Hello from Price, UT

Hello from Price, UT

Thursday evening – August 15, 2019   (Second post of this travelogue)

This morning’s post was made from the salt with a signal that was not all that great.  In addition to having issues with some of the photos, I knew that it might be difficult to upload the photo files.  Thus this second post.

I am staying at the Holiday Inn in Price.  I also stayed here on the way out last Sunday.

One of the fun aspects of Bonneville events is the amazing array of non-racing vehicles.  The photo below shows a neat car/trailer combination.  They camped next to me one night and then we parked together on the salt to watch the runs.  It is a really neat family with two daughters who traveled all the way from Michigan – via Yellowstone and other neat stops.  It really brought back memories of taking the girls to Illinois in the 56 Chevy in 1987.

50 Chevy and 48 Spartan trailer (Medium)

1950 Chevy Woody with a 1948 Spartan trailer
(note the Charger on the left)

 

In the last post I mentioned that I was “camping” on this trip.  The two photos illustrate my “camp”

Dinner at the bend (Medium)

Dinner at the bend – my camp spot
Note the propane stove and freeze dried package

 

Breakfast on the salt (Medium)

Breakfast on the salt just before sunrise
(note the full moon setting in the upper left)

 

Here are a couple of additional photos

Enola Gay Hanger restoration 1 (Medium)

Historic Marker for the Enola Gay Hanger at Wendover

 

Race fan lunch stop (Medium)

No trip to a western racing event is complete without a “double double”
IN-N-OUT Burger has an almost cult following in the west.

 

So was the trip fun?  Let me count the ways:

1)  I got to drive a butt kicking Hemi Charger!

2)  The Charger has a USB connected to the stereo system so I got to listen to my music from my phone (over 1000 songs)

3)  I “survived” my camping experience rather well.

4)  The freeze dried meals were pretty good and I got to have a bit of scotch and a Cuban cigar each night (actually one half of one each night).  If you follow our blog you will recall that I bought some Cuban cigars in Croatia (yes it is legal).  I am not at all a cigar connoisseur but they seemed pretty much like my much less expensive on-line cigars.

5)  I got to see a lot of great cars and some good runs.  Even if the salt limited the big speeds, the sights and sounds of the fast cars is beyond description.

So the answer to the question is: HELL YES!

Next year I hope the bus and truck will be ready and then I can take Pat with me.

That is all for this trip

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Hello from Wendover, UT (Bonneville!!!!!!!!)

Hello from Wendover, UT (Bonneville!!!!!!!!)

Thursday morning – August 15, 2019   (First post of this travelogue)

I am at one of my favorite locations/race – Bonneville Speed Week. 

My great plans earlier this year were to have the bus and the IHC truck here.  Well neither  were even close to making it.  So plan B was to rent a car and “camp” at what they call the “bend in the road” Google Maps Link

When I say camp, that is a pretty basic description.  I am sleeping in the front seat of my rental car (a Hemi Charger!!!!).  I have a propane camp stove on which I prepare my freeze dried breakfasts and dinners (pretty good meals).  I also use the camp stove to make my coffee with my special coffee maker (uses my K cups).  That makes me pretty “self sufficient”.  Sleeping in the car is OK but it would be better if I had my own bed {grin}.

I had been following the salt conditions for a week before I left and it looked pretty good.  However, last Thursday they got a rain storm and it really messed up the courses and delayed the start of the racing three days.  The “long course” is normally five miles of timed segments.  They had to reduce that to four miles and all of the cars were run on that course.  Normally the long course is reserved for cars that go over 200MPH and the short course is for the rest of the cars.  When they run all the cars  (over 500 entries) on the one course, it is a mess.  One record was set at 48 MPH (a very small motorcycle) and it takes forever for them to travel the course.  It really limits the number of runs all of the cars can make. 

The salt conditions are not all that great, so the big dogs are not going very fast.  So far the fastest speed is about 370 MPH.  When the salt it good, a few cars will go well into the 400 MPH range.

However, it is still Bonneville and that is Mecca for racing (at least for me).  I have been on the salt at sunrise the last two days and fixed my breakfast and coffee while the cars passed by going to the starting line.

Yesterday afternoon I went into town to fill the gas tank.  I could not resist going out to Wendover  Air Force Base.  I have discussed this amazing place in previous blogs.  It was a very active Air Force Base in the 40s and was used to train the crew of the Enola Gay which was the B29 that dropped the atomic bombs on Japan (Link).  The hangers and barracks are still in reasonably good condition – indeed, a movie about WWII could be filmed there with very little reconstruction.

We were saddened in the past that the museum was very small and the folks mentioned that there was very little support for reconstruction of the Enola Gay hanger – primarily because younger folks had the impression that the bombing was an atrocity.  However, this visit made me feel much better.  There is a strong program to stabilize the Enola Gay hanger and do a significant amount of reconstruction.

I am having some issues with the photos I have taken, so I will upload some in the next post.

Today, I will spend about a half of a day on the salt and then start heading back.

