Beryl Staves Goes to Europe, 2016

 
[A message to : Susan (AKA Beryl…)  On behalf of all those who have had the unique opportunity to tour Europe and the British Isles through you posts… I want to thank you most sincerely.  I can think of no better traveling partner  – you made me feel I was right there and certainly enjoying your escapades…Welcome Home! ]
# 28
Sat. July 9, 2016
Ok Canada……I am back in Ottawa. Huge thank yous to everyone who helped get me through the various technical challenges…..so much for all the pre-planning and organizing I did !!

Jet lag is never really an issue for me,so I dove right into getting back into my life here.

My vehicle’s battery was dead for sitting 3 months without me, so it had to be cared for. Delivering souvenirs to a few folks has taken some time.

I am now dealing with a small mountain of laundry (definitely larger than a molehill) !!

And to be truthful, I have already begun a plan to go back……..there were a few places and people I didn’t get to see, and a couple of cathedrals and art museums.

For now though, I am going to enjoy my new collection of fridge magnets….there’s 54 of them…. and the 2 dozen books and magazines I swore I wouldn’t buy….I think that part was Beryl’s doing !!     My alter ego / pen name may have to become the scape goat …LOL  !!

I am also going to remember all the 20-something young men who bought me drinks.  I’m no cougar, but I never saw that kind of attention when I was that age!!

It will be impossible to forget all the beautiful cathedrals and art museums I got to wander through, to see for myself and in person, things I have only ever seen in books or movies.
To be able to live in those moments was phenominal.
I have always considered myself a lucky person, and this trip was a massive checkoff on the bucket list.
As Charlie Chaplin said, a day without laughter is a day wasted….truer words were never spoken….until the next time, thanks for letting me share my travels with you, Susan
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 # 27Monday, July 4th, 2016
I have been with my friends here in Grimsby England, and have toured all sorts of WW2 air bases from Bomber Command.
The 550 Squadron events have been absolutely delightful and educational.
The high light on Saturday had to be getting buzzed by a Spitfire. The pilot did a flyover for our group.
Michael and Sabine have shown me all sorts of places of local interest……this part of England is quite wonderful.
Today’s final event was a trip to Lincoln to see the International Bomber Command Center – still under construction but I was able to find my uncle’s name on the plaques.
Tomorrow (Tues) I am returning to Canada……yes, a few days early but travel has become quite difficult without my cell phone, so I have decided to pack it in.
I shall now owe apologies to several people who I promised to visit….but as MacArthur said in the Phillipines, I shall return, or was that Arnold Schwarzenegger in a Terminator movie ?
Anyway, by the time some of you see this, I shall be safely back in Ottawa, and having to think about doing laundry and getting back to work!!
But first I shall have to get a new cell phone !!  Wish me luck, and see you all soon !!  Susan

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# 26 Wednesday June 26 2016
It’s always amazing how quickly the world can change !!  
Last Friday I left Amsterdam to go to Brussels Belgium. What I didn’t know was that the country was having a general strike, which meant no buses or trams were running, and some trains were cancelled. It also meant museums were not fully staffed so some areas were completely closed. When I arrived in Brussels, put my suitcase into a storage locker, then walked to a large town square where the buildings were all trimmed in gold. It was quite spectacular. I managed to learn that the buildings lining the square are being renovated back to their look in the 1800’s. All I wanted to do was find some food, then the Rene Magritte museum. The square was lined with outdoor cafes – so I started walking around reading menus to decide which one I wanted to stop at.  No wait staff seemed interested in asking me to sit down, so I kept walking until a girl at a small place addressed me – and in I went. Turned out I had come across the best Greek food since leaving Winnipeg. Could not believe how absolutely delicious the antipasto, lamb kebab, rice and potatoes were. The older gentleman who served me got a big tip. (I’d been getting grumpy prior to eating) This meal turned my frown upside down !!
It took a bit of wandering – but I found the Magritte exhibit (it was open) and I had a lovely couple of hours there. Fortunately I wasn’t far from the train station, and I was staying at a hostel in Brugge, about an hour away.  The train I planned to take was cancelled, and the next train turned out to be a milk run – so my hour trip turned into over 2 hours to Brugge. And of course, there was now a fight on to get a  taxi !!  I don’t mind waiting BUT the taxis were very disorganized in their system of dropping off and picking up passengers – so I had some strong words with a couple of them. I didn’t just get angry and complain, as that does no good. I also provided a solution to the issues being faced. I felt slightly ashamed for losing my temper, but there were some older folks waiting for a taxi with crutches, and it just didn’t seem right !!  Anyway, the next 2 taxis along I gave away, and then one of the fellows I had spoken sharply to turned back up. I had told him I would tip him well, and I did. Everything was going to work out in the end no matter what, but I think this is the most frustrated I have been this whole trip. 
Brugge is a UNESCO site, and my hostel was in the middle of it. I went for a walk and was at a castle type gate listening to a fencing lesson taking place in the “castle”, and then I walked along a canal and sat under a real windmill – because I could. It was all quite surreal.
But the best was yet to come – there were a lot of younger party types staying at the hostel. It was somewhere in the middle of the night when a staff person opened the door, and put 2 guys in, saying here are your beds. Are you OK? One guy immediately laid down. The other one went back out into the hall to throw up, and pass out on his hands and knees. For whatever reason, the door was propped open, so when I raised my head, I could see this – and I was impressed. Never saw anyone do that before. Staff kept coming to check on him, and eventually they left him on the floor sleeping. The next morning I asked about the strength of Belgian beer and apparently it rings it at 9% !!  You can work out the rest !! going to happen?
Saturday morning, left Brugge for Ieper (Belgium spelling) and Ypres (French spelling) . I wanted to make sure I saw the 8pm ceremony at Menin Gate. It’s very famous because it takes place every night, and this is the 100th anniversary of WW1. I had poppies  to place next to Hall’s name but it was so high up one of the walls, I ended up tucking the poppy at the bottom of the stack of names. Who is Hall? Back in 1914 at the start of WW! he lived in Winnipeg on Pine Street. He along with 2 others from Pine Street, Clarke and Shankland, all performed like true heroes, and won Victoria Crosses. (and that is why they changed the name of Pine St to Valour Road) Anyway, his was one of the bodies never found, so his name is left to remember. 
The Flanders Fields museum was remarkable not only for the amount of information it had but also the number of artifacts on display. The town was bombed to the ground. After the war Churchill wanted to leave it as a reminder of the war, but the townsfolk came back and decided to rebuild. The entire town was rebuilt as it was pre-1914. These folks have got spunk !! Even today bodies and ammo come to the ground’s surface.
Monday, I left Ieper to go 30 minutes in a northeast direction to change trains and go south for 30 minutes to Lille France. In Lille, I got to see the Fan Zone for the Euro Cup ( so sad I couldn’t stay for a while, Italy was playing Spain)   I paid the last of my Euros to take the Eurostar train to London, and 2 hours later – voila !!
When I arrived at my London hostel, the England / Iceland game was on.   How to phrase this gently – when England didn’t win, the bar emptied quicker than if someone had yelled Fire !!   
I got a couple of recommendations about internet cafes, that no longer were in business, decided to carry on, and headed north to Grimsby.
I am now safely ensconced with my friends here and in a couple of days am going to an event for 550 Squadron that my uncle flew Lancasters with in WW2. 
The sky was bluer this morning, but its raining again. Tonight we are going for supper and a quiz night at a thatched roofed pub built in 1371. Who cares about rain with an adventure like that going to happen !!?   Cheers, Susan 
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# 25 Thursday June 23 2016

