LONDON

MAY 7-MAY 18, 2019

 

TUESDAY, MAY 7

Flight to London via Newark

We packed all the luggage in Frank's car and the battery decided not to turn over, so moved all the stuff to my car. Something to deal with when we get home....

They have already changed our seats because they changed the plane. And so it goes. Get on the plane at Albany airport, all aboard, start to taxi and oops, we have to wait for half an hour because Newark is just so very busy they wouldn't give us clearance to leave. Then they shut off the engine—oh no!--but then turned it on again. So we were 45 minutes late which turned out to be okay because the Newark to Heathrow flight was delayed an hour.

 

WEDNESDAY MAY 8

Arrive Heathrow, easy customs, got our TFL Oyster card and hopped the train to Paddington Station and our hotel, the Roseate. Very nice room with a little balcony, off the main drag, but only four blocks from the station. Built in 1939. The weather was rain, sun, clouds, sprinkles, etc.

The Roseate Hotel is under the flag

Took a nap and then walked around, wound up eating at the Victoria Pub. Great fish and chips and mashed peas (mashed peas seemed to be a continuing food offering) which was very good along with a beer—or two! This pub is 180 years old and supposedly served the likes of Churchill, Chaplin and Dickens.  Dickens wrote in the upstairs library room. Very nice old pub, a lot of lively chatter and definitely a great intro to all things London. Walked back along the lovely streets and got a good night's sleep.

Victoria Pub above

 

THURSDAY, MAY 9

We had signed up for the breakfasts at our hotel and they were wonderful. As a result, on this trip, we wound up eating breakfast, stopping for a tea or coffee and maybe a sweet mid afternoon, and then dinner. We never had a lunch.

Again, raining on and off—the rain seemed to wait for us to step outdoors. We took the tube to the National Gallery. There was a marvelous da Vinci full size cartoon, a room full of terrific Rembrants, Vermeers, Turners, Van Goghs, and so much more. ALL the British museums are totally free, just asking for a small donation if you wish.

They we wandered around Trafalgar Square. The sculpture of Nelson is so high up—185 ft—that you can barely see him. We walked to the National Portrait gallery which has a terrific collection of famous Brits from very old to quite contemporary.

After that we returned to our hotel and for dinner at a lovely Italian restaurant called Stuzzico. Frank really enjoyed his clams and pasta—very small sweet clams (lots of them) and I had the veal cheek with smoked mashed potatoes. During dinner this quite attractive woman sang opera arias for everyone's enjoyment. This is a small cozy restaurant and we enjoyed ourselves.

 

FRIDAY, MAY 10

Today the weather was very nice. We went to the Tate Modern. Again, so very much to see and all of it magnificent. They have recently put an addition on—really a second building with an interior bridge.

We had tickets in the afternoon to the Globe theater to see Shakespeare's Henry IV Part 2. Very comedic with gender and racial role reversals—Falstaff was a big female—and it was great. The theater also made you feel like you were living in Shakespearean times. The ending was especially great good fun with the actors dancing and hamming it up. Excellent cast.

For dinner we went to Bel Canto. The food was good—not great—but the real experience is that the servers were all academy trained opera singers. There were four of them and every fifteen minutes or so, they performed and were quite good. In between (and also during) there was a pianist. When the singers were performing the dining room went silent—no talking allowed, not that you would want to. A wonderful evening.

 

SATURDAY, MAY 11

 

Drizzle again. So we sent to the British Museum. The first thing you see as you enter the rooms on the left is the Rosetta Stone. Then you see the most amazing collection of art from Egypt. Did they ever loot that country of its riches! Even mummies...imagine getting away with that now!

An aside...I really love going to museums with Frank—he is very observant and truly enjoys all he sees and has great insights.

Went to dinner at Noorjahan II. Good Indian food. They sat us downstairs in a lovely grotto area.

 

SUNDAY, MAY 12

Clear skies, great weather. We decided to go to St. Paul's cathedral but it was closed except for services. Walked down to the Thames and the Millenial Bridge which connects to the other side of the Thames where Tate Modern and the Globe sit. We took a London Walking Tour of Shakespeare and Dickens—supposedly a two hour tour that went for three hours—our guide was terrific and acted out scenes from Dickens books, etc. He really knew his literature and London. We went to sites that Dickens wrote about, saw a memorial to Shakespeare, wandered through St. Bartholomew The Great's church which is the oldest church in London and dates from 1123. We also went through the Postman's Memorial Park which has ceramic plaques stating the heroics of numerous postman over the years. The tour ended at St. Bartholomew the Lesser's church which was very simple and a favorite of Dickens.

 

Our guide made the point that we know a great deal about Dickens, the person and his passions, from his literature but that is not true of Shakespeare. We know Shakespeare's insights about humanity, but he doesn't reveal his interior self in his work.

For dinner we ate at the Red Sun, an okay Chinese Restaurant.

 

MONDAY, MAY 13

 

We went to St. Paul's Cathedral. I found it interesting that most of the crypts and niches and plaques were dedicated to war heroes. They used the word “intrepidity” to describe many of them. And the biggest tomb was to Nelson.

After that we went to the Museum of London which gives you a history of London from Roman times to the present. So, Romans come and conquer, Romans go out and then they have their first King. There's the Bubonic Plague and then the great fire of 1666 and then they rebuild and eventually become the London of today.

For dinner we went to the Monkey Puzzle, another pub where I heard the owner/server use the term “Cheerio!” Couldn't have been more British. One of the beers was called a Fursty (no typo!) Ferrett, which Frank enjoyed.

 

Brief digression about the London Tube versus the NYC Subway (I grew up in Brooklyn...)

London Tube: Usually a 1-3 minute wait at most.

NYC Subway: You never know............

London: Easy to use and figure out.

NYC: Have you ever tried to use it if you didn't grow up with it?

London: Announcements are clear, without static and not garbled.

NYC: What did you say?

London: Seats are cushioned and fabric, no graffiti and no trash

NYC: Hard plastic seats, graffiti and sticky crap everywhere.

London: People actually make eye contact and smile at you.

NYC: Don't even try it.

London: No metallic smells or odors

NYC: Stinks

GOOD NEWS though...the man who was in charge of the London Tube was recently hired by NYC to take charge. Here's hoping!

 

TUESDAY, MAY 14

Beautiful outside today. We walked through Hyde Park to the Victoria and Albert Museum. Hyde Park is amazing—we say swans and parrots and ducks, etc and, being May, everything was in bloom. The walk along the Serpentine was a mixture of cultivated plants and wild growth and felt much more natural than the parks in Paris, etc.

What to say about the V and A Museum...blew us away and we only saw a small part of it. One highlight is that they have five of Leonardo da Vinci's codexes and one was on display. I could imagine him carrying this in his pocket making notes as ideas came to him. I always thought of these are being larger—it was only about 3.5 inches tall, bound in leather and with Leonardo's famous upside down and mirrored writing. You could look through the pages on a computer screen. Another treat was a small, maybe 5 inch tall, wax model of the Slave by Michelangelo.

 

Da Vinci's Codex

 

And then there are the CASTING ROOMS. It was decided that since most folks could not travel to see the great art of the world, that they would make casts of the most famous works of sculpture, such as Michelangelo's David to name one, and replicate them for all to see at the V and A. They did this from 1850-1950 and worked with museums and institutions around the world. Some of the castings are over 20 feet talk and quite complex. As a mold maker, I was fascinated since all they had was plaster with which to make a mold, and then plaster to make the casts. The molds are a thing of beauty, often 30 interlocking pieces for a small sculpture as there would be many undercuts in the sculptures!

There were some marvelous contemporary Japanese porcelains in the Japan art area and a wonderful sculpture hall. We maybe saw a tenth of this museum and probably not even that much.

We were told that if you went through all the galleries you would walk 8 miles.

Unbelievably, after that we walked to Harrods where I just loved the food area—chocolates, meats, prepared food, amazing desserts, a coffee bar and a tea bar and and and......... Frank sat at the coffee bar and had a double espresso.

And then, as if we hadn't walked enough, we walked all the way back again through Hyde Park.

Add to this that I had a cold brewing!!

Ate at Halepi's—a small family run Greek restaurant..cozy and good spices on the food.

 

WEDNESDAY, MAY 15

I wasn't in great shape today. My cold was in full swing so we rested in the morning and then headed out to see a West End play, “Come From Away” at the Phoenix Theatre in the heart of the theater district. But first Frank had something called a “twistalicous”--yup, really strange ice cream concoction. We also explored Foyle's bookstore, six stories of books. I could have lived in the art section.

The play was just terrific. (A side note: unlike here here is no announcement about not using your cellphone, or turning it off, or taking pictures, or telling you to donate, or where the exits are etc. The lights merely dims and the play starts without much ado. I think this relates to how Londoner's think about themselves (not as stupid or misbehaving)—they already know not to do these things and don't.) The play dealt with American planes that were already en route to the states but were diverted and ordered to land in Newfoundland on September 11th.  It told of the small towns that took them in without any outside help or resources for the five days before they could travel on. It dealt with many issues this brought up and was a musical, poignant and funny at the same time.

We had dinner at the Island Grille in the Lancaster Hotel. Good food.

 

THURSDAY, May 16

Another beautiful day. We went to the Tate Britain which presented British Art from the 1500's to the present. There was a show of Contemporary British Women Artists which the accompanying label said were “long neglected” and showcased some amazing work.

Barbara Hepworth:  Orpheus

There are also a huge number of Henry Moore's (not my favorite but Frank really liked), a terrific Francis Bacon triptych (I love his work) and rooms full of Turners, whom I enjoy only when he got atmospheric and close to total abstraction.

For dinner we walked to the Little Venice area, a lovely and quiet neighborhood just the other side of Paddington Station that has a scenic canal throughout and a lot of houseboats. Had a great meal at the Summerhouse, directly on the canal.

 

FRIDAY, MAY 17

Last day...I felt pretty sick from this cold and it was grey and overcast all day. Nonetheless, we persevered and went to Westminster Cathedral (eh—it's not the Abbey which was closed except for services anyway) and then tried to go to Churchill's War Rooms, but there was an hour wait (and it started to rain on us in any case) and then it was a two hour tour. This is THE tourist area—there are the houses of Parliament, and close by is Buckingham Palace, etc and it is a zoo—tourist buses galore and lots of guides holding flags dragging hordes of people behind them. Enough...we just took the tube back to the hotel. For dinner we sent back to Stuzzico's, had a nice meal and returned to pack up our belongings.

 

SATURDAY, MAY 18

Homeward bound. Everything went well but the airports—this time Heathrow and Dulles—are so large with so many terminals and new construction that you probably walk a few miles getting from the train to the check in, through security and finally to your gate. Up escalators, down elevators (oops..”lifts”) then up again and down again and across and over and under. When we arrived IAD (and we had our luggage with us so didn't have to get it and then return it to baggage) and went through customs, then security and then to our gate (which was in a another terminal) ---it took an hour, and it wasn't that busy either. Fortunately, we had two hours between flights. Decent flights home, even one decent airline meal, got to our car easily and then home sweet home. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh...

 

A few notes:

London is marvelous and I would recommend it highly. So much to see and do, easy to get around, lots of large and small parks and of course many outstanding museums. So go!! It is, like most large cities nowadays, very expensive, but the parks and museums are all free.

THE NETHERLANDS

October 7-October 24, 2017

 

FLYING

Saturday, October 7

Flying is a hassle. We had made our flight arrangements months in advance but of course, United changed them, leaving us only 50 minutes between flights. They claim this all you need but we know that just deplaning and then finding the next gate, going from national to international terminals, etc, takes far more than that. Also, big international flights start boarding — guess what — 40-50 minutes in advance. Add to that, your first flight might not even arrive on time. In 50 percent of our last four flights, this has been the case.

So we re-booked , leaving us 3 hours between flights. But this meant we now had to go through Newark, which we were desperately trying to avoid. First flight was 1 hour late in leaving Albany. And the United lounges are still a mess. Nonetheless, we made it.

Once we were on our flight to Amsterdam, all went well. This is an overnight flight so now on to:

 

ARRIVAL AND ROTTERDAM

Sunday, October 8

During our descent, the sun was beginning to rise. We arrived about 20 minutes early, at 7:30 a.m. (which was 1:30 a.m. our time) and customs was super-fast — maybe three people ahead of us. Once we arrived at Schipohl airport, we easily went to catch a train to Rotterdam. The plane to train situation in the Netherlands is wonderful: an easy walk, get your train ticket, trains leave often (about every half hour) so no need to rush. And the train stations in the cities are located well, with restaurants and hotels nearby. I had made a reservation at Premier Suites, thinking that we would be jet lagged and needing to take it easy. This hotel was directly across the street from the train station.

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Rotterdam Central Rail Station

 

We unpacked, rested, and then walked around the area.

Rotterdam, like the rest of the Netherlands is filled with bicycles—bicycles with panniers, bicycles with boxes in front (you could put your luggage there), bicycles with covered front carriers for children, bicycles for two, for three,etc. A horde of bicycles. No one wears helmets, but everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, rides a bike. And, although the bicyclists seem unafraid of going without helmets, I make the case that the pedestrians are the ones who need them, along with suits of armor, etc. The bicyclists don't seem to obey normal traffic rules, and perhaps there are few. Places where cars have to stop, bicyclists don't.

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Rotterdam was totally destroyed during World War II so everything was rebuilt, and the architecture was modern and varied. Some of it was highly colored too. So we saw every variation of building. Also, there was sculpture everywhere. They indicated on a map about 48 pieces situated around the Centrum area—including a George Rickey which was definitely not kinetic (it was a static tapered column) and a weird Santa Claus that no one seems to like (I can see why) that has therefore been moved several times.

We were on the edge of Chinatown so we googled the “best” Chinese in the area -- Tai Wu. The food may have been good, but we'll never know. It took about 30 minutes to get a menu and put in an order, and then 1 ½ hours to get my soup. This was only after I got up three times to tell the manager. I could see that others were having the same problem. Our water never came and, after the soup we waited another half hour in hopes of getting our main courses before we left. We found a cheap Chinese express place instead and were done in half an hour.

 

ROTTERDAM 2

Monday, October 9th

Woke up and had a nice bagel at a chain called Bagel and Bean. These are all over the Netherlands. When I asked for ginger tea, they brought me fresh slices of ginger to brew.

We went to see the Cube Houses. Designed by Piet Bloom, based on the concept of “Living as an urban roof”. It was meant as a village within a city, with high density housing and ground level space for shops and green areas . The cubes are titled at a 45 degree angle making the interiors quite unique. They are yellow and orange, making them quite colorful.

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Across the street was the wonderful Markhaal, an enclosed market filled with stalls of beautiful cheeses, dried meats, desserts, nuts, olives etc and eateries. That night we ate at Amarone's. It was a wonderful meal with great service and a nice bottle of Sancerre.

ROTTERDAM 3

Tuesday, October 10th

Today we had a VIP tour of Ketel One, arranged by Charles, one of our second cousins who is a manager in the liquor distribution business. We were picked up in a Mercedez Benz and driven to the town of Schiedam, a suburb of Rotterdam. We then had a three hour tour, including a nice lunch. Ketel One was founded in 1691 was founded by the Nolets and has stayed in the family ever since. They are currently on their 10th generation, with the 11th in the wings. Obviously, they have grown the business over the last 300 plus years and it was interesting to observe the growth.

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Three side stories of interest: Our guide told us about being invited to visit some important personage who lived in the Bible Belt area of Holland (yes—there seems to be a Bible Belt everywhere). In conversation, this person mentioned that a man couldn't possibly have traveled to the moon because heaven was above the earth and, since you couldn't go through and out of heaven, how could you possibly go to the moon. (I realize this raises a lot of questions that could be answered rationally, but hey … ). The second point of interest was that, while showing us the original and still main office of the current head of Nolet/Ketel, our guide mentioned the paintings that were painted directly on to some of the walls of the room. These turned out to be painted by a Jewish man who, with his family, was hidden in a room with a cleverly entrance behind the wall. He came out at night when it was safe and painted these images. And finally, in this room of the Ketel One executive, there are two desks. One is larger than the other. The larger one is for the current head and the smaller one for his successor. When the patriarch decides it is time to step down, he changes desks with his successor. From then on, he never offers his opinion unless asked to do so.