That is all for this post.

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Hello from Evergreen, CO  (An epilogue to our Europe trip)

Hello from Evergreen, CO  (An epilogue to our Europe trip)

Sunday morning – August 4, 2019   (tenth post of this travelogue)

Well, as you can tell from the title, we made it home and it is sure nice to be here.  We arrived at a few minutes after midnight on Tuesday (7/30).  That was almost exactly a 24 hour journey from when we left our Fiumicino (Rome) apartment!

We first flew from Rome to Philadelphia – a 10 hour flight.  The transfer in Philadelphia was a nightmare.  First, it took us almost an hour from the time we landed to the time we got to the gate.  They parked the plane in a remote area and used a huge transfer vehicle to get us to the gate.   Sounds simple  huh?  The first problem was that American somehow got their signals crossed and we had to wait 20-25 minutes for the transfer vehicle to get to the plane.  Then there was some sort of mix-up on getting the transfer vehicle to the proper arrival gate – another 20-25 minute wait on the tarmac.

Then the fun began.  There was a huge line to clear customs.  They had installed some electronic kiosks that scanned your passport and let you answer the customs questions on a screen.  I  would guess that they have not perfected the system, as it really held things up.  Then we still had to go to a Customs Agento  show him we cleared  the kiosk process.   Then we had to get our checked luggage and take them to the transfer location.  Lastly we had to clear TSA again.

Speaking of clearing customs, in Rome they had a scan system that seems pretty effective – if you are not flagged.   Unfortunately, I was flagged both entering and leaving and had to stand in long lines to go to a customs officer.

The flight from Philadelphia to Denver was OK.  I had upgraded our seats to an exit row (actually, I upgraded seats on all flights where available).   That gave us a ton of legroom, but the seats seemed very narrow and uncomfortable.  They had configured the row to be two seats on each side where there are normally three and apparently installed special seats.

When we got to Denver only one checked bag showed up.  Turns out one bag did not make the connecting flight.  It was delivered the next day.  Also, the suitcase that we shipped from Florence arrived on 8/1 in very good condition (they had done some “packaging” at the Mailbox Etc.store).

Now for some final thoughts.

I think in the back of our minds, we assumed this would be our last trip to  Europe.  I think that is almost certainly the case now.   We have been very fortunate to travel to Europe several times over the years and have seen some fantastic things and experienced incredible events.  But this trip really took a toll  on us.   Our bodies are really letting us know that we are not spring chickens anymore and our endurance has declined.  I am so thankful that I am quite active in the shop (often working on heavy parts) and that helped me deal with all the luggage on this trip.  There could always be an exception, but we will probably focus our future travel on the many  beautiful parts of our country. 

We probably extended the trip a bit more than we should have.  Even though a significant part of the trip was paid for by SU, the cost of each additional day added up.  However, we had a goal to visit new countries and I am not sure that we could have shortened the trip and still met that goal.

We experienced our stays a bit different than we have done in the past where we would try to cram every tourist stop into every day.  This time we went much slower and spent a lot more time “experiencing” the “atmosphere” of each stop.  I think this gave us a different perspective of the various locations.  We “enjoyed” the challenge of shopping at grocery store several times.  We enjoyed our meals in the apartment and soaking up the environment and lifestyle.  We enjoyed our evening strolls and eating at the wonderful sidewalk restaurants at each of our stops.

We were fortunate to have discussions with several local folks so that we could learn more from their perspective.  One memorable discussion was with a special needs teacher while waiting for the train in Bled.  We learned a great deal about life in Slovenia from him.

The school teacher mentioned that crime was very low in Slovenia (and we think the same was true in Croatia).  In our nightly strolls in those countries, we felt very safe.  The same could not be said of Italy.   As we have mentioned, pickpocketing in most major tourist areas in Italy is VERY prevalent.  Pat’s FB group continues to report significant losses including  phones, billfolds and even a passport. 

Some of you may remember the 1987 comedy movie:  “Planes, Trains, and  Automobiles.  It starred Steve Martin and John Candy.  Well, we could have created a sequel:  Planes, Trains, Automobiles and Ships.  If we did, they would be several comedy episodes in the movie {grin}.

We went the whole trip without watching TV – and survived.  We probably could have gotten some British news channels, but I hate their form of the news.  Instead, we kept up on National and Denver news via the internet. 

We did not suffer significantly from jet lag on this trip.  In the past, it has kicked our butts.

As I have noted in the past, we mostly write this blog/travelogue for our own benefit and too keep the family informed that we are still alive.  We find ourselves referring to blog posts from past trips to refresh our memories of certain facts or to just plain relive some great experiences.

That is all for this trip.

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Hello from Fiumicino, Italy (close to Rome)

Hello from Fiumicino, Italy (close to Rome)

Drafted:   Sunday evening – July 28, 2019   (ninth post of this travelogue)

Uploaded:  Tuesday July 30 due to upload issue with last ISP

We are in our final Airbnb for this trip in Fiumicino, Italy (Google Map Link)

 

Pat standing on the balcony of our Fiumicino apartment (Medium)

Pat standing on the balcony of our Fiumicino apartment
 

We chose this location since it is close the Rome airport.  As noted in one of the previous posts the Rome airport is perhaps 25 miles from the center of Rome.  Since we flew in yesterday, it just made sense to stay here.

