struggle to leave early and not watch the Tour de France head into Paris for the final day; traditionally a day of friendship and celebrating except for the sprint riders who will be chasing that one final stage victory at the end of the Champs-Elysees in Paris. But we knew that the program was being recorded for us back home so we left the house at 7 am after making sure we’d removed all traces of our visit to a fabulous log house!

One of the rewards for leaving early was a herd of antelope quietly drinking the rain water left in the cracks down the center of the highway; so glad that we were able to stop as we rounded the corner instead of having a hood ornament for the car! I took some photos while we waited for them to finish crossing the highway and then continued on our way knowing that all was good in our little corner of the world.

Heading south we soon reach the North Fork of the Salmon River and continued to follow that into the Sawtooth Mountain Range along the Lewis and Clark Trail. The river was a series of rapids perfect for kayak sport and hundreds of fisherman using their skills to fly fish along the banks, in boats and standing in waders in the rush of the river. I finally gave up taking photos; just too many opportunities! The day varied from broad vistas, green fields to narrow gaps between shear mountains….generally with a river flowing rapidly along side us! Did I mention the horses ….. seems to be as many horse ranches as cattle ranches; they definitely love their horses in the Big Sky Country.

We kept to the two lane highways as we drove for ten hours across Idaho and finally into Oregon where we found ourselves in the high desert. Arrived in the town of Burns before dusk and found a cute little hotel called the Silver Spur Motel. Population of fewer than five thousand and Sunday evening; not much open! Shopped at the grocery store for some picnic items and enjoyed our picnic in our room while we watched the summation of the Tour de France and posted my Blog with the final results! I enjoyed the challenge of posting the Tour results each day, but I’m glad that I will only be posting my regular Blog every few days during the balance of our trip.

Monday, July 27th, 2009 Brookings, Oregon

After an early breakfast at the motel we headed west in the desert towards the Pacific Ocean. Soon we could see the Cascade Mountain Range that said to me; we’re close to the city of Bend. I called my high school friend and he met us at a Starbucks Coffee Shop where we spent an hour catching up; we haven’t seen him since he stayed with us back in 2007. A nice break in the drive; Bend seems like a great place with many things to do and see but not on this trip. Our goal tonight is to reach the coast and head south to the border of California, and we still had many miles to travel. We were hitting more four lane highways but still not the major freeways or interstate highways, so it’s slow going at times.

We’d considered stopping by to see Crater Lake today but as we neared the area decided to continue west towards Roseburg. There we followed the Middle Fork of The Coquille River towards Coos Bay. A beautiful trip through the coastal mountains where the outside temperatures reached a high of 108° in the canyons and back down to 66° nearly sixty miles later as we crested over the peak and rushed down the mountain to the Pacific Ocean and Highway 101 just south of Coos Bay. Less than two hours later, another ten hour day, we drove into Brookings Oregon where we’d made reservations earlier in the day. Enjoyed a lovely dinner out and then back to our beautiful little Motel called Wild Rivers Motor Lodge because it is walking distance to the Rogue River just before it merges into the Pacific Ocean. We enjoyed a stroll along the highway and walked across the bridge with views of the Harbor below before calling it a night.

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009 Redwood Forest and Highway 101 South

Our day began early as we were taking the slow way south on Highway 101 through the ancient forest of the Giant Redwoods in the northwest corner of California. The highway was full of bicycle riders, many with camping gear strapped on to their bikes. We went in and out of fog banks all morning as we meandered in and out of the forest and ocean front roads. Sometimes the roots were so close to the edge of the road that you could feel the root systems below as you drove the road, especially on the avenue of the Giants.

Along the ocean highway it was interesting to note that they had posted signs whenever you entered or left a “Tsunami Zone” between Crescent City and Eureka. The beaches are very wide and shallow in these waters making it easy for them to roll inland if generated by earthquakes in the ocean; as they witnessed in 1964 and 2006.

We stopped at the Klamath River to take photos of the golden bears on each end of the bridge that we crossed over just south of Crescent City and continued on through the stately redwoods saved from the sawmills by the creations of many National and State Parks along Highway 101.

We decided to stay on Highway 101 instead of Highway 1 when we reached the split at the town of Legget; we were traveling slowly but steady and we still had an afternoon of driving before we reach our destination of Pleasant Hill, a bedroom community near Walnut Creek for San Francisco and Oakland. The weather was blistering as we traveled inland and south towards Napa Wine Country. That is another adventure we took about ten years ago; lots of great memories.

We said goodbye to Highway 101 at Petaluma and headed east across the top of the San Francisco Bay. On our way we saw the Petaluma Adobe and decided to take a break for a short visit. It was closing time, nearly 5 pm, but we enjoyed the outside of this magnificent old home that is one of the oldest preserved buildings in Northern California, reputed to be the largest and richest privately owned Mexican estate north of San Francisco in the 1800’s. Build by Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo in 1834; it has been an historical home since efforts were begun in the early 1900’s to preserve what was left of the Adobe.

