Last Stop: Amsterdam… and now HOME!

It’s hard to believe our trip is over!  In a way it seems like a long time ago that we left, but in other ways, it flew by.  Now we’re back, and still a little jet-lagged, but I want to do a last post to capture our experiences in Amsterdam, and wrap up some feelings about our trip.

Wednesday, October 29 was the first of our two full days in Amsterdam.  Our hotel was near the airport, to make it easier to catch our flight on the last day, but that made for more of a journey into the center of the city for sightseeing.  We boarded a city bus and bought what I thought were transit passes for the day, and rode in to Amsterdam.  Side note:  We found Amsterdam to be the most expensive city on our trip.  Transportation, food, everything just seemed to cost more than the other places we had been.

The city has tons of museums, but I had read about one that really caught my interest – The Museum of Handbags and Purses.  You won’t be surprised to know that Dave wasn’t as interested as I was, so he sat outside on a bench next to a canal and waited for me, taking pictures of things that caught his eye:

Canal tour boat. We took one like this the next day. See the guy standing in the doorway behind the boat? See next photo:
Doorman at the Waldorf Astoria, across the canal from where Dave was sitting. He was there the next day too, when we went on the canal tour. Nice outfit!

I loved the Handbag Museum, and recommend it, but I think I only saw one man the entire time I was in there.  They don’t allow photos in the exhibits, but there was one bag on display in the restroom stall:

At the Handbag Museum, in the restroom stall. This one was relatively plain. There were others far more beautiful that I couldn’t photograph
Stained glass window on the ceiling of the Handbag Museum. Look closely and you’ll see that there are purses in the design.

I also wanted to see the Van Gogh Museum, but the line was super long and I wasn’t willing to spend the time waiting.  We walked around and took in the sights instead.  Amsterdam had many streets with light fixtures or “chandeliers” hanging down, that were especially pretty after dark:

One of the streets with “light fixtures.” I think these are up all year, not just a holiday thing.
More street hanging lights. They are lit up during the day, but look even prettier at night.

Canal at twilight

When it was time to head back to our hotel, we tried to hop on a tram (like MAX), but found out that our “passes” were only good on the bus, and specifically, the bus company we bought them from.  So we commenced to try to find a bus stop for #197, the only route that went back where we needed to go, and this took about an hour (not counting the actual ride once we found a bus).  Another strike against Amsterdam and very frustrating for us.

On Thursday, we decided to take a train, instead of a bus, to the city center.  That worked pretty well, and was faster and only cost a little more.

We took a canal cruise, which was a relaxing and enjoyable way to see the city from a different angle.  We passed many houseboats (most of them were actual boats converted into living quarters) with plants and gardens on them, and went under very low bridges that boats can just barely squeeze under.  Homes and businesses lined the canals, built narrow and touching each other, with many different architectural styles.  In the harbor were big freighters, cruise ships, and ferries.  It was kind of a gray, chilly day, so we rode inside.  I apologize that the photos aren’t very good, taken through the window:

A typical scene from the canal boat — buildings with no space between them, many different architectural styles
Bicycles parked on bridges (and everywhere else)
Boat-turned-house, a floating home on canal

Bicycles are just EVERYWHERE — parked along every street curb, on bridges, and right on sidewalks.  People were riding on every street; you have to watch out more for bikes than cars when you cross.

After the canal cruise we walked to the Anne Frank House Museum.  I was so glad I had pre-purchased a timed-entry admission and lecture in English before we left home.  The line for this museum was around-the-corner-and-down-the-block LONG!  But we just walked right in.  The lecturer emphasized that while Anne’s story was documented, and she has become a symbol of Holocaust victims, Anne was just one of millions of people, including over 1.5 million children, who were murdered by the Nazis.  The whole museum experience was very somber, and almost all the visitors were silent as they made their way through the exhibits.  We took our time in reading and viewing everything, and we were there for over an hour and a half.  No photos were allowed in the museum part, but there were some displays in the lecture room that we could photograph.