After the tour we were each given a large sampling of the the product and asked to be dropped off at the Boijman's Museum. This was a nice mixture of the old and the new shown together, the idea being that art over the ages is linked—although it didn't always appear to make the connection to my satisfaction, it was intriguing. We got a museumkaart, which most travelers don't know about. If you are resident you can get one of these that is good for a year, but a traveler can purchase one of 59E that is good for a month and for over 400 museums in the Netherlands. It was a much better deal than the Iamsterdam card if you are visiting for more than a few days.

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We had dinner at Entrecote, a nice restaurant serving only steaks, fries and salad.

 

ON TO ANTWERP

Wednesday, October 11th

And on to Antwerp. We had decided on Antwerp mostly because friends of ours, James and Susan Deem, were living there for three months. In 2016, they spent a year in Brussels. James is an author—he has written a great book about the horrors of the camp Breendonk—and was doing research. He and Susan have many friends now in the area and just love it.

We figure we're pros at the train by now, get our tix and find our train track, etc. I have heard that the trains are wonderful unless they are late or canceled. Ours was canceled. This was announced in Dutch but we got the drift when we saw everyone leaving the track. So we had to go to another track and take a local, switch trains in Roosendaal where there were no escalators and schlep our luggage down a flight of stairs and then up another flight, etc.

When we arrived in Antwerp—a beautiful train station—we then walked about three blocks to the De Baron B and B. We were greeted by Luc and taken to our room. Luc is a BIG collector of comic books and showed us the room filled with bookcases and jammed with these comics and some TinTin memorabilia. The b and b has three rooms and is filled with antiques. We had the room called Miss Lucy—a very large room with a large bathroom. The bathroom had a big modern bath tub which Frank quite enjoyed and a weird shower stall with no place to put your soap and a detachable shower head that shot water everywhere. The best touch was that our pillows were embroidered with the words “CARPE DIEM” Breakfast was laid out beautifully—cutlery on a silver rest, layers of plates, etc. The breakfast, however was basic Dutch: some cheeses, cold meat, breads and a soft boiled egg in it's cup. There was also yoghurt and cereal, etc.

We met the Deems back at the train station as they were returning from Paris and took the tram to their apartment where we caught up, laughed, and had drinks. We then went to Enoteca Savini, which served homemade pasta and was delicious and was in their neighborhood.

 

ANTWERP 2

Thursday, October 12th

After breakfast we met the Deems and went to the Plantin Moretus. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was a printing house set up in the 16th C by Christophe Plantin and then continued under his son-in-law Jan Moretus. It was also their residence. It is now owned by the city of Antwerp. What an amazing collection of early books, numerous typefaces—so many languages, various printing presses and inks, etc. There are many Ruben's portraits of the family from the 1500's. Fascinating.

And, a long solved mystery. Have you ever noticed how the beds in olden days looked like they made only for very short-limbed persons? It turns out that they slept in them sitting up as it was thought to promote better digestion and health in general.

We then walked around the area. In one of the many lovely plazas there is a statue of a man throwing a severed hand—the Brabo Fountain (water is coming out of the hand). Supposedly, this is how the city got its name: Ant meaning hand and werp, meaning throwing. It seems that tolls were being forcibly collected on the river by a giant and Brabo challenged him and won, severing his head—thrown into the river—and his hand. This plaza is surrounded by the Grote Market, a collection all the guilds. Atop each guild building is a depiction of what the guild was.

We then returned to the Deems apartment for a delicious chicken tangine.

 

ANTWERP 3

Friday, October 13th

Frank and I first went to Ruben's House. It was very large and fancy, showing off Ruben's weatlth. There were many paintings there by his friends. I found his studio particularly fascinating.

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We then went to the Cathedral of Our Lady. Every space is filled with artwork—paintings by Rubens and Van Dyck, etc and wonderful sculpture, including a contemporary piece of an everyday man with eye glasses balancing a cross in the palm of his hand.

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Cathedral of Our Lady

 

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Jan Fabre: the Man who bears the Cross

 

We went to the Brabo fountain area to meet up with the Deems and had a traditional waffle snack—very crisp and delicous. Next we walked to the MAS, which translates into the Museum by the River. In a modern structure and from the 10th floor you can walk out and view the entire city and all the rivers leading to the North Sea. You could also see remnants of the old city walls. Before we arrived at the museum, though, we walked through Antwerp's red light district...prostitutes in doorways and glassed storefronts, showing off their wares, looking rather bored and often on their cellphones. The MAS has a variety of exhibits—each floor is different. We saw Pre-Columbian art, amazing model ships, a display about old and new food utensils, etc.

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On the Way to the MAS

Dinner was once again courtesy of our wonderful friends, Jim and Susan Deem. This was stuffed tomatoes and again, delicious.

 

ANTWERP 4

Saturday, October 14th

It was a beautiful warm and sunny day to go to the Middleheim Sculpture Park. We walked and walked through this lovely park and saw works which varied from Maillol to Minimalist.

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Juan Munoz sculpture

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Jim resting in another sculpture.

Dinner was at Bourla, an Antwerp landmark. Had a great dinner with Dame Blanche for dessert made with the best chocolate sauce ever.

 

ANTWERP 5

Sunday, October 15h

Today we off to the Museum Mayer Van den Bergh. It is a small museum in a Baroque building that was his home. Highlights included many Bruegels and Metsys's, one of the founders of the Antwerp school circa 1465-1530. There was a series of twelve panels depicting “country life” and the last one was of a man pissing at the moon.

We had lunch near the train station at a sidewalk restaurant called Hulstkamp and didn't expect anything special but had one of the best sandwiches ever. Another lovely day to sit outside.

Dinner was at Susan and Jim's again. They made us traditional buckwheat crepes. We said goodbye and miss them already!

 

OFF TO AMSTERDAM

Monday, October 16th

Off to Amsterdam. Train and then tram to our perfect apartment. It was tasteful and comfortable with a nice living room, a small but well set up kitchen with all you could possibly need, a bedroom at the back, another room with desk and chair and a balcony with two chairs, small table and ashtray in case you wanted to partake of the “local product” which was available in stores on every block.

We went to the Markt which was a “biological” supermarket (translate: mostly organic) and got some breakfast foods and pate and cheese, etc. We walked along several of the stunning canals, admiring the great architecture. Later that night we ate at Port Galia, a Portuguese restaurant.

A word about “Dutch” food. Basically, what is referred to as typical dutch fare is ham and cheeses: lots of cheeses, bitterballen (meatballs) and these thin large pancakes with different sweet or savory toppings. But truly, Dutch food is really international food — after all they colonized a large section of the world. So while in Amsterdam we ate Portuguese, Uruguayan, Indian, Indonesian (rijsttafel—rice with many small dishes, as many as 15-20 ranging in spiciness) Asian fusion, Italian etc.

 

AMSTERDAM 2

Tuesday, October 17th

We went to the Rijksmuseum..WOW!! Beautiful Rembrandts, Vermeers, etc. Rembrandt was a true genius. He also led the way to modern movements such as pointillism—look at the lemons and lace, then impressionism—look at the use of contrasting colors that the eye mingles to make another color, and even expressionism, including abstraction—in his latter portraits he used a trowel or palette knife to lay broad bans of color. Of course, he was a master of color theory too.  Everything in one artist. If you are a painter, and you study Rembrandt, you will have it all. 

 

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The most famous, of course is the Nightwatchmen (with appropriate crowds).  But the most interesting are the self-portraits ... one below:

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Most everyone else, including me, is a hack in comparison to Rembrandt. We ate lunch at the museum and spent most of the day there, walking to and from our apartment down different streets.

Every street had such interesting and beautiful architecture. The Dutch have a sense of proportion to their buildings and much of the city is intact from the 1500-s on. There is some new intermixed with the old, and most eras and styles are represented.

Later on we bought some of the local product and were transported back to 60's and 70's. We ate dinner at Tandoor's—a middling Indian restaurant.

 

AMSTERDAM 3

Wednesday, October 18th

Off to Rembrandt's house, about a mile walk along fascinating streets. They had a special exhibit of Bol and Flinck, two students of Rembrandt's who then went on to their own careers, challenging Rembrandt. In my opinion, although Bol in particular was good, he was no Rembrandt. This was Rembrandt's house and studio. Rembrandt was a prodigy who was famous and wealthy early on and bought this house for 20,000 guilders (quite a sum then) in 1639 when he was just 33. We were able to not only see his printing making room, but given a demonstration on his etching press made of three different kinds of wood. That was special.

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Rembrandt's House from the street

We had some lunch and then went on the Hermitage Amsterdam museum where there was an exhibition of Dutch masters from the Hermitage. Seemed the Russians loved Dutch art and collected it on a large scale. There were five spectacular Rembrandt's along with other amazing treasures.

Dinner was at Alberto's Uruguayan steak house where Frank had a good steak and I had some small delicious lamb chops.

 

AMSTERDAM 4

Thursday, October 19th

Hopped the tram and then the train and were off to Den Haag to the Maurithuis. It was a short walk from the train station. We saw a painting done by both Rubens and Bruegel: Adam and Eve. Rubens did the figures and Bruegel the plants and animals. It was meant as showpiece for both to exhibit their talents to prospective patrons and was a common practice. We also saw more Vermeers and Fabritius's Goldfinch. We only know of 38 to 39 Vermeer's in existence and on this trip we saw about a third of them. Quite a treat. The Milkmaid was my favorite, although everyone flocks to Girl with Pearl Earring.

(As does Frank:  here it is)

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There were more Rembrandt self portraits and each one was extraordinary. I would like to have a book of all them in chronological order.

Here's portrait of Rembrandt the younger to contrast with the "older" one above:

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Dinner was at Puri Mas—an Indonesian place with rigsttafel—rice with lots of small dishes. Our hostesses said this is a combination of traditional Indonesian food served in a Dutch style. She did not seem to be fond of the colonization of her country.

 

AMSTERDAM 5

Friday, October 20th

We went to the Van Gogh museum...so many Van Gogh's! I especially like his ink drawing of the countryside—all different strokes: curves, straight lines, dots, daubs, swirls etc to indicate different parts of the landscape. They presented the story of his life but since I have read the recent biography by Naifeh and Smith (quite a slog) and there seems to be a reinterpretation about the lopped off ear and his death. There were also paintings by his contemporaries, letters to and from Theo, etc. A modern painter, Zeng Fanzhi presented a reinvention of Van Gogh that was of some interest.

But ut oh, I felt a cold coming on.

 

AMSTERDAM 6

Saturday, October 21st.

Okay, I do have a cold. Hope Frank doesn't get it. Nonetheless, we took a long walk to the Amsterdam Museum, which presents the history of Amsterdam in a building that was originally the city orphanage. The neighborhood around the museum had many old buildings filled with restaurants and shops.

We had a typical Dutch pancake lunch at Luciens. --a big large dish size of a flat pancake with bacon and onion on top. Dinner was a De Pastini—very nice pasta dishes.

 

AMSTERDAM 7

Sunday, October 22nd

My cold took over so we just hung around—it was drizzling anyway—and read. Frank organized his pictures and rested up. We had some lunch at a nearby Bagel and Bean and dinner again at Port Galia since it was nearby.

 

AMSTERDAM 8

Monday, October 23rd

Felt pretty crappy so just hung out, packed and cleaned up. Had one of our best dinners at Ron's Gastropub directly across the street from our apartment. It was high end Asian fusion with terrific Dim Sum and then small plates of deliciously spiced mains.

 

FLYING HOME (Did I mention how much I HATE flying!)

Tuesday, October 24th.

Okay, being the loving wife that I am I shared my cold with Frank so we were both feeling off today.

We were up early to catch a tram and then train to Schipohl airport. That was the easy part. From there on things got sketchy.

When we arrived we were notified that our flight to Dulles was to be over 3 hours late. This meant that we would miss our connection to Albany. Off to the counter to see what could be done. We got new flights (thank goodness we had arrived early) for a flight that left an hour earlier, went through Chicago, and arrived home only two hours later than scheduled. I say we were lucky we got there early as both these rescheduled flights were eventually fully booked and even asked for two volunteers to give up their seats. If we had gotten to Schipohl later, we probably wouldn't have gotten on those flights.

Then it was on through security. I was pulled out and patted down (and felt up) but finally let through. Okay, thought that was it. But when we got to the gate for the flight from Amsterdam to Chicago, we had to again show our passports and boarding passes. At this point they separated me from Frank (who had a tsa pre approval on his boarding pass) as I had what I have now learned is the dreaded SSSS designation on mine. This meant that I was taken to a separate area and was swabbed from head to toe, shoes off, all luggage swabbed inside and out and then waited for the results of the swabbing while standing there. Not a pleasant experience. I read forums later on about who gets picked—some say random, some say there's a list (beware artists!!!) but no one knows nor I do think we ever will. There were about 20 of us singled out this way. The flight itself was without problems and customs at Chicago was relatively easy.

Usually when we arrive home we are still a bit jazzed and unpack, do a laundry, have a bite, look over the mail, etc but we had been up for 20 hours straight, a tad stressed out and both with colds. So instead, within about ten minutes (we did brush our teeth!) we were both in bed, thoroughly exhausted.

A final note: we just loved the Netherlands and especially Amsterdam. We remarked that if we were younger we might even have considered emigrating there. And, as an artist, I was just totally overwhelmed by Rembrandt's genius. I had seen works of his before, of course, and admired them. But seeing so many of them within a few weeks, and studying them up close and “in the flesh” (both literally and figuratively) so to speak, I can think of no painter who comes close.

A note on photo galleries

Feel free to look at the photo galleries that are accessible from the menu on the home page.  All the Netherlands (and Belgium) related photos are under the Netherlands heading on the menu.  The Galleries are set to autoplay and the file size is reasonable to display the pictures quickly on most connections and computers or phones.  You can stop the autoplay by clicking on any picture.  You can then page through manually by clicking ... either faster or slower than the default 5 seconds setting.  In the upper right of each gallery this a little icon box.  The middle icon shows the picture in its own "window" together with the file name.  If you want a copy you can right click on this and then pick save image as ...  Enjoy.  Email Frank with any problems or suggestions or corrections. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, May 4

First flight ... off we go .... well sort of. This flight was delayed over an hour as the plane wasn't there yet. (Good thing) It was a bumpy ride on a crop duster from Albany to Newark.

The second flight was also over an hour late ... this time due to “technical difficulties” -- the entertainment system was not working. The flight to Charles DeGalle airport was an easy one. When we getting ready for landing, the area around Frank's seat was the scene of white fluff, which turned out to be the pillow he had decimated. The pillow was defective.  We all had a good laugh as we gathered up the stuffing.

Eiffel

 

 

Tuesday, May 5

From CDG we took the Paris Shuttle to our apartment at 21 Rue du Dragon. This is a quiet street between St. Germain de Pres and rue de Sevres. There is no parking on this street so, although we were in the heart of the left bank, it was quiet. Next door to our building was a great bakery and where we bought our morning breakfasts. We were greeted at the apartment by the owner, Deloris Foskey Stern. Both she and the apartment were wonderful. The building dates from the 1700's and had an inner courtyard, which our bedroom faced so it was very peaceful. Deloris's husband, Bernard Stern, was a very serious artist who unfortunately died in a car accident at the age of 82. The apartment was filled with his art work and the work of others. It was such a delight to stay in these surroundings.

After getting settled we took a short nap. Then we took a walk around the neighborhood. There were a lot of art galleries and boutiques and restaurants and cafes right out our door. We walked to the Seine hoping to take the Batobus but alas, the Seine was in flood stage and the Batobus couldn't land at it's designated stops and was therefore not running. So we walked along the Seine as much as we could and were stopped by an area that had not only flooded over the banks, but clear to the retaining wall.