Amsterdam – constant rain, but that’s what umbrellas are for. Although one night my shoes were so wet, I put them on an air vent to help them dry, and they were still wet the next morning !

To change things up a bit, I went to Rotterdam in celebration of the Row by Row quilt shop hop (an annual event to encourage travellers to get off the big roads and into small towns to support small business). I have participated 5 years already, and with the event happening in Europe this summer, I am excited to be here. Rotterdam , the city, was gorgeous, full of amazing new architecture. The quilt shop I went to was on a tram line, and I arrived easily enough. Boy, were they surprised to see me coming in the door !! They made me coffee. We had conversations in quilt-speak, because that appears to be a universal language !! Who knew ?

 

I wasn’t a very good tourist in Rotterdam. Once I was done at the quilt shop, I headed back to the train station, and back to Amsterdam. I still had a short list of museums to see – the Hermitage, with an exhibit about Catherine the Great, including a replica of her crown. She was quite the gal, and loved the finer things in life; especially taking over for her husband as ruler !! Now she got to rule the country and acquire art and jewels and all those things none of us can live without !!

 

Last Wednesday, I spent the day in the Jewish quarter – learned more about the religion, sat in the same theatre Dutch Jews were rounded up in before they were sent on to camps, and at the Dutch Resistance museum, learned a whole lot of history as to how the Dutch fought against German occupation. It was all amazing.

On my walk back I was going a down a narrow side street (all the streets are narrow side streets) and suddenly passed a beautiful brunette standing in the window. I thought she must have just come over to the window to shut her drapes – then I passed a 2nd window with a 2nd girl – then the light bulb went off – I stopped and looked around – and yes, I was in the Red Light District !!  And when I came out at the next cross street, saw all the sex shops. Surprise !!  Felt stupid for about 2 seconds, but then carried on.

 

Thursday, last day in Amsterdam, still raining, did laundry in the morning, and went to Rembrandt Square and house in the afternoon. Rembrandt is a great painter – beloved especially by the Dutch since he is a home boy, and his painting the “Night Watch” has its own room at the Rijksmuseum – the better to see it. In Rembrandt Square. there is a large statue of the artist on a tall pedestal, but the best part is that each figure in the Night Watch painting has been done as a statue, and they are all placed at the base. Makes for a terrific “photo op”.    Rembrandt made a lot of money in his time so he bought a large house, but then he went bankrupt and it was all sold at auction – however, lists were made of the contents, so fast forward to present day – it was possible to accurately put the house back together as it had been. Curators even found pottery in a hole in the garden that Rembrandt had used in one of his pictures! That was so cool.

 

I’ve ended the week in Amsterdam on a high note (no pun intended) (the smell is quite horrible) and I’m off to Belgium – cheers, Susan

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# 23 Monday June 20 2016

Apparently today is the first day of summer, but you can’t tell that by the weather here in Amsterdam…..it is raining !!

So, last Thursday morning I left Cologne Germany for Amsterdam. I had found a hostel 5 minutes west of the main train station, next to the next train station called Amsterdam Sloterdijk. This hostel just opened a couple of months ago, and it is very different. It is made up of 5 older Swiss sleeping train cars built in the 1960’s, so there’s a lot of wood and brass fittings, and clever little shelves and hooks. It sits on a siding right next to the train station, although the passing trains are so quiet, you don’t notice them. I walk 2 minutes to the train station, another 5 minutes to Amsterdam Centraal station, and I am in the middle of all the action in the old town.

Anne Frank House, seems to be the biggest tourist place in town. If you want entry between 9am and 3:15pm on any day, you have to book a ticket online. Otherwise you get into a very long line that goes for several blocks and hope for entry. I had heard horrendous stories about getting in, but online ticket sales are sold out for several MONTHS in advance…..so I got into line at 3pm and hoped for the best. School groups come from all over Europe to see this place, and I had such a group from Germany in front of me. Someone must have been looking out for me because at 4:30 I was buying a ticket and going in. The museum has been done well, and you go through several rooms in the building next door that gives info in case you aren’t aware of the story !!  Then you go into the actual house, and up the stairs into the annex rooms through the actual bookcase. The rooms where the family hid are so small. We have bathrooms and walk-in closets that are larger. It was a most amazing experience !!