We pulled into Pleasant Hill just after 6 pm for an evening of fun with our two youngest grandchildren after a wonderful dinner prepared by our son and his wife. We’ll be spending two nights here before going into the city.

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009 San Francisco area

Today was all about the grandkids! They are members of a swim club and at ages 9 and 6 are actively competing in swimming competitions. We spent the morning at their practice and then in the afternoon their aunt arrived (our youngest daughter who lives in the city) and we all went to the swim meet to cheer them on and eat our dinner around the pool! It was a much needed day of relaxing with family after three very long days of travel.

Thursday, July 30th, 2009 San Francisco

This morning we headed into the city by way of the Oakland Bay Bridge. San Francisco has always been one of my favorite cities and we’ve many fond memories of our visits over the years. We had the morning to ourselves and after a bit of trial and error we found our way to the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. It is very near City Hall in the old Library building. They have a “Samurai” exhibit at this time that was excellent.

At noon we met our daughter outside of her office building and headed towards her apartment on Russian Hill. There we unloaded our suitcases and walked to a local restaurant for lunch. We decided on the French café La Boulange de Polk around the corner; a delightful touch of Europe in this very cosmopolitan city!

Our evening was spent with young friends at the newly renovated San Francisco Natural Science Museum in Golden Gate Park. The Museum has a “Nightlife” opening every Thursday evening for adults only…’s become quite the rage in San Francisco! Check it out at .

What a fun evening: strolling through a rain forest, an aquarium and a planetarium show all in one evening! And, we were able to enjoy a drink as we strolled and also purchased our dinner about half way through. And, did I mention….dancing! Yes, great music everywhere and at one point we actually did some twinkle toe time!

Friday, July 31st, 2009 Home at last

Up early we headed east to Interstate 5 and the long road home. Our daughter came with us and we made a detour through the desert to drop her off at a Religious Retreat house near Palmdale. Yes…we came back out and took her to the airport on Sunday afternoon. We pulled into the garage just before 5 pm, tired but happy to be home. We had driven 3,423 miles in eleven days, averaging 48.57 mpg.

Thanks for joining us on our short tour of the northwestern U.S.A.

Tune in again on Friday, August 28th for our Tour of Greece....

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Yellowstone Park & 2 days in Darby

BLOG TWO OF MONTANA TRIP Yellowstone Park, and 2 days in Darby

Friday, July 24, 2009 Montana

We awoke just before dawn, about 5 am; we’d both slept through the night pretty well considering everything. In the mad scramble to reach the door handle we set off the car alarm resulting in a ear piercing alarm clock for our neighbors asleep in their tents.

A fast trip down to the rest rooms and we rapidly threw everything in the back and headed out of the campground as fast as possible. Today’s drive was slow because of having to stop several times for road work; sometimes up to half an hour each time. Soon we were in Yellowstone National Park. We’d arrived so early that the gates were wide open without any attendants to collect fees. Its beautiful country but we also noted in addition to the tree damage from the bark beetles, there are many acres showing the results of wildfires over the past several years; most of which are started by lightening strikes. My husband and I spent our honeymoon in the summer of 1960 working in a lookout tower in Sequoia National Park charting those strikes….another story.

We found “Old Faithful” and hot coffee at the same time. The rain had finally arrived after days of “dark clouds” that never produced the needed drops. Old Faithful Geyser is only one out of hundreds of geysers spraying throughout the Park. But, this one has earned its name and viewing platform because of keeping fairly regular hours; enough so that they post the next schedule eruption…give or take ten minutes either way.

Old Faithful was having a sluggish day and didn’t produce quite the display that we’d expected; maybe the rain had dampened her spirits. But while waiting we saw some of the other geysers give some awe inspiring clouds of steam into the sky in the distance that gave me some great photo opportunities. We also visited the famous Old Faithful Inn, one of the largest log structures in the world. There was a long yellow bus parked outside just like in the movies! She finally blew and we ambled off to continue our journey into Montana; our destination for today was in Darby.

We headed out of the park from West Yellowstone and continued north into the western part of Montana. We had to cross the Continental Divide again near Butte; we’d crossed it once already in our drive through Yellowstone National Park. As we approached the down side of the mountain, I looked up to the east on top of the mountain and discovered a snow white statute of the Virgin Mary perched on the crest of the mountain. At first I didn’t believe my eyes but then I got out the trusty tour book and sure enough, there it was:

Our Lady of the Rockies is a colossal 90-foot statue of the Virgin Mary that overlooks the beautiful city of Butte, Montana from her lofty perch on the East Ridge of the Continental Divide. The statue itself was built as a monument to honor not only Mary, but also all women regardless of race, religion, or creed. (This goes doubly so for mothers.) She stands at an elevation of 8,510 feet above sea level, which is also approximately 3,500 feet above the elevation of Butte itself.”

By this time we were also back on the Interstate System and moving rapidly along our route towards Missoula. There we stopped for an early dinner before heading south on the smaller roads for another hour towards Darby where we will spend the next two nights with our friends who are celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary.

