Fifties

Fifties (39)

Saturday, 11 April 2015 01:18

2011-3. Poem- Girl From Medical Lake

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My brother, Roger, was always the musician, playing lead guitar in many bands. At one point, he had mentioned a woman that had a crush on him, and she was a bit aggressive, but he didn't feel the same way about her. 

 

Medical Lake is a place outside of Spokane Washington where there was an inpatient psychiatric facility. For some reason, which escapees me now, Medical Lake was mentioned in the same conversation about the woman that was pursuing Roger. One thing led to the other in my head and I wrote this "poem" that I thought could be lyrics of a "rock" song. I called it "Girl From Medical Lake."

 

Girl From Medical Lake

 

I was playing a gig down at medical lake,

the girls down there,

they really know how to shake,

especially one always in the first row,

that girl, 

she knew how to go, go go

 

She shook her top

and she shook down there,

She seemed in a seizure

like she just didn’t care.

she shimmied

and she bounced

and her sweat just flew,

others stared,

not sure what to do. 

 

Her eyes were crossed

and her hair a mess,

but that girl could shake 

inside that raggedy dress. 

On her lip was a shadow,

a little mustache,

her legs were hairy,

she was poor white trash.

She smiled up at me

her tooth caught the light,

girl from medical lake

gave me a terrible fright.

 

She shook her top

and she shook down there,

She seemed in a seizure

like she just didn’t care.

she shimmied

and she bounced

doing what she do,

some think it a lie

I tell you it’s true.

 

Then she waited at the stagedoor,

I couldn’t avoid saying hi,

she thought I said I loved her,

but you know I wouldn’t lie. 

She came to see me night after night

I realized medical lake girl,

she just wasn’t right.

 

She shook her top

and she shook down there,

It was like a seizure, man

like she just didn’t care.

she shimmied

and she bounced all over me

I  stood there frozen,

this just couldn’t be!

 

Then I noticed one day

when I was out on my beat

the girl from medical lake

was following me down the street.

 

Soon that girl was behind every tree,

I realized that girl must be stalking me. 

She came to every concert,

and she sent me snail mail,

instead of perfume,

it had an ugly smell. 

 

One day that girl, 

she caught me off guard,

she whipped out her purse

and took out a card,

she wanted to manage me

and get me some gigs

if I just ate her pussy

and act like a pig. 

 

I said no thanks

but I guess she had power

she called all the clubs

and my gigs they turned sour.

She told the club owners

Roger Rogers, he suck,

I couldn’t get gigs,

I was out of luck. 

 

But if I shook my top

and I shook down there

I noticed the crowd

would start to care.

I shimmied and bounced, 

like I was making porn,

and the crowd responded,

when I began to perform.

 

I found another club

and I got another gig,

all of this

without flipping my wig,

but now I stay away from medical lake,

even though the girls down there

really know how to shake. 

They shake their tops

and they shake down there

they go into seizures

like they just don’t care. 

They shimmy and they bounce

and they let the sweat fly,

but there’s a crazy girl,

looking for any guy. 

 

Monday, 06 April 2015 21:56

2010-4. Europe- Madrid

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High speed train to Madrid.

 

Milton at the back of the Royal Palace in Madrid.

 

At the Prado museum. Exhausting but wonderful.

 

Madrid's Royal Palace.

 

Me in front of the Royal Palace. The picture is taken from the steps of a huge cathedral but it was closed by the time we got out of the Royal Palace. It was Columbus Day weekend and they celebrate Columbus Day in Spain and everything closes early.

 

 

Monday, 06 April 2015 21:54

2010-3. Europe- Barcelona & Sitges

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In Barcelona, we bought a Barcelona Card for unlimited rides on the metro system which we only used once to ride from the airport to Passing de Gracia station. From there we rolled our carry-on's the Axel Hotel that bills itself as "hetero-friendly." Although it is popular with gay people, there were plenty of straight people there as well. It is a very nice hotel. We were upgraded to a "superior" room.

The hotel is in a "gay" area of Barcelona and we did look at various gay bars in the neighborhood but didn't go in any of them. The dance clubs don't get started until about two in the morning and we just can't stay up that late anymore.

axelhotel"hetero-friendly" Axel Hotel

 

barcelonalaundryBarcelona street with laundry hanging out to dry. Actually, you really didn't see laundry hanging out to dry much in Barcelona because they have an ordinance against it, we were told at the hotel. Apparently the people on this street didn't get the memo.

 

lapedreraLa Pedrera (Catalan for 'The Quarry'), is a building designed by the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí & built during the years 1905–1910, being considered officially completed in 1912

 

La Pedrera

 

BarcelonaBuildinAn interesting building in Barcelona. The city really has some nice buildings.

 

miltonBarcelonaStarbucksMilton at the Starbucks on La Rambles.

 

ramblastreetperformerA street artist on La Rambles. There were many.

 

From Barcelona, we took a train to Sitges, Spain. My friend, Kathleen, had told me about Sitges, otherwise I would have never heard of it.  It is a small, gay friendly, beach community about 45 miles outside Barcelona. We were using my iPhone GPS to tell us when to get off the train and we lost the signal and missed our stop. Others told us it was Sitges, but I deferred to my iPhone as these same people had told us other stops had been Sitges, too, and by the time we actually got to Sitges, I didn't think they knew what they were talking about. We went one stop too far and had to take the next train back.

sitgestrainstationTrain station in Sitges

 

miltonbalconysitgesMilton writing in his journal on the balcony of our room at Calopolis Hotel in Sitges.

 

sitgesbalconyviewView from our balcony at the Calipolis Hotel in Sitges.

 

miltonwaterMilton in the Mediterranean Sea.

 

sylsitges3Me sitting on a bench on the malecon in Sitges.

 

churchfromsitgesbalconyAnother view from our balcony in Sitges.

 

miltondinnersitgesMilton at dinner in Sitges

 

sylsitges4Sylvan in Sitges

 

miltonsitges

 

After spending the weekend in Sitges, we returned to Barcelona on Monday. 

 

See that huge tower way off in the distance? The tallest thing on the horizon? That is

 one of the towers for the cable cars that take you from the port to Montjuic, a small mountain with great views. That is where we are standing in this pic. I wanted to find the Funicular de Montjuïc to ride down the mountain, but we had got off the wrong metro stop for the cable car and had to walk a couple of miles around the harbor and Milton was exhausted and was drifting into cranky time, so we walked down the mountain and found a metro back to the hotel to take a nap.

 

BarcelonabeachesThis is a pic of the Barcelona beach from the cable car.

 

Batlios HouseCasa Batllo is a building restored by Antoni Gaudí and Josep Maria Jujol, built in the year 1877 and remodeled in the years 1904–1906.

 

MiltonAxelHotelMilton at the roof terrace bar at the Axel.

 

roofofLaPadreraOn the roof of La Pedrera in Barcelona. You can take a tour of the building and an apartment.

 

segradafamiliabarcelonaSegrada Famila.

 

 

Monday, 06 April 2015 21:53

2010-2. Europe- Paris

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 CIMG9687

Video of our visit to Paris in 2010.

 

After a few days in Amsterdam, we took the high speed train to Paris. They had free wifi in first class on the train and served a meal and a snack. It was a very comfortable trip. We stayed at the Hotel Leveque, where we had stayed previously but this time we were very disappointed in the room. It was about half the size of the room we had before and looked much more shabby.

CIMG8952

When I complained, I was told that the previous time we had stayed here, we had been upgraded to a "triple" and that was why it was larger. We were told that no such rooms were available at this time as the hotel was full. We considered moving to another hotel but then decided that would take up a lot of time and energy and we didn't plan on spending much time in the hotel anyway. We surrendered to the situation and let go of our expectations and proceeded to have a wonderful time.

Although the room was much too small for two big, 6'4" men, with no place to put anything, there was a lovely view of the Rue Cler from our balcony.

CIMG8950

 

We visited the Arch Triumph again. We didn't go in it as we did the last time. We were hungry and looking for some fast food on the Champs Elysees. We found a place called Pans and Friends or Company or something that made great sandwiches and had tables on the sidewalk. We didn't realize that the metro line under the Champs Elysees was closing early due to construction and so we had to walk quite a ways to get back to where we could catch another line back to our hotel. We got pretty close to our hotel before the entire metro closed and we had to walk the last half mile or so. We felt safe everywhere we went in Paris, though, and everywhere we went in Europe for that matter. We did see a few indigent people sleeping on the street but nothing near the numbers of homeless 

CIMG8754

and indigent on the streets of San Francisco. We didn't see ANY indigent people in Amsterdam.

When we had visited Paris the last time, we did go up to he top of the Arch Triumph and way, far in the distance, we saw what looked like another, more modern arch and were interested in getting a closer look this time. We took the metro to "modern" Paris and were impressed with the wonderful architecture all around us and the huge plaza absent of automobiles. This arch is actually a 348 foot tall office building. There is an elevator that you can take to an observatory deck but the day we were there, it wasn't operational.

This was near Le Grande Arch. Milton standing in front of a thumb.

CIMG8756

Europeans don't tend to drink coffee in the same way that most Americans drink coffee. I like a big cup of coffee in the morning and a demi-cup of expresso does not satisfy my needs. And it is a rare thing to ever get a refill of coffee at a restaurant or sodas either. "Breakfast in America" turned out to be our favorite place to start the day as we could get American style coffee with all the refills we wanted. Their western omelette was wonderful. Near each table there was a fifties style toaster and you were brought the bread and made your own toast. It was in the gay neighborhood, too, which made it even more fun for us.

CIMG8740

This was my third time up the Eiffel Tower but I just couldn't see visiting Paris without another trip up. This time we went at night when there is a much shorter wait. In the day time you might stand in line for an hour but we went late enough that we walked right in and went straight away.

CIMG8815

We loved strolling in Les Halles and elsewhere in Paris or wherever we were in Europe. Maybe it is because of the density of population in the European cities we visited, or maybe it's the tourism, but it seems like there is much more "strolling" on the streets of Europe than you see here. 

miltonleshalles

New York's Time Square is the only place I can think of that might be comparable to Les Halles in Paris, or The Dam in Amsterdam or La Rambles in Barcelona or The Gran Via in Madrid. The last time we were in Europe, we noticed the same thing in Venice, Florence, Rome and Athens. People are in the streets in mass, taking the air and people watching and enjoying life. I think that might contribute to the relative lack of obesity? Maybe they don't have cable? I guess Americans are more spread out, too and mostly in cars? People do stroll in San Francisco, but no where near the numbers you see in European cities. If you have ever been in San Francisco on New Years Eve, that is kind of what it is like in Les Halles in Paris on a week night (without the goofy hats and noise makers).

meonSeineMe on a boat in the Seine.

symilonSeineMilton and I on the Seine in Paris

 

miltonnortredamMilton on a boat on the Seine with Nortre Dam in the background.

 

miltonVersaillesMilton at Château de Versailles

 

sylmiltVersaillesBoth us us at Château de Versailles

 

sylmilVersaillesChâteau de Versailles

 

VersaillesChâteau de Versailles gardens.

 

 

Monday, 06 April 2015 21:49

2010-1. Europe- Amsterdam

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We arrived in Amsterdam. This sign is close to the Van Gough museum which we enjoyed. Museums can be exhausting though!
AmsterdamIamsterdamphotoshopped
We made it to Amsterdam and have been adjusting to the time difference. The flight on KLM was not bad for a ten hour flight. It was much better than the American Airlines flight we took to Europe five years ago. We had been a little worried that our carry-on luggage was a little oversized as we had stuffed them as fat as we could get them for our three week journey but they popped right into the overhead bin with no resistance at all!