Friday, I travelled to Rhenen, a small town east of Amsterdam. I was going to a ceremony where a commemorative marker was being put into a farmer’s field to note the crash of a Sqn 550 Lancaster and its crew in 1944. The contact person I had for this event had offered to pick me up at the train stn and give me a ride, but I had declined because I wasn’t exactly sure what time I would be arriving . I got to Rhenen, walk up the hill to an Esso gas stn to ask them to call a taxi for me, and was told there are no taxis in Rhenen. I was able to tell the lady about why I was in town but it meant nothing to her, and I had minimal contact info with me (no phone numbers because my phone is dead) A young guy (Andre) came in, and she asked him if he knew anything. Of course he had a phone with Google maps, so this helped a bit but then he called someone who gave him more info. At that point he asked if I had come from England for this event, and when I told him I had come from Canada, he drove me to the town hall, where everyone was meeting, and gave me history of the town on the way. Once I arrived at the town hall, I had now become a minor celebrity (because I am from Canada, and am not one of the invited guests) so I was introduced to the Mayor, the Canadian military representative and her husband who have come in from the Hague for this, and a few others. We had coffee, then got into cars to go to the farmer’s field.   The group was now considerably larger,….. a class of Dutch school children who lay a wreath and in future will be responsible for ensuring the marker does not become overgrown with weeds. There were also 4 men wearing the uniform of the Seaforth Highlanders, which is a Canadian regiment, but they are Dutch men, and not allowed to join a foreign army, but are honourary members. Local citizens were there, a military representative from the RAF in England, a Dutch military representative who played the Last Post, and the media.  After the ceremony, Toon, who has adopted me, took me to the local Commonwealth war graveyard and then to the train station. This was an experience I shall never forget.

Saturday, I walked for 7 hours without a break…..stupid of me, but there were so many things to see and do.

  • I found a specialty store that sells nothing but toothbrushes, and all things dental.
  • I toured a houseboat museum – a huge 100 year old houseboat moored in one of the canals. It was much roomier than the rooms the Frank family lived in !!
  • I found a couple of quilt shops !!
  • I found Dam Square with the Dutch war memorial, and shops for tourists !!
  • I found the Delft museum – Holland’s iconic blue and white pottery.
  • I found the tulip museum..and learned all about growing tulips.
  • I found a local street market, open only on Saturdays, and where you can buy foodstuffs, and clothing and furniture !!

Sunday, decided to take things a bit slower….as if I actually will…..and went to the Rijksmuseum, Holland’s national museum, and since its light until 10pm, also took a canal cruise. The canal cruise was great fun, especially when we ran into a couple of traffic jams when boats on the crossing canals and our boat wanted to be in the same place at the same time.  Boy, that brought a whole new meaning to life !!

So now you know why I have not been sending messages. Happy Father’s Day (belatedly) to all the dads reading this!! I am in Amsterdam for a few more days, before I make my way to England. Susan

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# 22 Wednesday June 15 2016

As I have access in an internet cafe, and am departing Germany tomorrow morning, I will finish this chapter…..once I picked up my new beau Charly at the Steiff factory, I took a train back to Ulm, then about 3-4 hours north to Koln / Cologne. The locals stick to the Germanic spelling, which confuses me a bit, but I respect their choice. It has been cloudy and rainy, which can make for some miserable sight seeing, but I have an umbrella and spunk !! I didn´t have a hostel booked, but found one by chance as I was looking for the local tourist information office.

Koln is on the Rhine River, and in 1945 was bombed to the ground…….all except for the Koln cathedral which they call the Dom. When you see the size of this place and its twin spires, you wonder how it was missed being bombed to rubble !!  It´s a beautiful church, and the restoration work continues. At the back of the church grounds there are pieces that were knocked off during the war, and at some point they will be put back in place. Inside the holy doors to the left is a boat that immigrants have used to cross the Mediterranean. It´s not that big, nor does it look particularly seaworthy, but it is there to remind folks of the journey some have undertaken to get to freedom.

When I was in Rome, I learned this is a special holy year, and St Peters Basilica had a set of holy doors one could pass through and be reborn (spiritually). It was mentioned that there were 4 other sets of holy doors, and Koln cathedral is one of those chosen churches.

The front desk guy at my hostel said the chocolate museum was a touristy thing, but someone back in Ottawa recommended it, so I went. I think anyone who lives in Ottawa has made a trip out to Smiths Falls to tour the Hershey factory when it was there, but this museum was sponsored by Lindt, a whole other level of chocolate !!  I was able, for a relatively small sum, to custom order a chocolate bar made just for me !!  Now that´s a souvenir !!

For the past two nights, I have been eating schnitzel, creamed green cabbage, and potatoes, and watching Euro Cup soccer games.

Last night, I also spent some time looking for accommodation in Amsterdam. It is fitting that I am going to be staying in a converted Swiss railway car.

Every time you make a trip with the Eurail pass, you have to record it and send the record to Eurail at the end of your trip so they can see how folks have made use of the pass. I would love to see the looks on their faces when they get my report…..I am on page 3 !! I am loving the train travel !!

Thinking of changing my name to Casey Jones ….lol….Susan

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# 21 Tuesday June 14 2016

On Sunday the sky was clouded over and it kept raining off and on, but this didn´t stop me from going to the Marienplatz to see the glockenspiel work at 11am. I actually thought about just checking it out on Youtube, but the actual experience is way better. Met some more of my Australian cousins, and we had a great time waiting for the clock.  And the wait was worth it !!

There is also a very nice glockenspiel in Kitchener Ontario, but not in a building quite like the Munich town hall, the newest one built in the late 1880´s !!!

Then off to Dachau, the name of the village and the first concentration camp that was built in 1933. The gate house and gate going into the compound are actually quite small, and I found that very intimidating. (in my work life, I worked in mens´penitentiaries in Canada and never felt like I did going into Dachau camp)  It took me 4 hours to walk through the main building that is now the museum, see the short film, walk the grounds including a barracks, and the crematorium. I was definitely in shock when I left.

On Monday, I had to be on a tour bus by 8am to see two of King Ludwig´s castles – Linderhof (small) and Neuschwanstein (unfinished) King Ludwig was considered to be a bit of an odd duck, definitely eccentric, and was a huge fan of Louis 14th of France……so he built this smaller castle called Linderhof with Versailles in mind. There was a spot in the front of the castle where you can look over a fountain and up a hill with a double staircase that reminded me of San Simeon In California. Hearst may have been inspired by Linderhof !!

No bus tour is complete without a quick shopping break…in the village of Oberammergau…known for lots of interesting thins ( for another time).

Then on to Neuschwanstein…..Holy Cow !!  My interest was in seeing where all the art was stored during WW2. Frankly, I can´t even imagine how vehicles made it up the side of the mountain this place is built on !! It was all quite incredible.