In Darby we turned off of the main street and soon found ourselves on a dusty drive down the gravel roads just before we arrived at their large two story log home in the Bitterroot Mountains. All four of their children had arrived from California and Washington. Their parents were at a neighbor’s home we found out; and we were expected to also attend. There we found a group of eight waiting for us to start dinner. Not having expected this meal we sat with the group while they enjoyed dinner and then we joined them for dessert. We found another of the old neighbors had also made the trek (by airplane) and so there were three of us for the occasion. After dinner we followed them back to their house; stopping along the way to observe a herd of elk grazing just off the road in someone’s yard.

Our hostess has arranged for her out of town guests to stay with various families as public lodging is hard to come by without driving many miles. We were assigned to an unbelievable log cabin house that has been built as a model design home by the builder for his family named “Almost Heaven”. Absolutely stunning; the owner is a wild game hunter and his trophies were displayed everywhere. A full bear in the entry way; a bison head over the living room fireplace, a moose head in our bedroom, and the downstairs family room was like a miniature natural science museum. The property is on the market for $1,800,000. as the family has decided to move back to Southern California. They are gone for the weekend so we had the place to ourselves…..just us and the zoo! Check out the website at for more information on this home.

After a long day of travel we were delighted with our lodgings and most importantly for me: the house had an unsecured wireless Internet so I was able to sign on and complete my Blog entry for the day!

Saturday, July 25, 2009 The Party in Darby, Montana

We had a leisurely “sleep-in” morning available in our private hide-away in the hills of Montana; but we also knew that the Tour de France was climbing Mont Ventoux in France this morning. We had sat on Mont Ventoux in 2004 to watch the Tour summit the mountain and that was the last time the race was on Mont Ventoux until today!

Couldn’t resist waking up early…booting up the computers….and watching the race live on! There were televisions all over the house but we couldn’t get any of them to turn on. There was a power shortage the week before but for some reason their wireless network was alive and well!

After completing my summary of today’s race and posting my Blog we dressed and headed into town to pick up some groceries for breakfast and lunch. While there we explored the town and found the local library. Gossip at the dinner table last night was about the free wireless Internet at the library; it was turned off after someone brought down the whole town when someone tried to download too big of a file. But, there are still a few who are unaware of the problem and sit in their cars in the parking lot to access the web; totally unaware that they are actually on an unsecured site that belongs to someone in the neighborhood. Sure enough….we found one guy using his laptop propped up against his steering wheel. Small towns can be fun!

We arrived at the 50th Anniversary Party about 2:30 pm. The priest arrived about 3 pm and we all walked into the woods for a beautiful renewal of their wedding vows. Their one and only grandchild held their rings for the blessing and the priest asked all of their children to stand beside them for the ceremony. There was hardly a dry eye in the group by the end of the ceremony. The remainder of the seventy plus guests began to arrive and the chef from Seattle started a huge wok on a specially built BBQ for today. He is the fiancée of the youngest daughter and truly demonstrated today why he is considered a Master Chef! He started with chicken and continued to add: spices, onions/garlic, rice, mussels, clams, prawns ………. plus everything else to create a main dish of Paella for eighty people! He worked with a fellow chef who now lives in Montana and came for the day to bring the cake and help with the preparation of the food.

The salad was a cascading waterfall down the center of the table of everything that you could think of to put into a salad. The dinner was served buffet style with guest sitting all over the decks on both levels. Finally, the piece de resistance arrived: a three-tiered wedding cake that was melt in your mouth…died and gone to heaven….a real feel good all over treat! Just after they cut the cake…the skies opened up and God celebrated with a thunder and lightening storm accompanied by heavy rain drops and hail! What fun! Other than moving the cake under an awning the party continued as though the storm didn’t exist. It was a short-lived storm that settled the dust on the gravel road for our way home just before dusk. The young folks continued to party into the night!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Las Vegas...Provo....Jackson Hole

BLOG ONE OF MONTANA TRIP Las Vegas. Provo, Jackson Hole

July 21st, 2009 Las Vegas, Nevada

In June we received an invitation to attend a 50th Wedding Anniversary party for some friends who were our neighbors from about 1967 to 1988 for July 25th in Montana. We moved from the neighborhood in 1988 and they moved from sunny California to Montana in 1996. Over the years we’ve kept in touch and actually visited their new home build several miles down a gravel road up against the Bitterroot Mountains about ten years ago.

What a great excuse to plan a road trip! On Donner, on Blitzer, to the computer we flew; blazing a trail to the mountains we knew….. By July 1st we had hotels reserved and the loose knit plan of our route for an eleven day road trip that would take us from California, through Nevada, Utah, Wyoming and Montana. After that we planned to drive from Montana through Idaho, Oregon and back into California with our final stop in San Francisco to visit with children who live there.