Tree in the courtyard behind the Anne Frank House. The lecturer explained that there was one small window in the attic of the house, from which Anne could look out and see sky and tree tops, when she longed to go outside and this was the closest thing she had to being able to do that.
Vignette of items from Anne Frank House. The plaid book on the right looked like the real diary, which was on display elsewhere in the museum

When we left the Anne Frank House it was twilight and we walked along canals to the train station to return to our hotel.  At this time of evening it was beautiful, and I was able to see why many visitors find Amsterdam charming.  For us, however, we felt it was our least favorite city, but maybe this was because it was at the end of the trip and we were just plain tired.  As I alluded to earlier, the public transportation there was hard to figure out.  After six other countries, you’d think we would have been getting better at figuring it out, but it just seemed more difficult in Amsterdam.  The street names all seemed to have about 14 letters, and after a while they all looked alike!

In not one city that we visited, Amsterdam or any others, did we find numbered or alphabetic street names.  We appreciate that about Portland – it is logically laid out in NE, NW, SE, SW, with numbered streets and some areas are alphabetic.  Plus, most are parallel streets at right angles, versus so many old European towns with diagonal streets, or areas radiating out in curves.  Granted, some like Amsterdam and Venice are made up of canals and multiple islands, so I’ll give them a break on that, because it does add to their charm.

A few other thoughts, looking back on the trip (and for others who may do something similar):  I was glad I took:

  • A lightweight nylon drawstring backpack. I carried it in my purse most mornings, when it was chilly and we wore our coats, then as the day warmed up we stuffed them in the backpack and didn’t have to carry them.
  • I rolled a long strip of blue painter’s tape on a short pencil. We used the tape to secure our electrical adapters to the wall, because they didn’t fit securely and the weight of the cord would unplug them.
  • Stretchy yoga pants for travel days. When you have to sit through a 10-hour flight or an 8-hour train ride, it’s much more comfortable in stretchy pants.
  • Our Fitbit pedometers. It was interesting to see how many steps and flights of stairs we took each day.  Our highest day for steps was 28,252 on the day in Paris that we walked from Notre Dame to the apartment, and the most flights of stairs was 72 on the day we climbed up to Marksburg Castle in Germany.

Things I didn’t use and should not have taken:

  • Dress slacks for me. Took one pair and never wore them.  I also didn’t take a dress or skirt.  Everywhere we went was pretty casual, and I just wore jeans and never felt underdressed.
  • Dave and I each took a paperback book, and didn’t read them!

Timing of the trip:  We had remarkably good weather for it being October!  It was a great month for travel.  Some things were still pretty crowded, but I can’t imagine how much worse the lines and crowds would be in the summer months, not to mention the heat and humidity.  We were prepared for rain and cold, and feel like we really lucked out in not getting much of either!

Style of travel:  Several times when we faced some transportation issues or other hassles, I thought about how much easier it would be to take a tour or cruise, where everything is planned for you and all you have to do is show up.  However, I don’t regret doing the trip the way we did, planning some things in advance, but mostly just going it on our own, figuring things out as we went, and having the freedom and independence to go where we wanted on a day-to-day basis.  I’m sure we saved money doing it this way, and it suited our style more.

Now that we are home, some things I am finding that I appreciate more are:

  • My big washer and dryer, that don’t require coins
  • Not having to hunt for restrooms. Really, what’s up with that?  It was so hard to find bathrooms everywhere, and most of the time once you found them, you had to pay anywhere from 20 cents to one Euro to use it!

Most of all, I appreciate the beauty of where we live.  Sure we went to some places with gorgeous scenery, ancient buildings, amazing artwork, etc.  But Friday evening we were driving towards Hillsboro, coming home from having a late lunch (it was actually dinner for Dave and I) with Thomas, Stephen, and Saori, and we drove out of pouring rain and into a bright sun breaking through huge clouds and an enormous rainbow appeared, making me realize how beautiful and green it is right here.  There’s nothing like being away to make you appreciate home.

Let’s see, where were we? Oh, yeah, Germany!