More general thoughts:

On this trip we have stayed in seven Airbnb units and no hotels!  All of the units had demand type water heaters.  Some worked OK, some not so good with resulting cold showers.  None of the units had garbage disposals.  Some were in very old buildings and some fairly modern.  The two units in Zagreb were furnished in all IKEA including the silverware!  All were fun/unique experiences.

Ikea furniture in Zagreb 2 (Medium)

IKEA furniture in Zagreb

 It appears the Airbnb is becoming a significant business in Europe (and maybe the US as well).  The two Airbnb units we stayed at in Zagreb were owned by  two brothers and they own 5 units.  Their folks own several units in Split. Croatia.

Our Eurail passes were not as big of a value to us on this trip to Europe.  First we did not do as much train travel and secondly the quality of the trains (coupled with the heat) cut short some plans to do more train travel.  The photo below shows the main route we traveled from Rome to  Florence to Venice to Ljubljana and finally Zagreb.  You can see that we traveled around the upper part of the Adriatic Sea.  As we noted earlier, we made the decision not to retrace the route (over 20 hours and 5 transfers), but rather to fly to Rome via Athens.  BTW, the photo is a screen capture of an app that I installed on my phone on our last trip to Europe.  It is an amazing tool.

 

Our train route (Medium)

Our train route on this trip

 

We have talked about the stairs and walking on our trip.  As we have noted the Europeans say that the first floor is the one above the ground level – what we call the second story.   All of our apartments were on the second or third story (US) except one that was on the fifth level (fortunately with an elevator).  All of the apartments we stayed in had very high ceilings which was great, but that meant that each story was much taller than those in the  US.  To give you a feeling, there were 28 stairs going to our second floor (US) second apartment in Zagreb.

As we have noted, we often ate our meals in the apartment (at least the last few stays where we were mostly in the “relaxing” (that translated to too tired and hot to do much {grin}).  We ate a lot of the great bread (much different from our bread) and cheese, plus tomatoes and mozzarella for lunch and an occasional dinner.  For breakfast we had cheese and bread plus yogurt and  Muesli.  Sounds a bit boring, but it really hit the spot.

Our typical lunch and sometimes dinner (Medium)

A typical meal when we ate in the apartments

 

Now, let’s finish up our Zagreb stay. 

As noted in the last post, we changed to a second Airbnb in Zagreb.  It was closer to the main area of Zagreb.  Indeed, our apartment overlooked what is called a “¾ Grand Union” of trolley tracks.  It is described (and listed) in this link:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_union.  What that means is that the electric trolleys can come from any direction into the intersection and then, by switching, can go in most any other direction (straight or turn corner).  Obviously I had a ball watching them.

 

Our second apartment in Zagreb (Medium)

Our second apartment in Zagreb.
We were on the second floor.

Trolley tracks in front of apartment 2 in Zagreb (Medium)

Trolley tracks in front of our apartment

For the most part we stayed in the apartments during the very hot hours of the day and then ventured out in the early evening.  One of our strolls took us to the Zagreb Cathedral and then to a great little restaurant that looked out on the cathedral.  The cathedral was built in the early 13th century.  It is currently undergoing some reconstruction work.  The inside of the cathedral is amazing.

Zagreb Cathedral (Medium)

Zagreb Cathedral

On the way home from our dinner, we stopped at a great little sidewalk snack shop and split a wonderful cherry crepe.  It was so good we went back the next night.

Tomorrow we start our journey home.  Rome to Philadelphia to Denver.

That is all for this post.

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Hello from Zagreb, Croatia Part 2

Hello from Zagreb, Croatia Part 2

 Thursday afternoon – July 25, 2019   (eigth post of this travelogue)

We are in our second Airbnb in Zagreb (Google Map link).  We will explain why we are in the second unit later in this post

More general thoughts:

We had to laugh when we were in Venice, as we frequently observed the boat drivers texting while driving.  I wonder if there is a law about that?   Fortunately, the boats are going very slow and they look up frequently.

I think we have mentioned that we have gone to the grocery stores at most every location we have been in.  That is always an adventure, since we can’t read labels and the products don’t always have a descriptive picture on them.  At first I was going by myself and Pat was getting a little uptight that I would come back with bread and cheese for our breakfast (and sometimes lunch).  The first time she went with me she better understood how difficult it is to  shop.   We have now added yogurt (hard to tell what kind of yogurt you are getting)  and muesli to our breakfast and tomatoes and mozzarella to our lunches.  Of course, we always seem to find a bakery close by and get wonderful desserts. Still we have lots of wonderful bread and cheese {grin}.

I have had a translator app on my phone for sometime and it comes in handy for some of the edible products.  We frequently talk about the “mystery meat” in Europe and the translator helps a bit with that.