From the village below the castle, you can get a bus that takes you 2/3 of the way up the mountain, then you walk (they called it downhill, but they lied) the rest of the way to the entrance. I told Denis, from South Africa and on my bus, that this whole event would become something funny…..but at the time, I thought I was going to choke out a lung !!  I´ve been babying the right leg for 2 weeks by walking as little as possible and definitely no hills, and it showed. Later our tour director told us we had climbed up and down over 300 steps, although it felt like a whole lot more !!!

Arrived back in Munich about 6:30pm, and our tour guide pointed out the Oktoberfest grounds where they will begin erecting the tents July 1st, and it will be the end of Sept before they are all up. These folks take drinking beer very seriously !! But I got on a train to Ulm to stay the night at a really sweet small hotel.

This morning I was on a 30 minute train ride to see the Steiff bear factory. That´s right folks…..Steiff bears, because they were the first soft toy for children, and her brother invented the movable limbs. And there really is a set of red bear paw prints that go from the train station to the museum and factory. I started smiling the minute I began walking and haven´t stopped. And there is a new man in my life….his name is Charly….well there wasn´t a fridge magnet to buy !!

At this writing in Cologne Germany, and have 8 nights booked in Amsterdam in an old Swiss railway car , now a hostel.

But must close, my hotel doesn´t have a TV, and I have to find a bar to watch tonight´s Euro game in…..have you caught your breathe yet??  Susan

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# 20 ( really !!)  Saturday June 11, 2016

So last Thursday, I departed Krakow Poland going to Prague Czech Republic. Both these countries use their own currency (ugh)  so I was busy at the Krakow train station trying to spend what I had left in Polish zloty.  I bought a couple of lotto tickets and gave them to the 2 girls in the tourist info office. They have been so helpful to me both of my visits to Krakow. They were tickled !!

Note to Trish and the ladies of my book group – lots of Queen Annes lace in the Polish and Czech countryside, but didn´t see any Monarch butterflies.

I´m getting the hang of crossing borders. Watch for the river…its likely the border. And then another conductor comes checking tickets, so I know I´ve crossed the border !

At my train change in Katowice Poland, I gave all my Polish coins to one of the cleaning women in the station. Not interested in bringing home loose change.

Just a couple of stops before Prague, a guy snuck on to the train.  Still can´t figure out how he did it, but the conductor caught him, although he took off before she could grab him. Just some 20-something tourist trying to save money !!

Arrived in Prague later than I usually like to show up (in the dark) but remembered to ask the taxi driver how much it would cost to get me to the hostel. Once settled, went to the bar in the basement and found all sorts of people – some guys from Toronto, a mom and her daughter from England (and I am showing up for the shepherd´s pie) and an older man who used to live in Vancouver and now is in Mexico. You never know who will show up in Prague………anyway, my friend Beryl was enjoying her glassesf wine and closed the bar.

This was a very short night for sleep, as I was leaving early for a train to Munich. Friday morning and half asleep, I didn´t ask the taxi driver how much to the train station and when we arrived he named a price that I might of given him if he hadn´t already padded the charge !!  Didn´t feel like arguing that early in the morning.

When I did get into my seat for Munich, I took the opportunity to nap most of the way.( I blame Beryl !!)

lMunich – arrived about 4pm, so had lots of time to orient myself, and get to the hostel which is spitting distance from the train station. Very first thing on my agenda – buy a soccer shirt for Bayern Munich. My favourite Dutch player plays for them !

At the tourist info office, it was recommended I go to the  Augustiner BiergartenThe Augustiner brewery began in 1328, and is one of the 6 breweries in town. This is an important detail as Munich is the home of Oktoberfest, and only breweries who are in Munich are allowed to sell their beer there. Apparently last year, the city had over 6 million visitors, and at 10 euros a liter of beer, everyone makes a whole lot of money !!  I stopped trying to do the math after 6 million visitors !!

Anyway, I was suspect of a place on the tourist map and recommended by the tourist office, But, locals go there as well as tourists. The place was crazy busy and I was wondering what all the fuss was about the place, and then I got my food…..fricking Bavarian heaven !!! Too bad my German ancestors weren´t from Bavaria. I could totally claim this one !!

Saturday, (today), had a ticket on the hopon/ hopoff bus. Part of the route was shut down due to a street festival somewhere in the city, but no problem. Once I did the tour, I headed back to the BMW factory. Like Volkswagon, they have a few brands……..BMW, mini Cooper (English) and Rolls Royce (English). Their complex, while gorgeous and high tech, (they spent 50 million euros on it) and its next to the factory that builds all BMW engines wasn´t quite as cool as VW, but this year marks 100 years of BMW, so they were celebrating.

In the museum were all kinds of BMW cars and motorcycles …after all in 100 yrs, thats a lot of models.  I did notice that they have used the same logo since day one !!  Who does that?

In the showroom, I headed directly for the Rolls Royce section – my opportunity to get up close and personal with the cars,or so I thought. The 2 vehicles on display were roped off and you can´t get anywhere near them. But Beryl did !!!!!  There is a new model, only 2 months old called Dawn, Dawn has front and back seats but only one door on each side of the car, and it opens like a suicide door. So cool !!  Nina,( that woman is going to be in my will for this one)  let me into the car area. I was the immediate envy of all sorts of guys standing outside the rope !!  Can´t even downplay that one !!  She and I had a wonderful time checking out the wood panelling on the dash, the handpainted trim stripe, the roominess of the back seat,  And then Beryl took over – she signed up to receive more info about the vehicle, because of course this is what Beryl does !!!

I have a couple more days in Munich before I head north to the Netherlands. Who knows what will happen next? I hope to see the Mercedes and Porsche enclaves in Stuttgart.

Susan

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# 19 Wednesday June 08

Two quick stories –

the first as told to me by Les, the bus driver. When he was a Little boy, his grandfather told him about the Katyn masscre, which involved Soviets killing 20,000 Polish army generals, majors, etc. Later on, he was on a school trip and the teacher told the students to turn to a page in their books. He raised his hand and said there was a mistake in the book. The teacher asked what, and Les said the date of the Katyn was not 1942 but 1940 and by the Soviets not the Germans.

Poland at this time was under Soviet rule, and he was sent to the head master’s office, where some Soviet pólice came to question him. They asked where he got his info from. He told them his grandfather told him the story. They asked where the grandfather was, and he replied dead 2 years ago. So Les was suspended from school for 2 weeks, and sent home. When he told his parents what had happened, his mother began to cry and his father began to chainsmoke. The next morning at 5am, the Soviet pólice barged into their home and took the parents away for questioning !!