Saturday (October 25) we took a 9-hour train ride from St. Johann in Austria, through Salzburg, Munich, and up the Rhein to finally end up in the small town of Boppard.  We stayed at a small, family-owned hotel/B&B, in a compact room with a great view of the river:

Our hotel, Baudobriga, taken from the ship on the Rhein

On Sunday morning we boarded the K-D (Koln-Dusseldorf) Line ship “Asbach” right in front of our hotel:

The K-D ship “Asbach” taken from our hotel room
The bathroom on the ship, with portholes so you can see out while you wash your hands

We cruised up-river (against the current) for about four hours, passing barges, other cruises, villages, vineyards, and so many castles that we stopped taking pictures after about 20 of them!

Two castle on the Rhein — one on an island in the river, the other on top of the hill in the background
Another castle, up on the hill overlooking a town
Yet another castle on the Rhein
Dave taking a picture of another castle. We took a lot of pictures!
An RV park in the shadow of castles
I think we’re getting better at selfies!
Town, church, vineyards — see them all from the Rhein

On a whim, we got off the ship in a small town called Assmannshausen, because the announcer on the boat said something about a chair lift, and we thought it sounded fun.  We strolled through town and found the base of the lift, paid our Euros, and rode to the top.  The morning mist and clouds had burned off, and it was now a sunny afternoon.

It’s pronounced “Ahhs-mahns-housen” (or something like that) not ass-man-housen, in case you were wondering
Looking down on the Rhein from the chair lift
Yes, we’re really getting better at the selfie’s — taken from a swaying chair lift!
A tiny cabin from the chair lift. See the gnome on the porch?
A castle viewed from the chair lift
Cute little cafe in Assmannshausen

After the lift and lunch we re-boarded the Asbach, on its way back, cruising down-river this time.  The sun was going down, the wind picked up, and we rode on the upper deck (outdoors) for as long as we could, then moved down to the inside, middle deck.

The views from the ship were even good from inside

Monday we changed transportation modes, and used our German rail passes for the train (the rail pass covered the KD ship line yesterday, too).  We rode to a little town called Moselkern, on the Moselle River (which flows into the Rhein).  We were going to walk to the castle there, but I’ll be honest here – we saw how far and high it was, and bagged it.  We did walk around the town a little:

I loved this old rock wall with ledges decorated with mis-matched pitchers and teapots, filled with cut flowers!
Close-up of some of the pitchers with flowers

We got on the train going back the other direction, and got off at another small town (do you get the idea that pretty much ALL the towns are small?) called Braubach, which had a more-accessible castle, Marksburg.  It looked like a long ways up, though, from the town:

Marksburg Castle, looking up from the village of Braubach. It looked like a long way up!

We found our way through the town and up the trail, reaching the castle after about 30 minutes.  The only way to get inside the castle was on a guided tour, but we had just missed the 1:00 tour in English, and the next was at 4:00, so we went on a tour in German.  We were the only non-German-speakers, but they gave us a book in English so we could follow along.  Not exactly ideal, and I’m sure we missed things because sometimes the whole group would laugh and we didn’t see anything funny printed in the book, but oh well!

A castle kitchen
Passage-way and door inside Marksburg Castle
Looking down on the Rhein from a window in Marksburg Castle

The walk back down from the castle to town was much faster and easier!  We had worked up an appetite, so we found somewhere for a late lunch, then took the train back to Boppard.

Tuesday we left Boppard and journeyed by train to Amsterdam.  I’ll just say that we loved the two days in Germany and our time on the Rhein.  But Tuesday was filled with travel hassles and problems, from getting kicked off a train by a rude, stubborn inspector who did not know how our German Rail Passes worked (I was vilified by an agent at the train station in the town we landed in, who said we should have been allowed to ride), to taking a 40+ Euro taxi ride to the wrong hotel.

We are almost at the end of our month-long trip, and it’s taking a toll on us.  We’re tired of hearing train and bus announcements that we can’t understand, and other little things about being here are wearing on us.  I’ll do another post on Amsterdam (we just finished our first day here) but we are realizing we liked the small towns much better than the big cities, so it’s not our favorite place.  More later, when I have more energy to write about Amsterdam.