The street addresses are very strange to us.  For example, the address of the first apartment in Zagreb was:  Preradovićeva ul. 37, 10000, Zagreb, Croatia.  The street (Preradovićeva ul) was only a few blocks long.  I can’t imagine how the taxi drivers know all the strange streets, but they have not used a map once during our travels.  The other issue is getting a taxi by phone, since there is no way that I can pronounce the street close enough that they can figure out what I am saying.  As I mentioned earlier, some companies will let you schedule via the internet and that is great (plus the taxis are always there at the time you request).

During this trip and in past trips to Europe we have noted that almost every square yard of wall (or doors) is tagged with graffiti.  A very small part of the graffiti could almost be called art, but most of it is just plain terrible looking.

 

First Apartment in Zagreb (Medium)

Photo of our first apartment in Zagreb. 
Note all of the graffiti.

 

We were told that the crime rate in Slovenia and Croatia is very low and that you are safe to walk on the streets at night.  That would suggest that the graffiti mentioned above is not gang related (I hope).  However in Italy, the pickpocket issue is a very significant problem.  There were several reports from demonstrators on the trip had been hit (communicated  via a special  Facebook group created  for the trip).  One of the demonstrators from Colorado told us her father had his phone stolen shortly after they got to Rome.

The heat here in Europe (yes I know it is hot in Denver) is really oppressive.  It is quite humid here and that make it feel much more uncomfortable.  This past week it has been in the high nineties each day.  That has caused us do quite a bit less sightseeing and has resulted in revising our travel plans.  To be honest, we were so busy before we left that we did not do a good job of researching our travel.   We wanted to visit new countries and essentially threw a dart or two and ended up in Slovenia and Croatia.  Both are well worth visiting but both countries have presented travel logistic problems (mostly because of the very old trains without AC and schedules that can’t be trusted and are limited in number).

As a result of the heat and train issues, we removed a planned trip to Budapest, Hungary from our itinerary fairly early in the trip and scheduled the second Airbnb here in Zagreb in its place.  Our next major change we the decision not to take the train back to Rome.  Part of the decision was the travel time (about 18 hours), coupled with the large number of transfers needed to make the trip and, the unreliable train schedule (with some very tight transfers).  Another major factor was the issue of getting our luggage to the next train which usually meant several trips up and down the stairs that lead to the train platform.  Lastly, all of the trains were “National” meaning that they were the older trains.  So, we have chosen to bite the bullet and fly from Zagreb to Rome (via Athens).

When we switched to staying in Zagreb an extra three days (instead of going to Budapest), we had given a thought to “cheating” and travelling part way into Hungry and Serbia on day trips to have lunch and add to our country count.  The first issue is that there is some sort of dispute and trains no longer travel from Croatia to Serbia.  The second issue that the train trip into Hungry would be about 3 hours on a hot second class train trip.  So, we are simply enjoying our time in the apartments watching all the activity (great people watching).

As for the travel part of the travelogue, there is not much to report.  Our train from Ljubljana to Zagreb was a National train meaning that it was an older train.  It did have one first class car, but no AC.   With the windows down, it was not too bad.  The scenery was beautiful.  Lots of farm land and wonderful houses that are typical of what we call Swiss architecture. 

The first day we got here I walked to a cigar store so that I could purchase a couple of Cuban cigars.  Some background explanation:  First of all,  I have been enjoying a half a cigar most days that I work  in the shop.  That gives me a chance to relax in my comfortable shop chair and it something I enjoy.  But the major factor is based on a cruise that my folks took me on in 1954 (I was 12 years old).  The cruise was to Havana, Cuba.  I vividly remember several places we visited including the amazing Tropicana night club, Morro Castle, and a visit to a cigar factory.  All of cigars were being hand wrapped and I knew at that time that sometime in my life I would smoke a Cuban cigar.  Of course, they are illegal in the USA, but you can buy them in a foreign county and bring them in for personal use legally. 

The  temperature drops enough in the early evening that we are able to do some strolling.  Two nights we ended up in a wonderful square about a half mile from the apartment where we had a great dinners.

Dinner on the square in Zagreb (Medium)

Dinner on the square in Zagreb

 

That is all for this post.

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Hello from Zagreb, Croatia 

Hello from Zagreb, Croatia  Wednesday morning – July 24, 2019   (seventh post of this travelogue)

We are in another great Airbnb in Zagreb, Croatia (Google Map Link).  More about Zagreb in the next post.

More general thoughts:

Stairs, stairs, and more stairs.  We encounter stairs everywhere.  Most of our Airbnb locations are on the second or third floor and each floor is quite a bit taller than in the USA.  In addition to all the stairs, we have been walking some fairly long distances in each of the cities we have been in.  We get pretty tired, but the “fake” knees are doing pretty well {grin}.

Train thoughts.  The trains in Slovenia and Croatia are quite old.  If they have first class (most do not), it is pretty primitive with no AC.  At least one of the trains we rode was over an hour off schedule – not something we are used to in Europe.