The second story is from my 20-something waitress tonight. All students when they reach 14 years, have to go to Auschwitz to learn the story. She had grandfathers in Auschwitz so feels a connection to the camps. One survived the camps and one did not !!

And now I feel sad, Susan

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# 18 Wednesday June 08 2016

This past Sunday had to leave Berlin to go back  to Poznan Poland. Beryl was starting to break too many hearts, and that could have only led to trouble !!

Poznan has an old center square that is just like a fairyland to see. First is the legend of the goats…..once upon a time there was to be a feast to celebrate a new town hall, and venison was on the menú, but the cook accidentally burnt the meat so he sent out a boy to find more meat to cook. The boy saw 2 white goats playing in a field, captured them , and brought them back to the kitchen. The goats sensed what was going to happen next, so ran out, and were found on top of the new town hall.  And now, everyday when the clock strikes noon (and only at noon) figures of 2 white goats come out of the town hall clock, butt heads 12 times, then go back in until the next day. This is a fun story !!

Once I got settled in Poznan, headed over to the square. I had missed the noon show, but the merchant houses and town hall were amazing buildings to see, and there were some vendors and cafes and the weather was wonderful.

I had lunch in the square – real pierogi – haven’t had any good ones since I left Manitoba !!  And lemonade with chunks of lemons and mint sprigs, and a chocolate cake to die for !!  The batter was just thick enough, and not fudgey.

Monday – got a lady taxi driver back to the train station. I suspected she was giving me the long route, especially when I checked what I had paid yesterday, but the best part was when she printed out the receipt with a flourish as if to make it oficial..So small tip for her !!

It took most of the day to get to Krakow, so once I was settled, I did the only thing I could , got on a tram with my bags of laundry, and found a laundrymat. This is tricky as most folks take their laundry home to their parents on the weekends.

Tuesday was a me day…..had a mani/pedi at the same spa as last week’s massage, then some retail therapy to buy some pants. I continue to lose weight, and yet know that when I get home I will still not look like a shadow of myself !!

Wednesday….big day !! Auschwitz/Birkenau camps.  A 20 passenger Mercedes mini bus picked me up before 8:30 and our driver kept us entertained and informed pointing out all manner of history and Polish custom on the trip out.  I now know what bunkers from WW1 look like. Auschwitz was not as I expected, and our local tour guide took us through it in an hour – definitely a lot too quickly, but the museum seems to be focused on group tours and how to get as many as possible through. We had a short break then drove over to Birkenau.  I began the tour but when our guide wanted us to move a kilometre further into the camp, I headed back to the bus. And I think I got the better part of the deal. Les, our bus driver, was born and raised in Krakow, and boy did he have stories…..about the Nazis, about the Communists, about the Soviet secret pólice. I made sure I took notes when the rest of the group returned. (in case you ask, the camps were horrifying.

Tomorrow I return to Prague, but only as a stop over on my way to Múnich. Then I will be in a better train network , and moving about more quickly…….so fasten your seatbelts, I am on the move !!  Susan

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#17 Sat June 04 2016

This is going to end my tour of eastern Germany. On Wed June 01, it was raining so hard in Berlin , that I was going to refuse to go outside. I was still drying out from the day before. At my age, and when you are already wrinkled, getting pruny in the rain is an event to be missed. So I gave it a couple of hours, and then felt so guilty for wasting a day I went walking…..and using my new umbrella made in France !!  I look  tres chic !!

I am in mixed dorm rooms, and tonight´s roomies are 3 guys from New Zealand.They are a hoot !!

Thursday morning at 7am, all their cell ph alarms went off, and no one moved !!  I suspect they must have had a really good time last night. For me on Thurs, I did a yellow and purple hopon hopoff bus tour of Berlin. The city is so large, and I find using these bus tours to be a great way to get an overview of the city, then I can figure out where I want to go back to.

One of the best parts of the purple bus tour was that we were delayed about an hour because there was a demonstration at the Berlin main train station. Apparently all the best demonstrations happen there, and according to the bus driver, almost every day……..but the police come in in large numbers, close off all pertinent roads, and then wait for the demonstration to finish. Made sense to me.

Another neat part of the tour was seeing the painted bears…..Winnipeg has painted bears, and Calgary has cows, and Hamburg Germany has Hans Hummel…..but these large expressions of art are so much fun to see !! Now that is a fridge magnet worth buying, but they don´t make them (sad face).

Oh yeah….and the Berlin Wall…….Holy Crap !!!!!  There is a lot of raw rebar that has been left standing in the ground, as well as the painted piece that is now designated as a historical site. Talk about history being in your face !!

Parts of the commentary were annoying especially when the voice would say…”and this building was bombed during WW”…..it got a little repetitive.

Friday, yesterday, I made my pilgrimage to VW Heaven.  Wolsburg, which never appears in tourist guide books was so cool. Wolfsburg is only an hour by train west of Berlin. First I went to the VW car museum, and it was so wonderful. I got my driver´s licence in a dark green Beetle, and then there was the 69 red Beetle and 71 Westphalia. For me this was as close to a religious experience as I think a person can get about an automobile.

Then I went to the Autostadt, which is next to a VW factory on steroids (seriously, I dont think Chrysler or Ford have plants this size) ánd the Autostadt is VW´s answer to Disneyland for car people !!  The technology and cleverness and money it must have cost to create this place !!

So I went to the ticket counter, and asked if there was a senior discount (yes) and then the girl said there is also a discount if you belong to a car club. I said I used to , but no longer. Then she asked why….and I explained to her that I was divorced and he got the vehicles in the settlement. This made her slightly speechless, but she recovered nicely !!  LOL  Somehow I don´t think she gets that answer very often.

I had not realized that the VW Group covers more than VW and Audi. It also has Bugatti, SEAT (Spain), Skoda (Russian), Lamborghini, Porsche, and I thought they also had a piece of Suzuki, but maybe not enough for them to warrant having their own pavilion.

Each brand of car has its own building where a person can check out the vehicles and learn about the new technology that VW is developing.

The place also has lots of benches and restaurants, so you can take as many breaks as you want or need.