More of Salzburg

Wednesday the weather changed and we woke up to rain mixed with snow.  Despite the cold, we had places to go and things to see, so we boarded the train to Salzburg, a one hour ride.  Our first sight was the Hohensalzburg Fortress, a castle that overlooks the city.  We took the funicular (like a cable car) up to the castle:

Riding the funicular up to Hohensalzburg Fortress on a windy, cold, rainy day

It was even colder up at the castle, and the wind whipped around.  The photos aren’t so good, because of the clouds reducing visibility, but it was an interesting place to explore.

View of Salzburg from the Fortress
Back view of the Fortress
Some antique beer steins on display at the Fortress. Too expensive for Dave to buy for his collection!
A “knight” goring Dave through the ear with his sword. Ouch!!
No idea what this was!

After “lunch” (see picture) to re-energize and warm up, we visited the Residenz Palace (residence of Salzburg archbishops):

Austrian cakes for lunch
Ceiling painting at Archbishops’ Residenz
The Residenz was filled with gorgeous chandeliers. Those archbishops lived well!

We wandered around the old-town (Allstadt) area of Salzburg, browsing in some shops…

Shops lining the pedestrian alley of old-town, leading to an old church

… and made our way over the river to the Mozarteum (museum in a house where Mozart and his family lived), where no pictures were allowed.

We had dinner in a warm, cozy restaurant, where we seemed to be the only non-locals, then walked back to the station to take the train back to St. Johann.

The past two days (Thursday and Friday) have been “vacation days” where we just stayed here in the small town, wandering around and exploring shops and eating good food!  There is still a dusting of snow in the mountains surrounding us.  Tomorrow we leave this quiet village (which we loved) and proceed to our sixth country, Germany!

Snow in the mountains near us, view from our room. We’ve been watching the progress of construction below the crane all week. They work in sunshine, rain, and snow.

And on to Austria…

On Saturday morning we bid farewell to Venice, and as we made our way north on a bus, followed by a train, the “Italian” look gave way to more of an Alpine/Austrian look, even before crossing the border.  We passed town after town that looked just like this:

From the train, just one of many Austrian towns we passed on a beautiful, sunny Saturday

Now we are staying for one week in a small town in Austria called Sankt Johann im Pongau (or St. Johann).  It’s just beautiful here!  The sky is SO blue, and there are bright green fields on the sides of the Alps, with cows grazing, although you wonder how they keep from falling down the mountains, they look so steep.  I think we appreciate the beauty even more, after being in such large cities as London and Paris, and OLD cities like Venice.  This feels more like home, and the air is so clean – a refreshing change!

Here is the view from our room.  The mountains surround the town, so this is just the view from our room, but behind us are more.  We walked to the base of a ski lift – it’s that high up – but the ski season hasn’t opened so lifts weren’t running.

View from our room, the Alps surrounding the small town of St. Johann

Saturday night’s dinner was at an outdoor café (Austrian food, of course!) that adjoined a park where a music performance was happening.  The people in the audience all had candles (it was dark outside by then) and our waiter told us it was a youth demonstration for world peace.

Sunday was a day of relaxing and just staying in St. Johann.  We’ve been doing so much sightseeing and were ready for a day of no plans.  We explored the town some, but almost all businesses were closed.

Monday morning we took the train to Salzburg, to go on the long-awaited (for me, anyway) Sound of Music tour.  We loaded into a big bus, which was completely full, but luckily we got great seats in the second row.  (Would have been first row, but I got distracted talking to a lady from Connecticut – we seem to strike up conversations with other Americans.)  Here are some of the sights we saw on the tour, with descriptions under each photo:

Our tour bus. Kind of hokey, but I loved it!
The steps in Mirabell Gardens, where Maria taught the children to sing Do-Re-Mi
Pegasus fountain in Mirabell Gardens, also used for filming Do-Re-Mi. I’m hitting the “high note” like Julie Andrews at the end of the song
The palace used as the back of the Von Trapp house in the movie. A different house was used for the front scenes. This lake is where the children and Maria fell out of the rowboat
Lake and village out in the countryside near Salzburg, used in some parts of the film.
The gazebo where “16 Going on 17” was filmed.
Church where the wedding scene was filmed. It was really beautiful inside!