We had paid about a hundred bucks a piece for a seat with extra legroom and it was worth every penny. It wasn't quite business class in width and other amenities but I really think the leg room was at least comparable. We were really able to stretch out our long legs pretty well. 
 

The extra battery for the laptop was unnecessary. KLM offered so many entertainment choices that we barely used the entertainment we had brought with us. We looked at our magazines a little and napped briefly at time. I walked around the plane a couple of times. 
 

We also didn't need the sandwiches that we bought for the price of gold at the airport. We ended up throwing those away. KLM gave us a nice dinner soon after we were in flight. and enjoyed the two good meals that KLM provided. I had also brought a bag of snacks and we did dip into those a few times. I had some cashews and some cheese. Ten hours is a long time for only two meals.

The Dam in Amsterdam. This is "the center" of Amsterdam. Cobblestone streets. Masses of people. Street artists. AmsterdamHorseTheDam
The Amsterdam airport was huge of course. It didn't feel like we were ever going to go through any "customs" like you do in every other country. I thought we were practically out of the airport but still couldn't find the exit to the train and finally had to ask someone. We were told that, yes, there was a "customs" we had to go through and told where to find them. We showed our passport and were out. Nobody asked about anything we were bringing in with us. 
Next, we found the train station and went to get our tickets. We got up to the window to buy them and it turned out that they did not take credit cards or American A.T.M. cards! Thankfully, I had prepared months ahead by buy Euros and just had to quickly dig them out. I guess I should have put a few in my wallet before leaving home- just one of those details I forgot.

The train was a non-stop to the City Center. Milton looked exhausted and I nagged him to wake up and pay attention to the possibility of pick-pockets as the train platform was crowded. I guess I was tired and a little overly paranoid as I am sure 

amsterdamtrainthat this train platform is no more risky than any in San Francisco or Seattle or anywhere else we have been. But we were exhausted and distracted and a little lost and I guess all that feeds into a little feeling of vulnerability. Our train came and it wasn't packed at all like I thought it might be. It was actually a very comfortable non-stop express into the City Center.

We walked from the City Center train station to 

our hotel, rolling our little carry-on's behind us over the brick and cobblestone streets. I don't think there was an inch of smooth pavement the entire distance which made me worry a little about the little wheels on our bags. Each of the bags can be converted to back packs by unzipping a little pocket that holds two shoulder straps but as exhausted as we both were, neither of us wanted to pack our bags on our old, tired backs. The wheels held up and we made it to 301-303 Singel, The all non-smoking Estheria Hotel, on the Singel canal.

After checking in and being brought to our room, we were delighted to find the quality of the room exceeded expectations! Although it was a bit fru-fru, as if somebody's, Southern queen, very fay gay uncle had decorated it, (and not quite our butch blue color taste), it was beautiful, once you got past t

amsterdamroompatterns

he huge magnolia flowered red wallpaper print and the gilded faux antique chandelier over the bed.

A fringed lampshade matched the curtains. Clashing color and prints everywhere but when all put together, like something out of La Cage au Folles. The bathroom was fabulous with a huge jacuzzi type bath and separate shower and double sinks.

The next day after arrival, every time we went through the exquisite lobby, we had to step over movie cables and be directed through by people there making a movie in the hotel. We found a restaurant for breakfast that we had already picked out before leaving San Francisco. Later, we took a leisurely canal cruise as we are still recovering from jet lag and just wanted to relax and still get oriented.

We had an incredible Indonesian dinner at Katntjill and de Tiger. In our extensive research before leaving San Francisco, we had picked out this restaurant for it's famous food- you order a set menu that includes a variety of dishes. I'm not sure if the word is "Rustaffels?" It is a little like Dim Sum in that there are many dishes with just a little bit of each thing. It was all delicious. The weather was perfect for sitting at one of the tables outside. In fact, the weather has been perfect ever since we arrived.

 

At the Anne Frank house, we read about how good people were manipulated by right wing propaganda and fear mongering of the times and how one group of people was turned against another group of people through heated rhetoric, nationalism and religious fervor. ?? Hm.
It is interesting to contrast the right wing oppression of Anne Frank's time with the left of center Amsterdam of today with it's social freedoms. It makes one think a lot about what freedom is and types of freedom. It is a place where it is legal to smoke marijuana in a coffee shop or to sell ones body, but I don't think handguns are as readily available as they are in the U.S.. There is nowhere that feels safer, walking down a dark alley late at night than in Amsterdam. There seems to be such a freedom from fear rather than an embracing of fear. There is no Fox News here to incite and agitate and propagandize and lie to the people. I love my own country of course but there definitely things we can learn from others. I appreciate the liberalism of Amsterdam. The people we meet and see appear better educated and generally healthier. There doesn't seem to be an obesity problem here. We see no homeless people on the streets and the streets are clean.

The steeple of the church where Rembrandt is buried. We saw a lot of his paintings at the Rijksmuseum.

 

 

A pic of me with me blocking a beautiful view of an Amsterdam canal.

 

 

Milton, not blocking a beautiful Amsterdam canal.

 

Both of us semi-blocking a view of a beautiful Amsterdam canal.

 

Milton at the Homo Monument in Amsterdam. It's a pinkish granite triangle.

 

This was a great place to eat. They had over a hundred different kinds of pancakes that were more like crepes really. They also had huge omelettes. We shared an omelette and a bananna-apple pancake (crepe).

 

 

Thursday, 02 April 2015 17:53

2005-6. Europe- Athens

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Sylvan and Miltons European Adventure 2005

ATHENS

9-19-05 Day 14

Milton got up first and showered and finsihed packing while Sylvan took a shower. We had a wake up call but we also had an alarm clock we carried with us and were awake before the wake-up call.

It was still raining when we left the hotel but barely enough to even get out the umbrella. We bought our one way metro tickets to the airport at the tobacco shop. We took the metro to the Termini station where we would catch the train to the Flumicino (Leonardo di Vinci) Airport. From there it takes about thirty minutes to get to the airport.

We had purchased "Europe by Air" vouchers and had made a reservation to go from Rome to Athens on Aegean Airlines. You must purchase these before leaving the states and they allow you to fly just about anywhere in Europe for only $99.00, but when we got to the airport, Aegean Airlines did not have our reservation! I showed her all the documentation I had from the internet interactions with Europe By Air. She asked for a "confirmation number" and I kept showing her various numbers on the printouts but she would say, "no, that's not it." Then she said that the plane was full! This was kind of stressful to say the least. Finally the lady said that she had two seats available (When we actually got on the plane though, we saw plenty of empty seats and have no idea why she had said it was full).

Once we got our boarding passes, boarding itself was pretty chaotic. We were sent to one gate but then after sitting there for a while, someone announced the plane would depart from a different gate. We went over to that gate but the monitor there said that the plane to Madrid was departing from that gate. It was a little confusing for everybody. Apparently nobody was able to change the monitor so it was consistent with the actual plane that was departing.. The plane to Paris left from the gate where the plane to Athens was supposed to leave from and the plane to Athens left at the gate that said Madrid which was actually where the plane to Paris was supposed to leave from. I would avoid Aegean Airlines in the future and clarify everything with Europe by Air if we every used them again. If you were to book with them, after booking and getting your confirmation from them, call the airline itself and make sure they have the reservation too!

Once we got to Athens, we asked directions for the metro that goes to downtown. Once we located it, we were impressed with how modern and clean it was, especially compared to some of the subways we had ridden elsewhere in Europe. We assumed it was newer because of the recent Olympic games that were held here. It took about 30 minutes to reach our stop at the end of the line, the Monastiraki station.

Click here for a site with 360 degree pic of the Monastiraki area or here for another view at night.

We easily found our hotel about two blocks from the metro station using the 3x5 card with directions.

We were pleased with the size of the room, # 413, and the included air conditioning and t.v. that had C.N.N. and another English speaking channel. It was a little odd to us that the bed was not made but during our whole stay there, housekeeping would only leave the sheets and blanket folded on the bed after cleaning the room. I guess a lot of people just sleep on top of the sheets in Athens because of the heat?

There is a good sized closet that is about three feet wide and almost two feet deep.

There is a wood laminate floor. .

The bathroom also had this soaking tub. It was not big enough to stretch out in but you could sit comfortably in it. There was also plenty of hot water. There is a nice sink in the bathroom with a well lit mirror.
The patio door opens onto a private balcony pm which there is a small table and two chairs.

There wasn't much to see from the balcony but you could see a benzantine church to one side and off in the distance on the other, you could see the Acropolis. It was also a great place to soak in the sun and to dry out some things we washed in the sink.

9-20-05 Day 15

We got up about nine this morning. They serve breakfasat until eleven on the second floor. Ours is included in the price of our room but otherwise they would charge eight euro. It is truly "all you can eat" and offers a selection of three cereals, a choice of fruit cocktail or peaches, ham, several kinds of cheese, pound cake, white or wheat toast, butter, jam, and even hard boiled eggs! There is also a coffee pot on every table with more coffee. It is really a great breakfast.

There is also a Subway sandwich store next door to the hotel. They have the menu in Greek and English.

One thing we noticed throughout our stay in Athens is that almost everyone spoke English, unlike Italy where communication was sometimes a problem. It is probably even less multi-cultural though. You see even less Black people or Asians here than we did in Italy. It did not appear that there were many African-American tourists or Asian tourists either. It seems like the further south you go in Europe, the less multicultural it is.

 

After breakfast, we set out for the Acropolis. On the way to the Acropolis, you go through the Plaka which was about two blocks from our hotel.

 

Click here for a site with 360 degree pic of the Plaka

Along the way, at the edge of the Plaka are a couple of churches next to each other, the more modern Cathedral of Athens and the smaller of the two called Panagia Gorgoepikoos, constructed at the end of the 12th century

As we continued on our way, we were distracted and stopped at Hadrien's Library built in A.D. 132 by emperor Hadrian. We looked around. it was free and you are just walking around on your own unrestricted for the most part. where people have been civilized and kept records and documents 2000 years previously.
We are excited as we are climbing up the hill to the Acropolis. At the top of the hill before getting to the ticket booth, there is a huge rock that people are climbing up on and we decide to climb up too to see the view. It is a little scary because of Sylvan't knee but we take it very slowy and get up to the top and take some pics.

After we carefully climb back down, we continue up to the ticket booth and we get our tickets which include entry to several archeological sites including the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora, the Roman Agora, the Zeus Temple, and several others.

Then we continue up the hill with hundreds of other tourists. Before you get to the top you see two theaters on the right of the pathway. One is the Odeion of Herodes Atticus built in about AD 160. It is an ancient theater but apparently they still have concerts here and people were working on the stage as we went by preparing for a performance.

Click here for a site with 360 degree view.

A little bit further up the path, you see the ruins of the Dionysus theater.

Click here for 360 degree view.

Finally the Parthenon comes into site.

Click here for a link to some history and 360 degree pics that you can zoom in on and zoom out to explore the Parthenon. (after clicking on the link, drag your mouse accross the pic that appears to move from left to right and look for the zoom in button which is tiny and on the lower left border of the pic. There is also a tiny "hot spot" button that gives some text info.