Then we had coffee and dessert at Paul's, which has been around since 1889 and is located where the Rue de Buci and Rue Jacob meet. We sat outside and watched the lively street scene.

Wednesday, May 6

When we woke up, we went downstairs to what became our morning bakery. We got a bread stuffed with jambon and cheese, made some coffee and tea.

Then it was off to the Louvre. We went down below the museum proper to get ourselves a six day museum pass. This provides free admission to over 50 museums and sites and the extra reward is that at many of them you don't have to wait on the long lines, but get quick access.

selfieWe spent three hours at the museum before we were overwhelmed by it all. There is just so very much to see, and there are just so very many tour groups. The big draw, of course, is the Mona Lisa and the room they devote to it, which is behind what I assumed was bullet proof glass or plexi, was jammed. Cellphone cameras were clicking away and people were making selfies, although most couldn't get close enough to actually see the painting. We avoided this and instead looked at two other magnificent Da Vinci's in another hall, which most folks didn't even bother to study. I doubt they even knew they were there!

<-- idiots

We saw a great number of masterpieces and enjoyed our outing.  After we couldn't absorb another work of art, we wandered along the Tuilleries.

We went back to the apartment and rested a bit, then walked to the Luxembourg Gardens. We veered off the direction we had intended and enjoyed the streets we were on. The Luxembourg Gardens are the ones that are famous for the oxagonal pond with children floating their sailboats. We sat on chairs around this pond and watched one young boy float his boat until he dropped his push stick in the water where it had to be rescued.

On the way back, we wandered into the St. Suplice church.  Dinner was at AG's at 2 Rue Clement and it was terrific.

 

Thursday, May 7

D'OrsayWe walked to the Musee D'Orsay and spent the day there. This is an old railroad station, built in the 1900's with great vaulted glass domed ceiling and two large ironwork clocks. The architecture alone is worth the visit and then there is the artwork. If you've ever taken art history, you will see many paintings and sculptures that you only saw in books before your eyes.

We had a very good dinner at the Bergamote, which is named after a fruit that is a cross between a lime and an orange. I had the crepes aux bergamote for dessert and it was wonderful.

 

 

 

Friday, May 8

brancusi 

Today we took a very long walk to the Pompidou Center, which meant walking through the Ile de la Cite. The Pompidou center is a contemporary art museum built in the 1970's and was quite controversial as it was so modern, with colorful exposed duct work. The exhibits were great . Three works that really impressed me were: The Pie Throw Room, the enlarged cellphone pixels of executioners aiming their guns at them, and a large room where you could chalk messages on the walls regarding Hiroshima. On the plaza area outside the museum, there is a small building which houses a replica of Brancusi's studio which is not to be missed.

For dinner we ate at the Le P'tit Ferdinand.  I had skate for dinner.

 

Saturday, May 9

We went to the Cluny museum, now called the Museum of the Middle Ages. It is very well done and there are wonderful paintings, sculptures, stained glass and artifacts of the times. The big draw are the Unicorn tapestries, which depict the five senses: sight, smell, touch, taste and hearing along with a sixth titled : A mon seul desir. They are magnificent and are of spun gold, wool and silk and were created in Flanders around 1500.

On the way back, we stopped for coffee and a cheese plate. We had dinner at Seraphin where I had an delicious duck tornadoe with foie, which was somehow in the center. This was accompanied by purple mashed potatoes.

When we walked home from dinner we stopped at a bar opposite our apartment and sat outside and sipped some cognac.

Sunday, May 10

Today we walked to the Ile de la Cite and toured first the church St. Chapelle. This church was built for the private devotions of King Louis IX and to house his relics which included Christ's Crown of Thorns. It is a gothic building of the 1200's and the framework supports huge stained glass windows so that the entire building seems to be made of glass alone.

Next we walked to Notre Dame cathedral.  On the way we passed the famous bird and flower market.

We arrived at Notre Dame in time for Sunday services, as Notre Dame is not merely a tourist attraction but, like most of the churches of Paris, as fully functioning one. Bells were ringing, then the organ played and one beautiful voice sang out and those attending the service sang along and incense was swung. Quite the high drama indeed!

Notre Dame CeremonyI might add that on the Ile de la Cite, and especially around the Notre Dame area, there were armed personnel. Paris has had several terrorist attacks and are very security conscious. Bags are checked at every museum and site throughout the city.

In the front of the church, at the far end of the plaza, there is the Archaeological Crypt which shows Paris from the days it was called Lutetia to the present. It is quite a good history and well worth the time.

We had dinner at Au Club des Siciliens where I had a good veal marsala.

 

 

 

Monday, May 11

We walked through the Tuilleries to the L'Orangerie. This is the museum that Monet had built to house his Nypheas, or water lily paintings, along with other of his works. There are also works by many other famous painters. The room for the Nypheas is an oval and so the paintings are slightly curved. I had dismissed these paintings as too pretty but seeing them made me realize how truly revolutionary they were ar the time. They are definitely precursors to abstract art and I got lost in them. I have a whole new appreciation of Monet now.

We had dinner at Le Petit Zinc. The building is a treasure house of the Art Nouveau style.

Tuesday, May 12

Felt a bit off today and rested most of the day and read some of the books in the wonderful library at our apartment. We had dinner at La Locanda for a change from French food, and Frank had a great fettucini a la vongole (clams).

Wednesday, May 13

Opera HouseWe decided to take the city bus tour and see parts of Paris we might not get to. We got off at the Opera House and took a tour. It is a lovely building and has the distinction of being Hitler's favorite building in Paris. Built from 1861-1875, it is a good example of Beaux Arts style and quite elegant inside.

Across the street from the Opera House are the Galeries Lafayette which is difficult to describe. In crass terms, it is a shopping mall but the architecture is so grand that you would think you were in a theatre. Six floors with a stained glass domed ceiling, with Art Nouveau staircases and circular railings.

We had dinner at La Bocca della Verita, where I had an amazing tortellin with white truffle cream and chives. I relished every bite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, May 14

We took the Metro today to the new Louis Vuitton Museum. When you get off the Metro you are met by an electric bus that takes you the rest of the way and travels through the Bois de Bologne where the museum is situated. The building's architecture, created by Frank Gehry, is meant as an artwork in itself. It is typcial Gehry, all curves and sails outside, but inside works well as a museum. The collection if quite strange—rooms with Polke and Kelly and some very contemporary artists, and then a room filled with Giacometti's. They had a new show downstairs which was masterpieces of modern art, everything from Matisses' Red Dancers, to Picasso's and one of Munch's Screams and Mondrian, etc.  It was a great show.

GehryWe had lunch at the museum at Le Frank, named after Frank Kelly! (oops, that should read Frank Gehry)

In the evening we had tickets for a concert at the Eglise St. Germain de Pres, a concert of strings playing Albionini , Vivaldi, etc. The solo violinist was very qood and quite the showman.

Dinner was L'Entrecote, which has no menu and only serves steak in its famous sauce and pomme fritte. IT is a large and always full restaurant, takes no reservations and folks wait outside for a table. We went at about 10 p.m. (it is across from the church) and were seated quickly, but it was still packed. The meal was okay but not great.  Which is equivalent to saying "not good".  A fast food steakhouse.

 

 

Friday, May 15

We decided to tour the Marais area today and took the Metro there. A word about the Metro—it is clean, efficient, easy to figure out and a great way to get around the city. There was a train every five minutes.

We walked the streets and then wandered into the Musee de Carnavet, which is the museum of the history of Paris. Although it didn't look it from the outside, it is enormous with a lot to see. It certainly displays the entire history of the city in paintings, sculptures, artifacts, etc. We couldn't get through the entire museum as it goes on and on and on.

Dinner was at L'Antiquarian, where I Had a great creamy risotto with mushrooms and Frank had the canard. It was the kind of place that I felt was worthy of having the crepes suzette and it was great.

Saturday, May 16

The water level of the Seine having subsided, we were finally able to take the Batobus which is a water taxi (no tourist blah blah blah) that goes along the Seine for about an hour. You get a day pass and can hop and off all you wish.  It has eight stops and you see many of the 17 bridges that cross the Seine in Paris, which are all of different styles and eras. You probably get the best view of the Eiffel Tower you hope for also.

For dinner we went to Le Procope, which dates from the 1600's and is the oldest in Paris. The food is still very good. Frank started with fresh oysters and then moved on to the coq au vin which had a rich dark sauce and delicious flavor. I figured this was the place to have escargot and then their osso buco.

Dessert was frozen sabayon with amaretto.

Sunday, May 17

We walked to the Delacroix museum which was where Delacroix, in the latter part of his life, rented apartments and had a studio built and lovely gardens. The museum, however, is bereft of Delacroix's (only one of two minor ones) as they are scattered at the Louvre and other important museums, and the studio wasn't laid out as a studio per se. It was all rather disappointing.

Dinner at La Locanda, I had a great artichoke and asparagus lasagne.

Monday, May 18

We just took a walk around the neighborhood on some new streets, discovered a lovely little park for which Paris is famous, and packed up our belongings for the trip home. We ate at Les Siciliens again and had a lovely meal.

Tuesday, May 19

Our last time at the bakery before catching the Paris Shuttle to the airport. The flight between Paris and Newark was good and customs were quick. The flight from Newark to Albany was death defying though. Our pilots looked like they were about 16 and had not fully grown into their gangly bodies, while our stewardess looked to be their grandmother's age. We were 24th in line to taxi off from Newark, and then we flew through thunderheads and lightning, while our child pilot told us he would “try” to skirt the lightning. It was a spectacular sight to see from the air. The plane rattled and bumped and we told that the pilots asked the stewardess to remain seated throughout the flight and NOT to serve those “complimentary beverages” (not that anyone could have kept them down in any case). We were never so relieved to land on the ground in our lives.

We had the most wonderful time on this trip and saw so many sites and enjoyed the ambiance that makes Paris such a special city.

Ca, c'est tout!

 

TRIP TO PROVENCE AND COTE D'AZUR  May 18-June 8 2016

This journal was written by Gay with photos by Frank. See the photo galleries for the complete pictures that he took.

May 18--Travel day

We traveled to Provence with our good friend Werner Feibes, age 86. We had our plane and train tickets and one B and B and two apartments arranged.  Got to love VRBO!!! Our plan was to go from Albany to Newark and then on to the CDG Paris airport, and catch a TGV (high speed train) from the Paris airport to Avignon for three nights at Face Au Palais for three nights before renting a car,  on to Vence for 8 night followed by Nyons for another 8 nights before reversing the trip home.

Before we left we received news that France is experiencing a strike.  Okay, they are always on some sort of strike, but this one concerned air controllers, trains and other travel systems.  There were also trucks blocking the entry to major cities like Paris.  Flights from Britain and Spain were all canceled but so far they seemed to be allowing the big overseas flights through.  The train from CDG to Avignon was scheduled to run but for others continuing past Avignon--Marseilles, Cannes and Nice, etc--were not. Of course, all of this could change ... So, here goes!

All went well.  Flight arrived in Paris 40 minutes early. We had asked for a wheelchair for Werner upon arrival since distances are very long at major city airports. None was there.  This was a problem every single time we asked for one.  Be forewarned--we were later told that United has a terrible reputation regarding their wheelchair system.

We walked to customs and the line wound all throughout the customs area and extended out into the walkway area.  We were told it was about a two hour wait.  Werner found a staff person and made the case that he couldn't stand two hours and, after a bit of sweet talking on his part allowed the three of us to go to the front of the line and through. Whew!

Getting to the TGV train station was easy and soon we were on the train to Avignon. Riding through the French countryside reminded me of  Diebekorn paintings--many shades of flat green with tinges of a purple brown, shadows of pink with lots of white cows. One nice rule was that no cell phones were allowed to be used in the cars--only in the spaces between.

 

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Our B and B host had arranged to have a cab pick us up at the train station and there he was! We arrived at this wonderful B and B which directly faces the Palais des Papes and an enormous plaza where musicians perform daily. What a treat! We went through the covered passageway of our place to a beautiful garden area with a resident outdoor cat (he came with the place and is named “Chat”) and quickly became Werner's companion when he sat on the chaise lounge. Our B and B was one of the best I have ever experienced and our host, Alain Christophe Tchakaloff was terrific. This B and B only has two magnificent rooms on the other side of the garden. It was very private and quiet. The B and B is in the old city surrounded by ramparts. The streets are narrow and charming.

 

Alain treated us to wine and pate in the garden (he did this every night we were there) and then made a reservation for us for dinner. Werner and I had a rabbit stew and Frank a  tagliatelle with salmon fume.

 

Friday, May 20:

 

Today was sunny and warm as was every single day we were on this trip with the exception of one morning when we were treated to a spectacular thunderstorm before clearing up. Werner sat out in the garden with Cat while Frank and I found a store to purchase french sim cards for our phones.

 

We went to the Palais des Papes, an enormous Medieval Gothic structure which is a UNESCO world heritage site and was built and rebuilt numerous times starting in 1252. Numerous Popes, having been chased out of Rome, resided there.

 

After a refreshing ice cream, we then went to the Musee Angladon,which housed a beautiful painting of a dead rabbit by Manet and some nice Degas's with a few other works of interest but mostly second rate otherwise.

 

We had a mediocre dinner at La Cuisine Chic which was a new restaurant about which Alain had heard good things. Between us we had steak, lamb and grilled tuna with passion fruit cream pie and macaroons for dessert.

 

Saturday, May 21

 

Off to the Avignon Market, Les Halles which is open every morning from 8am-11. The variety of cheese and fish is not to be missed. If I lived here I would try a different fish every day, with a new cheese or pate and olives to start. We then walked through more of the old city where it is easy to imagine the warren of narrow streets as it might have been centuries ago.

 

We decided to go to the Petit Palais Musee to see the Quattrocento paintings which was to open again at 2pm. Everything in southern France is closed from noon -2 so the French can enjoy a long lunch/nap. We got there and it was closed because it was “museum night” and wasn't to open again until 4pm, so we went to the Lambert Musee which had contemporary art and special exhibition of Andres Serrano, he of “Piss Christ” fame. The museum offered a very good film about Serrano.

 

Back to the B and B where Werner and Frank needed their afternoon naps, while I returned to the marvelous Petit Palais Musee. This is a great collection of Quattrocento paintings. I should mention that hardly anyone was in either the Lambert or this museum although there were hordes of tourists throughout the old city. As I left the museum, I wandered through the church that is between the museum and the palace—the view from above was wonderful.

 

Alain made us another dinner reservation at the Five Senses. This was a wonderful meal: vol au vent, asparagus beet salad, duck, duck cassoulet and pistache zabaglione, strawberry glade with red fruit and a delightful amuse bouche.

 

Sunday, May 22:

 

We got our rental car—an Opel diesel—and drove to Vence and our apartment. We had some trouble finding it—it was up a hill/mountain with numerous narrow switchbacks. Eventually we arrived, managing to put our car in an overhanging position from which the owner had to rescue us by towing us out. Once that was resolved we arrived at a truly beautiful house with a view all the way to the Mediterranean and even Sicily on a clear day. We didn't want to try going back down to dinner and then up again so the owners had pizza delivered. One thing that seemed to be predominant in southern France were the number of places that served pizza.

 

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That night Frank woke up at 1 in the morning and took a shower. I hear this voice awaken me: “Gay, Gay, come in here—I'm stuck in the shower!” Turns out that the shower door was a bit wonky and had locked Frank in but we finally got it undone and the next morning the owner came over to repair it .

 

Monday, May 23

 

I should mention that we were enchanted by a large black and white bird later identified as a magpie. We tried to get a picture to no avail, even though it delighted us every day and perched itself on a nearby (but not near enough!) treetop.

Went to the small and delightful old town of Vence.  There was a small church that has Chagall mosaics of Moses being found among the reeds. We couldn't figure out why this was in the church...We then had a lovely lunch and shopped for some dinner food.