After the tour we walked to the Salzach River, which runs through Salzburg, and also runs through St. Johann.  The sun sets very quickly here, since we are surrounded by mountains, but this shot of the river, and the fortress which looks over Salzburg, was taken right before the daylight was gone:

Fortress Hohensalzburg overlooking the Salzach River

When we got back to St. Johann we took a taxi for a quick 5-Euro ride uphill from the train station to our hotel.  It was a 10-minute walk downhill in the morning, but a taxi is the way to go for the return!  While the morning had started out rather briskly cold, by the time we arrived in Salzburg it was nice and warm and sunny, and the evening was comfortable to sit outside to eat without jackets.

The table next to ours at the outdoor restaurant had a group of eight young men in olive-green combat clothes with scarlet berets.  We learned that all boys in Austria are compelled to join the army at age 18, and there is a base here in St. Johann.

These soldiers were very lively (read: drunk) and started singing robustly in German.  Sometimes they had some nice harmony going, but other times they got way off key.  Still, we had some live music to accompany our dinner.  When we were almost done, one friendly soldier started talking to me, asking what month I was born in.  I told him July, and he asked Dave, who is also July, and he said he also was a July (Juli in German).  Their drinking song went something like “Aufstehen, aufstehen…” (stand up, stand up) then they worked through the months, and when your birth month was sang, you had to stand up and take a drink, so following his instructions (and watching for when he stood up) we joined in and stood for July.  After that his group departed, and he lingered talking to us, but as they beckoned him to come along, he stumbled up the steps to join them (most likely on their way to another bar).

Tuesday we had another very relaxed day, with no plans.  I browsed in shops around St. Johann in the morning, but mid-day I found that almost all shops close from 12:00 to 2:00 pm.  They take their lunch breaks seriously!  I passed by a beauty salon, and stepped in to ask if anyone spoke English.  A nice girl was available and spoke pretty well, so I got a haircut and now I feel a lot less scruffy.

Dave and I walked through more of the town (which is larger than we realized, but still pretty small), did an easy hike around the promenade and spotted the army base with soldiers out in the sunshine exercising, then we browsed in more shops, after which we had a great lunch in a tiny Greek restaurant/bar.  The waiter had just moved within the last year from Greece to St. Johann and we had a friendly conversation with him.  We’re really enjoying talking with some servers in various eating and drinking establishments.

A few photos from our hike today:

Escargot — It’s what’s for dinner (just kidding, we left them in the woods)
Yet another green field on the side of a mountain

We have had such great weather for all of our trip so far (with the exception of just a few rain showers a couple times) but the forecast for this area is for possible snow tomorrow, at least at the higher elevations.  We’ll see…  It’s been so beautiful and warm today that it’s hard to imagine that winter weather may be here so soon.

Second Day in Venice, special and memorable

Friday morning I took the hotel’s private water taxi to St Mark’s Square.  It was a 30-minute ride, and the sky began to turn from gray to blue, the beginning of a warm, beautiful day.

Dave peeking out from our hotel room, at me in the water taxi waiting to depart
From the water taxi, a typical side canal in Venice

From St Mark’s Square, which was filled with tourists, I walked a short distance to the Westin Europa and Regina Hotel.  Here is the backstory on why I wanted to go there.

In 1953 my mom and a friend went on a tour of Europe.  It was arranged by a travel agent in Portland, and Mom kept a journal of their trip, which she typed up and saved.  A couple years ago she found the journal, and gave it to me to read.  One paragraph really stood out to me, from their arrival in Venice:

“… we gently floated along in the blue (and chilly) twilight (7:30) looking at the many curly towers against the soft, greenish-toned sky.  And then Hotel Europa Britainnia.  Great guns, what a place.  We went up elevators, and along corridors and then up stairs and along more hallways finally ending up at room 101.  Pat and I expected a garrett in back by now.  But:  a room done in gold brocade, on the corner of the grand canal overlooking a delightful church just across the canal.  Three huge French-door windows and a balcony complete with chairs.  All this on the third floor just over the canal and a gondola stop.  And a huge tiled bathroom with tub large enough for high diving.”