One minor detail created a concern … I would be in the middle of blogging daily reports on the 2009 Tour de France along with a Journal and photos that I’d made as we followed the Tour in 2004 on a three month trip to Europe. The Bradenton Newspaper in Florida was counting on my Blog for their Travel Section. I set to work preparing all of my Blogs and photos in advance so that I would be ready to put them in each day as we traveled. The reports on the 2009 Tour de France would have to be created daily and then everything entered as we find Internet access along the way!

We left this morning on our first leg that took us across the desert from Orange County to Las Vegas. Because we couldn’t leave until I posted my Blog after the race; it was a late start and we didn’t arrive in Las Vegas until about 5 pm. We got off the freeway way too early and inched along the Casino Strip for what seemed like an hour. The good news is that it was a perfect way to see all of the new Casinos along the Strip! And, our Prius automobile only uses gasoline when we are moving, so it didn’t take extra gas for the tortoise drive down Las Vegas Boulevard! Yes, we are very economical when traveling and average about fifty miles to the gallon.

Finally arrived at our Econo Lodge on the north end of the Strip; checked in and then headed back to the Strip for a closer look at some of the Casinos. We found free parking at the Bellagio Hotel and enjoyed reminiscing about previous stays as we strolled through the lobby under the gaudy but magnificent ceiling of two thousand hand-blown glass flowers designed by the world renowned artist, Dale Chihuly. As we pushed through the revolving doors into the heat of the night we watched a water show beginning in the lake in front of the Hotel. Moving around the walkways to the music of Frank Sinatra we watched the water dance and shoot towering jags into the night sky.

We joined the thongs of tourist in their brief outfits strolling along the Las Vegas Boulevard from Casino to Casino; the desert temperature was dry but hovering around one hundred degrees give or take ten. We finally found a place to cross the street and then came back on the other side through the Paris Casino; yes, we’ve stayed there before also when time was short and money was plentiful. Now we have lots of time and less money so travel is done more economically; but, we’ve found that it adds a bit of fun to find the bargains both here in the USA and in Europe.

Back across the street, stopped for another romantic interlude at the Bellagio Hotel Water Show before finding the car and heading home for the night. We have Wireless Internet here in the hotel so we’ll stay to watch the Tour de France on our computers before posting my Blog after the race. Tomorrow will be another hot day of driving as we head north into Utah.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009 Provo, Utah

Why were we watching the Tour de France on our computers? No cable network television that carried Versus at our little hotel; so computers were our only choice. I posted my Blog as soon as the race was over and we were on the road just before 9 am! It was another day of warm weather as we headed northeast on Interstate 15 into Utah after crossing over the corner of Arizona. Actually, Nevada had been cooler than normal for this time of year because of the overhead clouds that shielded us from the sun most of the time.

Beautiful drive along the edge of Zion National Park that we visited last year on our return trip from the Hot Air Balloon Festival in New Mexico; tomato colored high desert views everywhere we looked. We were headed for Provo about fifty miles south of Salt Lake City.

Arrived late afternoon; found our Econo Lodge Hotel on the edge of town .It has the right number of requirements: air conditioning, clean rooms, Wireless Internet and television…this time with Versus Network so we’ll be able to watch the bicycle race tomorrow morning!

We drove into downtown Provo, the third largest city in Utah and home to the Mormon’s Brigham Young University. I’d expected a large city but this is a very comfortable town with very wide streets. There is definitely a “Midwestern” feel about the town from the style of houses and the commercial buildings. There was a beautiful old church in the downtown area that has been converted to a private school.

Speaking of churches; they almost always have a white steeple and you can spot one in every neighborhood from the highway; not just in every town….in every neighborhood. Reminds me of the Catholic Churches in Italy….there’s so many of them they almost tumble onto one another!

Stopped in the Tourist Information shop for some advice and she answered all of our questions and was a veritable fountain of information about the city. Too bad we’re only spending one night in town. After we returned to our hotel we went for a short walk for some needed exercise after two days of driving. Should have walked longer but the sun was very warm even though it was almost dusk.

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009 Jackson Hole, Wyoming

We enjoyed watching the Tour de France on the television this morning. Today was the individual time trials in Annecy so it would be a stretch after the leaders finished before they provided us with results. Deciding to get the results later in the day, we put the pedal to the metal just before 10 am as we had a long road ahead of us today; we’ll be driving along the Great Salt Lake around to the east of the city and then heading into cowboy country: Wyoming!

Our goal today is to reach the northern end of the State of Wyoming and the National Parks. Tonight we plan to camp in the Grand Teton National Park. Several hours into the day’s drive we left the Interstate Highway system and found the beautiful two lane highways along side of rushing rivers and sometimes in the canyons between mountains. It was another long day but with awesome scenery.

In the late afternoon we entered Jackson, also known as Jackson Hole and we knew we were in the Wild West! Stacks of antlers everywhere…arched over the road, on the buildings, in the parks…everywhere! Definitely attuned to the tourist industry, but well done with a western motif.

But what we were looking for was a “McDonald’s Restaurant”. Why? Because they just might have wireless Internet! So for the price of a sandwich, we were able to log into the Internet for one hour; confirm the results of today’s time trials in France and then post my Blog for the day! So much stress!