The “piece de resistance” are the twin car towers where cars are kept for the owners who want to pick up at the factory. Apparently this occurs 400 times per day. Can you imagine?

Another highlight is that you have the opportunity to take any of about 10 test drives through obstacle courses, and the prices are cheap, so a person would have to be crazy not to do this……..or in my case, realize my drivers licence is not with me !! (another sad face)

This was a great day !!!

Today, I took the train to Hamburg Germany because they have a German Immigration Center there, and was the site of over 5 million departures to America, Brazil and other parts of the world. The genealogical research center they advertised on the museum web site turned out to be 5 computer stations connected to Ancestry.com. This was a tad disappointing but I managed to overcome my disappointment with potato pancakes with applesauce, before heading back to the train station and back to Berlin.

Over the next few days I am back to Poland and the Auschwitz Concentration camp, then turning back east to see Munich. I´m still safe and managing with minimal electronics. Beryl is enjoying having drinks bought for her by 20-somethings, but staying out of trouble !!   LOL  Cheers, Susan

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# 16 Wed June 01

Last Saturday night in Prague, the ballet Romeo and Juliet was being performed just around the corner from my hotel, and the ticket price was very inexpensive compared to Cdn standards, so this was my chance to see the Czech National Ballet Company. It was good, although they danced to pre-recorded music which must have been tricky !!

Sunday morning, I was on the train to Krakow Poland, and if I hadn´t met the Everitt family from Vancouver I would have missed my 1st train change. I shall have to devote a separate email about them as they are super special people. Anyway, my 1st train was running late, but the Czech train folks held train #2 to let all of us on. We literally jumped into the 1st train door we saw. I got off at my next stop and thought I had an hour, but again literally jumped into train #3 to Krakow. Found the tourist info desk asap, and asked about getting to Auschwitz the next day. Turns out you HAVE TO book your ticket online, and arrange transport separately through a bus company in Krakow to get there. Its an hour and a half each way without traffic ! So now I´m feeling screwed because no one really tells you that only 10 tickets per day are available at the camp gate, so just going out there is not a good idea !!

This is where that flexibility I spoke of a couple of months ago comes into play…..the next day, Monday, I did the local hopon/hopoff bus tour and got a bonus…..entry into the Oskar Schindler factory was free. The whole place has been transformed into a museum telling the history of Poland and up to the present. It was all amazing, and when a person gets to the Oskar Schindler part, there is a large plexiglass cube filled with the tin pots and bowls they made. You can walk inside the cube and the wall is covered with the names of all the Jewish people who were on his list. If you haven´t seen the movie, then go find it…..an amazing piece of history !!

Not to have anyone feel sorry for me, but I have a new disability !!   LOL   I´ve been using my right leg to push my suitcase up into the trains, and have bruised the bone to the extent where I have a limp, and bought a tensor bandage. Its my own fault…..I have the bones of a 20 year old…..the bone density test said so…..but I forgot that even 20 year old bones can be injured !!  LOL

This has got to be great material for a book !!  LOL

Tuesday morning I was up at 3:30 am because my train to Poznan Poland left just after 5am. There’s an old movie from 1963 called “The Great Escape.” It was about these prisoners of war who tunnelled their way out of the Stalag they were being held in, and tried to make their way back to England.  Only thing is, Hollywood made the movie so all the officer prisoners you see on screen were American actors. In reality, the men were British and Canadian. In the movie and reality, most of the escapees (I think 70 some) were re-captured, and then the Nazis shot a bunch of them just  because they wanted to, and as a warning to anyone else who thought about escaping. The men were originally buried at the Stalag, but after the war, their bodies were re-interred and moved to the Commonwealth Cemetery at Poznan. I went to lay poppies, and stop to pay my respects. Then I made my way back to the Poznan train station to go on to Berlin.

At the train station I had a 2 hour wait, so I had a chance to eat, but just as the departure board was about to show the platform my train was departing from, the electricity went out for about 5 minutes. That created a bit if a stir. Europeans use trains like we use our cars. The lights came back on, but getting to my platform unfortunately involved racing/limping through a torrential downpour, which was so strong, not only was I soaked to the skin but the contents of my suitcase were also wet !! UGH !!  3 1/2 hrs sitting in wet clothes and shoes. But its all part of the adventure !!

The Berlin HBH (main train stn)  is the size of a small city, and even has showers. The tourist info lady mentioned that Berlin is 3 times the size of Paris, which only added to my sense of being overwhelmed !!  I got bus directions to my hostel, then took a cab (Mercedes) because my sense of direction is still gone. My hostel is in East Berlin, but there was no trace of the wall where I travelled. One of my roommates is a girl from Brazil and we had dinner together.

I´m in Berlin for a few days, then have to go back to Krakow to tour Auschwitz, so will stop at this point.

After 8 weeks, still can´t believe I am here !!  And I saw on a sports channel today that next Monday is the Stanley Cup final…..Hockey in June is just wrong !!   Susan
ps- Beryl still misses the cell phone and everything it has on it !!

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#15 Sat May 28

This shall be quick as the keyboards keep getting crazier to navigate.

Vienna Austria was nice. I took the hopon hopoff bus tour to ensure I got a great overview of the city. But the bigest deal and check mark for me was seeing the Spanish Riding School and the Lippizanner stallions. The arena they use is actually quite small, but they were fascinating to watch and it was only morning exercise.

I have now acquired a small alarm clock so I can tell time. Rogers doesnt send replacement phones to Europe.

I have been in Prague today and it is wonderful. Most of the city is a UNESCO heritage site, and I could see why. They also discussed leaving Communism on their hopon hopoff bus tour. As I was only here for today I tried to cover as much ground as possible.

Prague is supposed to be a cheap place to travel to, but I did not find that at all, and they dont take the Euro so doing mental money conversions has been a hoot. My hostel was not available so am staying in a hotel tonight that is costing over 3100 CZK.

Almost forgot, when I came out of their train station this afternoon, I had a car show going on in front of me. Did someone yell Squirrel?  I spent about an hour looking and taking notes about all kinds of cars I have never seen or heard of before, although the oddest ones were the American cars. Did  not expect to see a Ford Mustang or Cadillac Eldorado from the 60s. A lot of the cars were from Russia or other parts of Europe. No one really spoke English and I have no Czech so I wrote 1971 VW Westphalia on my notepad, and pointed to myself………made a whole lot of new friends.