Click here for some additional 360 degree pics of the Acropolis.

We found somebody to take our picture with the Parthenon in the background.
We take pictures from different angles.

Athena Nike.

There are the ruins of several buildings on the acropolis. It is a large archeological site. There are people with whistles that will blow their whistle at you if you go anywhere that your not supposed to but otherwise you are allowed a lot of freedom to move about the site.

 

Click here for site with 360 degree interactive pic of the Erechtheion Temple.

Sylvan in front of Erechtheion Temple

A closeup of the columns at the Erechtheion Temple.

 

After wandering around the archeological site, we visit the Acropolis museum. We had read that there is supposed to be a new one opening in 2004 but I don't think it was open yet. I think the new one is in a different location. The one we saw is relatively small and actually there are probably more Acropolis artifacts located in the London British Museum which is where the Elgin marbles are located.

When we are finished at the Acropolis, we walk down the hill to the Ancient Agora.

This is the the Agii Apostoli which is one of the oldest Christian churches (early 11th century A.D.) in the area of the ancient Greek Agora.

Theseion Temple (449 BC) at Ancient Agora
Click here for a site with 360 degree view of Theseion Temple

We visit the Stoa of Attalos in the Ancient Agora which was originally built in 150 B.C. and has been reconstructed and is now a museum.

After leaving the Ancient Agora, we walked back through the Plaka and looked for a Souvalaki stand. When I had been there in 1974, I practically lived on these tasty sandwiches of lamb meat with tomato, yogurt, onion wrapped in pita bread. A lot has changed since 1974 and it is not as easy to find a stand but many of the restaurants are selling a more elaborate version of souvalaki served on a plate. We are starving and so we sit down at a restaurant and have their version which doesn't contain any lamb meat at all.

After lunch, we walked around the Plaka/Monistiraki area a little more and we got some grapes at a stand and looked for postcards. We finallly went back to the hotel and took a nap.

Sylvan got up and took a soak in the little soaking tub. After that, he went accross the street to the internet place while Milton rinsed out some things in the sink and watched cnn for a while.

After Sylvan returned from the internet place, we walked up to Omonia Square which is one of the modern centers of this city of 7 million.

From there we walked over to Syntagma Square. We did a LOT of walking but it was fun to see daily life in Athens outside the more touristy Plaka and archeological sites. Along the way we saw the Changing of the Guard in front of the Greek Parliament.

Then we walked back to Monistiraki and had dinner at a charming outside restaurant after wandering around looking at various menus. There are a lot of sidewalk cafes in the Monisteraki/Plaka area of Athens. None of the restaurants in Italy or Greece are like in America where we are usually in a hurry and want to sit down, be waited on, get served quickly, stuff our food down and run. In Italy and Greece, people sit for hours at these restaurants and just people watch and talk. If you are used to hurrying through everything, it takes a little effort to slow down.

At a lot of the restaurants we passed, there are waiters that try to get you to sit down. They are trying to get business for their restaurant but they remind me of used car salesmen. You feel like you are being hustled or something which I just did not like at all. The restaurant where we finally sat down was much more low key. We looked at the menu and they had an inclusive special that included a salad, drink and Mousaka.

While we were eating, a little Gypsy girl came by playing a harmonica and begging for money.

 

 

After dinner, we walked around looking at souveniers. It was a beautiful evening and like everywhere we visited in Europe, people are out on the streets and night enjoying themselves.

Then we went back to the hotel and watched t.v. We were shocked when we realized it was two in the morning by the time we turned off the light to go to sleep. Sylvan says "no more caffeine."

(we have been trying to drink less coke since it has too much caffeine)

9-21-05 Day 16

We got up around 9:30 am and went down to the breakfast room and after breakfast headed over to the Roman Agora.

One of the main sites here is the Tower of The Winds.

 

The Roman Agora is yet another archeological site in Athens. It is the ruins of buildings that were built by the Romans at a later time than the Ancient Agora.

As we wander around the Roman Agora, we see a little pack of dogs. We have noticed at various times in Athens that there are packs of wild dogs at various places. They are very passive and don't seem to bother anyone.

From the Roman Agora, we walked to Kerameikos, another archeological site. We are told that this is where Plato had his school. Our tickets we had bought for the Acropolis also get us into this site. There is a large ancient cemetary here with beautifully sculptured grave markers and monuments. There is also a museum here.

It was interesting that they told us that this entire area had been totally buried at one time up to the level of the street. The area you walk around in is about 20 feet lower than the level of the street and is several acres of ruins.

From here we walked back to the hotel for a brief rest.

After resting for an hour or so, we walked over to Hadrien's Gate.

From there we went on to the Olympian Zeus Temple.

In the background, to the side of the column in the center are the ruins of another column that we read was toppled by a storm some years ago.

It was another beautiful day in Athens.

Click here for some history about this temple.

Athens is amazing.

On our way back to the hotel from here, we find a souvalaki stand and have a more traditional souvalaki. Milton has a chicken gyro. We each got a soda. Lunch is a bargain at 4.80 euro.

We walked back to the hotel and took a nap. Sylvan got up and went over to the internet place. Milton washed out a few more items.

For dinner, we decided we were in the mood for American food, so we took the metro to the Alexandras station and went to the TGI Fridays there. It was also an opportunity to see another Athens neighborhood. This neighborhood was more modern and could be any American city. There was a Starbucks a couple doors up from the TGI Fridays and an Applebees a block away. A lot of young people were hanging around and we guessed that there was probably a University somewhere nearby.

We ask for a non-smoking section but that is meaningless since it is just two feet away from the smoking section and there is nothing separating the two. American rock music is playing. The American food is good for us. I guess we are just typical American tourists set in our ways... it is great to sample the local cuisine but then it is great to get something more familiar along the way too.

9-22-05 Day 17

Milton slept much better after laying off caffeinated coke the day before. We went down tot he breakfast room and had another great Attalos Hotel breakfast.

Then we went and caught the metro. It was Athen's "spare the air" day and riding the metro was free until 5pm. It was a great day to be adventurous on the metro and we decided to go the the city of Piraeus. It is a city about a thirty mile trip on the metro and goes past the stadiums that were built recently for the Olympic games. Pireaeus is where you would arrive if you were coming to Athens via a ferry boat from Italy or if you were arriving on a cruise ship. When I had come to Athens in 1974, I crossed the Mediterranean 4 times. I came accross once on the hyroplane and the other times on ferries. One of the ferries also went to the Island of Corfu where I spent a couple nights before going on to Italy.

 

We then took the train back to Omonia Square and walked from there to the National Archeological Museum. It started raining just as we reached the steps of the museum.

There is a slight fee.

 

There are a lot of artifacts from the various ruins we have been looking at the last few days in Athens and from elsewhere in Greece.
It is just amazing how wonderful the sculpture is from Ancient Greece.

Again, it is just too much to see. It is overwhelming. There is just so much to see in Athens.

We went back to our hotel and started packing for our flight back to London the next day.

 

9-23-05- Day 18

We had scheduled a wakeup call but as usual we were already awake by the time of the call. We went down to breakfast and then went back to get our luggage.

We had booked most of our rooms about eight months before our trip and Sylvan was keeping track of all the bills to make sure there had been no changes in the meantime. We always got the price quoted when booked.

We walked the two blocks to Monistraki station to go back to the airport. We got on the first train but that did not go all the way to the airport and we had to get off at another station and then waited for about twenty minutes for the next train. We were glad we always give ourselves plenty of time to get to airports and trains since often there are these little glitches.

After we check-in we head through security to our gate. We discover once we get to that area, there are no restaurants or magazine stores or anything but a bathroom unless you go back out where you have to go through security again.

We are flying with Easy Jet, a discount airline like Southwest in the States and which has "open" seating. You are assigned a "group." It is supposed to be first come, first serve and even though we appear to be at the gate before most everyone else, for some reason we are still in the third group that boards! We did get an exit row though which gives a couple more inches of leg room but the seats don't lean back and are pretty uncomfortable. The flight is about four hours. We were charged for drinks and snacks. A tiny coke cost 1 euro. On landing in London Gatwick, we disembarked via stairs to the tarmack.

Everyone was standing in the airport looking at the monitors to see which carousel their baggage would be but the monitors were not accurate and we finally just set out and found the right one. We got our bags and then got the trin into London.

 

Thursday, 02 April 2015 16:25

2005-5. Europe- Rome

Written by


Sylvan and Miltons European Adventure 2005

Rome

9-15-05- Day 9 (continued)

The train to Rome was supposed to leave at 12:25. We stood in the train station trying to figure out what track it was leaving from but apparently our train was delayed somewhere along the line. Finally our track number appeared on the large display we were watching. We ran to the platform and boarded. We finally pulled out of the station at 1:10pm.

The trip to Rome is about two and a half hours. We sat with an older couple who appeared to be American. They were not very friendly.

It was another warm beautiful day (Milton said "hot"). I love warm weather. Milton describes his first impression as "people moving at a frantic pace." We got of the train in the station and watched for the big orange letter "M" for Metro. We found our way but there was no kiosk to buy tickets as there had been in London and Paris. There were machines but we were too tired to figure those out. In Rome you can buy your tickets at tobacco shops. We found one nearby and got a three day pass.

 

We were going to the Spagna stop which is adjacent to the Spanish Steps. We walked out of the station and the "steps" were about a hundred steps to the right and we could see throngs of people gathered there.

In the 17th century Spain's Ambassador to the Holy See had his headquarters on the square, and the area around it was deemed to be Spanish territory.

 

 

 

We were looking for V. Della Croce, which was where our pensione would be located.

 

We found it pretty easily as it is only about a block from the Spanish Steps. The cobblestone streets here are also filled with people as they had been in Florence. Occasionally a scooter, motorcycle or car tries to squeeze by but Rome is another city in which a tourist should not try to drive. It would be crazy for an American to try to drive in ANY of the cities we visited. There are a lot of sidewalk cafes on our street.

The shops in the Spanish Steps area are upscale. All the famous designer's have shops here like Gucci and Prada. It is like the Rodeo Drive of Rome.

 

We find the doorway for Pensione Panda that opens to the street at 35 V. Della Croce. Our double room there will be about $126.00/night which seems like a pretty good deal for such a great location.

 

 

But first you have to climb a flight of stairs to the second floor of the building to find the Pensione and there is another door there. It appears there might be another pensione and some apartments located in the same building as had been the case in Florence.

.

 

Once entering our room, you had to put the key card into a slot to turn on the electricity. Without the card in the slot there was no power.

Then we had to climb a spiral staircase to our room which seemed to be in what was probably an attic at one time.

The room they have given us is actually a triple. There is a king size bed with two nightstands and then another single bed. The ceilings are open beam and slant down from about 16' over the king size bet to about 5'6" over where the single bed is and since we are both 6'4", we keep bumping our heads when we go to that side of the room. The floors are tile.

We notice there is no t.v. and it feels pretty warm in the room. It appears there is an air conditioner but we can't figure out how to turn it on. Finally I go down the front desk to ask and am told that the air conditioning costs an extra 6 euro/night. We gladly pay that as the room is still a great deal. The air conditioning is set up so that it goes off automatically if you open the window (we should have that at home since we often realize we have the air conditioning on when a window is open and just wasting energy).

 

You have to step down to get to the bathroom and the ceiling there is probably 6'. Neither of us can actually stand up straight in the bathroom. We notice the room has a bidet. This is the first bidet we have seen and are not really sure how it is used and so we never do use it.

