The Paris trip has been enhanced with a daily VLOG now embedded with each day’s diary during the first two weeks of the trip. Just go to each day’s events and the VLOG will be at the top of each day’s entry!
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We wrap up the last week of the trip by visiting our friends Stephen and Charlotte in Vienna. The four of us drove downtown to the center of the city with its wide boulevards and beautiful architecture. Coffee shops abound and we are treated to a coffee shop in business from the 1800’s called Cafe Central where the coffee is exquisite and the desserts are works of art!. We enjoyed a long break from walking here as we sit and marvel at the interior of this old world delight!
On the metro again and off to Schönbrunn Palace, the Hapsburgs answer to Chateaux Versailles in France. We have seen enough incredible interiors to last us a while, so we walk in the magnificent park and have a snack in the far reaches of the gardens. You can see the palace and Vienna over our shoulders.
The next day a long bike ride along the Danube River sounds relaxing to us and we are eager to burn some energy. Great bike trails, excellent company, good stops along the way and our rented three speeds worked well. We stop for a half-way break and Joanne experiences ice coffee unlike anything we have ever had. The recipe is two shots of espresso, two scoops of vanilla ice cream, and then fill to the top with whipped cream…when you drink it make sure you get a little of each with every spoonful and be prepared for the buzz! [if you try it leave a COMMENT and let us know what you think.]
After the day’s activity we experience the picnic atmosphere and the incredible tastes afforded in the uniquely Viennese experience of the heuriger! What a great meal and visit as we eat outdoors at the edge of a vineyard with Austrians enjoying the end of the day with a spectacular meal.
We reluctantly leave our friends because we now have a plane to catch by next Monday in Paris, so we drive the autobahn to Colmar, France and experience a town with both French and German influence because of its location in Alsace Lorraine, the oft disputed region just west of the Rhine River.
The town is a joy to walk and we find a fascinating small museum called the Unterlinden that displays the Insringen Altarpiece. This work of art deserves an entire page to itself. We are unable to see it as it was meant to be seen because it is undergoing an entire “refreshing” and is overwhelmed by scaffolding and curators busily working on getting this masterpiece into condition.
On our way back to Paris we see the battlefield of Verdun Museum [WWI] and the Ossuary and Cemetery for 143,000 troops which were sobering reminders of the past.
We make a quick trip to Reims and the museum where the WWII surrender of the Axis to the Allies took place. We also visited the Cathedral where every king of France has been crowned. It contains much history and Marc Chagall stained glass windows!
Our wedding anniversary and a trip to the Palais Garnier theater where we see the Paris Ballet in full force presenting the historic ballet “La Sylphide”. This event was the perfect end to a trip that gave us experiences that were unimaginable when we began. It was nice to put an exclamation point on the end of our travels!
We hope you have enjoyed experiencing travels in France, Italy, and Austria with us!
This is our last post so…
Joanne Paul Steve
Leaving the beautiful hill country of Italy behind we head through the coastal mountains to the unique Islands of Venice in the Adriatic Sea. We have now been on the shores of the English Channel, Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea and the Adriatic Sea!
The terrain is reminiscent of the California coastal mountains, but the towns have their own unique Italian flavor!
Joanne is on a kick taking pictures of tunnels. It seems that tunnels are preferable to any other technique for getting through the mountains. I think that her fascination with tunnels is linked to the concept of surprise when exiting the tunnel. You never know what to expect at the end – and there are a lot of tunnels! The tunnels are up to 7.5 miles long and you always wonder what the new view will be like.
Our campground in Venice (on the land, but only 4km from the Island city of Venice) is really fancy, but full of 20 something’s wanting to party every night…sleep is difficult here. We have found that municipal campgrounds offer the most enjoyable camping.
CAMP SITE VENICE
We get up in the morning and take the shuttle to the monorail and the monorail to the island. The monorail delivers us and we walk with a couple from Australia to the Ponte Rialto (Rialto Bridge i.e. famous landmark). They are veterans in the Venice world as they arrived yesterday! We head for the famous St. Marks Square. It is early and the Square is not crowded yet…it will be in a couple of hours!
There are 5 cruise ships emptying their holds of thousands of passengers/tourists and by noon we will be jostled, pushed, and shoved through extremely narrow streets. Buildings are hanging over us with no street going more than 50 yards before dissolving into corners, bends, or just terminating at another canal or Ponte.
SAN MARCOS SQUARE
We visit St Marks, Musee’ Academia, Correr Museum and the Doge’s Palace. Frankly, at this point in the trip, we are more interested in the people, culture, scenery, and dodging the latest umbrella toting tour guide and their aggressive mob trailing behind them.
VENICE CITY STREET
Joanne is fascinated by the incredible mosaics filling San Marcos Cathedral; I by the spot that Charlemagne was crowned emperor (I stood there); she by the Etruscan Pottery (infinite Etruscan Pottery) from 500 BC; I by the fact that almost all of the 1st story of every building is unoccupied due to the flooding problems. We have a few more opinions, but I won’t bore you!
Day Two: We were bothered by the fact that we were not “taken” by Venice the day before, so we decided to go further afield and try seeing Venice from the water…after all, that is what makes this place really unique. We board the Slow Vaporetto to San Marcos, then hop the #47 to Murano for a myriad of glass blowing factories!