And by chance I discovered that Alfons Mucha, a contemporary of Henri Toulouse-Lautrec was from Prague, and I found his museum…….a check mark bonus.

Tomorrow I go to Krakow Poland and Auschwitz I think is the day after.

Thanks for being here with me. I have met all sorts of people, but theres no one like the folks back home, or in the US, or England, or Australia to keep a person grounded.

I think that’s all for now. Susan

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#14 Thur May 26
Can you believe it…..7 wks gone by already and only 7 more to go:
I am now officially travelling old school, and for those in my age group, it means no cell ph, no computer access (seriously limited) and I think I need to buy an alarm clock.
But I have an opportunity to write and let me tell you, I have been packing on the miles/kms …
Since last Sat night, I was adopted by a couple of Manchester lads in Barcelona and they bought the Jaeger bombs while we watched Manchester United beat Crystal Palace.
I took the train north  to Albi France, another place you have to go to…..it it the hometown for Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and also has a brick bridge built in 10?? and still used by cars…..amazing.
Also saw yet another outstanding cathedral to Sainte Cecile, that was made a UNESCO world heritage site in 2010…….all brick and goes about 100 miles in the air…..I’m talking really tall.
The next day I did a truly Susan thing, and from Albi at 7am, took train south to Toulouse to connect to another train north to Aurillac to buy an umbrella (made in France) then train west to Brive to train north to Paris. Arrived in Paris after 11pm…so it was a long day and paid extra for a hotel right next to the next train station I was taking 6 hours later.
I was headed east to Switzerland, and Vevey where the home of Charlie Chaplin just opened last month as a museum to his genius. I am so glad I didn’t miss this. The day was rainy so not conducive to much else, but Vevey, although a small town on the Swiss Riviera, has lots to see and do. It is the international headquarters for Nestle…..
But I headed back to Lausanne, missed my connection to Zurich, which was the last train for the day. Thought I was going to have to stay in the train station all night, and believe me, I was prepared to…..but found a very unique guesthouse , and I think I can say I hae climbed a Swiss Alp.
So the adventures continue…..have my German phrase book at hand, and suspect it will be almost useless…lol….. but the sky is blue, weather nice, and once I sign off I am getting a free cup of espresso…..Susan
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Number 13   Sat May 21
Barcelona Spain…….bigger than even I imagined on my bucket list…..Arrived late Saturday night, just after FCBarcelona…Spain’s number 1 soccer team had won the league championship in Granada…..but that didn’t stop the locals from filling the streets even though it was raining, and there were cops everywhere and a number of streets closed to control the crowds of revellers !!On Sunday I took the hop-on hop-off city bus tour. They have 2…one for the east side and one for the west side…..6 hours of total immersion…but worthwhile because now I could get around really easily !!This city has gorgeous beaches, lots of museums, of which I have seen quite a few, and is best known for the Sagrada Familia and Antoni Gaudi, who was the primary architect of the Sagrada Familia. I spent 4 hours just at the SF and never went up into the towers so this might give you an idea as to its size…..and it won’t be completely built until 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death. They started building this church in 1882 and it has to be one of the neatest places ever !!!When Gaudi was working on the Sagrada Familia he ended up living in a workshop on the building site, and knew it would never be completed in his lifetime. I would go on talking about Gaudi forever but leave it to you if you are interested in knowing more !!I also spent yesterday in Madrid at the Prado Museum…5 hrs of walking through every room and even seeing a 2nd Mona Lisa that is attributed to a student of Da Vinci, and painted at the same time as the original. How crazy is that !!Also, with my rail pass I went to Figueres one day to see the Salvador Dali museum…the ones with the eggs on the roof…super terrific !! And one night I went to the movies…..a 5 screen cinema….but definitely not like home ! First went to the box office to buy my ticket, then walked around the corner to a 2nd bldg (with screens 1, 4, & 5 to buy popcorn and drink from a vending machine, then back to bldg 1 with screens 2 & 3 to see the film Mayo de 1940.The box office lady said it was in Spanish, no problem, but it was really in Spanish, French, English & German.This week’s tech issues included having a dead phone for 2 or 3 days….and no access to working computer…..but it hasn’t slowed me down. Temperatures are around 28c and I think this place has got to be close to Paradise.But I have to leave, and from tomorrow until the end of May I will be covering a lot of miles through southern France, Vienna/Austria, Prague/ Czech Republic, Krakow and Poznan/ Poland, then Berlin/ Germany.Still living my dream…..Susan, with writing assistance from Beryl

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#12 Sat May 14 2016

I´ve been to my first bull fights !!  The city of Nimes in France is famous because it has a Roman coliseum that is completely intact, and they use it for bullfights.

This weekend was the Feria de Pentecote (there´s no English translation for that) and saw my first bull fights. So exciting !!

I know there are movements afoot to stop the events because it is considered cruel to the bulls, but at the same time this is an old sport and skill set.

Anyway, I tried to look at the events analytically, and there were moments I felt for the bull, but at the same time the mastery of movement from the matadors was amazing to watch !!

This morning there was one matador, who was frustrated because the bull was bleeding a lot and not wanting to participate in the dance, so he (the matador) was given the killing sword, and dispatched the bull to his demise. It was sad to watch from the standpoint of the man and the animal !!

And then I left Nimes and took the train to Barcelona, where I arrived to learn my team FC Barcelona had won the final game of the year against Granada 3-0. The streets were filled with happy fans and cops , who were keeping an eye out for any trouble.

I´ve moved on, but I shall always remember the matador and the bull.

Tick, tick, tick off the bucket list-  Beryl / Susan

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This is what happened…..

got to Cannes, and stored my luggage. Then bought the posters but the mailing tubes weren´t there, so now my brain was focused on mailing tubes. The crowd in line to register for something or other that had to do with the Festival were blocking my way to the historic film tour, so my brain completely focused on getting a mailing tube. As I recall, one of the guide books I read said that whatever I would need not to bring with me from Canada, but to buy in Europe. Well they didn´t know I would need a mailing tube !!

So I started asking at stores I thought would have one….no luck !!

Then I watched a guy get a parcel delivery (which included a mailing tube) and I asked him if I could have it but he said not now !! But all was good because it was cardboard recycle day – and I took to doing a bit of scrounging or dumpster diving, as its been called !!  Still no luck !!