From Jackson Hole we were only about an hour or so from the National Park. But, because of the beautiful jagged Grand Teton Mountains…WITH SNOW ON TOP…it was a longer drive because we kept stopping for photos and to enjoy a view we haven’t seen for nearly fifty years.

Using our Senior Pass we entered into the National Park without additional fees. We drove to the northern edge of the park to Lizard Creek Campground. They don’t take reservations so everything is on a first come, first served basis. We arrived about 4 pm and were assigned the last camping spot in the campground! The site was an easy walk to Jackson Lake and views of the Grand Tetons. And, because of our Senior Pass we only paid $9.00; half the regular price.

Still warm, we fixed our dinner from supplies that we’d purchased in Jackson Hole and then walked to the lake and around the campground. No campfire program tonight as they only do them on the weekends. As the sun dipped lower we began to set up our sleeping arrangements for the night while we still had light. Big problem…large mosquitoes…didn’t dare leave the windows or car doors open.

Remember…we’re in a Prius…back seats fold down so we put the luggage into the front seats along with all the other extra “stuff”. I blew up the twin size air mattress that we’d brought from home and laid the sleeping bags on top. It was going to be a tight squeeze. We put on more clothing because of the bugs and went for another walk around the campground and actually saw a deer in the trees next to the road. Too many mosquitoes so we got back into the car and ran the engine for the air conditioner while we read our books and waited for the sun to set and the weather to cool down. Looooonnnnnggggg evening! But I’d agreed to try it once as he wanted to see if it would work. Maybe without the bugs…..but I’m so glad we’ve got a sleeping pill to take tonight so that we can get some sleep! I’m a Girl Scout and always prepared! Did I mention that I didn’t drink any liquids after 5 pm…I’m not walking down the road in the middle of the night to the restrooms.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Tuesday, August 17th, 2004 Milan to London

Today is another travel day, this time to Milan’s Malpensa Airport for our trip to London. In order to make the train connections we had to leave about 8:45 am. Arrived at the station by cab and found that Martha’s promise of track #1 was wrong and we had to do a down and up. Our one and only switch was again a down and up tunnel and then we were in Milan. Caught the Express Bus to the airport and arrived about noon.

Our plane was scheduled to leave at 6 pm so we had three hours before we could check-in. We’re anxious to see Tom Hanks’ new movie “The Terminal” because we sort of lived it today! But, at this point we really didn’t care. We were happy to read, eat and “veg” at the airport; lots of shops to brows when we got tired of reading. Turned out the plane was an hour late so we didn’t get into London until after 8 pm. Caught the bus to our hotel near the airport and plan to go into London tomorrow by the tube to see the British Museum and a few other sights. I’m happy that I’ve found out that I can sign on to the Internet in my room; so good to be connected again. Airport Hotels cost a bit more but generally have all the latest in technology.

Wednesday, August 18th: Weather looks like rain so we took our jackets and umbrellas with us to the airport to catch the tube to central London. It took a little bit to find the tube that was down several flights of stairs. You’re in a tunnel for the first part of the trip and then above ground. We got off at the Tottenham Court Rd Station and by continuing to ask directions…everyone speaks English…. found the British Museum. The museum has always been free but they do request donations.

We spent most of the morning touring the antiquities sections. Jim was especially interested in Egypt because of the upcoming exhibit at Bowers on the Queen of Sheba. That was very interesting, especially when we got to the mummies. It’s a huge Museum and one could come for days and still only see a portion of what they have.

On the way back to the tube we stopped at a grocery store and purchased drinks and a sandwich. We took the tube to Hyde Park Station and then walked to Hyde Park to eat our picnic lunch on a park bench. From there we walked through St. James Park on the Princess Dianna walk to Buckingham Palace. Thought we’d found the new Memorial Fountain for Princess Diana but turned out to be the Canadian Memorial for war heroes. Took some photos of the palace and then walked back through the park to the Victoria Station for the ride back to Heathrow Airport. Arrived back at the airport about 5 pm and caught the Hoppa Bus back to the hotel near Heathrow Airport. We spent a week in London about ten years ago so today’s journey was reliving old memories.

Our best to you all…this is the last Journal for our trip. We fly to Los Angeles straight from London tomorrow morning.

Tune in on August 20th for the 2009 USA Tour that we took in July...only a few days but a fun journey!

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Monday, August 16th, 2004 Cremona, Italy

Must be a travel day; Jim was awake at dawn and by 7:30 am we’d paid the hotel bill and walked down the block to a Bar for coffee and a roll. Our first train didn’t leave the station until 8:35 am; we’d chosen that train because it loaded on track #1 and was going in the right direction. The train was in the station early so we loaded everything on and had to wait about half an hour for the start of the trip.