We went to the Henri Matisse chapel which is a small gem that Matisse created with scenes from the Stations of the Cross and a beautiful stained glass window.

 

Tuesday, May 24

 

We went to the Fondation Maeght but half of it was closed. We wandered through the Miro Labyrinthe and saw many wonderful works of art.

 

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Then we wandered around the old town of St. Paul de Vence. A well known restaurant is the Columbe D'or. We managed to get in for lunch and it was wonderful—lunch: Cod with five vegetables with homemade mayo, escargot, shrimp were our three different meals. This restaurant is also a hotel and filled with major works of art—Picasso and his contemporaries ate here and traded their work for food. It is definitely work going to both the restaurant and touring the art work inside.

 

The old town of St. Paul is beautiful but very touristy.

 

Wednesday, May 25

 

Today we went to Antibes. We wandered through the market place and bought some red mullet,which is a specialty of the area. After a lunch of moules, fish soup and artichoke pizza, we walked to the Picasso musee which is in the Grimaldi Castle. It is a very good museum with an outdoor balcony of Gerhard Richter sculptures highlighted by the amazingly blue Mediterranean sea. The view is not to be missed. On the way back to the car we walked along the rampart.

 

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Thursday, May 26

 

Our goal was to go to both the Chagall and Matisse museums but we could find no parking near the Chagall. We realized, too late, that what we should have parked the car in downtown Nice and taken a bus up to the museums.  We did, however find a place to park near the Matisse museum. From the windows of the museum, which is in a park, we observed a children's festival of dance which was just delightful to watch. The museum was filled with wonderful art work. There is also an Archaeological Museum in the park with ruins of the Cemenelum—three baths. The museum itself was quite well done.

 

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Unfortunately, when we got back to the car someone had smashed our rear side window. We knew enough not leave anything at all in the car and nothing was, therefore, stolen. It looked like vandalism for vandalism's sake.

 

Friday, May 27

 

Frank and I had to deal with the car and were told to go to another Europcar for an exchange. We first went to the one in Cagnes-sur-mer but they were sold out and had nothing to trade so we wound up at the Nice airport and all was well. We returned to our place in Vence and relaxed and swam in the pool, then made ourselves a lovely dinner. Now we have a Peugot which is not a diesel which actually was great as we found out later that diesel was in short supply due around the area.

 

Saturday, May 28

 

We decided to see Vallauris and the Musee Ceramique. Vallauris is a major ceramic center which Picasso revived when he created a lot of pieces there. Once again, the museum was partially closed—the part with the contemporary ceramics (although Picasso's pieces were to be seen).

A real treat was that in a separate building which had the feeling of a bomb shelter but was actually a very small 12C Church, Picasso had created and donated a vast mural titled “War and Peace”. This is a true gem.

 

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The town of Vallauris is filled with ceramics that are touristy and not of any value, although there were a few galleries that might have held better work but which, of course, were closed.

 

Sunday, May 29:

 

This was our designated day of rest and packing before leaving for Nyons. There was quite a dramatic thunder and lightning show—everything smells just wonderful

 

Monday, May 30

 

Down those switchbacks for the last time and this time Frank made them all without having to back up once—yay Frank! We are off to Rousset-les-Vignes which is just outside Nyons. We are staying at a guest house that is on the property of our host Deloris. Last year we stayed in her Paris apartment rental. She has invited us for dinner and martinis. She made some tadziki and a lovely roast chicken, etc.

 

I should mention here that all the scenery that we have experienced so far and will continue to view for the rest of this trip is beautiful beyond description. From Deloris's place we had a view of Mt. Ventoux and all the lovely vineyards of the area. There are also cherry trees (the cherries were in season), olive trees, and magnificent roses of every variety.

 

Tuesday May 31

 

We explored the old town of Nyons. This area is unspoiled and not touristy like the Cote D'Azur. People live in these old towns. There is a beautiful bridge across which we walked. We had lunch in the center of the city. I had a salad that had delicious and warm tiny octopi (poulpe). They were less than a half inch in size. While in the old town we met a woman and asked her for some restaurant recommendations. She listed three and the first was Resto Des Arts which was a great meal. Started with St. Marcellin cheese en croute avec almandes. Then I had the guinea fowl and Werner had durand and Frank had what turned out to be one very large and thin ravioli stuffed with shrimp. Dessert was a platter filled with crème brulee, a small melted chocolate tarte and ice cream. Wonderful!

 

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Nyons is know for its olives which are black with a slightly crunchy skin. Unfortunately, Frank broke a tooth on an olive pit!

 

Wednesday June 1

 

We drove to Orange to see the Amphitheater, one of only three in the world that is completely restored. It is 2000 years old and has had many uses over the years. It was meant as an entertainment and to spread propaganda about the Roman empire. Later is was used in a variety of ways: it housed soldiers and served as a defense post, then the citizens of Orange took up refuge and build homes inside until the early 1800's when it was restored to its original purpose. Plays and operas were performed once again—Sarah Bernhardt and other luminaries of the era performed—and it is still used to this day and draws large crowds. Across the street is a museum that has many original artifacts from the amphitheater and is wonderfully done. An interesting fact: There is always a statue of the emperor and thousands of these were mass produced and sent throughout the empire.  The bodies were always the same but the heads were made separately and attached later on.  When there was a change of emperor, new heads were sent out and the old ones removed and tossed while the new ones replaced them!

 

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We drove back to Nyons and had a great meal in the old city at D'un gout a L'Autre..Frank had fish (we still don't know what kind) and Werner and I have veau filet in a saffron cream sauce. Dessert was listed as crunchy chocolate with meringue with dark chocolate ice cream ... delicious!

 

Thursday June 2

 

Today we went with Deloris to see the retrospective art exhibition of her late husband Bernard Stern.

This was held in the beautiful village of Grignan which is about 20 minutes from Rousset-les-Vignes. First we ate at the spectacular restaurant La Rosarie. We sat outside in a garden filled with roses and had a most wonderful meal. Her friend, Hubert Valayer, joined us. He has a winery, Domaine de Deurre and also trades in truffles. A charming fellow. Deloris and I had a soft boiled egg that was served with celery and herbs and bread with truffle, followed by a lamb dish and completed with a warm chocolate tarte. Great wine—Hubert is a trained oenologist . Bernard's expo was beautifully done. There was a “cave” next door and the owner had us taste the wines...the most unusual (which we did not taste) was a black truffle wine. Truffles are hunted with either dogs or pigs and Deloris told us that there wild pigs who came onto her property.

 

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Friday, June 3

 

Today was Mt. Ventoux day...we drove first to Bedouin then down again into Malaucene where we enjoyed a nice lunch....I had a lapin (rabbit) terrine. On to the drive---narrow switchback roads with breathtaking views. There was some sort of huge event (a Fondo) of riders of all ages going up the mountain—we saw a man with a boy who looked to be about 12, others with handicap recumbent bikes attached to a regular bike being taken up the mountain. After an arduous drive up the mountain, ducking other cars and bicyclists all the way, we arrived at the cloud obscured top of Mt. Ventoux. The mist was rolling through and it was eerily wonderful. Mt. Ventoux is often part of the Tours de France, and has grades of 10 percent. It is nicknamed “The Beast of Provence”. The ride back down was just as challenging.

 

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Saturday, June 4

 

Off to Rousillon, known for it's red cliffs of ochre, mined here for centuries. The scenery on the way to Rousillon was beautiful, and we passed by a huge field of red ground poppies on the way back down near the town of Murs. Rousillon was filled with tourists but was so unique and well worth the drive filled with narrow switchbacks.

 

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Sun, June 5

 

After two long days of white knuckle driving we decided to rest a bit and just enjoy the grounds.

 

Monday, June 6

 

We decided to explore the small medieval villages nearby that we had passed by while driving elsewhere. We went to Rousset-les-Vignes which had a very dark and poorly restored 11-12thC church and then Venterol where we had lunch at Cafe de la Poste, a one item menu of Bavette aux boeufs with the best scalloped potatoes. These old cities are still occupied and quaint, with folks living their everyday lives. It is totally unspoiled.

 

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That night Deloris invited us and some friends for a soiree—we had martinis and wine from Hubert's domain and he also made us all truffle omelets. Many other wonderful things were served with a homemade tarte tartin for dessert. We ate outside and enjoyed the beautiful view.

 

Tuesday June 7

 

We drove to Avignon TGV for the train ride home and then stayed at the Ibis Styles which is practically in the airport and arrived at by taking the tram from Terminal 2 to 3. We went across the street to the more upscale Pullman hotel and had a great dinner—chicken in a wine sauce and Salmon with thai sauce for Frank. They did not know how to make a martini though, using a sweet vermouth and no gin. Very strange. But dinner was delicious.

To sleep and then............


Wednesday June 8th

 

Tram to Terminal 1 and our United flight. A very long and aggravating day—wheelchair problems again, almost missed our Paris flight home,  thrn more wheelchair problems and finally a two hour delay (due to weather) for the final Newark to Albany section. This is a real puddle jumper and we bounced along until arriving home sweet home.

 

All of this, however, was well worth the most wonderful time the three of us shared in the beautiful south of France.

 

October 7-November 13, 2013

Australia

Day 1, Monday, October 7

We leave for the airport. Everything went well and arrived LAX a few minutes early and shuttled to the airport Travelodge. Just looking for a place to sleep but the place was surprising. It is an 1950's hotel and in its day hosted such luminaries as Howard Hughes, Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and, I assume, Trigger had the garden accommodation (got to have Hopalong too). There is a sign to not throw your coffee or other beverages into the potted plants—they take their garden seriously. The bed was good, the room large and quiet and they had the usual “complimentary” breakfast—watch those bagels go through the rotating toaster! See the yoplait trying to fool you that it's yoghurt, etc.

Day 2, Tuesday, October 8

Frank's sister Sue and her husband Bill pick us up at the hotel took us to Venice. They still have “Muscle beach” there, but it's not as good as it was in the 70's. On the other hand, almost every other shop on the beach street was a “medical” marijuana store. Also lots of places to get tattoes, buy funky 60's tie dye shirts, etc. (Frank developed a serious cough and back pains and had to duck into a store)

After that we went to Olvera St—it is the oldest Mexican area and very interesting to walk through. The street is closed to traffic. We had the best mexican food I've ever had there at La Golondrina.

Later that evening we left LAX for Sydney.

Day 3, Wednesday, October 9

This is a “lost” day due to the time difference.

Day 4, Thursday, October 10

Arrived in Sydney. All luggage is inspected before you can leave the airport. They have a lovely little dog who sniffs it all out and he/she didn't like my purse, so they emptied it and found nothing suspicious. Mostly, they are trying to keep insects and plants and seeds out the area. The are trying to limit the invasive species.

We made it to our hotel, the York by Swiss Belhotel, but our room wasn't ready yet so we went to the sauna/pool area and freshened up, then wen off fo find the Telstra office to get a sim card for the phone so we could use it in Australia. They told us it couldn't be done. (After we were in our hotel room and could use our computer, Frank found the blog with the exact instructions on how to do this and after two more trips and Frank sitting with the folks there, we were all set up). Then we walked around the area. We wandered around Circular Quay, had coffee and gelato and walked around the Sydney Opera House. The harbor is just beautiful, full of life, restaurants, boats, ferries, etc. We took a turn and walked back to the hotel through the botanical gardens and then took a nap. Our apartment was just lovely. Went out and found a grocery, which was under a dome where the metro station was and got breakfast food and snacks.

Next, we walked into the Rocks area, the oldest neighborhood in Sydney and went into the Oneida Hotel for dinner, which was just terrible. Probably the worst meal we had on the whole trip, Frank couldn't cut, much less eat his steak and my coq au vin had no “vin” and was in a terrible tomato sauce.

In bed by 9 p.m. and had a great night's sleep.

Day 5, Friday, October 11

We took a local bus tour of Sydney to get better oriented. We jumped off at the aquarium as we were cuious what the local fish were about and had a marvelous experience. They have tubes you walk through with fish above and on the sides of you. When we were done, we walked around Darling Harbor which abuts the aquarium and then back to rest.

We had dinner at Mejicos—great food. There was a young, lively, dressy crowd. Everyone was very chic in 5-6” high heels and beautiful dresses (not most of the guys). People in Sydney dress very well in high end designer clothes, with stylish haircuts. It is a great place to people watch—much like a fashion runway. Also, the people are very friendly, and we found this throughout Australia—if you stood on a corner and looked bewildered, someone always graciously approached you and asked if they could be of assistance.

Day 6, Saturday, October 12

Sydney is a mix of older sandstone buildings and tall glass skyscrapers, side by side. Sydney is proud of the old and new existing together. Many of the new buildings were colorful, with either colored glass or colored accents. The buildings were in every shape imaginable for a skyscraper—curved, slanted, offset, etc.

Our bus tour of yesterday allowed us another bus tour to the suburbs so we took that today. We jumped off at Bondi beach and put our feet in the water. It is a funky town . It was a stunningly magnificent beach which was formed by a volcano and is curved and perfect for surfers, of which there were many. We walked the beach and boardwalk, saw a little boy with an all wooden (except the tires) bicycle.

Later on we toured the historic Rocks neighborhood and had a late lunch at Fratelli Fresh on Hickson St. The food was great. The area provides a walking tour, telling you about all the old dwellings. It is now a high end place to live.

We went to the Contemporary Museum in the Rocks where there was a good exhibit called String Art. It was a show of contemporary Aboriginal artists and quite good. We then went home to rest.

 

Opera House

The Sydney Opera House

Then it was off to the Sydney Opera house to see South Pacific. The show was performed by the Sydney Opera company and the voices were great. They stuck to the original sets and dances of the Broadway production which I saw when I was a child in NY with Mary Martin as the lead at that time. The Sydney Opera house was great to experience and they were celebrating their 40th anniversary. The setting is amazing, jutting out on the harbor like a ship at sea, all reflected in the waters.

When we got out, we walked around the harbor, had a late night dinner and watched the boats floating by and enjoyed all the beautiful people.

Day 7, Sunday, October 13

Today the weather was in the high 90's and we decided to take the ferry to Manly beach. The ferries are a great way to see the harbor and they go to quite a number of interesting venues. We swam at Manly, a beautiful stretch of beach and then walked along a pedestrian walkway to Shell beach and swam some more. Now we can say we swam in the Tasman sea. Along the pedestrian walk there are benches and they've made an enclosure along the rocks that let's in the sea so young children or those afraid of surf can swim. We took the ferry back, had a nice gelato on the quay and went back for a little rest. That night we ate at a noodle house around the corner from the York. There are a lot of noodle shops in Sydney and it was food week and they celebrate one weekend with a big noodle party in one of the parks.

Sydney history—the Dutch came first and called it New Holland. They the Portugese and finally the English, who sent their convicts. When the Queen gave land (not hers to begin with but who cared about the ethics of it all) to some Englishmen to settle the place, the convicts provided all the labor to clear the terrain and build the homes and plant crops, etc. There is a lot of convict history, and they have preserved the gaols in many of the places we visited. It was a brutal existence. At some point in their history, they decided to expunge all the records so you would no longer know who arrived here as a convict and who didn't.

Tthe population of Sydney—there are a lot of immigrants. Many come from the Asian Pacific corridor—Malaysia, China, Thailand, etc. They are very integrated in society with a lot of mixed marriages visible. We often saw Asian women with Caucasian men but not the other way around. These women were not meek and subservient. We did not see a lot of black people. There are aboriginals who were very dark skinned, but many aboriginals have intermarried over the years and are not so readily identifiable. As with our native american population here in the US, the aboriginals were treated very poorly—killed, enslaved, subject to smallpox and alcoholism. They were not allowed to speak their language and their children were sent to live with white families so they could have a “better” life---sound familiar? There is a great deal of reconciliation going on –housing, recording of remnants of existing languages, exhibits in all the museums we visited ,etc. Once there were 400 different Aboriginal tribes and numbered 1 milllion in population, but after the whites arrived, there were only 100 thousand left. Now there are about 250,000.