One thing that is different here is that the towels are extremely thin, cirsp and white. They are more like tablecloth material than towel material- i.e. they are NOT terrycloth.

There is no counter space on which to put anything around the sink but we have a great little toiletry set that has a little hanger. That was a good investment as many place we stay have no counter space and the toiletry set pretty much holds everything we need.

Outside the bathroom is a tiny closet with a depth of about a foot.

 

The shower is tiny again with folding glass doors but there does seem to be plenty of hot water.

 

 

 

We took a brief nap and then decide to go for some fast food since we are too hungry to look for a sit-down restaurant. There is a McDonalds about a half a block to the right of the Spanish Steps as you are facing them.

 

I took a picture of Milton in front of the Spanish Steps. One thing we notice in the throngs of people in Rome is that there are very few black people. Rome is not as multicultural as Paris or London. In Venice, Florence and Rome, most of the black people you see are African men that sell counterfeit designer purses, posters, sunglasses and watches. Along with some Italians too, a group will suddenly appear on the street and lay our a blanket with the goods they are selling. They will haggle over prices. If a police car appears, everybody bundles their stuff up and then they disappear.

Occasionally you will see a few Asian tourists or what appears to be a African-American tourist but mostly you just see Italians.

 

 

After eating a couple of burgers, we walked to the Pantheon. It was rather late in the evening. We would visit a couple days later and actually go inside. It was built in 118-126 AD. That is old.

Click here for a site with a great Quicktime 360 degree pic. Just drag your mouse on the pic. Then click your "back" button to return here.

 

From there we walked on to Piazza Navona where there are a lot of street vendors and street entertainers. We sat on a bench for a while here and people watched. There was a group of fire dancers that were dancing with and juggling torches. It was a beautiful evening and we were in short sleeves as we had been every day and every evening on our trip for the most part.

9-16-05- Day 10

We asked at the front desk if breakfast was included with our room but were told it was not. We went out on V. Della Croce and stopped at a sidewalk cafe on the corner without looking at the menu or prices. It just didn't occur to us since we just planned to have a couple croissants, coffee and oj. We were shocked when we got the bill. It was a lovely setting though and I guess that was what we were paying for- expensive ambiance.

Today we were going to take the Green Line tour of Rome so we took the metro to the Roma Termini station to find the tour operator which was located a couple of blocks away from the station. Along the way we discovered that there was a MacDonalds across the street from the Roma Termini that had a big sign that said "American Breakfast." After our experience that morning, we would keep this in mind.

We found our tour operator and got our tickets which were 21 euro each (about $25.00). This is another hop-on, hop-off tour but it was not an open air bus as we had in London and Paris. There was a "hostess" on the bus but she was not actually a guide. I didn't really see the purpose of her other than to tell us to plug in our headphones. I think most of us could have figured that out.

Through our time in Rome, I saw that there were several other tour operators that had the open air buses and some seemed to have much longer hours as we would see people touring even after dark. The air conditioning on our bus was nice since it was warm, but I think I would have preferred the open air bus since it is easier to take pictures along the way and would have enjoyed touring in the evening too. I would not recommend Green Line Tours for those reasons..

 

I took this picture from the tourbus window of the Roman Wall. Some parts of the wall date from 378 B.C.. It is just amazing to us when we are seeing things that were built before Christ was even born.

 

You see ruins of the Roman Wall at various places in Rome. We took this picture when we were walking around a couple days later.

 

Here is another picture of the Roman Wall.

On our tour, we also saw the Circus Maximus and this was another picture I took from the bus.

We spent the morning on the air conditioned tour bus, listening through our earphones about the sites and history of Rome. Sometimes we got a pretty good view of the sites but sometimes the bus stop was away from the actual site and you had to walk from the stop. After the tour, we went to the "Ciao Autogrill" restaurant at Termini station. We liked the Autogrill chain of restaurants around Rome because you could put together a pretty good meal with a salad and could point at what you wanted and everything was fresh and it was relatively cheap. Like almost everywhere else in Europe though, the only salad dressing offered is oil and vinegar.

If you are interested in some of that kind of stuff, click here for a great website of links on Rome.

When we finished the tour, we took the metro back to the Colosseum stop.

Click here for a link to a site that has a Quicktime 360 degree picture of the area. Just move your mouse on the pic for the 360 degree view.

 

 

 

The emperor Titus opened the Coliseum in AD 80 with 100 days of games in which 9,000 animals died. For more history on the colossum, click here.

It is an amazing structure that that is almost 2000 years old!

 

We found somebody to take our picture.

Then we stood in line and bought our tickets to go inside. As you approach the colosseum there are tour hawkers trying to get you to take their tours and they will tell you that you will be standing in line for up to two hours if you don't take their tour. We only stood in line for about twenty minutes though. The colosseum itself had their own tours though and also self-guided audio tours. We opted just to look around on our own.

You could see slanting areas where the marble seats used to be but most of the seats were removed when the colosseum was turned into a quarry and was stripped of the marble.

 

 

From the second floor of the colosseum, from a balcony, we could see this arch and so I took a pic.

 

When we were done exploring the colosseum, we went down to take a closer look at the arch. The Arch of Constantine was built out of pre-existing materials in 315 AD.

From there, we wandered over to the nearby Roman Forum.

Click here for a great map of the forum I wish I had when we were there.

The ruins of the Roman Forum are scattered over a surprisingly large area.

Click here for another one of those great 360 degree pics.

These three columns from 7 BC and 6 A.D built for the Temple of Castor and Pollux are over forty-eight feet high.

The Arch of Septimius Severus, was built in 203 A.D

 

Click here for 360 degree pic.

Temple of Antoninus and Faustina which Antoninus pius erected in memory of his wife, Faustina, in 41 AD .

Click here for 360 degree pic and more info.

The Roman Forum is a huge area and is exhausting. It is exhausting. You just can not take in all of it in the short time that we had there. We had to move on.

 

After leaving the Roman Forum, we walked up the hill to the Victor Emmanuel Monument which was built relatively recently in 1885- 1911. Soldiers in WWII used to call it "the wedding cake" building. This is also where Italy's tomb of the unknown soldier is.

From there we walked back to our pensione. Milton stopped along the way to get a USA Today to see what was going on in the U.S.. Then we stopped at a little meat, bread and cheese store to get some bread and cheese. Sylvan asked the man behind the counter if they had cheddar cheese and he grumbled that they only had Italian cheeses. There was a discussion in Italian between the men there, and then we were offered a slice of white cheese. It wasn't exactly cheddar but it tasted good sow we got some of that and some bread to take back to the room with us.

After taking a nap, we headed out for Trevi Fountain. The pics we took are on the right but you can click here for a Quicktime 360 degree picture.

This is Milton in front of Trevi Fountain. Again, there were throngs of people out on the streets. There were a couple of hundred people hanging around the piazza where the fountain is located. Maybe that is another reason people in Italy look like they are in so much better shape than Americans- instead of being couch potato's sitting around eating in front of a t.v. set, they all seem to be out on the streets walking and hanging around socializing with each other. It felt as if instead of passively sitting in front of a t.v. Vicariously watching others live soap opera and sitcom lives, the Italians get out and live real life themselves... ?? or something like that anyway... everybody is out on the streets on these warm wonderful nights in Rome... and again, because of more sensible gun control laws, there is not the same kind of fear of crime as there is in the States...

This is me in front of Trevi fountain.

After leaving Trevi fountain we caught the metro to Cavor to street to try to find a gay bar we were going to check out but it was still pretty early and it had not opened yet. We took the metro back to the Termini station to transfer to the A line but discovered the A line closes at 9:30pm! We were told we could take some bus which we never could find but somebody else said we could take the #125. Without translation we were a bit lost. Of course we probably could have just got a cab but that would have been too easy and then we would have to deal with feeling like we were being ripped off by a cab driver. We found our way on the bus though and everything was fine.

 

We did have to walk a few blocks though and we stopped and got dessert along the way. We passed this Column of Marcus Aurelius along the way.

When we got back to the room, it seemed like there was a contest to see who could slam their room doors the loudest It was Friday night and apparently some rowdy young people had checked into the hotel to party. We couldn't hear them other than a lot of door slamming.

9-17-05- Day 11

Milton got up first and had trouble getting hot water although when Sylvan got up, he had no problem at all. We got dressed and headed for The Vatican.

Click here for another Quicktime 360 degree pic of St. Peter's Square. And then here or here for others.

 

It was Saturday and there were a lot of people and the line was very poorly organized. We had to go through metal detectors to get in to the basilica and they did not rope off the line in any organized fashion. It was just a mob of people pushing forward toward the metal detectors.
The sun was hot and there was no protection as we pushed forward through the crowd. I guess they want you to feel like you have had a religious experience here since getting through those metal detectors felt like a miracle and one felt like giving thanks you had survived this chaos.
Inside the church was breathtaking. It was beyond words. For pics taken by others at www.virtualtourist.com, and more information, click here.
Bernini's canopy. You see this on Christmas eve if you tune into the midnight mass from the Vatican. It is interesting to note that the alter is over the actual tomb of St. Peter.
Michelangelo's masterpiece "Pieta" is located inside the basilica. You can click the link I have provided for a better pic and more information.
   

Saint Peter was apparently crucified in what is now St. Peter's square.

The bronze cross on top of the obelisk in the center of St. Peter's square contains a "sliver" of the cross on which Christ was crucified which was brought back to Rome from Jerusalem by St. Helena.

After an hour or so looking around St. Peter's Basilica, we decided to look for the Sistine Chapel to see Michelangelo's masterpiece on it's ceiling. I had seen in it 1974 and was eager for Milton to see it to. Since 1974 it had been "restored" and there was some controversy about the intensity of the colors when they wiped away centuries worth of dust and grime.

We asked what of the Vatican guards how to get there but as it turned out, the Sistine Chapel closes at noon on Saturday! Of course we were disappointed but on the other hand, we had seen so many treasures on this trip all ready that most people will never see, we couldn't bring ourselves to complain much.

 

We took the metro back to Termini station for lunch. I noticed the metro train had a lot of graffiti on it. We had also seen a lot of graffiti when arriving in London and had seen quite a bit in Paris too and would later see it in Greece. I guess graffiti is universal? It had just never occurred to me. As we went through our trip though, on a couple of occasions, ancient graffiti was pointed out to us...so I guess it is both universal and timeless? It was just one of those things that I usually would have just attributed to inner city pubescent boys acting out... it is interesting how travel can change your perspective.

After lunch we went back to Spagna and we got some postcards and magazines and went back to our room for a siesta.

Sylvan't knee is bothering him and so we take it slow. When we walked outside we found it had been raining. We walked to the metro station and it seemed like a lot of people are getting off at the Spagna where we are getting on. People seem to linger everywhere in Rome.

The subways in Rome seemed more packed in the afternoons around 3pm and into the early evenings to about 8:30pm. I am not sure why this is. In San Francisco they would more likely be packed in the early am about 8am and in the afternoon around 5. Rome's are much more packed than anywhere else we have been though. They are hot and humid like the one's in Paris. Milton get's fed up with the heat and humidity on the trains and after dinner is ready to just go back to the room and rest.

9-18-05- Day 12

Milton did not sleep well. It rained off and on through the night. We have to get a one day metro pass because our three day pass is expired.