We have been to Europe several times together and many more for me on business.  It is fun to compare the changes and similarities between the conditions of our trips.  In the early days, it was almost impossible to find internet connections (much more so that the USA).  Now wi-fi is available in every Airbnb and many restaurants etc. (same as the US and speeds seem comparable).  In the early days you had to change money in every country.  The Euro has change that for the most part (Croatia has its own money).  It continues to be a bit of a challenge to arrange a taxi, but some have internet scheduling (Uber was not available in most places we have been).  Cell phone use for USA phones was not available until recently.  AT&T now offers several plans.  They are all a bit pricey, but the use of your phone is seamless (text, call, internet).

Making my coffee has been a bit of a challenge.  They have very small coffee pots (basically to make an espresso).  The pots have water in the bottom, a strainer that you put coffee (almost a powder) in and then screw the top on.  The water boils up through the strainers (one in the top part as well) and fills the pot on the top with brewed coffee.  A bit old fashioned (we used to use the same system, on a larger scale, in the drugstore I worked at in the 50s), but it works well.

Coffee Pot (Medium)

Typical small coffee pot we saw on our trip

Public Bathrooms (water closets in Europe) often charge admission.  Typically it was 1 Euro (bit over a dollar).  That fee did seem to offer a clean facility. 

Water Closet receipt (Medium)

Water Closet (bathroom) receipt

Now back to our travels.  On Thursday (7/18) we traveled to Ljubljana.  It was an “interesting” trip.  The first leg was on a train to Trieste, Italy.  Then we had to switch to a bus.  The transfer time was not all that great and we did not understand that we had to go from the train terminal to the bus terminal (found that out after waiting in line for about 15 minutes).  We had to hustle to the bus station (fairly close), stand in another line to get our tickets (mostly covered by our Eurail pass) and then quickly get to the bus – no stress there.

Ljubljana (pronounced luby-onna) is a fairly modern city.  Our apartment was in the older part of town, but the buildings were probably less than 70 years old.  We had a great apartment on the 5th floor – fortunately we had an elevator.  The apartment had a small balcony that was fun to sit on.  It had a view of the main attraction – the castle and overlooked a fun street café that we ate at a couple of times.  The AC was not functioning (stated that in the apartment information), but the nights cooled down enough that it was not a problem.

Our apartment in Ljubljana (Medium)

Our apartment in Ljubljana. 
Our unit was on the fifth floor (top of photo)
 
 
View from our balcony (Medium)

Mr Smiley enjoying a drink on the balcony 
The castle can be seen at the upper right of the picture
 

BTW, I am aware that the email version of this blog has photo orientation issues.  I have tried to solve the problem (has to do with the data contained within the photo file from our iPhone).  I believe that the above photo may show me standing on my head.

Friday we toured the castle perched high above Ljubljana.  We took the funicular to the top.  From there we walked all around the castle.  It originally dates back to the 11th century.  The views from the castle are spectacular.

Funicular to Castle in Ljubljana (Medium)

Funicular to the castle
 

Castle in Ljubljana (Medium)

The Ljubljana Castle

View from the Castle in Ljubjuana (Medium)

View from the Ljubljana Castle

Saturday we rode the train to Bled, Slovenia (two legs with a total time of about 1.5 hours).  The  train station is about 100-150 feet above Lake Bled.  Lake Bled is very picturesque.  When we arrived at the lake there was a huge international swimming meet including a 1250 meter event.  We took a “train” tour around the lake and had wonderful views of both the castle above the lake and the church on the island in middle of the lake.  We then returned to Ljubljana via the train (second class, no AC, one hour late).  All in all a fun day.

Walking from the train station in Bled (Medium)

Steep walk from the train station to Lake Bled.
It is over 100 feet vertical walk on a steep trail with many steps at the bottom.
No taxis were available so we had to walk back up (holey crap!!!)

 

A view of Lake Bled (Medium)

A view of Lake Bled with the church on the island in the middle of the lake.
You can also see the castle on the hill in the left of the photo.
(Yes, I took this picture and am kind of proud of it.)
 
 
Our train in Bled (Medium)

We took this “train” around the lake.
(No, it is not part of the Eurail pass {grin})
 
 
The castle above Lake Bled (Medium)

The castle overlooking lake Bled

 

That is all for this post.

 

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Hello from Ljubljana, Slovenia

Hello from Ljubljana, Slovenia Friday afternoon – July 19, 2019   (Fifth post of this travelogue)

We are in a great Airbnb in Ljubljana, Slovenia (Google Map link)

More Observations:

We still get robo calls over here, but the problem is that they come in the middle of the night {Grrrrr}.