There are evident in the tourist industry a great number of young folks on two year visas. They are from all over the world. Otherwise Australia, which was once so big on drawing immigrants to its underpopulated country, is now limiting and selective in its choice of who can come into the country, even creating some controversy by turning about boat people.

My friend Marilyn, who recently married a Tasmanian (an island state of Australia) and is applying for a permanent visa, had to submit 150 pages of documents to make her case, although she said that they are very pleasant about it.

Day8, Monday, October 14

Today we headed off to the Australia Museum and on the way saw St. Mary's, a very large gothic church and the oldest in Sydney. The museum was true “natural history”--much of which needs an upgrade, although I really like some of the older museumship. According to our volunteer guide, seems they are “happily” getting a new director.

On our way back we walked through Hyde Park (the English brought a lot of their familiar names with them). There is a memorial to the Anzac fighters of the “great war”. We continued walking—we could walk almost everywhere and chose different neighborhoods to roam through—and went through another area of the Royal Botanical gardens to the Museum of New South Wales which had everything from contemporary art back through the 1500's and before, similar to the Met in NYC. We saw some very nice work. It's in a beautiful setting in the park overlooking the harbor.

We had dinner at La Bora—a good Italian restaurant with a most beautiful waitress (she said it).

Day 9, Tuesday October 15

Today we took a tour through the Hunter Valley wine region with Boutique Wine Tours. We learned, along the way, that Australia has a population of only 23 million and that 4.6 million live in Sydney, with a third in the suburbs. (By comparison Shanghai has 22 to 23 million people).

There are over 320 species of eucalyptus (or gum) trees only four of which the koala will eat. Given that, and logging of habitat, plus the rise of cats and dogs, the koalas are not doing well. They once were hunted for their furs, but when the pelts dried the fur fell off, so that didn't last long (the hunting either).

Another problem is the termite population, also called white ants. These white ants are responsible for the digeridoo, which is made when white ants eat ouf the center of the branch. If you were to buy one(and I'm not sure why tourists do as they make a pretty miserable sound) be careful not to buy ones made in China as the are just drilled out.

We went over the Hawkesberry River, 50 North of Sydney. Brooklyn (my hometown!) is on one side. They do oyster farming here. As you will see later, there is a lot of fish farming in Australia.

Australia has 9 of the most venomous snakes in the world. Also the first and third most venomous spiders. With one, when you are bitten, you start to decompose at the bite site so they can digest you more easily.

A guide we had in Cairns wanted us know that although the idea of Australia having the most poisonous of a lot of species—consider the box jelly fish for example—is one that is prevalent through out the world. So he did a study going back about 50 years to see how many people actually died of these critters and it turned out to be average of only 8 a year!

The Hunter Valley is the oldest wine producing area in Australia. There are now over 120 wineries in the area and we were taken to three smaller ones. Most of these wineries only sell from their front doors so you won't find them at a store. The first was the Iron Gate, outside Cessnock where we bought a nice bottle for later. He uses only cork and had a whole speech about it. He gave a very entertaining tour.

Irongate Vineyard

At the Iron Gate Vineyard

Next to Savannah where we saw our first wild kangaroo in the field.

A lunch stop at the Garden Center at Oscars and the the third winery, Ernest Hill.

Day 10, Wednesday, October 16

This was mostly a flight day as we were on to Cairns.

Frank creates the “Great Ketchup Splatter” incident at the airport, managing to get me, the woman at the next table, the wall behind us both, etc. But you should see these ketchup containers. They look like our plastic ones but with no way in. You can't peel the foil back, or pierce it with a knife. We had to be show how to get into it. Obviously Frank was not paying as much attention to the process as needed. (In my defense it's a stupid way to package ketchup.  A tiny little package but the projection reminded me of a scene from the Exorcist.  Amazing.).

We stopped at the tourist office fo find tours and the agent recommended we eat at the Rattle and Hum which was on the esplanade and very good.

We got to our hotel, the Mantra Triology and heard a lot of noisy “birds”. Turned out they were fruit bats hanging in the mangrove trees outside the hotel. It was an amazing sight!

Day 11, Thursday, October 17

We picked our tours and made reservations. They we took a walk along the Esplanade and went for a swim in the large public lagoon. The city lets the water from the sea into this enclosed area which keeps the box rays, etc out of the water, they have some wooden dock areas and a sandy area and it is then surrounded by a grassy park with tables and often music. This is all free to the publice, and is quite beautiful.

We had dinner at Fettucina which was very good. I had sweetlips, a mild white fish, for my entree/ In Australia they have appetizers, main courses, entrees, sides and dessert. Everything, including bread, is a la carte. There is no tipping in Australia as the servers are paid a living wage of at least $18 hour. Tipping is creeping in, but not in any significant way. You don't tip taxi drivers, etc. On the other hand, restaurant food is often rather pricey. A side of bread can be $7.

Day 12,Friday, October 18

Today is the Great Barrier Reef. We took the Seastar to both Michelmas Cay and Hastings Reef. Michelmas Cay is a soft coral area and bird sanctuary on a small island. Hastings Reef is hard coral, quite large and just amazing. We saw, among other highlights: large turtles, white tipped fin sharks, “Nemo”, gigantic clams, sweetlips (what I had for dinner last night) damsel and clown fish to name just a few. And so many colors of coral. It was one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had, just to snorkel and be among these fish. It makes an aquarium look like a fish bowl. The Great Barrier reef area we were in was in the Coral Sea. So now we can say that we swam in both the Tasman and Coral seas. It was warm enough that we didn't need wet suits, although they were offered. As an aside, there isn't enough suntan lotion in the universe!

Dinner was Thai food at Khao and was excellent.

Day 13, Saturday, October 19

Today was an R and R day. We went to the Contemporary Arts museum where they had a show of Contemporary Aboriginal art—there were a lot of prints and they were quite striking. Upstairs there was a sculptor who made Sentinels. Then we were to the Cairns Regional Gallery. They had an art auction downstairs...mostly mediocre art but sold (the idea was to have affordable pieces so folks could have the experience of having art in their homes) and upstairs was Ken Thaiday, a Torres Strait artist who made this complex headdresses that were not for use and often had moving parts.

Later we swam again at the Esplanade then had dinner at Dundees on the water, known for its Aussie food. We started with some great local oysters and then I had crocodile and kangaroo satay. It was delicious.

Day 14, Sunday, October 20

Today we took the bus to the Tropical Botanical Gardens. Not many people go here as it's not often advertised and that is because it is free! And it was spectacular. So many plants—ferns, orchids, etc. They start with a primitive era garden of age old plants and then it just keeps on going through a lot of flowering and exotic tropical plants. We also was bush turkeys. They build mounds out of leaves, about 6 feet in diameter and 4 feet tall. They put their eggs in there to hatch and keep the temperature at 30C. They stick their heads in to gage the temperature and if it's too hot, they scratch away leaves and if too cold, they add them. It also protects the eggs from predators who have to do a lot of digging and be rather lucky to find the eggs. We also saw many butterflies, Australian pelicans and ibis.

We then took another bus and went to Palm Cove ...  a stunningly beautiful beach. Ate dinner at Mother India.

Day 15, Monday, October 21

Today we had our second tour which ws a 4WD up to Cape Tribulation—aptly named as the explorer, James Cook, said that was where all his tribulations began. This area is within the Daintree National Rainforest. On the way we learned that many of the fields were planted in sugar cane. They also grow chocolate in this area, and the two are consumed in large quantities by Australians. Older homes in this tropical area are built on stilts with slatted floors so cool air could ascend on hot days and cool the house.

They have buses here that are powered by the sun too. All the outlets throughout Australia have on/off switches.

We saw wild wallabies along the way. This is a tropical rainforest and the insects, birds, plants and reptiles are still being discovered.

Stopped at Mt. Alexandra Lookout to take pix.

Cassowaries are in the area (although we never spotted one in the wild—they are elusive and nasty—there are signs that say, “Be Cass-o-WARY”). The cassowary is responsible for 240 species existing in the rain forest as they spread seeds through their feces.

 

cassowary
Don't run over the Cassowary

Saw lizards and learned about the flora.

We stopped at Emmagren creek for a swim had billy bread and billy tea (made by swinging the billy tin in a large arc) and ate some exotic tropical fruit. My favorite was this creamy custard apple—the sour sop variety. It looks nothing like an apple by the way and rather large, white inside with dark seeds. I hope I come across another one some time in my life.

At lunch we had a “barbie” of steak and sausage with salads

We went up to Cape Tribulation and went on a river cruise. Saw crocs—crocs lay asexual eggs and the temperature determines the sex. Saw a jabarou, which is a black stork and kingfishers, etc.

Day 16, Tuesday, October 22

Flight to Melbourne. Had booked an apartment through airbnb in the CBD. It was situated in a lane, of Melbourne has many and they all are different, with restaurants, shops, one devoted to graffitti, etc. Had a nice dinner in one lane .

Day 17, Wednesday, October 23

Woke up to rain. Had breakfast in the restaurant across from our apartment. They we rode the free tram around the CBD and got off in Chinatown, ate at Shanghai Street and had pork/crab buns, hot and sour soup and chicken with peanuts and chilis---LOTS of chilis. It was all delicious and very chinese and many chinese were eating here and the place was large and packed.

We walked the lanes some more and wnet to the Ian Potter Center in Federation Square. Federation Square is where there are a lot of outdoor concerts, the HQ's of tourist information, several museums, etc. It is a very disorienting type of contemporary architecture...contemporary with jutting angles everyone that can make you dizzy.

The Ian Potter center is actually two museums, one is here. We saw a history of Australian art from the first painters to contemporary. Many of them studied or were originally from England and Paris and the work was deriviative of the movements there. Have found this to be true everywhere we've seen art in Australia. With the exception of the aboriginal artists, and they feed off their history. Some contemporary aboriginal artists are trying to break out and reflect the current times and not be labelled just because of their heritage and these were the best.

Day 18, Thursday, October 24

Off to the Queen Victoria Market. This is an amazing place. It was once wholesale only and is huge—bread, deli, cheese, nuts, produce, fish, meat, etc. We bought fixings for lunch. Late afternoon, Gay's stomach was bad so we hung near the apartment and for dinner had soup from the soup guy in one of the lanes and watched a part of a not so good old Audrey Hepburn movie.

Day 19, Friday, October 25

Ut oh...During the night Frank and I were both suffering from stomach problems---think it was that delicious chinese food we had and shared. So we stayed home.

Day 20, Saturday, October 26

Today we went to the Contemporary museum on the other side of the Yarra river . They had a show of collages that was quite good. Then we went to the NGV (National Gallery of Victoria) which had an exhibit of 60's design, modern prints (Stella, Sultan, Motherwell, etc). This museum had a glass wall with water running down it that was two stories high and quite spectacular.

We walked back along the Yarra river which has shops and restaurants along both sides and makes for a lovely walk. Dinner tonight at The Deanery in one of the lanes and it was quite good.

Day 21, Sunday, October 27

Today we took the train to the zoo. It was a great zoo—you feel like you are in the enviroment of the animals as some of it is open for you to roam through with the emues, kangaroos, wallabies, etc all around you. In the caged area we saw a snow leopard and also merecats, australian pelicans, platuypus, oh my!  And the king of beast ...

Lion
In the jungle the mighty jungle ...

 

Then we hopped a cruise up the Yarra river to Williamstown. The Yarra river has 77 bridges along its 200+ miles and many of them are quite low. It was a wonderful city river trip.

Sundays find many restaurants closed, and we wound up at Maha's which is an Iranian/Eygptian—mostly Persian restaurant with a very high end chef. They offer 4, 6 and 8 course dinners all set with wine pairings. We each had the 4 course, but should have shared it. The food was very unique and delicious. Most of the courses were 4 or 5 different items. What an amazing meal. We waddled home.

Just another tidbit: In the better restaurants of Australia, the server puts your napkin on your lap for you. None of the coffee is from a pot, and this is true even when you eat in a dive. They always tamp it into the holder and then pour water through an espresso type coffee maker.

Day 22, Monday, October 28

We went to the Old Gaol, which operated from 1845-1924. They do this thing where a woman, playing the part of a warden, gathers you and puts you through the processing of being a new prisioner. She was quite good and hilarious. Then you tour the gaol on your own, and each cell has the story of a prisioner, or what life was like inside, (no heat, no cooling, stone walls, very basic).

In the afternoon we went to the Melbourne museum, which is a natual history museum and quite well done. Saw lots of minerals—Australia is big on this as it is a main resource in which they are quite rich). The museum has a combination of old and new.

Ate dinner at Andiamo's where we dined the first night of our trip. We were seated where you could see this street and there was a shop where Frank had been admiring this outfit and wanted to buy it for me and did. It was our 5th anniversary in a few days and this was my gift.

Day 23, Tuesday, October 29

Last day in Melbourne and we finally took the city bus tour—we'd already walked most of the places but enjoyed the 90 minute ride. We got off at the South Bank area on the Yarro and had lunch.

Then just relaxed and pack up.

Day 24, Wednesday, October 30

Off to Tasmania and Marilyn. Marilyn and Dean were there to greet us and we were so happy to see her and meet Dean. We drove to Stanly and stayed at the Cow and Calf, which is situated at the foot of the Nut, which is a volcanic basalt “plug”. To get to Stanley, on the northwest coast, we first drove along a beautiful cost and stoppped at Edgecombe beach to see where Dean takes of his rock photos.

MARILYN
MARILYN
Dean
DEAN

Marilyn Dean

Tasmania only has 500, 000 residents, is an island 200 miles wide by about 200 miles long, and a state of Australia.

Dinner was at Xanders. Stanley is a small town made for romantic tourism.

Day 25, Thursday, October 31

Today we went to Trowutta Arch in a temperate rain forest. We hiked in . When we got there there was an amazing red to the water which is tannin from the button grass. We saw a lot of this in Tasmania. You could smell sassafrass. The arch is quite beautiful and hike in was like being in a fairy tale, with tall ferns and trees.

We then went to Highfield House, the seat of the Van Diemen land company. The Quees (of England) bequeathed this even though it didn't really belong to her. They used all convict labor to build this and stones were dragged up from the coast.

Then we walked along Godfrey's beach in Stanley where there is tessalated rock. Marilyn and Dean made us a bbq chicken dinner. It was nice to have homemade food.

Day 26, Friday, November 1

Happy anniversay to Frank and Gay!

We were off to Cradle Mtn. We stayed in cabins in the all the state parks and they really varied in quality. They all had kitchens and baths, but otherwise differed quite a bit. This one we found humorous in that they gave you the usual forks and plates, etc, but only two of each.

We took a 2 ½ hour hike around Dove Lake with views of Cradle Mountain all along the way. Then we rode down to the Tasmania Devil Sanctuary. These animals are dying at an alarming rate from a cancer that affects their face and is spread by touch. They don't have a cure yet, so these sanctuaries are set up to raise the animals until they can stop the disease at which point they will release them into the wild. The devil is the largest marsupial carnivore but was hunted for a long time as it was thought by ranchers and farmers that it was killing their livestock. Actually, the devil is more a feeder on the kill of others like the quolls, which are smaller but are the real hunters. We saw two varieties while we were there. They give birth to about 20 babies, but there is only room on the teat for 4 so only the strongest survive.

Devils
Devils

On the ride back we saw a wombat and a pademelon -- similar to but smaller than a kangaroo or wallaby.

Day 27, Saturday, November 2

On to Strahan, but first we stoped at the Nature and Wildlife photo show. Some very good photographers and very nice museum. We landed in Zeehan where we toured the local museum which was full of minerals and lots and lots of local history.

Day 28, Sunday, November 3

We took a boat rip up the Gordon river. We went through Hells Gate, say fisherman holding up giant crayfish and saw aquaculture farming. Then we went to Sarah Island, the oldest—and rather brutal) convict settlement. It's in the middle of nowhere, although when they decided to have convicts build ships there, a few did manage to escape (not always successfully in the end though).