We had planned on taking the two hour train to Naples and then going to see Pompeii today but we were just too tired and Sylvan's knee was bothering him to do a lot of walking and so we just stayed in Rome and we did a little more exploring there. Along the way we saw this typical piazza.

 

 

We had seen a metro stop named "Pyramid" and we were curious to see what was there. At the Pyramid metro station, you find another part of the Roman wall with this pyramid built into it. This pyramid was built during the last years of the Republic (1st century BC).

From there we took the metro to the Circus Maximus station to explore that area some more.

The most popular events in ancient Rome were chariot races held in the Circus Maximus, an arena that held up to 300,000 spectators. Now the area that used to be the racetrack is filled in and there is a park there.

As we were walking up the street near hear, there was a little stand that was selling fresh slices of watermelon and we stopped and each got one.

After enjoying our slices of watermelon, we walked about two blocks to the Termi di Caracalla. This was a huge bathing facility built between 212 and 219 A.D. by the emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, better known by his nickname Caracalla.

In the summer, they do Opera here. When I had visited in 1974 and had more time in Rome, I had seen the opera Aida here. It was quite a spectacle with live elephants and camels on the stage between the two towers you see on the right. If we would have had more time, I would love to have seen another production here.

We saw the mosaic on the right.
After visiting the baths, we went back to Piazza Navona and looked for Souveniers.

Then we went back to the Pantheon and went inside. It is free.

We went for lunch at the Autogrill again and then went back to the room to prepare for departure from Rome the next morning.

After a little nap we decided that wanted some American food and went to the Rome Hard Rock. It is located on the Via Venato. There was about an 90 minute wait but they gave us pagers and so we could wander around a little. The Via Venato is famous from the movie La Dolce Vita.

In San Francisco we would never go to a Hard Rock cafe since we think of them as too "touristy." We also think of the food as being overpriced and mediocre. After days of overpriced mediocre Italian food, the Hard Rock was a welcome change for us. We really enjoyed it. Our waitress was Filipino and we enjoyed talking to her about her immigration to Italy. This was particularly interesting because there seemed to be such a lack of multiculturalism in Italy and there are many Filipino's in the S.F. Bay Area. She was very friendly and fun.

We had a flight to catch the next morning so we headed back to our room.

 

 

Wednesday, 01 April 2015 19:15

2005-4. Europe- Florence

Written by

Sylvan and Miltons European Adventure 2005

Florence

9-13-05- Day 7 (continued)

There are frequent trains that go between Venice and Florence and I assumed it would be no problem getting a reservation before boarding the train. I was wrong. One thing I learned about our two train rides so far, the one from Venice and now this one to Florence, is that you want to get reservations as far in advance as possible. When I went to get our reservation for the train to Florence, first class was sold out but we were able to book second class. I went ahead and booked a reservation for first class for the train from Florence to Rome we would be taking a couple days later.

There really is not that much discernable difference on these trains though and it was only about a three hour ride. In second class there are four seats facing each other on each side of the aisle where in first class there are the seats are larger and there are four facing each other on one side of the aisle and then just two facing each other on the other side of the aisle.

We passed through quite a few towns. The countryside is flat in places with a lot of cornfields. Closer to Florence it gets hilly and woody in what we assumed was Tuscany.

The only problem for me was a hyperactive group of exuberant young Asian tourists that were laughing and playing cards and charades and other noisy games the entire trip to enertain themselves. I guess I am just old but I thought these kids were really obnoxious and was glad to see when we reached a stop and they gathered their things together to get off. I thought, "finally, now we will have some peace and quiet for the rest of the trip," not realizing we had reached our destination of Florence, Italy and we would be getting off too. We almost didn't realize it was our stop though

 

 

 

 

 

 

We got lost initially when we got of the train but quickly got directions and made our way to our pensione. It was about a block and a half from the Duomo. The picture on the right was taken just a few steps from the street doorway.

Once you entered the street doorway, you walked up about two flights of stairs before you reached the Relais Campanille office where we were staying. Our room was then another flight up the stairs from that. Above us, on what would have been the fourth floor, was another pensione. It is not uncommon in Europe to have your pensione located inside a building with other businesses or other pensiones. If you are staying at a place like this, you want to be clear about how many flights of stairs you will be walking up. We consider ourselves in alright shape and we had booked this room before I had torn my meniscus. My knee held up pretty well even with all the steps.

One thing I have noticed is that overall, generally, Europeans seem to be in much better physical shape than Americans. They definately do more walking and stair climbing.

 

The room was quite a welcome difference from the one in Venice. It has a tile floor, big amoir, desk, t.v. that works (although only one totally English speaking channel, SKYTV, which is like cnn- and also there was an mtv style music channel with a mix of contemporary Italian groups and English speaking groups). We were ecstatic to find air conditioning.

 

 

 

 

This bathroom was bigger, you could actually turn around in the shower, and there seemed to be plenty of hot water.

 

 

 

 

After we took a little nap, we wanted to get our bearings and so we took a walk to find Accademia which is where the original of Michealangelo's "David" is located. We had a reservation there for 1:30pm the next day. It is critical that you have reservations for this museum!

 

We also wanted to find the Uffizi. We had a 9:45 reservation for a tour there. We had almost lost out on the Uffizi. I had put off calling Italy to make the reservations until about a week before our trip. When I finally did call, they were sold out. The only way to get in was to book a tour which cost several times that of the admission price but we did it anyway to assure admission and were glad we did.

If you are going to Florence, call AT LEAST a month in advance for reservations for each of these museums to guarantee your admission!

 

 

From the Uffizi, we walked to the ponte vecchio bridge...

 

 

...It is one of the oldest bridges in Florence. It dates back to Roman times.

 

If you are interested in more information about this bridge, click here. It is very pretty. I really like all the pastel colors used in Italy.

The bridge has a lot of jewelry stores located on it that are run by descendents of the original owners.

 

The streets of Florence are packed with people. Occasionally people on scooters or cars come through but most of the time you are walking in the streets. The sidewalks are often very narrow- not wide enough for two people to walk side by side.

Also, many of the streets in Europe are cobblestone. After a few days of walking on cobblestones, your legs can start feeling achy.

For dinner we ate at Leonardo's, a place listed in one of our travel books. We got bread and they charged us for each pat of butter! Even though it was listed in one of our books, I would definately not recommend this place. I didn't think it was that cheap and the ambience was terrible.

On the way back to our room, we stopped and got sodas and dessert to take to the room with us.

9-14-05- Day 8

We called down to Leonardo, the pensione manager, for breakfast. He brought us a tray of coffee, oj, croissants, jelly and butter. This service is included in the price of the room. We had to be at Uffizzi by 9:45 to meet our tour guide, Danielle.

The tour lasted about two and a half hours.. We saw works by Giotto, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, Rembrandt and Rubens and Caravaggio just to name a few. They did not allow us to take photographs though. If you are planning a trip there and would like to think about what you would like to see or if you are just interested in what is there, you can click this link for the "virtual Uffizi" online, then click "room index." Each room will have a "detailed paintings list" link which you will click on. Then from the description of each work, there will be an "image" link.

 

 

The tour ended just in time for us to get to the Accademia for our afternoon reservation there. The main attraction at the Accademia is the original of Michealangelo's "David," considered by many (along with his Pieta at the Vatican) as one of the worlds greatest works of art. Again, we were not allowed to take pictures inside the museum but there is a "copy" of the statue near the Uffizi.

After we finished at the Accademia, we walked back to the Duomo and got in line to see the inside of this immense church. I was unable to get the entire church in one picture. I guess you would have to take the picture from the sky to get it all in one picture. There is no place to do that from the street. It is huge. The outside has a lot of green marble.

While waiting in line we saw a gypsy panhandling with an unkempt child of 3 or so. She feigned a sad look with her outstretched hand but then a moment later a cell phone suddenly appeared and she talked to someone for a minute or two and then the cell phone dissapeared and she went back to her sad look with outstretched hand. I guess her cell phone bill was so high that she had to beg to be able to pay it. I know how she feels.

Click here for a site with a Quicktime 360 degree view of the duomo.

 

 

It was kind of dark inside the Duomo. Again, there is no way for a picture to capture the immensity of it. I did take take pictures of the inside of the dome but am not bothering to even post them here because they are such an injustice to the scale and color and beauty.

 

The Duomo also had a campanille but unlike Venice, this one did not have an elevater. Even though Sylvan's knee was bothering him a little, he still wanted to climb as many stairs as possible and we made it about three quarters of the way to the top.

It was a great place to take some pictures of Florence.

 

Here is another view from the campanille.

 

 

This is a picture of the Duomo taken from the camponille.

We did not go all the way to the top of the campanille because of my knee. Click here for a site with a great 360 degree view from the top and then click your "back" button your browser to return here.

 

When we came back down we walked around the baptistry which is located directly in front of thd Duomo.

The doors of the Baptistry contain Lorenzo Ghiberti's masterpiece "Gates of Paradise" which took 27 years to complete.

Then we went to Piazza Republilic to find the post office. Sylvan bought some souveniers to mail home.

Then we wandered around and took some pictures before going to dinner a "House of Sizzle." We had the three meat platter which had chicken, beek and pork. The pork was nothing more than breakfast sausages. The platter came with no vegetables and so we ordered those separately. We overheard the waiter telling others that came in that the restaurant had a "special" but for some reason, our waiter overlooked telling us. The special looked like a much better deal of salad, steak and potato's and probably the drink was included. We think that we probably should have watched for more "tourist menu's" in Italy that would usually be inclusive of a couple courses and a drink. We usually put of eating until we were absolutely starving though and did not take time to find the best deals. We also had to order bread separately and then had to request butter for the bread. The bill came to about $43.00.

 

 

 

Along the way I took this picture of a car that was very typical in Italy. I am not sure if it is gas or electric but it sure is tiny!

On the way back to our room we stopped again for some dessert and sodas to take back with us.

One day we were in the mood for just a hamburger at McDonalds. They charged us for every little packet of ketchup!

9-15-05- Day 9

We got up and dressed and finished packing. Leonard brough our breafast. We left our baggage with him whuile we walked to Santa Croce Basilica.

This is the inside of Santa Croce. See how tiny the people are? T

hey just don't build churches like this in America. Do they anywhere? According to this website, it was "officially started on May 3rd 1294, when the architect, Arnolfo di Cambio, laid the first stone of what was to become a masterpiece of Gothic art."

 

 

Santa Croce is also where Machiavelli, Ghiberti, Michelangelo, Galileo, and Rossini, among others are buried. Here is a picture of Michelangelo's tomb.

I also read, "Unfortunately the monument to Dante, whose remains repose at Ravenna, is only a cenotaph," which apparently is a monument erected in honor of a dead person whose remains lie elsewhere.

 

We headed back to the pensione to pick up our bags before heading to the train station.

 

On the way, we took a few more pics before saying goodbye to Florence.

 

Wednesday, 01 April 2015 19:02

2005-3. Europe- Venice

Written by

Sylvan and Milton's European Adventure 2005

VENICE

We picked up our suitcases at the hotel and headed for the train station to catch the night train to Venice. Our train was to leave at about 8:30pm and arrive in Venice the next morning.

I was reading "What's the Matter With Kansas" an excellent book by Thomas Frank about the rise of conservatism in Kansas. 

venicesylvantraintovenice

We shared our compartment with an Italian man that had been in Paris for work and an old Arab man that didn't speak any English at all. 