Trying to use Google maps to navigate between locations in a town is a real challenge.  If you zoom in on any of the Google Map links from Italy, you will see than none of the streets run in any “planned” scheme. For reference, a good map would be:  (Google Map Link of apartment in Venice) [BTW, you can zoom in and out on those maps].  Most streets are only a block or two long (some main streets are a bit better about lending themselves to navigation.  In the photo below from Venice, you will see me standing in one of the hundreds of walkways that are in addition to what we would call streets (in Venice there are no streets, as there are no cars).  Google “sees” the walkways, but there could be 3 or 4 in a USA block length and it is really hard to tell which one Google wants us to take and they dart in various direction.  Worse yet, many of the walkways look like they are dead end, but simply take a jog.

One of hundreds of tiny walkways in Venice (Medium)

 

Now for some Venice highlights.

We traveled from Florence to Venice via train on Tuesday (7/16).  The apartment was on the second floor so  not so many steps to climb.  It was a quaint apartment.

Our Apartment in Venice (Medium)

Our apartment in Venice

Getting to our apartment was quite an experience.  There are no cars in the area of Venice we were in.  Instead, we departed the train station and boarded a water taxi.  The train station is right on the Grand Canal and the water taxi was perhaps 50 yards from the train station.  The taxi we took to the apartment was much like a bus with lots of stops and tons of people on the boat.  

View from our water taxi on the grand canal (Medium)

A view from our water taxi on the Grand Canal
on the way from the train station to our apartment

Our water taxi leaving Ospedale stop (Medium)

Our water taxi leaving our stop (Ospedale)

Our apartment was very close to a great eating/scenic area – perhaps three  blocks away.  We ate dinner on this plaza.

Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo in Venice (Medium)

Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo just a few blocks from our apartment. 
We ate dinner on the plaza with this view.

Wednesday we walked a bit over a half mile (well  sorta, we got lost a couple of times and probably increased that distance by 20-30% {grin}) to the two incredible locations shown below.

 

Doges Palace in Venice (Medium)

Doges Palace in Venice.  Notice bridge over the canal.

 

Basilica di San Marco (Medium)

Basilica di San Marco

After our walking tour, we went back to the same plaza restaurant we ate at the night before.  Both nights I had some white wine rather than my typical great beer.   The wine was great as well.

Thursday was our travel day to Ljubljana.  I will detail the train travel in the next post, but our trip to the train station was quite unique.  We had our challenges on the public water taxi, mainly getting our luggage on and off the crowded boat.  We decided to take a private taxi back to the train station.  Our first challenge was that they were all full that morning.  We worked with a great shop owner to call a taxi (neither of us could speak the other’s language), but we got the job done.  I  talked to what I thought was the taxi company and they said the fare would be 18 Euro – just slightly  what we paid for the public  taxi.  Well, something broke down in the communication and the fee was 70 Euro!  However it was a great ride and dealing with the luggage was not a problem.

 

Trash collection in Venice (Medium)

While we were waiting for the water taxi, the trash boat arrived.
It collected trash from all the businesses in the area and
private folks brought their  trash as well.

 

Inside our water taxi on way back to train station (Medium)

A picture of Pat in our rather fancy private taxi back to train station

Tain station in Venice (Medium)

Approaching the train station in our expensive water taxi

That is all for this post.

 

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Hello from Venice, Italy

Hello from Venice, Italy Wednesday afternoon – July 17, 2019   (Fourth post of this travelogue)

We are in a fun little Airbnb in Venice, Italy (Google Map link)

Before we get too far into this post I would like to  catch up on a couple  of things. 

The first would be the luggage situation.   As we noted before, we had a great plan where we would put one suitcase inside another and then pack our stuff in two suitcases.  The thinking behind this plan is that Stampin’ Up! always gives the demonstrators great pillow case gifts and also lots of other “handouts”.  This adds up to quite a bit of weight and volume.  So our plans were to put our travel clothes (for the rest of the trip) in two medium size suitcases and use the one large one for the SU stuff, plus some  cruise clothes we would not need.  It turns out the large suitcase was quite full and heavy.  We had planned to store that suitcase in a locker in Rome, but the “hidden cost” were quite high.  Plus the extra bag fee on American Airlines was going to be $100.  So the next option was to ship it home – again potentially quite expensive.

So, for the first part of the trip after the cruise we were dealing with three suitcases and two carry-on cases.  Our first experience dealing with all that luggage was getting on the train in Rome.  Here is a text that Pat sent the girls that describes our adventure:

“We’re going to ship a suitcase home with our cruise clothes in it. We’ve been toting 5 bags around including our two carry ons. I think we were a comedy of errors today. We made it on to our first train and while we were getting ready to get off, I set one of our carry ons in the aisle and it rolled to the back of the train car. Then we made it to Florence and the same bag fell off from the curb and landed in front of a taxi. A lady grabbed it for us; I think the taxi driver might have driven over it. I forgot to mention that as we were getting on to the first train, we were surrounded by some young ladies and one man who were trying to “help” us with our luggage. A train person saw it and made them get off the train. They were pickpockets. It’s been an interesting day, but we made it.”
 