Heading west toward Milan we enjoyed a morning of farmland. Noticed that the vineyards are different here from France; in France they are only about four feet tall and here they are at least six foot plus. Took a little over an hour to get to Bologna and we were faced with a change of trains. Down and then back up the transfer tunnel; don’t know what the handicapped do as there were no hidden elevators; we looked. Got to the right track and when the train pulled in we headed for our car. It was so packed and running late that we decided to get on the next car (first class we found out) and then transfer into our coach. We did have seat reservations on this portion of the trip. But, after getting aboard we discovered the car we needed to go into was so packed that there was no way we could get to our reserved seats. Intercity trains like this one don’t require seat reservations so you have a lot of people standing and sitting in the aisles on the second-class trains. Regional trains don’t have any seat reservations and when on the Eurostar both first and second-class require seat reservations. Positioned our large suitcases against the wall and settled in for the hour ride to the next station, sitting on top of our luggage.

Actually other than having to help people open and close the door between the cars it was cool in the vestibule, we had easy access to a bathroom and we could be the first one off the train when we arrived at our next station. We only had a few minutes to make the next connection. Small station and the conductor actually came to help me with my luggage; yes we had to go down and back up again! One more station and we had a bit more time to make this connection but it did involve another down and up tunnel. Why you may ask were there so many different trains? Our goal today was Cremona, a town located in the middle of Italy, south of Milan; no direct train connections. This town’s claim to fame is the Stradivarius Museum; this was the home of the creator of the famous violins. Since we were near the area, we thought we’d take the opportunity to visit. Good sized town just not well connected by train.

Arrived in Cremona and didn’t have to go through a tunnel to get into the station. Jim took the hotel information and went to look for a taxi. No cabs but a bus driver felt sorry for us and took us to the hotel in the center of town. He wouldn’t take any money for the bus trip! He only had one other passenger, it was siesta time and everything, and I mean everything was closed including the shop where we needed to purchase our bus tickets! Neither of them spoke English but they thought it was great that they had passengers from California with them on the bus. Our weather has been great, not too hot but sunshine. Weather reports look good for the rest of our trip.

Being Monday we weren’t sure about the Museum being open and after our arrival we found out that it is closed today. But the home and workshop are located here and are open today and that’s what Jim really wanted to see. We’ve seen Stradivarius Violins before. Jim is off to see those and other sights while I enjoy the peace and quiet of my room. I went downstairs to use the Internet Point machine in the lobby; opps….not working I found out. But, the manager allowed me to use her computer to check emails. This was how we found out news from friends about Hurricane Charlie’s path in Florida. We’d not heard anything about it going over Orlando. So glad that one of our neighbors sent an email that everyone was ok. Do hope that their damage is not too bad. I also received an email from other friends in Florida that they were close but doing ok. It is so sad to hear of the damages and deaths in Florida from this terrible storm.

Looks like I may be sending this from home on Thursday unless I can get online in London. But will just keep typing until I’m able to send.

Note on expenses for those that travel; I averaged the cost of the car for thirty-seven days and it came out to about eighty euros per day. That included rental, gas, toll roads and parking fees. Second class on the train is working out to be about forty euros per day for eighteen days. That includes Eurorail pass, seat reservations, taxicabs and additional trains and buses to get around in the towns. But, as Jim would point out, that doesn’t put a price on the waiting for trains and struggling with luggage. Personally, second class has been a fun (for me only) experience but I would definitely go first class the next time. Also, fewer and smaller pieces of luggage are a must when traveling by train.

Jim returned and said I HAD to go see the Duomo (Cathedral)! So off we went to the center of the old town; this is actually quite a large city. The Duomo is one of the largest we’ve seen; comparable to St. Mark’s in Venice in size. Has one of the highest bell towers that we’ve ever seen. Also has a separate Baptistery; the whole layout of the buildings reminded me of Pisa except nothing was leaning! Built in the twelfth century, it is a combination of marble and brick construction. The interior was completed probably in the sixteenth century. Jim felt that the fresco paintings inside were influenced by the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican; a combination of fresco painting and oil paintings. As the Eye Witness said; it is the reason that tourists visit Cremona in addition to the violins.

On Jim’s exploration trip he had obtained a list of violinmakers and was amazed to find that there were a hundred or more carrying on the tradition of Stradivarius; creating violins for orchestras of the world. He visited many of their workshops where they had glass windows so you could watch the workers and also see the wood aging, some of it hundreds of years old. Many of these workshops were also closed for the traditional August vacation.

On the way back to the hotel we again noticed how quiet everything is; streets are empty except for bicycle riders. I have figured out that the cities in Italy that have level terrain use bicycles for basic transportation and the ones with hills such as Rome and Sorrento use motor bikes and/or scooters. All of this because of the cost of gasoline, when they do drive, the cars are all small in size. Rarely see an SUV type vehicle; and even those seem smaller than we have in California. About seventy-five percent of the businesses have signs on their doors that they are closed for vacation from August 1st to August 22nd; seems to be the magic date for return. Even the real estate offices and news racks! They literally shut down for about two weeks in August! Amazing!

We enjoyed a wonderful dinner in the hotel dining room; also recommended by Eye Witness travel guide book.