The Italian's wife was also on the train but for some reason having to do with who booked the tickets, she was traveling second class which meant there were 6 people in her compartment rather than four in ours. 

Sylvan enjoyed talking with them and comparing a few things between the lifestyles of Europeans and Americans. The Italians said that American t.v. and movies are definately better. We talked about g

as prices (higher in Europe but goes to taxes to pay for better transportation and health care and not just profit for o

il companies); health care (America spends twice as much and covers only 40% of the population). We talked about how Europeans routinely get eight weeks vacation every year! The Italian man did not feel that this was a good thing though although 8 weeks vacation sounded pretty good to me at the time.

The conductor came around to check our tickets and he asked for our passports. I was a bit nervous giving up our passports but the Italian said that this was standard procedure and it was so that we would not need to be awakened in the middle of the night when we crossed through Switz

venicemiltontraintovenice2

erland. 

After a couple of hours of riding in our seats, we took the sheets and blankets that had been left in the compartment and made our own beds. There was a little ladder to get up to top berths. Milton and I took the top since we thought it would be easier for the old Arab man to sleep on the bottom and the Italian man could sleep on the bottom so he could take care of the old man as he had promised the old man's daughter. Even though we both took a sleeping pill, the old man must have had prostate problems as he was going in and out to the bathroom all night. When he was not opening the door of the compartment, he was rattling through some plastic bags. He was either eating or going to the bathroom all night long. 

It is interesting how many Europeans travel by train and seem perfectly comfortable sleeping in a compartment with five possible strangers or three other possible strangers. I don't thinkn the compartments were even separated by sex (we were all men in our compartment though). I wonder how many Americans would feel comfortable sleeping in a compartment with strangers? Why are we so much more fearful of one another? I am reminded of the book "The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things" by Barry Glassner.

At one point, the conductor came to our compartment and asked for everyone's passports. As Americans, we are constantly told never to let our passports get away from us and we were a little hesitant to give ours up but this is done as a courtesy to passengers because when the train crosses the border into Switzerland, it will be the middle of the night. By giving the conductor the passports, it is not necessary to wake all the passengers. The passports are returned the next morning. 

9-11-05 Day 6

The next morning we were still traveling along on the train to Venice. The old Arab man was getting off at a stop before Venice and before the Italian couple. He seemed kind of nervous. It seemed kind of scary for this old man to be traveling by himself in a foreign country and speaking a language that probably very few people spoke. He seemed kind of nervous. He seemed to be trying to ask us if the stop where he was getting off was the right place but we certainly had no idea. Shortly after he left, the Italian couple got off at another stop.

Our passports were returned to us before we reached Venice and I was relieved to have them.

venicesylvantraintovenice2

After arriving in Venice, our hotel was not hard to find. Sylvan had looked up directions to everything before leaving home and had put each day's information we would need on 3x5 cards. Each day he would put one or two cards in his shirt pocket and those would have all information we needed regarding directions and what we wanted to see. We followed the directions to the Ponte delle Guglie (a bridge) and then continued up Campo San Leonardo where they have fruit stands on some days...

venicegatetopensione

... and we looked for Calle dell 'Olo which was marked by a black gate...

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...and then you walk down a very narrow little passageway to find the gate for the pensione itself, Foresteria di Palazzo Ducale. We rang the bell and an Italian man that spoke no English responded.

 

((Click here to read our Tripadvisor review of Pensione Foresteria di Palazzo Ducale)

He led us to a very sweet young women who spoke a tiny bit of English. We knew we had arrived much earlier than we had planned and was not sure if we could actually go to our room yet but just wanted to see if we could leave our bags until time that we could check in. In her broken English, she assured us that we could check in right then and she led us to our room on the second floor. This building must have been at the very least a couple of hundred years old. The heavy wooden door to our room opened with a skeleton key. A skeleton key is not very reassuring security but we felt trusting and we always kept our passports, airline tickets, etc. in money belts on our bodies when were out of our rooms anyway.

The room was extremely small. It had the standard two twin beds but even they seemed smaller than usual. We were disappointed to find there was no air conditioning but we were too tired to do anything about it, and would only be in Venice for a couple of nights, and all we could think about was resting. The room was warm but not intolerable.

There was a t.v. in the room but I never could get it to work... but we're in Venice- who has time to watch t.v?

The bathroom was the smallest I had ever seen. You had to really maneuver around the sink to get through the door. You also had to step up about eight inches into the bathroom. The shower was so small it was impossible not to get water all over the bathroom floor when you took a shower.

If you look at the picture on the right, you will see a small square "tank" in the upper left portion of the shower. This was the hot water tank which held about two gallons of hot water. I would get in and use enough water to get wet and then turn it off and soap up and then turn it back on to rinse off.

This was the only unacceptable room on our entire trip. We were paying about $100.00/night which included breakfast. That is not enough for Venice. I would recommend budgeting at least $150.00/ night here at the very least or as much as you can. We did notice that cruise ships dock in Venice. After our experiences here, I think a cruise would be a great way to visit since you would not have to worry about the room or food or packing and unpacking.

But Venice is worth all the inconveniences of the tiny room and the expensive mediocre food. It is worth it because it is absolutely exquisite. It is truly one of the most beautiful places you will ever see. Every turn of your head is rewarded with another incredible site. If you had to sleep on the street and go without food altogether, it would be worth it just to see Venice. Great authors like Shakespeare have written about it but no words can really articulate the beauty here.

We started out walking to Piazza San Marco and we followed the signs that are posted but then we saw a sign that would point to the Rialto Bridge and so we would start going in that direction which was not in the same direction and then we would see a sign that pointed to Piazza San Marco and change direction. This is really not the best way to get to a destination. We kept changing directions and walking along little passages along the canals or between the buildings. I am not sure you could really call them "roads" since they are so narrow. There are no cars in Venice. You get around on boats. The gondoliers were expensive and unnecessary for us. They were quite picturesque to look at though. We either walked where we wanted to go or took the vaperetto which is a water bus.

Mere photographs don't do Venice justice. You have to see the light playing on the water, reflecting off the pastel colored buildings. That just can not be captured in a still photograph... maybe not on film at all.

We finally arrived at Piazza San Marco. There are zillions of pigeons there and there are little stands where you can buy bird seed to feed them. A lot of the tourists seemed to enjoy having the pigeons feeding out of their hands and on their shoulders but we kind of think of pigeons as rodents with wings. You are discouraged from feeding them in San Francisco. I guess it has been drilled into me that these birds are not very clean.

After finding Piazza San Marco, we looked for the vaperetto and took it back to the Ponte Guglie stop in Cannaregio district where we were staying. This used to be the "Jewish ghetto." We had done our research and were looking for a restaurant called "Breck" that was supposed to be affordable. Food was very expensive in Venice. We would pay about $45.00 for our lunch of what appeared to be about two dollars worth of pasta, two small salads, a little bread each, a fruit torte each for dessert and a couple sodas.

Again, if you want good food, come to San Francisco. I can make better spaghetti than any I had in all of Italy. I discussed this with my sister Darlene after getting home and maybe, what we think of as "mediocre" food, is really more healthful? I put a lot of meat and vegetables in my spaghetti and besides being more flavorful, it probably also has more fat and calories and so possibly less healthful? Maybe one of the reasons the Italians looked so much thinner and healthier than Americans is because they DON'T put all the extra stuff in their food or serve the quantities we are used to- besides obviously doing a LOT more walking than we do and spending less time in front of a t.v.?

Rarely did any of the pasta I had have any meat in it. We probably should have looked more for the "tourist" menu's at the restaurants to save money. Those usually would be inclusive of salad, pasta and a meat dish. I can easily say though that I think just about any pizza joint in San Francisco makes better pizza than any you will get in Italy- again just because I am used to more ingredients and bigger quantities of those ingredients than what we had on pizza in Italy.. (when I traveled in Mexico, I often felt that we have better Mexican food in the Bay Area than any "authentic" Mexican food I had in Mexico).

...BeautifulVenice...

I imagine that part of the reason food is so expensive here is that it is labor intensive to make deliveries? You see little barges of goods on the canals and then those goods must be offloaded onto hand trucks and rolled through the little passageways and over lots of bridges.

The Grand Canal...

I kept saying to Milton, "Can you imagine little Milton Thomas from Richmond Texas in Venice Italy?" He would say the same back to me: "Imagine, Sylvan Rogers from Toppenish Washington that used to work in the Brunswick, here in Europe!" We just felt so lucky to be there and constantly reminded ourselves about how "blessed" we were.

After lunch at Breck, we went back to the Pensione.

At one point my sister, Darlene, had considered coming with us and I remembered thinking about that. We had really exhausted ourselves so far on our trip and we could barely keep up with our schedule of packing and unpacking at different hotels and then dashing off to see the sites. We are probably more adventurous than some people and Darlene probably would have been fine but it occurred to me how much easier it would be for most people (including us if we ever returned) to take a cruise ship here. No packing and unpacking or train schedules or dealing with high food prices and tiny rooms. You would probably save money on a cruise since they are all inclusive and you really only need a day or two to see the sights of Venice. It might not be quite as "authentic" or adventurous but we decided that if we were to ever come back to Venice, that a cruise was the way we would want to do it and we would recommend that to others.

Sublime...

After napping in the room for a while, we walked to the Roticceria San Bartolomeo which was a Frommer recommendation I think. It was convenient too since everything was under glass in a counter and you could just point at what looked good and not have to deal with names of things on a menu that you had no idea what it was. Sylvan had beef lasagna and Milton had eggplant lasagna. We both had a little salad and sodas. The bill came to 22 euro which is about $25.00, a real bargain for Venice!

From the restaurant we walked to the Rialto Bridge. This version was built 1588-1591. When did Shakespeare write "The Merchant of Venice?"

Although this picture here was taken the next day in the sunlight, that evening the sun was going down and there was a guy playing a violin. It was so incredibly romantic. Neither Milton or I are usually very romantic but I tell you, a violin at dusk on the Rialto bridge really does something to you... it just stirs the soul and you can't help but feeling romance.

Milton standing on the Rialto bridge that evening. Incredible. If anyone reading this feels their relationship could use a little romance, head to Venice! If you don't feel it there, you are dead.

Sylvan and Milton on the Rialto Bridge.

Looking out from the bridge you see gondoliers carrying couples but when we decided to go to San Marco, we looked for the vaparetto stop.

As I mentioned before, there are no cars in Venice. The vaparetto is a water bus system that will get you just about anywhere you want to go. We found the one that was going to Piazza San Marco but we were looking for the campanile and missed our stop because we didn't realize there are more than one campanile in Venice. We were looking off in a different direction across the water at a different campanile. We tried to get off but they had already untied the boat from the dock and so we had to go to the next stop and walk back.

Here is a pic of Milton on the vaperetto at a different time during the day when there was better light.

"Milton Thomas in Venice Italy!"

When we got back to Piazza San Marco that evening, there were five different bands playing at different outdoor restaurants around the square. You could sit down at one of the restaurants and have drinks and just watch one band through the evening but we did what many of the tourists did, we stood and watched one for a while and then moved to another and watch them. The evening was warm (we were in short sleeves), the music was excellent and we were in Venice! Did I mention romance?