The second thing I wanted to mention was how SU treats their demonstrators.  Many businesses do not recognize “the hand that feeds them”.  SU, on the other hand treats their demonstrators as an extremely valuable part of the business.  And it really shows on these incentive trips.  They pay for that air fare (working with us to assure we get the flights we want), pay all of the basic cruise costs, cover the tips for all of the employees of the ship and they even paid for our transportation from the ship to the rail station in Rome (over 140 Euro). They would have covered the cost from Rome to the ship, but we felt the bus departure time was later than we wanted.
 
Lastly, I  wanted to mention that we mostly travel in Europe via Eurail passes.  The pass is a bit expensive, but it lets us take any train in the huge Europe train network for 15 days (the pass type we bought – there are other options).  I don’t think we save any money over flying to each city, but the train takes us to the center of each town where other transportation (such as taxis) are readily available.  In addition, we get to travel first/business class.  We do have to pay to reserve seats, but that is about 10 Euro each.  I should add that, sadly, Uber is not a factor in Italy – and maybe other European countries.
 

OK, now let’s get back to our travels.  On Sunday we took the bus from the ship to a train station in Rome and then took the train to Florence.  Aside from the” issues” Pat mentioned that part of the trip went pretty well.  We stayed in a cute Airbnb (Google Map Link)

I  have attached a photo of the apartment building.   The only issue was that the apartment was on the third floor (in Europe they call that the second floor above the ground floor).  We still had the five pieces of luggage but the host helped with two of the larger ones.

Our Apartment in Florence (Medium)

Our apartment in Florence is on the third floor of the tan building

Our schedule gave us one day in the city.   In the morning I drug the large suitcase to a Mailboxes Plus which was highly recommended.  Unfortunately it was well over a mile from the apartment over cobble stone walks and roads.  To make matters worse, I did not discover that my GPS system was not working properly (cellular data not turned on) so I got lost a couple of times.  It took me almost 2 hours to get there.  The ladies were super nice and even gave me the “student” discount.  I told them I did some teaching and that made them fell well founded in discount.  They kept calling me “professor” and we all grinned.  It takes a lot of paperwork, but we got it all done and the cost was about $150 which I was glad to pay. 

After I got back to the apartment, Pat and I strolled about a mile down to the Church of Santa Maria del Fiore.  We had been there before and marveled at the grandeur of the setting.  We even had dinner on the plaza.  I have included a few photos of the area.

 

Scooters in Florence (Medium)

On our stroll I took this photo of the typical
line up of motor scooters

 

Street leading to Church of Santa Maria del Fiore (Medium)

This is the street leading into the plaza
It was a slight drizzle and the temperatures
were very comfortable

 

Church of Santa Maria del Fiore (Medium)

There is no way to describe the magnificence of this area.
Even the picture does not  do it justice.

 

That is all for this post.

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Hello from on the Tyrrhenian Sea

Hello from on the Tyrrhenian Sea

Drafted Saturday  Afternoon – July 13, 2019   (Third post of this travelogue)

Uploaded 7/14/19

Well, we are ending our Greek Island cruise aboard the Jewell of the Sea.  This cruise has had some negative issues mixed in with the typical great cruising experience.  This ship was built in 2002 and refurbished in 2016.  There are places where it really shows its age.  For one thing, our closet doors fell off.  We heard of other issues as well.  It also seems very crowded on this ship.  That leads to quite a few delays at the elevators and lots of folks in relatively small areas which then leads to very loud background noise.  As some of you know, I have very sensitive hearing and there have been times that it has been unpleasant.  I told Pat I need to find ear plugs that look like hearing aids.

The other major issue was the internet.  We purchased a rather expensive option with reasonable expectation of a decent connection.  If you read the post about not being able to upload our blogs, you will understand my frustration.  At times the connection was less than dial-up speed.  While I understand that the connection is via satellite and there are tons of folks on the system, it just frustrates me that they brag about their wonderful service.  Even in the middle of the night where traffic should be much less, the speeds are unbearable.

OK, so much for the bitching.  It is after all, a cruise paid for by someone else – how bad can that be {big grin}.

I am writing this from the balcony of our room where it is quiet and I can look out at the beautiful deep blue water of what the map shows as the Tyrrhenian Sea.  When I say quiet, it is actually a bit noisy, but it is the soothing sounds of the ocean waves.  I think we were in the Mediterrian  Sea during parts of the trip and we have also been in the Ionian and Aegean Seas.

Our Ship (Medium)

This is a photo of our  ship at the Dock in Civitavecchia

We left the port of Civitavecchia on Sunday 7/7.  The first day was an at-sea day as we traveled to Santorini, Greece (Google Map Link)

Santorini was a beautiful setting.  We had not booked an excursion.  Instead, our plans were to do a quick tour of the city.  To get from the ship to the dock, we used tenders.  From there we took the cable car to city far above the dock area.  The cable car was fun, but many folks complained about the cost (12 Euro each way for 2 persons).  Many folks encountered long lines, but we were able to travel up and down without much delay.  Once we got to the top, we did a bit of looking around and bought a few trinkets.  However, it was unbearably hot and we quickly decided to go back to the ship. 