We then walked through a temperate rainforest, know for Huon pine which is only grown in Western Tasmania. It only grows 1 mil a year and is now is protected from lumbermen. Only when one falls naturally is it sent to the sawmill. Some trees are over 1000 years old. It doesn't rot and has natural oils and turns a beautiful golden color as it ages.

We spent 6 hours on the river cruise and they gave us a great lunch with lots of local smoked salmon and great salads.

We went to dinner downtown but the power went out—it went out in the entire town, which meant our cabin was without power too. And it didn't go back on—we left 14 hours later and it still wasn't restored. When we arrived at this park, it listed hi-fi but we found out that the building that housed the wiring for this had burned down a month ago. Hey folks, this is not unusual.

Decided to drive to Zeehan for dinner but called when we were on our way and found out that the only restaurant in town closed in 20 mnutes and we were 30 minutes away. Fortunately, Marilyn and Dean have a generator in their RV and she whipped up some great omelets for us and we had a great time.

Day 29, Monday, November 4

Off to Hobart which was 4 hours away and we took our time getting there. We went along a twisting road for a while and every time we turned the scenery was different. Tasmania is very green and lush with mountains and lakes and a stunning coastline. We went through a mining (copper) area.

We stopped at “The Wall”, a wood bas relief 100 meters long relating the history of Tasmania and carved from Huon pine. One man is doing this entire work and he is quite good. It reminded me of a WPA project in style.

Ut oh...the RV has a flat. Stopped it the town of Ouse where a mechanic fixed it. Saw sheep and an old church and cemetery while we waited.

Finally arrived in Hobart at the Treasure Island state park. This was the worst one we stayed in—the housing is really chintzy, just metal non-insulated boxes, no stove, just a separate broiler/hotplace combination thing and a very small bed—it was even shorter than most—and a one element heating unit that had no temp control nor would it stay on very long. Oh well. We were all so tired so we went to the Granada tavern which was terrible. The nice thing about the place we stayed was that it was situated on the Derwent River, which is wide and lovely and there are lots of ducks around who come to visit.

Day 30, Tuesday, November 5

Today we headed off to MONA but it is closed on Tuesdays, so we went to Mt. Wellington which takes you high above the city of Hobart and is quite striking.

 

Rocky View from top of Wellington
Rocks from Wellington

The rocky view at the top of Wellington

We also went to Dean's Gallery and saw his photographs hanging there, had a nice fish lunch at the wharf, bought some for dinner (Gay made fish stew with gummy shark, chili mussels and crabmeat) and wen to the Tasmania Museum Art Gallery which was qhite good.

Day 31, Wednesday, November 6

Dean stayed to get the RV looked at, Frank decided to rent a bike and go up Mt. Wellington (which didn't work out too well as the bike didn't even have toe clips and his foot kept sliding off the pedal) [2000 feet of climb in the 14 miles I did, would be 4700 feet to do the whole route -- what's life without a metric?] and Marilyn and Gay took a day trip to Bruny Island which consisted of a bus and boat tour. We saw black swans, baby ring tailed possums that one of our tour guides was rehabbing), etc. The population of Bruny island is 635 and, according to our guide, half do nothing and the other half as little as possible. It's really two islands joined by a sandy spit that lies between the Tasman sea and the Ithmus Bay. .On the boat we say cormorants, fur seals, beautiful arches, a natural blow hole and tore through two stone pillars. It was all spectacular. Back on land we had great homemade blueberry (grown on the island) muffins and pumpkin soup and a nice lunch. We saw a small (fairie) penguin in its burrow. Then we stopped for fresh shucked oysters from the Bay.
We had dinner at the Custom House and I had a great wallaby meal.

Day 32, Thursday, November7

Today we went to David Walshes MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art or, as the New Yorker put it, the museum of sex and death.

I really loved it. First of all, there are no titles or info with any of the work. Instead you are given an Ipad instrument and headphones. The guide has a GPS and you can stand in front of a work of art and it will locate it on the guide, along with what is nearby. You can press buttons to find out the title, artist, etc, and then another one that discusses the idea behind the piece, and another that has a review and another that has an audio interview with the artist, etc. All this is kept on the phone guide device and you can put in your email address and the tour you took will be sent to you so you can review it again. What a great idea.

Tied into this was the face that many of the artworks dealt with the idea of digital influences on our life, from how we process ever increasing information to using the digital 1-2 system to create a design to having your body motion turned into a digital output, etc. Alongside this might be an ancient Sumerian rune carved into stone, etc: Thus, the old and new connection. There were political and social commentary pieces, ruminations on sex as a creative force, the nature of our bodies, history, etc.  We spent hours here.

Frank made his salmon and artichoke dinner.

Day 33, Friday, November 8

We went to Freycinet Park and stayed in the nicest unit of our trip. It had recently been updated and was well done. It was very rainy so we didn't do much, just got settled and relaxed and Marilyn put together a lamb ragout dinner.

Day 34, Saturday, November 9

Windy and cloudy but no rain. Out to breakfast. We walked to a light house and saw Tourville Cape in Freycinet Park. The rain let up and we took another walk to Sleepy Bay. What a misnomer. The bay had red rimmed rocks (lichen) and we walked to the beach which had pink granite rocks and caves. Breathtaking! We also saw a black cockatoo.

We then walked along the Coles Bay Conservation are which had prehistoric plants and was a most unusual landscape.

Later, Marilyn and I took a long walk on the beach and saw over 50 dead muttonbirds. We found out they make an annual pilgrimage from Antartica and done don't make it and die when they get to Tasmania. This year their numbers were higher than usual. Dinner was at the tavern.

Day 35, Sunday, November 10

On to Scamander. We stopped along the way at Natureland, a wonderful wildlife refuge where they save many animals. It is quite large. We saw a “Joey” feeding from its mother Kangaroos pouch, many beautiful birds including a white peacock, walked alongside emues, etc.

We went to Binalong where there is a pure white “singing” beach (sound made when you drag your feet along the sand). The whole area is called “The Bay of Fires” due to the orange/red lichen and pink granite of the coast.

Day 36, Monday, November 11

On Way to Launceston we stopped for a walk along the tallest gum trees called the “White Knights” as the bark is white. One was 91 meters tall. There are also massive ferns here as it is a temperate rainforest. Back at the car we all found we had leeches on us—1 each for Marilyn, Dean and me and 5 for Frank!

Our last night in Australia and we ate at the Black Cow Bistro, known for its beef. It was a delicious meal.

Day 37, Tuesday, November 12

Said goodbye to Marilyn and Dean. The we flew from Launceston to Sydney to LAX

Day 38—hey, it's still Tuesday as you lose a day so you arrive in LA BEFORE you left Australia.

Off to the Travelodge, showered, napped, and then had dinner with Sue (Frank's sister) and Bill at a Thai restaurant. Then back to the hotel to sleep.

Day 39, Wednesday, November 13

After an annoying checkin with United at LAX, finally on our way home. Arrived at 10pm, stayed up until 3am and don't know up from down or day from night but we'll get it figured out.

Nice to be Home, Sweet Home after a wonderful experience..

Day 1 Feb 19

Flew overnight to Santiago, Chile

Day 2 Feb 20

statue chileArrived at Hotel Torremayor. Our main guide is Juan Zapata Oyarce. Met the wonderful and exhausted members of our group. We had a lecture on Chile thatmost folks slept through. Then off to the Church of San Francisco, one of the oldest in the city. Chile suffers from many earthquakes but this church has survived. There were some beautiful wooden sculptures.

Day 2 Feb 21

We had a tour of downtown Santiago and lunch at a pub in the more upscale and financial part of the city. The benches which dotted this area were all painted in unique ways, supposedly as a way to keep the graffiti artists (whose work is everywhere) at bay.

 

We had a lecture on wine in Chile. Dinner was on our own and we took the subway about five stops to a lovely area where our local guide, Jean lived. The subways, built in the 1980's are quiet and clean with mosaics along the walls and run EVERY minute. Jean is also a licensed somnelier. We ate a nice place and had tapas and wine and then a few of us went to Jean to a second place to have some wine with him. There is a grape grown only in Chile called Carmenere and we had this wine. We saw belly dancers and musicians performing in the streets. We met Jean's wife and six month old baby Emily. We made the very last train back home.

Day 3 Feb 22

santiagoSomething about Chile: 80% of Chile is mountains—mostly the Andes. It is about 2600 miles long but only 100 wide. It rains only about 11 inches a year in Santiago and they rely on the Andes for water.

On our way to Vina Mar we stopped for Empanadas. These are supposedly less flaky than their Argentinian counterparts. . We stopped at the winery Vina Indomita, a large commercial winery surrounded by its vineyards. There were roses planted every row, and they are used like the canary in the mines. They are more delicate than the grapevines, so if a disease attacks, it will attack the roses first. It is part of their tradition. They have red and white ones and they used to plant the red roses for the red wine grapes and the white for the whites, but now they mix it all up.

 

 

valpariso

Then on to Valparaiso, which is a huge port that lost a lot of its business when the Panama Canal was built. It is still a large port and cruise ships stop there. There are many universities and colleges. We took a funicular ride up the hillside. The town is very hilly and there are 9 of these funiculars. Ours was built in 1889 and the newest in 1907 and they are all still running. There is varied architecture reflecting the sailors from so many different ports. The house are faced with the used sheet metal from ships and the colorful paint is the left overs from the ships too and is very colorful. It is a city of 300,000—German, Yugoslav, Spanish, French, Italian, English, Irish, etc.

We had lunch high on a hill and had our first Pisco sours, a drink unique to Chile. Pisco is a fermented and distilled grape, (like a brandy) that is 45% alcohol and is mixed with lime juice, sugar and egg whites, with bitter drops.

Last stop: Vina del Mar. Very upscale tourist beach area just a bit from Valparaiso and a city of 400,000.

 

Day 4 Feb 23

Flew to Puerto Montt, a large port and salmon area. We went to Anselmo, where we saw the fish and vegetable market. There were many small boats in the harbor and the variety of fish and shellfish was amazing. Went to Kiels for lunch and the salmon was delicious, along with more pisco sours. Then on to Cabana del Lago , our hotel in Puerto Varas, about 12 miles north.

fishThere are many German influences in this town and it is on beautiful Lake Llanquihue (pronounced somewhat like Yankee Way). Our guide Charlie was originally from Alaska, fell in love with a woman and told her he would follow her anywhere and anywhere was Puerto Varas. Another pisco sour and view of the lake. Puerto Varas is called the city of roses. Here they get an annual rainfall of 72 inches. It rained on and off this day.

Then on to a rodeo demonstration by local huasos (pronounced waso). The ranch was a fourth generation owned ranch of the Garcia family.The huasos wore ponchos of different colors to differentiate the ranch as there are over 4000 ranches. These horses are bred for sport: rodeo is for the rich man. The cowboys here are German mixed with Dutch. Nowadays they use vehicles for farming and not the horses.

They use their weight to steer the horses, never digging in spurs or using whips. The steers are nudged into a wedge by two horsemen, not lassoed. The horses are trained to side step and are small in stature.

Day 5 Feb 24

Lecture on German immigration to the area. Then on to Frutillar where there was a museum of several buildings showing the life of the german immigrants and a lovely garden.

On to lunch at a lavender farm called The Lavendar Casa de Te. They had views of lavendar gardens, horses, the lake and volcano. We had lavendar water and lavender tea, etc.

Later we had a lecture on the salmon industry. Salmon are not native to Chile but the geography is similar to Norway where they learned the techniques and got their salmon eggs. Norway is the number one world producer of salmon and Chile is number two.

Day 6 Feb 25

on tripThis day was our spectacular crossing from Petrohue falls in Chile to Bariloche in Argentina. In the end we took four buses and three boats to get from one to the other. We stopped to take some pix of Osorno volcano, which looks like Mt. Fuji and is about 18,000 ft high with a glacial top. It was last active in 1835, just when Darwin was docked nearby on the Beagle and is recorded in his journal. Then on to Puntiagoro Volcano, which means sharp point. This is where we stopped at Petrohue falls which is in the Parque Nacional Vincente Perez. Teddy Roosevelt visited the area and said it was the most beautiful place he had ever been. He helped establish it as the first National Park in Chile.

Stopped at Puerto Peulla for lunch, the onto Puerto Frias and the Argentine border police.

Arrived in Bariloche at the Hotel Nahuel Huapi which was in a great location but was a terrible hotel...no ac and the food was terrible.

Day 7 Feb 26

We had a lecture on the native peoples of the area, who, like most of the native people in SA and the USA were enslaved and decimated when invaders came through. Bariloche is called the “Switzerland of SA” and 70% if it's economy is based on tourism. It is a city of 140,000.

We took a ski lift up to the most spectacular view of crystal clear lakes and mountains. Many come here to ski in the winter.

Then we visited a brewery and had lunch—enough food to feed an army and excellent beer. This is a microbrewery and they are enthusiastic and growing.

Day 8 Feb 27

Early flight to Iguazu falls. We saw the confluence of the Parangua and Iguazu ivers. Y=water and guazu=large. At this point, you can see Paraguay, and Brazil and are standing on Argentinian soil. The three countries are very close together and you could swim between them.

Day 9 Feb 28

iguazuFrank’s birthday. Everyone sang and he got a nice bottle of Malbec. We went to Iguazu falls, one of the seven wonders of the world. It is huge and quite beautiful. It makes Niagra falls look like a dripping faucet.

Day 10 Mar 1

Flew to Buenos Aires. It is bordered by the Rio del Plata, the largest river in the world and looks like an ocean. On to Teatro Colon, built in 1908. Many different architects took turns in its design and they were from different countries, so it is a conglomeration of styles. First the French, then Spanish, Italians and Germans. Seats 2,500 with another 300 sro. Supposedly the best acoustics in the world.

Heard a great lecture on Argentine recent history, and the problems with currency, labor, overturn of governments, coups, etc. Our local guide Andrea mentioned that she lost all her money when the banks closed and only just now has gotten 30% of the money back.

Also, her father and brother were in the Falkland war and her brother died there. She felt it was a stupid war.

Day 11 Mar 2

We went to the main square. Saw where they protest by painting signs on a fence. This is in from of the “pink house” (think famous Evita balcony scene). The mothers of the disappeared have been coming here since 1983 every Tuesday. They walk around for two hours. Whitescarves are painted on the ground as a symbol. The pink house is where the president works, but lives somewhere else.

Then to the Cathedral de Jose de San Martin. His mausoleum is there. There is an eternal flame. It is the most important cathedral in BA. Says “ego vici mundum” and “valebunt adversus eam”

boca districtThen went to the first port and called “La Boca” district and Carmenito. The tango was born here. In 1871 there was a yellow fever epidemic so those with money moved north. Now the Boca is for the poor and artists and the north us very wealthy with a lot of beautiful parks. The Boca is very colorful and this is where Frank bought his leather hat.

Ate at Cava, a wonderful restaurant. Had cayote cake. This was really a soft cheese in wedges with some stringy fruit (cayote) jam. IT looks like an oblate watermelon but is really a squash and is yellow inside.

We heard about the history of tango and its meaning in Argentinian culture. We later had a demonstration and learned a few steps. We were at La Ventada for dinner and a tango show. There are a lot of tango clubs around. In the middle of the performance there was an amazing tribute to Eva Peron, with flags unfurled. At the end, the rest of the audience cheered wildly.

Day 12 Mar 3

We went to the cemetery where Evita was burried. Hers is the only mausoleum with flowers. The cemetery is Recoleta. Cats roam freely and one lady feeds them all. Frank joked that the cats were there because it was a mouseleum. Eva Person died in 1952. Still venerated after all these years. People are passionate about her and believe she is either the saint or a devil. Argentina refused to show the movie“Evita” until recently as they did not like how she was portrayed. Later we went to the Eva Peron museum. And then to a farewell dinner at Bisteca.