After we left the square, we meandered.. yes, meandered... that is the only way to experience Venice-- meander... slowly stroll in whatever direction, whatever passageway...

along the way we stopped at an internet cafe so Sylvan could check and send emails. We each got a gelato from one of the many gelato stands between San Marco and the pensione.

Often in Venice, I felt like I had to pinch myself..."Is this just a dream?"

9-12-05- Day 7

Sylvan slept great but Milton was tossing and turning all night. We had seen a laundromat the day before near where we were staying so we decided that today was a good opportunity to wash.

Sylvan could not remember if breakfast was included in this hotel but when we went downstairs we were pleased to discover that breakfast was included. We had the usual pastries, cereal, oj and coffee out in the courtyard in front of the pensione. We seemed to be the only people staying there which was fine since it was very quiet. The receptionist and her husband (?) appeared to live downstairs.

After breakfast we took the vaperetto back to Piazza San Marco. We found the post office and got some stamps for postcards.

After returning from Europe, I discovered this site with some great 360 degree pics. You need to have Quicktime installed on your computer to look at them. Click here for the 360 degree pic of San Marco square and St. Marks.

We stood in a pretty fast little line and paid a little fee to take the elevator to the top of the campanile., the tower to the right of the church.

From the top of the campanile., there some incredible views of the piazza below...

... and the bay...

.. Santa Maria della Salute...

San Geiorgio Maggiore and the other campanile. that had confused us the night before.

... and the roof of Saint Mark's Basilica and rooftops of Venice.

When we came back down from the campanile., we decided to get in line to visit St. Mark's Basilica which is over a thousand years old. It is incredible inside but you are not allowed to take pictures. If is free to go into the main floor of the basilica but there is a slight fee to visit the museum on the second floor which we did do.

Although these bronze horses that are now on the balcony at the front of the church are only copies, the originals are inside the church museum. They were found in Constantinople and in 1204 were brought to Venice. In 1797, Napoleon apparently took them to Paris but in 1815 the horses were returned to Venice. This photograph does NOT do them justice. I wish we could have taken some pictures of the originals inside but there was an Italian man that guarded them and would come over to you if you even looked like you were going to take a picture... which of course I didn't but others did...

We asked someone on the balcony to take our pictures. Piazza San Marco is in the background.

This is another picture we took from the balcony at Saint Mark's. That is the Doge Palace on the left.

Here is another angle of the Doge Palace, with facades dating from 1309, was taken at another time.

Click here for another Quicktime 360 degree view.

This lion with wings is the symbol for Venice and you see them everywhere but this is probably the main one that is most famous. This picture was also taken from the balcony at Saint Marks.

Something else you see a lot of in Venice is the masks. They sell them every where. They are usually made of paper mache and are quite beautiful and are used during the annual carnival. That would be a great time to visit Venice.

After our visit to the basilica, we wandered about a little in the piazza. We wandered back to a restaurant we had seen near the Rialto bridge and had lunch. Milton used the bathroom at the restaurant and came out and told Sylvan how weird it was. Bathrooms in Europe can be an experience for Americans. We wandered back to the hotel, stopping at Bella Oggi, a small by American standards supermarket along the way. We got some bread and cheese. That was really not as simple as it sounds though since the cheeses have different names than what we were used to. Apparently they don't usually carry what we call "cheddar" cheese. Everything was white. We could figure out what was Swiss cheese from the holes and what was gouda from the red rind, but everything else was a mystery.

When we got back to our room we took a little nap.

When we awakened from our nap, we decided to go do our laundry at the laundromat we had seen earlier. Even that was an interesting experience for us even though they did have instructions in several languages. First you had to put your clothes in the machine and buy your detergent from a little vending machine. You did not put your money in the washing machine itself. Each machine had a number and you put the money in another place at the back of the building where the dryers were. It all went fine when we figured it out.

There was a weird guy in the laundromat though that was overly friendly with everyone. With Sylvan's experience working with psychiatric patients, Sylvan noticed him right away and notified Milton to avoid him. He put a lot of wet mildewed clothes in a machine but the whole time we were there, he never actually started the machine. He told someone that he was from "Pasadena" but then did not seem to know where Pasadena was. He also had an accent. Later when we were walking by the laundromat, he was still in there. We never did figure out what he was up to but others seemed to avoid him too. After we took the clothes back to our room, we went back to Brek for dinner.

After dinner, we walked back to Piazza San Marco and listened to the bands again. One band was playing classical music and another was playing showtunes.

Along one of the passageways on our way, there was a guy playing guitar and harmonica and was playing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." We sure felt like we were somewhere over the rainbow. It was poignant in that like Dorothy and Toto, we were definitely not in Kansas.

We looked for the bridge of sighs. The bridge of sighs connects the Palazzo Ducale, where prisoners were tried, to the prison across the canal and the "sighs" are those the prisoners felt when going to prison.

From San Marco square, we took the vaparetto back to the Rialto. Sylvan got another gelato.

9-13-05- Day 7

At 12:25 pm we got on the train to Florence.

The trains in Europe are amazing. They are high speed and very comfortable and go everywhere.

Also in this pic, you can see our luggage. As small as they are, we still found we brought unnecessary stuff! When you are traveling as much as we were, you want to travel as light as possible.

 

Tuesday, 31 March 2015 18:53

2005-2. Europe- Paris

Written by

PARIS

9-8-05 - Day 3 

We asked for a 9am wake-up call at the Montana hotel in London, but we were up before that. We finished packing and went down to breakfast. On the way to the Waterloo station, where we would catch the "Chunnel" train to Paris, we initially went the wrong direction on the "tube" but got off at the first station and went across the platform to go back in the right direction. After

Europe05ParisChunnelgetting to Waterloo and following the arrows and enough escalators, we presented our tickets and passports and went through security. The trip from London to Paris takes about three hours and you have to set your watch one hour ahead. At 2:34 pm we arrived in Calais, France on the way to Paris. First impression: a lot of open fields, country farmland and graffiti on buildings. We had also seen a lot of graffiti when coming into London and would see it elsewhere through our trip. I guess graffiti is universal?

We had no problem going from the GareDu Nord station to the Le Militare station. It took us a few minutes to get our bearings. The subway was hot and humid with poor ventilation, and it was often necessary to walk through long corridors to transfer or exit. In London, it seemed like there was more of a "breeze" that was created from the trains themselves coming into the stations. The Paris subway could be stifling at times. We got a three day train pass so we would have unlimited use of the subway and you could get just about anywhere you wanted to go in Paris on the subway (which was the same in London).

Europe05ParislevequeOur hotel is located on Rue Cler, which is a small

Europe05Pariselevatormarket street closed off to traffic. It is sidewalk cafes, fresh produce stands, cheese shops, bakeries and very Parisian. You could spend a couple of days just hanging out here but we didn't have time for that. It came highly recommended on the internet and we agree that the Hotel Leveque is a great place to stay.

The elevators at the Hotel Leveque were even smaller than the one at the Montana Hotel in London. Only one person and a suitcase or two people could get in at a time. Here is a picture of me standing in this tiny elevator on the first floor.

The hotel also included breakfast the first day but after that was 8 Euro/day for croissants and coffee.

This was a lovely room as you can see below. You can see the bathroom at the Hotel Leveque. It was small but a little more comfortable than the Montana in London.

Europe05ParisroomEurope05Parisbathroom

The next pic shows a view from our room on Rue Cler. We had requested a room that overlooked the street because we had read on www.tripadviser.com that this was preferable since it is such a charming location. The double paned windows were pretty good about blocking out most of the noise but we also carry a white noise machine when we travel. There is some street noise late into the night as people sit in the sidewalk cafes to drink and socialize long after they have quit serving food. 

The room also had air conditioning and so we were able to keep the windows closed at night.

Europe05Parisview

Our first evening in Paris we took a stroll along the Seine river...

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...and then continued along the Champs Elysees. We stopped at a Hagen Daz and got some ice cream.Europe05Parischamps

Then we continued on until we reached the Arc de Triumph. We asked a passerby to take our pic and then we went inside and paid a little fee to ride the elevator to the roof of the Arc.

 

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From the roof of the arc, we took some pics. 

 

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And then we got on the subway and went back to our hotel.

 

9-9-05- Day 4

Milton slept in while Sylvan went to the train station to get the reservation for the train to Venice we would be taking a couple days later. Sylvan forgot the Eurail pass and was unable to make the reservation. He went back to the hotel and got the Eurail pass and asked the desk clerk if there was a way to make the reservation without going all the way back to the station. The desk clerk said there was a train "boutique" a couple of blocks from the hotel. Sylvan went there and waited in line but when he talked to the women there she did not speak English. It was determined that the train was sold out! We had tried to book this reservation before leaving the states but were told to wait until we got to Paris to book it. That was a big mistake. Sylvan went back and

got Milton and let him know about the glitch and we both returned to the train station. There was a "night train" available the night before we had planned to leave which meant that we would be losing a day in Paris. I already regretted not having planned to stay in Paris more time. There was just too much to see here for the time we had planned on and now we would have even less time! We booked the night train and had to pay an extra hundred dollars or so on top of our eurail passes. We didn't really see any option though for getting to Venice.

 

 

Once we got our train reservation, we set out to find the Paris Vision  tour we planned to take but when we got there we discovered that it was not a hop-on, hop-off tour and was directed to the Grayline, Cityrama tour. We prefer the idea of being able to get off and on the tour as we like so we can explore what we want. After we bought our tickets we were told where to go to start the tour which was right across the street from the Louvre.

 

On this tour there was only the headphone option. There was not a live guide. You plugged in the little ear pods they gave you and switched a channel to whatever language you wanted. You had a personal volume control as well.

We took the tour as far as Notre Dame. We found some other tourists to take our pic .

 

We paid a little fee and went in and looked around. The stainglass windows were beautiful. We didn't see Quasimoto though. I thought it was interesting that Notre Dame was almost torn down at one point and it was partly because of the book "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" that there was renewed interest in the church and that was partly why it was restored and saved. It boggles the mind that anyone would have considered tearing down such a treasure!

It is just a short walk to Saint Chappelle from Notre Dame. We paid another little fee and went in to see another beautiful church. Again, the stainedglass windows were incredible

 

Then we got back on the tour bus and rode it for a while seeing the sites of Paris..

 

 

We got off the bus at the Eiffel tower...

 

..stood in line and paid a little fee and took the elevator to the top. There was another entrance if you wanted to take the stairs.

 

 

It was a spectacular view.

 

It was breathtaking.

After coming back down we went back to the hotel and told the desk clerk about the changed plans and that we would be staying one less night. She said "no problem." This is one of those hotels that tends to sell out months in advance so she would have no problem renting the room to someone else.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a little rest in the room, we headed back over to the Louvre.

 

 

 

 

We saw the Venus de Milo...

 

 

...the Mona Lisa...

 

and an exhausting amount of other masterpieces...

 

The place is huge...

 

Room after room of great art...

 

An amazing sculpture garden...

 

We saw Napolean's apartment.

 

 

 

...and then we saw some more... it is just TOO MUCH to take in by that point and we give up.. we are just worn out... you would need a week just to see this one museum... again, most places you vacation, there might be one or two "sites" to see but in Europe, it is exactly the opposite problem.. there is just TOO MUCH to see.. it is overwhelming at times and you just have to resign yourself to the impossibility of seeing it all. With our time in Paris being cut short by the train reservation glitch, we just had to keep moving. 