From the hotel website, a current room that sounds like the description from 1953

After reading it, I got curious about whether the hotel was still there, so I Googled it and found that it exists today as the Westin Europa and Regina.  Here are some pictures of it as it is today.  Mom, let me know if anything looks familiar:

The “Europa” part of the hotel, from the canal side
Looking across the Grand Canal at a cathedral, from the deck of the Europa
Front entrance of hotel Westin Europa and Regina

After walking around inside the hotel, taking a bunch of pictures, and looking for and not finding room 101, I went to the front desk and explained about Mom’s stay there 61 years ago.  The clerk said there is no room 101 now.  He also said the hotel has a “no photographs” policy, so I was glad I took the pictures before asking.

I walked around and shopped a little, then went back to the hotel to relieve Dave of the arduous task of lounging around the suite all morning.

Gondoliers texting and checking email
Another bride (groom nearby but not in photo) taking pictures in Venice. Our tour guide explained that he doesn’t think they got married in Venice, because it’s always just the bride and groom and photographer(s), but no family or wedding party. He thinks they honeymoon there, and take their wedding attire to dress up for photos. On this trip we have also seen bridal couples taking pictures in London phonebooths, on river cruises on the Seine, and now in Venice.
Kayakers in Venice canal. These were the only ones I saw, so it’s not like there are a lot of them.

At 2:30 Dave and I took the hotel water taxi, and this time we were the only passengers (it was full with 12 when I took it in the morning), and the boat driver took a different route, so I got to see Venice from clockwise and counterclockwise.  He dropped us at St Mark’s Square, and we went to the cathedral.

Entrance to St. Mark’s cathedral in Venice.
From the upper level of St. Mark’s, overlooking the square and Grand Canal
Intel Inside: An old hymn book in St. Mark’s Cathedral
The tomb of St. Mark, as in Jesus’ disciple, author of the book of Mark in the Bible!

Memorable moment of Friday:  While we were standing in the cathedral at St Mark’s tomb, we heard voices singing in harmony, in an unfamiliar language that was not Italian.  The words sounded like Japanese, and the tune I recognized as a hymn, “I’d Rather Have Jesus Than Anything.”  We followed the sound and in a side nave of the grand cathedral was a group of Japanese celebrating Mass.  We sat down with them and observed, and even though we didn’t understand any of the words, it was very moving.

We met the couple from Denver, who we met at last night’s tour, for dinner at a nice restaurant along a canal, recommended by tour guide Alessandro, and enjoyed visiting with them, a relaxing end to our second and last day in Venice.

Sunset from a vaporetto (water bus)

Venice by day and night

On Thursday morning, after spending one night in a chain hotel near the Venice airport, since we arrived at 10:30 pm the previous night, we packed up and took a city bus to Venice, crossing the long bridge that serves buses, cars, and trains.  We had a 48-hour pass for all public transportation in Venice, so that covered the bus, as well as all the water buses called vaporettos that navigate throughout Venice.  We got very good use out of the passes, hopping onto vaporettos just to get around and see the sights.

One of our first sights, from the vaporetto on the way to the hotel

We easily found our way to our hotel, just a short walk from a vaporetto stop.  The hotel, Boscolo Venezia, is in a restored palace, and it’s just beautiful.  By far the nicest place we have stayed (or will stay) on this trip.  They upgraded us to a two-story suite, with a king bed on each floor, gold brocade fabric on the walls, granite floors with antique carpets, and a fancy marble bathroom.  Thank you, Marriott Rewards points!

One of two king beds in our suite
View of canal from our hotel room

Outside our suite is an opulent sitting area shared by the four suites that open from it, decorated with paintings of the original wealthy family members who owned the palace.

Private sitting area for our suite and three others, with Murano glass chandelier, antique carpet, gilded table and paintings

After getting settled in our room, we set off on foot to explore Venice.  We crossed bridges over canals, went through alleys and streets lined with shops, restaurants, street vendors, and lots of tourists (although crowds are not as bad as they could be).

Snapped this photo of a giant jar of Nutella. Note, the “smaller” ones on the lower shelf are as tall as the bottles of beer next to them. The huge one above them is much bigger. Can you tell I love Nutella?