Friday, August 14, 2009

RAVENNA & RIMINI...northeastern Italy

Friday, August 13th, 2004 Ravenna & Rimini

Today was definitely a travel day. It is also the opening day for the Olympics in Athens, Greece. That’s our television show this evening; of course with an Italian slant on one channel and a German slant on another station. We were awakened from a dead sleep at 5:15 am this morning; good thing that I set the alarm clock. We’d set everything up last night so that getting out the door by 5:45 am wasn’t too much of a problem. It was still dark outside; by six the roosters were crowing and we had some daylight as we stood at the bus stop. The bus arrived about 6:10 and soon we were whizzing down the mountain. There was only one other passenger; it was like a private limo ride except it cost only one euro each! Since no one else was standing at bus stops he passed them by as well as a few stop signs along the way. Arrived at the train station and missed the 6:30 am train by minutes; it was still in the station but they wouldn’t open up the doors for us. So we had to wait half an hour for the next “chugger” train to Naples. While we were waiting two Americans arrived, brothers from New York; they were doing eight cities in seven days. Today they were stopping to see Florence and Pisa on their way to Venice. They had lots of questions about the trains and Venice. We ended up giving them lots of advice and our train timetable book.

This train ride was a breeze compared to our trip into Sorrento. Not crowded at all and the passengers were business people on their way to work; a very quiet and somber crowd. The stairs going up into the main train station all had working escalators; no problems there. Found a pizza shop and had breakfast there in the train station. While we waited in the pizza shop for our train we had fun talking with two girls from New York who have been traveling together in Europe for about a month; on the trains and staying in Hostels. They had some wild stories including their experience in purchasing their Eurorail Pass in France. It cost them double the amount that they would have paid in America. We also had a young man from Chicago join our group. He has been traveling in Europe for six months and plans to stay another six months. His main mode of travel is hiking. He has already been to Egypt and surrounding areas. He was meeting a friend today who was coming in from the USA and they are going to hike through Italy together. All three were under twenty-five years of age. The girls were definitely ready to go home next week. The young man was still excited about his travels. The boy offered the girls a “baby wipe” when he walked up…they were thrilled! I offered the girls our small travel pack that we haven’t used but a few times. The one said, “I can’t believe I’m so exciting about getting baby wipes.” But they are wonderful in hot, sticky weather. We now know why the soldiers in Iraq enjoyed receiving them from home.

Our train left on time, an Italian Euro Star in excellent condition. This time we checked both ends of the car before getting on so that the luggage rack was easy to get to when we got on the train. The five hours went fast as we were both able to read and enjoy the scenery. Air conditioning on a train makes a huge difference. Also, the train only stopped in Rome and Florence before we arrived in Bologna. Once in Bologna we had to use the up and down stairs to get to the next train but managed to do them without too much trouble. Found a train headed to Ravenna that was leaving in only half an hour. It was a milk run, but also in good condition and not crowded.

Our hotel, the Hotel Ravenna, is only a block from the train station. No air conditioning but again, very nice and we do have a ceiling fan over our bed. I haven’t been able to get the Internet connection working yet so it’s a good thing that I gave it one more try last night in Sorrento. Jim talked to the manager and found out that I had to put an extra comma between the 0 and the number. Usually it only requires one “pause” after the 0 but the Italian phone lines are such that it needed that extra time to allow the number to connect. So it was “ 0,,02” …… Using electronics when traveling requires lots of patience!

Saturday, August 14th: Up about 7 am we tried the Internet connection one more time without any success. So, you may not receive this until we get back to California depending on the last two hotels; Cremona, Italy and London, England. Talked to the manager on our way out this morning and she said, “no, no, no….it will not work!”

Purchased train tickets to Rimini; an hours ride south of Ravenna. Very crowded but we did have seats all the way there. Rimini is known for the longest beach in Europe and also some very good Roman Ruins; it was packed to the rim with tourists who are mostly Europeans enjoying their traditional August vacation. The campgrounds were full of trailers, motor homes and tents. They stretched from the beach to the train rails in several areas. We also noticed several fields of sunflowers while we were on the train; Jim said, “your girls are looking rather sad”. When I looked out the window they were hanging their heads and rapidly turning black as they are nearly ready for harvest.

After arriving in Rimini we ate “brunch” (this is the first hotel that does not offer a breakfast in the hotel) and then headed for the bus to San Marino, an independent country located about an hour away by bus. We had thought that it would make a great outing while we were in this area. Purchased our roundtrip tickets for the 11 am bus and then found out the bus was full and we’d have to wait for the next bus in another hour.

No problem, we decided to spend the time exploring Rimini; we walked to the Church, then over to the Shopping Market. From there we walked to the Roman Ruins of the Arc of Augusto, still in excellent condition and a great photo opportunity. We also walked along a bicycle path (dodging the many bicycles) in a park that borders the ruins of a Roman Wall and took us most of the way to the beach area. Finally arrived at the beach and walked along the broad sidewalks to find the hotel where the great Italian bicycle rider, Pantani (the pirate who had an earring, shaved head, and won the Tour de France and the Tour of Italy) committed suicide this past spring. Jim didn’t particularly like him but respected him because he was a great road rider and climber. Found the hotel, but disappointed that there was no mention or plaque or memorial of the incident.