VAPORETTO IN GRAND CANAL
As you can see below, Murano is really a picturesque place! We walk all over the island, we eat, we attend a very interesting glass blowing demonstration (FREE) and buy some stuff (NOT FREE).
Off to the Lace Island of Burano. I am not taken with lace, but I think the island is incredibly photographic! Joanne IS taken by lace, and finds the island to be quiet, peaceful and loves the leaning towers and pastel painted houses and flowers.
OK, we didn’t really like Venice as a walking destination for many reasons. We DID LIKE Venice from the water and I think we found the “heart” of Venice there!
The next post will be Cortina, Italy in the Dolomites and Vienna with our friends Stephen and Charlotte!
On to Rome with its creative driving and parking and a “campground” with granite countertops and marble floors in the WCs!
Rome was the usual hubbub and chaos with the citizens and the tourists all contributing to the cacophony.
We will spare you the requisite coliseum picture and tell you that the Pallatine Hill was the highlight of our first day there. We did go to the coliseum and the forum, but first we had to watch a parade of bands and military circle the coliseum as they were celebrating Republic Day. It was fun and unexpected which is just another reason to travel.
As you can see in the picture above the Palatine Hill had some amazing old buildings and gave a good glimpse into the roman life 2000 years ago.
The next day we drove to Pompei and were surprised at how much of the town had been exposed by the archeologists! We walked for a long time doing the “Rick Steves Pompei Walk”. The walk is supposed to take 2 hours, but we always double the time so we took 4 hours.
We had to take a picture of the guy catching a fish in the Mediterranean.
As you can see, the ruins were amazingly complete.
Here is Joanne in a “fast food joint”. It seems that the Pompeians didn’t often cook at home! Things don’t change much over the years!
And here is a picture of artwork that appeared on many walls and ceilings!
Back to Rome and a walk through town starting at (where else) the coliseum and ending at the Spanish Steps. Below is a picture of the Trevi Fountain. There were a LOT of people.
The next day was the Vatican Museum and Saint Peters. The Pope was speaking that day so it was really full of people too. Joanne thinks that there were 20,000 people there. We would save St. Peters Cathedral for later.
On to the Vatican Museum where Joanne got mesmerized by the Etruscan Pottery (room after room of Etruscan Pottery, if you catch my drift). The last displays we saw before leaving were 6 amazing rooms painted by Raphael and then the Sistine Chapel.
I had to include the 0 BC mosaic of the hunting dog.
We left Roma (not any too soon, it was wearing me out) and headed to quiet, peaceful, beautiful Assisi.
The view from the field across from our hotel (we had been camping for 7 days in a row…it was time to get civilized again) is shown below. This is the monument to St. Francesco of Assisi who practiced a life of poverty.
As we walked around the town we saw sights like this.
The hill towns of Tuscany and Umbria are fascinating places to visit and we wanted to stay a few extra days, but we had to head off to Venice.
We begin this segment by driving to Sala Barganza for an overnight in the “Maris ” hotel. The halls are tiled, the doors vault like, and when any door opened or closed it sounded throughout like San Quentin Prison – all night!
Well, enough about that. On Sunday we drove the back roads to Florence…for two hours…and we only gained 40km! We encountered bike races, joggers, police stops (for the bike race) and less than one lane roads, endless numbers of round abouts. ENOUGH! I set the Berlingo’s GPS to “toll roads ” and we were in Florence in a couple of hours.
The campground was wet and large with a good shower/toilet block.
Memorial Day was to be special. The American Battle Monuments Comission oversees an American WWII cemetery only 4 km from our camping spot. We were to meet our good friends from Fairbanks the Yamamoto’s who were leading a group touring the Nesei Veterans war sites in Italy. A US General and an Italian General participated along with Italian and US military and diplomats in a very moving ceremony in which one Nesei veteran and many other veterans were present.
The unseasonably cold and wet weather continues and as our funky restaurant owner in Sala Baganza says “This is the winter that never ends!”
On Tuesday we are off to the famous Uffizi Museo for a look at some of the most significant art work in history including Botticelli’s two masterpieces “The Birth of Venus ” and “Springtime “. Paintings like these must be seen to be appreciated. The size is beyond expectation and the color and detail … we enjoyed seeing them in person. We also punched or Firenze Card at several other sites.
On Wednesday we met our new touring companion, Hannah at 8:30 at the bottom of the remarkable Duomo for a hike up the 463 steps to the greatest view in Florence.
As we headed up this architectural marvel the skies were very cloudy and I thought the photography would suffer. We were able to walk around the ceiling of the interior magnificantly painted to depict “The Last Judgement “. The path led us directly through a very graphic representation of Hell. Having escaped that… we arrived at the lookout for…well, see for yourself…
Wednesday was the Medici Pitti Palace. I could go on and on about this.
Oh, at Museo Accademia there was this Michelangelo sculpture called David.
Thursday was special! We drove to San Sepulcro to see local boy Francesco’s painting “The Resurrection “. Of all the artwork we have gazed upon this painting is one of about 5 I will vividly remember.
One aspect of Italy that surprises us is the abundance of wilderness. Wild boars being the most observed game animal.
Off to Rome and a surprising impulsive stop at the walled city of Monteriggione. This is a 12th century city built by Siena to ward off the Florentines attempts to control the region. It worked for a couple of centuries before falling to the Medici.
On to Rome and Pompei. I will post that next time!
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