Finally a late overnight flight home.

CHINA AND TIBET JOURNEY

October 13 through November 2, 2011

Tianemen Square

Thursday, October 13

The flight. Albany to Chicago, left late but arrived on time. Computer wouldn’t boot up the sound system, then some idiot decided to stand up and we couldn’t go.

Chicago to Beijing, left late again, had to replace computer unit. (Do you see a trend here?) Very looooooooong flight and no room. Knees up against the back of seat ahead.

Food: terrible. Gay to stewardess upon being asked if I wanted one of the offerings: “What is it?” Stewardess to Gay: “I don’t know. I never eat it.” In the end it was one of those mysterious unidentifiable foods, although it is probably on our new food pyramid.

Friday, October 14

Arrive Beijing. Qianmen Jianguo Hotel.

Lines, lines and more lines. No one to greet us. Ut oh. Finally, got some money, waited on yet another long line, and got a taxi. Arrived at hotel, exhausted, guide was upset and apologized over and over. So it goes. All we wanted was to get some sleep.

Saturday, October 15

Large buffet for breakfast, both American and Chinese offerings: noddles, soup, creamy tofu, salad, bacon, some cold meat, eggs, cereal, coffee, tea, juice, etc. Hotel very comfortable. Beautiful sunny day. Frank has wi-fi and is happy.

Off to Temple of Heaven, built originally in 1406. Pray here for good harvest, three times a year. All wood, no nails, painted.

Next to Tianemen Square which is located before the Forbidden City. Means Gate of Heavenly Peace. Is 40,000 square meters, or 60 soccer fields. Mao’s mausoleum is there and folks come from the countryside to pay homage. They wait on a line for about three hours and get about five seconds inside. Interesting that he is still revered by some.

Our guide told us about the protests and tanks, etc but says history books only have one sentence that says students set up camp there. But there are often groups setting up in the square, so that doesn’t say much. But it seems that our guide, LiuHao, and his generation all know about it in detail.

Forbidden City: 9,999 rooms in the Palace. Nine is an important number. It goes on forever, through gate after gate after gate. The thresholds are high to keep out the demons. Demons can only shuffle and can’t make it over the thresholds. All the buildings are of wood, and highly painted, very ornate. The buildings are repainted every four years!

Ate at Bian Yi Fang Peking Duck restaurant. Very good. Again, lots and lots of dishes, all served on a lazy Susanne glass turntable.

Sunday, October 16

No private ownership of land. You don’t buy your condo: you buy the right to “use” the condo for 50-75 years. The Chinese don’t worry about this, because anything can happen in that amount of time. They are used to great upheavals, big changes in commerce and personal finances, new government programs. When you buy a condo, you just get the concrete…sometimes not even windows. You put in the plumbing, the wiring, the windows, etc. And when you leave, you take it all out. No one wants your toilet as you touched it. Liu said this is very wasteful but that’s the way it goes.

Car cost about 20,000USD but license cost another 20,000USD. If your license ends in a 0 or 5, then you can’t drive on Mondays, and so on. This is a rather feeble attempt to keep traffic down. All we saw was bumper to bumper traffic.

Dating according to Liu: (liu is college educated and would be considered middle class)

Parents start to worry if you’re not married so they go to the park or square with pictures of their kids and talk them up and try to set up a date. ON the first date with his now wife (he has a 2 and ½ year old daughter) he took her to McDonald’s. Then to KFC. Then to Starbucks. Foreign fast food is more impressive than eating in a Chinese restaurant.

If you are the man, you should have the five C’s: cash, condo, car, credit card and be cute. Liu had four of the five (no car). It used to be a sewing machine and a horse. Then a computer, then a cell phone. Liu says that when they get a cell phone they make a call and talk very loudly so everyone knows they have a cell phone.

On the whole, the Chinese speak very loudly, yell and push and shove.

In Chinese culture, the man pays for all wedding costs.

Off to the Wild part of the Great Wall. Took a gondola up. Exciting experience as it was windy. It was an amazingly clear day. Liu mentioned he never had experienced such a great day. Farmers follow you everywhere up the wall, along the trail to “help” you. They are very nice but they won’t go away. You try to give them some money at the end but they want to sell you a souvenir instead. It is much more profitable. They won’t take the money and badger you until you buy a book, or postcards, or tee shirt, etc. This wild section of the wall is beautiful and called Jin Shan Ling. Before leaving the wall, we had to go to an office to be officially counted.

Great Wall

Our guide referred the bathroom as the “happy place”. Hmmmmm….Bathrooms are rated with a star system. Even a four is mediocre. Toilet paper not usually available, except in hotels, so byo. During our trip we experience five levels of toilets:

1. Behind a rock 2. A slit in a concrete slab—walls but no ceiling. 3. A squatter, non-flush. 4. A squatter, flush (sort of) and 5. “Western style”. I was amazed that at the hospital there was a squatter only, with a weak flush, no tp. Same at the Xi-an university.

 

Went to Peking Opera in the evening. It was located in the hotel. They have a ritualistic donning of their costumes and make-up, all done on stage. It was hard to hear the singing, which in turn made it difficult to assess. We were also all very tired. There were four acts and the second one was very good: two warriors, very gymnastic and with dance elements and beautiful use of a table. The audience comes and goes, and is not always quiet. There were some dining tables too. Most of us make it to the third act, but only two or three made it to the fourth.

Monday, October 17

Visited the hutongs, the small city streets off the main boulevards. We had lunch with a family. The wife was away and the husband did all the cooking. There were at least 12 dishes on the table, and he thought we needed more, so he cooked up others too. We were unable to eat it all. We learned about his life. We had taken a rickshaw through the hutong, and they crashed into one another as they don’t really have brakes. The Chinese had taken down most of the hutongs when they started building like crazy. Skyscrapers and construction everywhere. Now there are trying to preserve them. There are only 9000 left. The younger folks don’t always want to stay in them as they often only have communal toilets, but they are very desirable nonetheless given their location. Our family had lived in theirs for over 100 years, with some exceptions due to the politics.

Went to the Soong Ching Ling museum (the wife of Sun Yat-sen). Beautiful marble bust. Sun Yat-sen was the 1st president of the People’s Republic of China. Started in 1911 but failed, then tried again and again. The warlords reigned and fought back.

Bell tower: told time before watches and clocks. Two hours equal one of ours. Only 12 bells therefore. Nice climb. Looked over the hutong we had just visited and the rest of the city.

Enjoyed a lovely tea ceremony. All teas have specific procedure on how to prepare and also what they are good for.

On to the Summer Palace. This is very large and was built and used to excess. It too is painted every four years. This is the home of the infamous marble boat. There is a large lake and we took a boat ride back to the dock. Used by Empress Dowager Cixi.It has a very long history.

Summer Palace

Dinner was at a local place. Interesting dessert: Chinese round dates stuffed with sticky rice in a sugary syrup. This was served hot. Mostly dessert in China was watermelon slices, etc.

Beijing driver’s signs:

Car with a giraffe with a big X, means don’t exceed a certain height, with an elephant, a certain weight and with a second car slanted next to another, don’t crowd the lane.

 

 

 

Tuesday, October 18

Walked to the “artists” street, mostly “antiques” and musical instruments and small shops. On the way, saw several food stands, one served donkey and one served dog, usually in a thin pancake.

Flight to Luoyang. Stayed at the New Companionship hotel (we were originally scheduled to the Friendship hotel, two doors down). This is a poorer area than Beijing. We had a concert in the evening where we learned about the traditional Chinese instruments and heard performances by the master and his students. They also practiced their English with us..

Wednesday, October 19

Early morning tai chi in the park opposite our hotel. Also, writing poetry with water and a long brush to practice calligraphy, bullwhips with a wood top, swords, dancers, slow movements, groups etc. The Chinese are a more communal culture and these activities happen every morning with hundreds of people coming out.

On to the Buddhist grottoes. There are 110,000 buddhas carved into the soapstone cliff, some as small as a fingernail and others as large as a three story building.

grotto

Then to a village for lunch with a family. There are 950 people and 210 homes in this village. Thirty years ago there were only 200 people. There were, again, over 12 dishes and a large pile of thin pancakes to put the food into. A persimmon, that she had picked the day before for dessert. She made all this food in one wok on one burner. She’s been a long time widow and is 63. Her kids (only one is at home) went to college and moved to Shanghai. She dries corn and persimmons on her roof. They have solar powered water heaters (everywhere in china) that cost $200USD. The food she served us is also her family’s lunch and also the dinner.

 

Went to Luoyang No. 5 Experimental School. The teacher who studied to speak English at university had very poor English, and so the kids don’t learn it well. We tried talking with them but mostly they didn’t understand us and giggled a lot. One of the girls was wearing a Mickey Mouse shirt but didn’t know the name. We saw Mickey on socks, shirts and in a school Powerpoint display, etc. We sang her the Mickey Mouse song. I am sure she thought we were crazy foreigners. This is a poor school and we brought pencils and paper and cookies for them. We learned that it takes until Junior High to learn all 5000 Chinese characters. At that point you can supposedly read the newspaper.

Thursday, October 20

Train to Xi’an. Luggage goes the night before on a separate carrier as there isn’t time to get it off the train at the stops. This was a 5 ½ hour train ride and we were the only non-Chinese aboard. IT goes through the yellow soil plateau with caves in the cliffs for storage and also dwellings. The dwellings are nice, cool in summer and warm in winter and have microwaves and refrigerators.

The toilet on the train is called “riding the horse”. There is a pole to hold onto and it’s just a hole in the floor, no water flow, rather gross.

On train, we were in first class which are sleeper cars with three bunks on two sides of a “section”. They provide blankets and a pillow. It only cost 87 yuan to go from Luoyang to Xi’an or about $13USD.

Train station is very basic, food available, large noodle bowls with boiled water available except that it isn’t really boiled and not that hot.

The whole ride was very polluted and smokey . Sulphur coal is used quite a bit. In other areas, wind, nuclear and hydro, but they won’t put nuclear near or in Beijing because the President lives there. That should tell you something.

Liu says new trains are due soon. We heard a lot about the high speed trains.

In Xi-an stayed at the Grand Noble Hotel.

Toddlers and babies often have slits in the back of their pants and are held over trash pails. Some have diapers too.

The wall surrounding the old city is from the 1300’s. We were staying inside the walled area.

Heard a talk about the government. The flag has 5 yellow stars. One is big and the other four are smaller. The four smaller ones are : the workers, the soldiers, the farmers and the intellectuals. They are holding up the big star which is the Communist party.

Also talked about Tibet. Road Scholar built a school in Tibet. It has a mountain border with India and Afghanistan and so it’s very important to the Chinese. That plus it has lots of resources. I doubt they will ever let it go, but then again who thought the Berlin wall would come down or that America would have an African American president or New York would finally get gay marriage laws passed. They give Tibet extra money in the form of higher pay and pensions ( 3 times Liu’s father’s pension) and claim this is to keep the Tibetans happy (not a chance…lots of soldiers, all Chinese—referred to as inland china) but mostly it is to bring in more Chinese so they can take a firmer hold of Tibet.

xianIn Xi’an, wandered around neighborhoods. Lots of little shops, sometimes grouped. There were about 15 sign shops, then veggie stores, small supermarkets, liquor stores, tea store and so forth. Everywhere we go there is a lot of rubble (taking down the old) and cranes (putting up the new). New highways, high speed trains, etc of which the Chinese are very proud. They see the differences. Reminded me of the fast growth in America during the 1950’s. I fear they might run into similar problems with housing subsidies, too much growth, environmental problems. Already the cost of living has gone up and what used to be made in China is now being sent to Laos and Vietnam where the labor costs are less.

 

 

Friday, October 21

Xi-an know for it’s pomegranates. Used to be wedding gift for many children but somehow, since the one child policy, it’s peaches.

 

warriors

Went to the terra cotta warriors. There are several pits and it’s truly awe-inspiring. They also discovered some bronze chariots that are on display. The place is enormous and they are still working on it.

 

Xi-an is famous for its dumplings and we went to a local restaurant for dinner that specialized in these. The duck filled ones were shaped like a duck and the pork ones had a pig’s face and the vegetable ones a leaf, etc. They were delicious and we sampled about 12 varieties. The skins are thin.

 

Saturday, October 22

Went to the university of Xi-an. Costs vary depending on the popularity of the major you choose. If you choose English, it costs 7-8,000 yuan a year (about 1120-1350USD) and 3-4000 a year (600-675USD) for a Chinese major. We heard a lecture at the University on Chinese history and culture. I took lots of notes but here are few interesting concepts:

Creation: egg broke open, humans were fleas generated from Pan Gu, who opened the sky. Next Nvwa, ancestor of mankind, made first humans of clay and fired them in a kiln. First try, underdone and those were the whites. Next only, overdone, and those are the blacks. Third try, just right and those were the Chinese.

We learned about the different dynasties, their rulers and accomplishments.

China has anywhere from 1.3-1.5 billion people in a country only slightly larger than the US which has about 20% of that population. Xi-an has 8 million. Was the original capitol city with the longest history, about 1100 years. Beijing only 500 years.

Major religions: 80 million Buddhist, 23 million Christian and Taoist and 23 million Muslim. This accounts for only approximately 10% of the population. The rest are atheists. Or, as Liu puts it, they have no religion, but they are very superstitious (although I am not sure of the difference :^). They believe in the importance of numbers and colors, etc.

In 1949 the marriage law was passed with only one wife. Before that there was polygamy. Also, women could now divorce.

In July 2011 the Communist party came out with a lot of the 7 top concerns:

  • Unfairness of development
  • Employment
  • Medicare
  • Fair chance for education
  • Property (housing problems)
  • Fair distribution of wealth
  • Anti-corruption

The party and the government are not the same thing. For instance, the government deals (or doesn’t) with the pollution problem.

The government has a central committee of seven who make the decisions. Liu believed it was a good system since things got done and compared it with America where we often get bogged down in political bickering. On the hand, he recognized the repression of the government but balanced it a bit with the fact that he felt is was very hard to rule a country of over 1.3 billion. They do use social media to oust corrupt officials. They can create scandal this way. But the web is monitored and sites are banned as is most truly serious dissent and also other parties. Other parties exist but they have no power at all.

After the lecture, we talked with students who were studying English at the university. They all want to travel to America to study.

The Chinese, and the Tibetans, do not have passports, only papers to travel within China. They can apply for business visas and school visas . Or probably can grease some officials palm. But otherwise, China tries to keep its people and its money in China. Most wealthier Chinese want their children to attend school abroad.

Next to the Shaanxi History Museum. Many pottery figures and bronze work.

Finally, a walk through the Muslim section, an indoor/outdoor affair down narrow lanes with amazing food stuffs. One that fascinated me was the persimmon pancake (and they have these enormous persimmons with a lot of pulp found only in China) that they mash into a paste (like a hummus) and fry.

We had dinner at a local restaurant in the Muslim section. The usual 12 or so courses.

Sunday, October 23

Early morning flight to Tibet. Met in lobby at 5:45am to get to the airport for the three hour flight. You could see the Himalayan mountain range, snow covered and vast, from the airplane. Arrived by noon at the Himalaya hotel where we were greeted with a big banner, dancers, scarves wrapped around our necks, the tossing of barley flour and dipping of fingers into barley beer (non-alcholic) and some tea and cookies.

We had to be specially “invited” and approved with a document with many stamps on it to get into Tibet.

Lhasa is about 11,000 ft in elevation and has an oxygen content of only 68% (ours is about 99% as it is determined by sea level). Most of us took our diamox, but it does slow you down to be in such thin atmosphere. We were told not to shower for two days as it takes the oxygen off your skin. Not sure about the importance of this. Also, offered a drink called Rhodiala, which is supposed to help with the altitude. IT is from a flower and the picture looked a bit like our Rhododendron.

Our local guide was Da Jun or Monday Goddess.