We realized the time and turned around towards the bus station. Part of the walk back included a street of very old stately homes. More than likely summer homes for many of Italy’s wealthy families. Some had been converted to multiple residences but most were still privately owned. We checked the number of buzzers on each of the gates to determine how many families lived in each of the estates. Arrived at the bus stop about 1:30 pm and had missed two buses. The next one would not leave until 2:30, and then it would be an hour up and another hour back with very little time to really see the area. Also, we would be catching a late train back to Ravenna and that would probably mean standing with a group of sweaty bodies for another hour because so many would be headed home after a day at the beach. The locals make very good use of their train system in addition to all the summer visitors.

It was not a tough decision to make…. we caught the next train at 2:20 for Ravenna; arrived about 3:30 and watched the Olympics on television in the comfort of our hotel. Called my sisters who were in the path of hurricane Charlie; they are all fine and the storm came in south of them. It was a Level Four and did extensive damage. Other than spending a nervous night in the evacuation center, they are fine; having a cell phone with us so nice. We are a bit worried about our friends in Venice, Florida. We’ve tried to call several times and only get a busy signal. The word on CNN (yes we finally found the magic channel on our little TV) is not good about Florida. I’ve checked out the local Internet Café and it is closed until August 15th for their vacation. I’ll walk over again tomorrow and see if they’ve decided to open on the 15th or 16th. We have found many shops closed for part or all of August here and elsewhere in Italy.

We picked up an English newspaper to get some news on Florida and the Olympic Games. There were three additional stories of interest: (1) The Pope is in Lourdes this week for the celebrations there (the Pope is big news in Italy); (2) Julia Childs died and (3) the Paris Beach rage; remember we visited the site while in Paris. Seems as though within three years this is catching on and a number of large cities all over Europe have copied the idea. Not on quite as grand a scale as Paris; but they are catching up fast!

We decided to go to the local McDonald’s for an American style fast-food dinner tonight. It’s located on the main square of town; but no “golden arches” in sight. The selection is not as big as USA and no breakfast type foods in the morning; otherwise it was good food and packaged to code! Also, you can eat at anytime instead of waiting for the traditional restaurants as those don’t open until 7 or 7:30 pm. Since we had dinner our first night in Ravenna at a great local restaurant we thought that we really should do a real McDonald’s meal at least once while we are in Europe this summer.

Sunday, August 15th: Walked about ten minutes to the local church for 8:30 am Mass this morning. Very nice, not too grand, but large columns probably from Roman ruins somewhere back several centuries. The photo gallery on the wall showed the church after it’s restoration in 1920’s and then again after the bombing in 1944. Apparently it took a direct hit as over half of the church was in ruins. A color photo after they had repaired the damages was dated 1951.

Continuing our tour, we visited the tomb of Dante and then the church of San Francisco. Walked to the town square and had an Italian breakfast at Café Roma. After breakfast, Jim walked over to the National Museum and the church with all the Mosaics and I did a slow walk back to the hotel on my own observing local customs and people.

The cafés and benches in the squares were filled with men as the women were in church; very few men in Europe seem to attend Mass. The most popular mode of transportation inside this town seems to be bicycles. Several hotels have bicycles available for their guests to use during their stay. Most streets have bike paths, trains are marked as accepting bikes or not, they stand with them in the vestibule of the train car. There are racks all over the place. Some of them are special in that it has a locking device that the bike fits into and then the people take the key with them.

Clothes, young girls wear their hip huggers unbelievably low all over Europe. Sometimes the top is four inches below their navel that has a piercing in it. The chins, ears, navels and more have small piercing. Small tattoos are very common. They wear skirts and dresses more than shorts. The material used for women’s clothing is generally loose and shear. Shoes are extremely pointed; we see more “flip-flops” than actual sandals on men and women, both young and old. The levi’s are treated to appear aged and are generally about one hundred euros for that style. It is very apparent that they favor the thong underpants. Most of the women shave under their arms now but it is still not uncommon to see women who don’t. Hygiene standards are very different.

Young men almost always wear earrings; mostly only one but not uncommon to see both ears and/or several in one ear like the girls. The chin and eyebrow piercing is very common. Occasionally you’ll see the pants riding down on their hips but not very often. Shoes are generally flip-flops. Even waiters in the restaurants will have a sandal type slip-on style of shoe. Only tourist seem to wear shorts; very unusual to see Italian men in shorts except at the beach.

We walked over to the train station to check out the schedules for our train tomorrow. Returned to the hotel and did some repacking to start the process of getting ready for the airplane trips coming up this week. Weather wise we’ve really been fortunate on the entire trip. Last week this area had very heavy rains. We’ve had sun with light breezes that help keep one cool. We’ve also gotten very good at walking on the shady side of the street.