At 4:30 pm we had reservations for an “Offbeat Venice” tour with Alessandro, who we found out about from the Rick Steves show on PBS and his books.  There were about 10 other people on the tour, several of them in town on a cruise.  The tour was lots of fun, and informative at the same time.  Alessandro is a hoot, very animated, strong Italian accent but easy to understand.

One of Venice’s many back canals with a small bridge
The tour going through a very narrow alley between canals
Laundry hanging along a back canal

After the 4:30 tour we had also booked Alessandro’s 6:00 pm “Bar and Cicchetto” tour, taking us to three restaurants to have different wines and appetizers.  That was even more fun than the first tour, and everyone enjoyed themselves a lot.  All the tour participants were from either the US or Canada.  After the tour ended, most of us stood around visiting for about a half hour, and we made plans to meet another couple for dinner the next night.

Dave and his new buddy Alessandro
Evening in Venice

We got off before our hotel stop, so we could go to a small market and buy some bottled water, and have a gelato, after which we took some wrong turns and ended up wandering for about a half hour, trying to find our way and getting lost, but eventually finding our hotel.  By then the alleys and canals were pretty dark and deserted, but the weather was warm and it was a nice evening for some extra walking.

Wednesday – From Paris to Venice

Our last day in Paris was low-key.  We packed and cleaned the apartment and washed the sheets and towels, venturing out only for lunch.  I had one more food I wanted to try in Paris – a crepe with Nutella.  There is a little creperie across the street that Jacqui (owner of the apartment) had recommended, but we were out and about most days, so we hadn’t visited it yet.  We walked in the door at 2:00 pm, and the owner said something in French, shook her head, and shooed us away.  The sign on the door said lunch was served from 12:00 to 2:30, but we didn’t push it.  Disappointed, we walked down the street to the Monoprix (kind of like Target) because we needed to pick up a few things, and we came across another street market (like the one on Sunday, but not as large).  There were several food carts, and one was serving crepes, so I got my Nutella one, Dave had an egg, cheese and ham, and we sat at a table on the sidewalk and had a nice, inexpensive lunch.

At 5:00 we said goodbye to our home of the past week, and set out to brave the Metro at rush hour.  Our flight was at 9:00 pm, and we wanted to allow plenty of time.  We stood, with our luggage, on both transit trains all the way to Charles DeGaulle airport, about an hour total.  At the airport it was as confusing as the rest of Paris has been.  Poor signage, broken escalator, huge airport (I think I’ve read it is the busiest in the world – at the very least it’s the largest and busiest we’ve been in).  We finally navigated our way to the right terminal, printed boarding passes, got our luggage checked, and through security.  Whew!  We had about an hour to relax, use the restrooms, snack a little and wait for our 1.5-hour flight to Venice.

While waiting for our checked luggage at the carousel in Venice, a woman came up and said “Are you from Oregon?”  Surprised, we said yes and asked how she knew.  I brought a little string backpack that says “George Fox University” and have been using it to stuff our two jackets in, when I don’t want to carry them.  On the airplane it was in the overhead bin, and her daughter, a GFU student, said “Look, Mom!  George Fox!”  So we chatted briefly about us being alums and her a student at the Tigard campus, and about where we are going and have been, as well as their route.

Here are some random photos that didn’t make it into earlier blog posts.

Some neat-looking buildings along the Seine. No idea what they are!
On the flight to Venice Dave got this tiny little Coke. So cute!
Also on the flight to Venice, great cup holder on the seat back. I’m a sucker for cup holders!
A cemetery for soldiers’ dogs at Edinburgh Castle
The gnarly fence around Buckingham Palace
Pretty placemat at the cafe at Versailles
Queen Victoria, on her throne overlooking Buckingham Palace
A cool tree at Versailles
My favorite china at the Buckingham Palace gift shop.
A couple taking wedding photos in a phone booth in London

Some initial thoughts on Italy:  I think I’m really going to like this!  Everyone has spoken to us in English so far.  Very good, strong coffee in the hotel this morning.  And overheard at the extensive continental buffet, “Pasta for breakfast?  This is awesome!”  My sentiments exactly.