The yak is the most important animal. It only has bottom teeth. This is the only animal they butcher and use one for food for a month. The yak is also used for its wool and the nomads make their yurts from this, along with clothing. When it rains, the wool shrinks and keeps the rain out and when it is sunny, it opens up for air conditioning. Since it only rains 6-7 days in an entire year, I think it is probably just best for snow and they make their shoes from it and the yak hide, which is also used for glue. The dung is gathered, dried in geometric piles and used for heat scented with some juniper as there are few trees, except in some specific areas. They also make yak butter, yak butter tea, yak cheese and use the fat in temples and palaces in which they place wicks, not unlike votive candles in churches. It really smells. They make prayer necklaces from the bones too.

The monks also eat yak, or else they grow too weak, but they don’t kill any. They let the nomads bring them ones that die naturally.

They have cows for milk and they have a cross between a yak and a cow called a jo that produces more milk than either the yak or the cow.

Some signs to look for: If a Tibetan greets you by sticking out his/her tongue, it is a sign of respect. Pinky up is bad, thumb is good.

Barley an important product. Grown for tea, cereal, beer, flour, etc.

All vegetables are grown in hothouses, are very expensive and the nomads don’t eat them, but do partake of raw yak seasoned with spices.

Over 90% of Tibetans are Buddhist. Many wake at 4am to circle the city for 6 hours with their prayer wheels, stopping at places of religious importance and often prostrating. Near the temples, where many pilgrims from the countryside gather, they prostrate themselves 3-5,000 times for an entire day, stopping only for some food and tea and to rest a bit. Lhasa means holy land. Others walk miles and miles from the countryside, prostrating themselves along the way.

Farmers houses have two floors, the first for the animals and the second for the family.

Of 340,000 people in Lhasa, 20% are nomads and 30% are farmers.

Opposite the Potola Palace (the Dalai Lama’s winter home) is a large cell tower and lots of electronic stores.

Went to Norulingka, the Summer Palace of the Dalai Lama, also within compound other homes of the previous Dalai Lamas. The current on is number 14. Very simple inside, people stopping in different rooms, chanting prayers, rubbing prayer beads on the furniture, prostrating themselves, leaving money and adding more butter in the yak butter lamps.

Tibet is very dry, very very dry.

Lecture on Thangka painting, which takes seven years to learn. You start as an apprentice at age 13. Our speaker was a 4th generation painter. Some were painted and some embroidered, quilted or woven. Most relate to religious figures, but there are also medical ones (we saw this at the hospital and medical school) and also on historical persons lives.

Painter can’t have alcohol and will meditate before they paint. When the painting is done, a monk blesses it so no evil saints enter the painting.

Colors are mixed with water and glue from yak skin (similar to rabbit skin glue).

Monday, October 24

There are four sects of Buddhism and the current Dalai Lama is from the yellow hat sect. There were once 6000 monks at the Sera monastery that we visited but now (and after the brutality of the Chinese in 1959) there are 550 monks, a number limited by the government. Before 1959 this monastery was a school…now 1 master for every three students, and you started at age 3-5 years old. You are tested, and asked at several intervals (ages 15, 18, etc) if you want to leave. This is done before you are 18, although you can do it later on but to great disapproval.

tibet

There are six levels of the culture:

The lay people. They can marry.

Monks and nuns These get a professors or doctors degree.

The Protector ( grease the wheel)

Living Buddha. The Dalai Lama

Buddsatva: Disciple of Buddha

And the Buddha.

Monks don’t wear any underwear so when they are climbing steps ladies go first.

Monks stay in their cells in for about five months in the summer so that their feet or swinging arms do not touch and kill insects.

They have beautiful and large sand mandalas that are destroyed at the end of the month and cast into the river. Then it takes four monks only one day to make the new ones. They are large and complex and there are ridges underneath to keep the sand in place.

If you are a married woman in Tibet you wear an apron.

The monastery had a print shop where they created scriptures. They use a soy ink and wood blocks to do this.

Saw a solar powered tea pot.

Local lunch. Rice with Tibetan ginseng was my favorite. The ginseng was sweet like a currant. It only grows about 5000 meters and is in short supply and it was the end of its season. Also tomato soup with egg, potato with mutton, yak dumpling, tomato with eggplant, dumpling with veggie, bok choy.

Hotel Himalaya…ceiling in our room painted, in elevator every day a new rug announcing the day of the week.

They have a yogurt festival that lasts seven days. Yoghurt is white which is a sacred color. Yoghurt comes form the yak (it is delicious!), a very special animal, and yoghurt is nutritious and vegetarian.

Went to Tibetan medicine hospital for talk and display of thangkas. It takes five years of study. Trees are used to show the different paths and types of people, thus helping to define their illnesses and treatments. They still do some blood letting.

Dogs are sacred, cats are not and both wander freely everywhere.

Jokhang Temple. Most famous one in Tibet, built by the people.

Bought amber necklace from Linzhi regious, 980 KM east of Lhasa where there are large trees and bits of the tree are embedded in the amber.

Talk on Tibetan religion by Sonan, asst prof at the Tibet University. She also told the history of her family during the cultural revolution. Her father had been a professor and was sent to a farm to work. The Red Guard was made up of young ex-students (the universities were all closed since the teachers were sent to be re-educated) and these guards had resented the strictness of their teachers. They attacked her father by knifing him in the leg several times and he escaped for three months to heal and then returned. After the cultural revolution, he returned to being a professor. We heard other stories similar to this one.

Religion in Tibet: Bonism from 2500 years ago until the 7th C. Then Buddhism came in from India. The Tibetans combine Indian Buddhism with Bonism which is different from Thai and Indian Buddhism.

Bonism started with Shen, then 13 years old. Used divination and animist spirits to keep away evil spirits. Created a system of heaven, earth and the underworld.

Tuesday, October 25th

Bus to Yangpacken (Lato) about three hours north of Lhasa. We were stopped three times at guard stations. Shared yak butter tea with a nomadic family. They live in new houses provided by the govt (their old ones still exist too) for four months of the winter—these consist of one smaller entry room and then a larger room that serves as kitchen, entertainment center and bedroom-- and then in yurts or tents in the mountains. The village contained about 150 people. The houses are highly painted inside.

The women have three husbands (although Polygamy was outlawed they are lax the government is lax with the nomads). Often they are brothers. One theory is that this keeps the land from being split up. Only the woman knows (or maybe not) who is the father of a child, but since the husbands are usually related they feel linked to the child.

Water from the river is very clean, lots of yak and sheep. No real predators but when they are in the mountains there are bears and wolves and each family has two mastiffs to ward these off.

They only bathe once a year around the new year.

schoolWent to the Tulung Family school. Grades 1-3, all orphans or from familes too poor to care for them. There were 33 students. School has dorms for the students and the teachers “adopt” them. At new years, one teacher bought them all jackets. They survive on donations and government support. We brought pencils and paper and cookies, etc.

Da Jun told us about burial rituals. There is the the Sky burial which is about 80% used. The person dies, they break the bones, wrap the body and put it in a corner of the house for seven days. Then it is taken to a high spot, the body chopper chops it up,. Gies a signal to the vultures by burning juniper, and it is food for the vultures, which is considered the last thing a body can do for another animal.

 

Cremation is used when there is a bad disease, like aids.

Earth burial if death was an angry death, like by murder or fighting.

Water burial, for the very poor. Let the fish eat the body.

Stupa tomb for the Dalai lama, made of gold, silver, copper or wood depending on how important the lama and what he accomplished. He is put into it in a lotus position. This is all done so people can pay homage.

Believe in reincarnation so best to be a monk, teacher or doctor as these professions allow you to give much and help others. If you are greedy, you might come back as a pig, but if you are good pig, giving your farmer abundant food etc, you would reincarnate next time at a higher level.

Wednesday, October 26

potolaTo Potola Palace, Dalai Lama’s winter home. Since he has not been in Tibet, exiling himself to India since 1959, the palace is empty. There are 280 steps up to it and it is much more ornate than the summer palace.

Lunch at a local restaurant in the Muslim section. Great spring rolls and tomato soup.

On to Tibet Museum, very beautiful objects, including some incredible thangkas and jade. Some good examples of tri color pottery, also called egg and spinach. They are brown, cream and green, usually dripped.

Liu gave us a talk on his family and the cultural revolution. This is his version of recent history:

Mao gave land to the poor farmers so he was very popular. During the Great Leap Forward, everything was centralized by the government. You had to donate your cooking utensils to help support the iron and steel industry.

My note: Chinese have a more communal sense of doing things for the common good and sacrificing on its behalf. They have a long history of doing this, some by force but other times by collective drive.

Communes began, dads one dorm kids another etc but all ate together. Liu feels this broke up family life. Were told they were all equal but some were lazy so not enough food. Others thought, if he doesn’t do much work, why should I? Basically, no incentive to work. This lead to not enough food, called the Three Years Natural Disaster, 1958-1961, although there was nothing really natural about it. In cities they had food coupons because they needed the labor in the factories. Still, not enough food so had to scavenge.

Many people unhappy and say maybe Mao make mistakes. (Ya think?  Starved 50 million people to death)

Then Dung and Liu shared power, but Mao was pulling the strings. Dung and Liu became very popular so Mao started the cultural revolution and Dung and Liu were sent to work as farmers. There were economically intelligent and called capitalists. Liu killed himself during this time, but Dung held on.

Our guide’s grandparents had worked in a vegetable supply place and so had vegetables which they shared with others. Some of these others were wary of them as why did they have this when others did not? They were raided and everything was taken. They then had nothing, but were still raided and when there was nothing to be found, the Red Guard made his grandmother dance on top of a table where she died of a heart attack. After that, they were left alone.

In 1978 there was economic reform.

The one child policy was enacted. If you live in the city, only 1 child, in the country or if you are a minority you are allowed two. 92% of Chinese are Han and the rest are from 56 minorities. Liu is Han and his wife is a minority, Manchurian. They have one daughter and can have another child but say it is too expensive.

Chinese refer to relationship with America as “Competitive Friendship”.

Cultural revolution ends in 1976 when Mao dies. He names a successor who only lasts one year. Another one died. Then the Military General created a coup and Dung came back to power.

1978 Open Door Policy.

farewell tibetFarewell dinner with folk dances from all regions of Tibet with regional music. We had radish soup along with numerous other offering.

Thursday, October27.

Fly to Chongqing in Szechuan Province. Known for it’s Panda and hotpots.

Chongqing got so large it is its own province. 8 million in the city proper and 33 million in the province.

Went to zoo, saw Pandas, who are their own species. Also Tibetan bears.

 

Chongqing is very industrial, building cars (Ford, etc) and motorcycles. Went to art institute and saw traditional art, students’ works and leaf painting.

 

Chongqing is rainy and humid and tropical. Only day on the whole trip where we experience drizzle. Summer is the rainy season and it gets over 110 degrees some days. After the dryness and altitude of Tibet, it felt great.

Hot pot dinner. Center pot is very spicy and surrounding large pot is mild. You get tofu and mushrooms and lotus root and pumpkin and rice noodles and meat and veggies and throw it into to the pots to cook. Make sauce of garlic, sesame oil and soy for dipping. A lot of fun.

Onto the boat, the Victoria Katarina. Nice rooms, even have our own balcony. Holds 240 people . They humorously played “Oh Susanna” as our group embarked. Set off up the Yangtze river.

Friday, October 28

Got off at the town of Fengdu, where some of the 1.2 million people dislocated by the Three Gorges dam were relocated.

Went to the farmers market……duck blood tofu, pig snout and pig tongue were some of the featured items. A lot of varieties of tofu.

Met with a family that was relocated in 1999 who had originally lived 5 miles away. Eight other families from the same village moved here, but many scattered other places. They had to give up their land, for which they received 80,000 yuan. Bought a house, started a grocery downstairs. House cost them 90,000 Y or about 15,000 USD. But they also got 15,000 Y for each member of the family, and there were six, so they got another 90,000 Y. They had 80,000 Y to left to set up the house, furnish it, etc and now had to buy their own food, which they grew before. She would rather do the grocery work and the schools are better since she can from a small village. It was her choice of where to go, some went to Shanghai, et.

Does she feel she got a deal? She laughed, not so good. Some corruption, but it’s okay.

Grocery is open 7am-8pm seven days a week. She says that relocated people don’t have to pay any tax, at least for now!

Note: When I asked Liu about privacy and personal space, he couldn’t comprehend the concept. When someone else in the group told a Chinese woman that she and her husband lived in a large house and were surrounded by land, the woman remarked “You must be so lonely!”

Liu says he prefers a smaller city to the larger ones like Beijing. He lives in Shijiazhuang, with a population of only 10 million and is about 170 miles south of Beijing. He refers to this as a “small” city.

I must say, though, that we were never in areas where we experienced what the upper class lived in or felt about things.

Saturday, Oct 29

gorgesStopped in WuShan area. From the boat we went to a smaller ferry and then onto sampans--- wooden boats, with bamboo arches and some covering in places. We went up a smaller tributary. It was stunning. The Baning river used to be 1 meter deep before the dam and now was 90 meters deep. They used to pull the sampans by ropes but now are motorized. Went through the Longmen gorge, the dragon gate gorge and the Misty gorge.

The Ba people had hanging coffins, placed inside caves as high up as possible in the mountains along the rivers. These coffins are 2000 years old.

There were fishing areas with poles stuck in the water close to the shoreline and netting.

Sunday, Oct 30th

Tour of the Three Gorges Dam. Landed in Yichang, known for its stones, hydro power and tangerines, which were in season. Then flew to Shanghai and the Equatorial Hotel. Heard Albany was getting 4-5 inches of snow. It was 70 degrees in Shanghai.

 

There are 18 million people in Shanghai with another 6 million floaters…foreigners, etc. It takes 7 years to get your residency card and is a melting pot.

Monday, October 31

museumShanghai museum…great!

Car license costs ½ the price of car and are auctioned every month. You need one for the elevated highways. This is to supposedly keep down amount of traffic. There are five lanes of traffic each way on the elevated and about six at street level. As an aside, the cars are not small ones…BMW’s, etc.

The architecture is much more varied in Shanghai, making it a prettier city. I think they have managed to create every possible shape of skyscraper, along with unusual lighting.

Buildings need to balance Feng Shui, wind and water.

Vegetarian lunch, mostly different versions of tofu and mushrooms.

You have to go to college to become a tour guide. You need to speak English well. It is considered a good job.

Dinner was at a tourist restaurant as we were going to the Acrobat performance. There was a wedding party there and folks were dressed in tee shirts, etc. The bride and groom were all dressed up. This was a wedding for poor folks, on a Monday and in a cheap place. Most Chinese get married on the weekend, with auspicious numbers such as 6 or 8 in the date. Also, they usually get married before noon—getting married later often means it is a second marriage. The wedding was fairly westernized.

Went to see the Shanghai Acrobats: start training at 6 months by stretching their bodies. The performance was amazing and lively.

Tuesday, November 1

Our third anniversary of having met and look where we are! Frank still has a sore throat and I have an intestinal bug and don’t dare eat. So we opted out of the tour activities. Took a walk to the park and Ja Jing temple. Had a farewell dinner.

Two news items today:

7 billionth baby born. China and India lead in population with India soon to take the lead. Hard to imagine how many folks China would have now without the one baby policy. Soon India will take the lead on population.

Other item: Beijing so polluted that planes couldn’t land. We were lucky that we had four fairly clear days there. But this is a big problem. China uses a great deal of sulpur coal and will need to deal with it.

Wednesday, November 2.

Light rain (our only rain of the entire three weeks!) as we left Shanghai for the airport. Flight home was loooooooooooong and uneventful. The food was better going in this direction.

Need sleep and some antibiotics.
It was a truly amazing experience and I am changed by it. I have a new and more enlightened understanding of China and Tibet.

 

Notes: We did this trip through Road Scholar. It was beautifully arranged and all our needs were taken care of, no matter how small. Our guide Liuhao was caring and great at his job, and the local guides were very good and knowledgeable. The group we traveled with consisted of delightful, thoughtful and intelligent folks.