We decided to head over to the Hotel de Ville area which is kind of a "gay" area in Paris. We turned our gaydar on and followed the signals. There were a lot of outdoor cafes and people enjoying the evening. One of the things I noticed about both London and Paris was how multicultural they both are. We like that. It is also amazing at how safe you feel almost anywhere in Europe. You would never see elderly people out on the streets of urban areas in America but they are everywhere in Europe. Personally, I think that this feeling of safety has something to do with the limited availability of guns in Europe. There just seems to be less paranoia. You do have to watch out for pickpockets in urban centers throughout Europe like you would in any urban center but violent crime is relatively rare compared to America. Personally, I much prefer art and culture to guns and violence... but I digress...

We could barely walk another step by this time and headed back toward the hotel. As we came up to an intersection we heard a police siren and whistles. A crime in progress? No-- suddenly coming down the street were literally hundreds of people on roller skates. We stood for about five minutes as this crowd zipped by dancing and blowing whistles. When they had finished going by, they were followed by another hundred or so people on bicycles... a little Paris surprise.

9-10-05- Day 5

Our hotel only gave a free breakfast for the first morning

and then it was 8 euro for each breakfast after that. Milton and I had breakfast that morning which consisted of croissants, baguette, coffee and juice. Although the sign said "all you can eat," no one ever came by to ask if wanted any more. We 

went back to the Eiffel Tower to get some souvenirs and we took them back to the hotel and packed them in a little box Sylvan had got the day before at the Louvre post office. Even though we had brought only carry on bags, we realized that we had still brought too much stuff and we mailed home a couple items along with souvenirs From there we went to Forum de Halls area and had lunch and a place we had read about called Flunch. It is an inexpensiv

e cafeteria style restaurant and was very good. After lunch we went to the Pompidieu museum.

 

The escalators are on the outside of the building in tubes. They look kind of like they were made for giant gerbils.

 

The Pompidieu is a "modern" art museum. We saw this famous Warhol and many other amazing pieces of art. We had planned to try and squeeze in the d'Orsay museum too but by the time we had spent a couple of hours at the Pompidieu, we were just burned out no museums and art.. absolutely satiated..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I headed to the Pantheon. Completed in 1780. I have provided a link if you are interested. In 1851, Léon Foucault demonstrated with a pendulum here that the earth spins on its axis. I have seen pendulums based on his experiments at different times growing up but somehow the whole thing eludes me. I just don't quite get it I guess but this is where the whole thing originated.

 

 

 

On the way back to the subway station, it is drizzling and we start hearing a lot of music and we see a big crowd of young people. I asked someone what was going on and they told me it was a "techno parade."

 

There were several trucks loaded down with speakers blasting techno music and everybody was dancing. Another pleasant Paris surprise. 

We headed back to Rue Cler and stopped in for some Chinese food. I said to Milton, "we come to Paris and eat Chinese food?" That was just convenient at the time and sounded good.

We picked up our suitcases at the hotel and headed for the train station to catch the night train to Venice. Our train was to leave at about 8:30pm and arrive in Venice the next morning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was reading "What's the Matter With Kansas" an excellent book by Thomas Frank about the rise of conservatism in Kansas. 

We shared our compartment with an Italian man that had been in Paris for work and an old Arab man that didn't speak any English at all. 

The Italian's wife was also on the train but for some reason having to do with who booked the tickets, she was traveling second class which meant there were 6 people in her compartment rather than four in ours. 

Sylvan enjoyed talking with them and comparing a few things between the lifestyles of Europeans and Americans. The Italians said that American t.v. and movies are definately better. We talked about g

as prices (higher in Europe but goes to taxes to pay for better transportation and health care and not just profit for o

il companies); health care (America spends twice as much and covers only 40% of the population). We talked about how Europeans routinely get eight weeks vacation every year! The Italian man did not feel that this was a good thing though although 8 weeks vacation sounded pretty good to me at the time.

The conductor came around to check our tickets and he asked for our passports. I was a bit nervous giving up our passports but the Italian said that this was standard procedure and it was so that we would not need to be awakened in the middle of the night when we crossed through Switz

erland. 

After a couple of hours of riding in our seats, we took the sheets and blankets that had been left in the compartment and made our own beds. There was a little ladder to get up to top berths. Milton and I took the top since we thought it would be easier for the old Arab man to sleep on the bottom and the Italian man could sleep on the bottom so he could take care of the old man as he had promised the old man's daughter. Even though we both took a sleeping pill, the old man must have had prostate problems as he was going in and out to the bathroom all night. When he was not opening the door of the compartment, he was rattling through some plastic bags. He was either eating or going to the bathroom all night long. 

It is interesting how many Europeans travel by train and seem perfectly comfortable sleeping in a compartment with five possible strangers or three other possible strangers. I don't thinkn the compartments

were even separated by sex (we were all men in our compartment though). I wonder how many Americans would feel comfortable sleeping in a compartment with strangers? Why are we so much more fearful of one another? I am reminded of the book "The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things" by Barry Glassner.

 

Page 3 of 3

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2015- 2nd Gay Cruise- Click to read story.
Second Gay Cruise- Click for story.
1964- Luv Please- Click for story.
Summer of Love- Click to read story.
Women in Oils- Click for story
2015- 2nd Gay Cruise- Click for story.
Darlene Marries Chuck- Click for story.
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Me in first grade- Click for story.
1973 "You have to be hurt..." Click to read the story.
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My Mother- Click for more photos.
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Article

01. Introduction

03- Dads Family

03- Photos of my Father and his family

04- My Mother's Family

04- Photos of my Mom

04- Video of my Mom

04- Walling Family Reunions

04-Audio Files of My Mom

04. Billie

04. Ole

04.1. Forbidden Dreams of Love

04.2. Flames of Forbidden Love

04.3 Mom Writing Her Life Story

05- Jim Tarbert

05. Roger

1950's Grandview to Toppenish

1957-1958 1st Grade

1958-1959- Third Grade

1959- Palouse

1961- 4th Grade- Last time I wore a dress

1962- Abilene

1963- Escondido- Early 60's

1964- Darlene Marries Chuck

1964- My Beatle Haircut

1964-The Luv Please

1965 or 1966- Steve Castle

1965- In Foster Care

1966 Living with Darlene & Chuck in Seattle

1967- Juvenile Hall

1976- I Praise Thee (poem to Stanley)

1976- My Second Lover, Stanley Dunne

1976- Paul McCartney and Wings

1976-1330 Bush Street #9J

1977- 1667 Haight Street

1977- Trip to San Diego with Mary Jo

1977-1980- Tumultuous Relationship with John Perry

1978- 525 Haight Street

1979- September- Dad is Murdered

1980's- AIDS- Death and Dying

1980- Winter- First Trip to New York

1980- Word, Sound and Power

1981- Milton- Falling in Love

1982-1993 465 Waller Street

1982-1994 Computers to MacNursing

1984- 33rd Birthday

1985- Graduation from Nursing School

1985- Trip to Hawaii (Oahu)

1988- MIdnight Caller

1989- Earthquake!

1991- Aug 10th- Mom Passes Away

1991- Black Males in Oils

1991- Crack of My Life

1993- Move to Vallejo & Our First Home

1995-1. Road Trip to Washington

1995-2. Surprise Trip to Vegas

1995-3. Grandmother Rogers & Aunts Visit Darlene's

1995-4. Amber

1998- Camping at Russian River

2000 -Thoughts about Progressive Christians

2000- Resignation from John George

2001- April- Trip to Cancun

2001- Peace and Justice

2001- September 11th

2002- April-Puerto Vallarta & Blue Bay Getaway

2002- Nov 12th- My Stepfather, George McHenry Passes Away

2003- Trip to D.C. and N.Y.

2004- Feb- Road Trip to Baha Mexico

2004- Walling Family Reunion in Spokane

2005- Christmas Poem

2005- Darlene Visit for Pride Celebration

2005- Trip to Orlando

2005-1. Europe- London

2005-2. Europe- Paris

2005-3. Europe- Venice

2005-4. Europe- Florence

2005-5. Europe- Rome

2005-6. Europe- Athens

2005-7. Knee Surgery & Tongue Biopsy

2006 Christmas Poem

2006- February 23- Times Herald

2006- Palm Springs White Party

2006- Trip to Seattle

2006-July 8th Solano Peace and Justice Coalition BBQ

2007- Feb- Carnival Destiny- Our First Cruise

2007- Tre and Casey Visit

2008- Aug 15-18 Spokane Visit

2008- Psycho Song

2009- Honored by Vallejo Gay Network

2009- Women in Oils

2010 Christmas Poem

2010- Feb. R.C. Mariner of the Seas Mexican Riviera Cruise

2010- June 24- Badlands

2010- Trip to Seattle

2010-1. Europe- Amsterdam

2010-2. Europe- Paris

2010-3. Europe- Barcelona & Sitges

2010-4. Europe- Madrid

2011-1. Feb. My Fabulous 60th Birthday Weekend

2011-2. April- L.A., Palm Springs & "The White Party"

2011-3. Poem- Girl From Medical Lake

2011-4. Old Man Dancing

2011-5. May- Misty and Alex Visit

2011-6. August- Darlene and Sean's Visit

2011-7. Alex 16-18 & Pics

2012- March- Carnival Splendor Mexican Riviera with Family

2013- Wedding

2014- Christmas Poem

2014- First Gay Cruise

2014- September Road Trip to San Diego

2015- Seasonal Affective Blues

2015- Second Gay Cruise

2015- War on Christmas poem

2015-"Badlands" and Gay Bar Etiquette

2015-September 8. Political History

2016 Do Not Speak for Gay Males

2016- April- Palm Springs RV Adventure

4/4/2016- Not Going Along to Get Along

9/4/15- Liberals vs Conservatives

2014- Road trip to San Diego- Click for story.
Photos of Dad & His Family- Click for story.
1967- Summer of Love- Click to read story.
Second Gay Cruise- Click for story.
1974- On Larkin Street- Click for story.
Escondido 1960's- Click for story
2005- Darlene Visits for Gay Pride- Click to read story.
Grandview- Click for story
1982-1993 Waller Street- Click to read story.
My Dad's Family- Click for story.
4th Grade- Click for story.
2015- 2nd Gay Cruise- Click to read story.
My Mother- Click for more photos.
2001 Trip to Cancun- Click to read story.
1970's Promiscuity- Click for story.
Beatle haircut- Click for story.
The Psychedelic Experience- Click to read story.
Palouse- Click for story
Me in first grade- Click for story.
Where I was born- Click for story.
Gay Disco 70's- Click for story
2015- 2nd Gay Cruise- Click for story.
1973- Psych Tech Program- Click for story.
1974- First Trip to Europe- Click to read story.
1973 "You have to be hurt..." Click to read the story.
Forbidden Dreams of Love- Click for story.
Darlene Marries Chuck- Click for story.
Me in 3rd grade- Click for story.
2005 Darlene Visit for Gay Pride- Click for story.
Cockettes & Angels of Light- Click for story
Women in Oils- Click for story
2001 Trip to Cancun- Click to read story.
Click to read "Introduction."
1958-1959- 3rd Grade- Click to read story.
Amber- Click to read story.
Summer of Love- Click to read story.
Me in my 20's in 1970's- Click for story.
Black Men in Oils- Click to read story
1957-1958 1st Grade- Click to read story.
1964- Luv Please- Click for story.
Earthquake! Click to read story.
5th Grade in Abilene Tx- Click for story