Cable cars at Santorini (Medium)

This photo shows the cable car and the long path

to the city which can be walked or you can

 ride on a donkey

 

Our Ship from the Santorini (Medium)

 

View of the harbor from the top of Santorini

Our ship is on the right

I should note that all of Europe is experiencing a massive heat wave.  Most days the temperature gets close to 100* and with high humidity, that is very uncomfortable.

Our next stop was Mykonos, Greece  (Google Map Link)

We chose to stay on the ship and relax.  Again, the heat was a major factor in that decision.

Our next destination was Athens, Greece  Google Map Links

We booked a hop-on hop-off bus excursion around the city.  Many folks chose to hike to the Acropolis.  However, the tour guide had the following warning:

“Guests must be able to walk approx. 1 ½ miles over steep inclines and uneven surfaces with approximately 200 steps to get up to the Acropolis.”

Obviously we did not feel comfortable with the hike.  We later heard several folks mention how difficult the hike was and our evening table mate fell – fortunately she was not seriously hurt. 

Our bus tour was fun.  We normally avoid the upper deck, as the sun beating down can be a killer.  On this bus, the upper deck was covered, so we had excellent views and a nice breeze.  The heat wave broke a bit and our temperatures were in the mid-80s.    Of course, the main attraction is the Acropolis.  We were able to view part of it from the city.

Part of the Acropolis (Medium)

This is a view of the Acropolis from our bus

Our view of the Acropolis from our bus (Medium)

This is a telephoto from our bus

Another view of the Acropolis (Medium)

And another view

The last port was Katakolon, Greece  (Google Maps Link)

This was a very small city.  It is said to be the birthplace of the Olympics.  Again we chose to relax on the ship.

Today we are sailing back to the port of Civitavecchia where we will dock tomorrow and depart the ship.  From there we will continue our travels.

That is all for this post.

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Hello from Civitavecchia, Italy (Upload delayed one week).

Hello from Civitavecchia, Italy (Upload delayed one week).

Drafted Sunday Afternoon – July 7, 2019   (Second post of this travelogue)

***Uploaded 7/14/19.  As noted in a previous post, the ship wi-fi broadband was very slow downloading with almost zero upload bandwidth.  Simple messages could be uploaded, but pictures failed to send.  Very frustrating.***

We are on the ship (Royal Carribbean “Jewel of the Seas”) in the port of Civitavecchia.  The port is perhaps 70 miles from the heart of Rome.  We took a private car (actually a wonderful van) and it took us over an hour to get here and cost 130 Euro.

Now, I will try to catch up on some observations about our time in Rome.  As I mentioned in the first post, we were on the second floor of a building in the center of historic Rome and also the center of evening activity.  There we perhaps 30 restaurants (with outside seating) within a short walking distance.  That was the good news.  The so-so news is that our apartment was over a bar that played loud music from about 7:00 PM to 2:00 AM.  Shown below is a tray in the apartment with ear plugs {big grin}.  I noted previously that the noise did not keep us from sleeping.

Ear Plugs (Medium)

The bathroom in the Rome apartment was a bit strange (see photo).  When you used the toilet,  you had to have one foot in the shower floor.

Rome Bathroom (Medium)

From our last post you saw a picture of the restaurant taken from our window.  Next to the restaurant seating was an area where several folks were playing chess (see picture).  The fellow on the right brought the chess table and seemed to be the person to beat.  They were there each day starting around 1:00 and stayed for several hours.  The tree in the photo is a fig tree.

Chess Game (Medium)

eral hours. 

All of the streets in the area are cobble stone (see photo).  Some areas had stones missing and walking was a bit of a challenge for us old folks.

Cobble Stone Streets

I mentioned that we spent quite a bit of time touring Rome in 2008.  We made that trip with Pat’s cousin and her husband.  For that trip we rented an apartment in the same general area.  As a part of one of our strolls, we located the 2008 apartment.  For documentation purposes the address for the 2008 apartment was Via Dei Cappellari 60 (GPS:  41.896916,12.4697828).  Our apartment address this year was:  Piazza del Fico, 22.  (GPS:  41.899460, 12.470623).

On one of our strolls, we walked to the Tiber River.  I is a beautiful river.  Looking across the river we saw is Castle Saint Angelo. Here is a link:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castel_Sant%27Angelo.  Part of the castle dates back to 123 AD. Several Popes used the castle starting in the 14th century.  It is about a quarter mile from there to the Vatican.
 
Tiber River (Medium)
 
Thursday night we splurged for a dinner on the Piazza Navona in a fancy street restaurant.  That is a huge piazza and quite famous (see photo).  Our dinner cost about 51 Euro for fancy pasta dinners (just pasta – no sides or bread) plus a beer and bottle of water.  The next two nights we dined on pizza in the room for about 13 Euro (enough for two nights).  For our breakfasts, we bought bread and cheese at a market.  We sort of skipped the third meal each day via some snacks.
 
Piazz Navona (Medium)
 
That is all for this post.
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