I carried on to Marseilles with the precious posters wrapped in my towel and laid in the bottom of my suitcase.

After I had checked into my hostel, and that is another story for another time, I decided to take a walk…and what do I see but a fabric store.

And how are fabrics kept but on tubes !!

I found a tube the width I needed and asked the shop keeper in my very best French if he had anymore like it. Et voila !!  out of the back room he brings exactly what I need, and at no charge !!

Don´t know who that man is but he gets stars in my book !!

So now the precious posters are in a tube, so they won’t get squashed in my suitcase,I do regret not taking the Cannes historic film tour, but cest la vie !!

Loving bargains and souvenir shopping…..Beryl

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_# 10   Mon May 09 2016

Sorry to have been out of touch , but life on the French Riviera is far more casual than I am used to, but I think I could learn !!

I spent  a whole day on the train going from Firenze Italy to Antibes France. The hostel I had picked out in Antibes wasn’t going to work out, so moved on to my 2nd option , a small hotel in Juan -Les-Pins…a small lovely community just down the beach , so to speak.

And I lucked out……Stefan , the owner did a year at Laval in Quebec City in Economics, so speaks a bit of English, actually knows where Ottawa is, and gave me a great rate…..so good I will have been here a week !  But once again my magic rail pass is serving me well. The local trains go past every 20 to 30 minutes , going either west or east, so each morning I head out, stop at a green grocer for a banana, and get on the train to someplace else.

I was in Nice the other day and headed towards the Musee Marc Chagall. Of course the route seemed to be all uphill.  It has struck me that there are more uphills than there are downhills, but thats life !!  For all the moaning I was doing as I huffed and puffed my way up the street, when I got to the top I was greeted by the most amazing museum. then I felt guilty for cursing under my breath with every step !!

I have also been to Menton to the musee jean Cocteau, another artist, and found the Hotel Belle Rives in Juan-Les-Pins where F Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald lived back in 1925.

Also in Juan-Les-Pins, discovered Greg, chef extraordinaire. He can cook fish like no one I know.

As they say on TV, ÿou gotta eat here”!!

This morning I took the train to Monaco Monte Carlo (where Canada has a consulate office) and saw the musee Oceanographique. It is built on the side of the rocks that the Mediterranean beats up against, and is so much more than an aquarium !! Jacques Cousteau was the director for almost 30 yrs. and the tiny yellow submarine he used to explore is on display in the front courtyard. Monaco’s train station is actually built inside the mountain.  And it looks like the streets are ready to go for the Grand Prix.

After Monaco, headed over to Cannes…where the film fest begins on Wednesday.Its only a hour away by train.  I would love to be able to hang out there and watch some films but have a lot of ground to cover.

Police and military presence is casual but the other day police came on the train and searched for persons hiding. Apparently they had gotten a tip.

Last night spent 3 1/2 hours at dinner. Met a couple of English ladies and we got to talking!!  I am having a ball (sorry) and enjoying my adventures !

Beryl and her equally happy counterpart Susan

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#9  Wed May 04 2016Can’t believe it has been a month already.I was back in Rome, which is getting crazy busy with tourists. Apparently Germans start their holidays now !  Anyway, I made a stop at the tomb of the Italian unknown soldier to leave poppies. You aren’t allowed to get too close…maybe to protect the 2 soldiers guarding the spot… but I found a spot to leave them.Then on to the Spanish Steps and relive that moment in Roman Holiday when Audrey Hepburn is on the back of the Vespa with Gregory Peck….except that the steps are under construction….so I satisfied myself with a walk about and just took in the scenery !Big check mark for me was to go to Castellaneta , the birthplace of Rudolph Valentino. Now I know why Castellaneta is not in any tourist guide books – it is a small nondescript town in the middle of nowhere Italy. But I managed to have fun there…….met Roberto the new love of my life. Yes folks Flavio of Milan is out and Roberto is in ! He was a great help in getting me to my B&B and getting me back to the train again ! And the craziest part of all is that the Valentino museum was closed !! so I never got inside !!From Bari, on the Adriatic Sea, my train followed up the coast for quite a few km. It was a gorgeous sunny day, and delightful to see that Italians do the same as Canadians…..they try to camp or build their holiday home as close to the beach as possible. The sand certainly looked inviting, and while I am not a beach person, I was envious of the folks I could see taking a walk.I was on my way back to Firenze, and have been here to see more of the city……I think it would be easy to spend a week here. This morning I walked to the English Cemetery (actually property of the Swiss) no clue why, I’m just telling you what the sign said. Anyway it is on a small knoll, and when the city expanded, they built a road round about the cemetery rather than move it. Its an oddity but seems to work. I went there because a number of famous people are buried there…like Elizabeth Barrett Browning (poet) and the guy who designed Lincoln.s tomb in Springfield.I also had time to visit the Uffizzi Gallery. Its a biggie in the art world – not only for the art it holds but the building itself has been around for ever !! I saw pictures I have only ever seen in books, and for me exciting ! Check that off the bucket listTomorrow’s trains will take me out of Italy along the Italian Riviera and into France and the French Riviera. With the Cannes Film Festival beginning in one week, I am trying to stay in the area. as I have a hotel booked in Cannes, and plan on seeing films and or movie stars !Toasting you all with an Aperol Spritz…..Beryl and or Susan_______________#8 Sat Apr 30In luck…..have easy access to a computer…you will never believe this !!  Well, maybe you will  !!Yesterday I went back to Firenze to walk across Ponte Vecchio and go to some of the other museums. and see inside the Duomo. And I did walk the Ponte Vecchio – the Germans tried to bomb it in WW2 so the allies couldn’t cross it, but they failed. The bridge is amazingly gorgeous, and a pedestrian walkway so you can shop at all the jewelry stores lining each side !The interior of the Duomo is also as impressive as one might think.But the real adventure began at my hostel. They only have mixed dorm rooms. You should have seen the look on the guy’s face when I walked in. (20-something from Tokyo). Then # 3 roomie arrived – a 30- something from Southern Italy who teaches special education students in northern Italy. Then #4 roomie arrived, another 20-something guy from Spain. It was certainly interesting, but worked out . This morning everyone got showers and got out the door without incident.I did go to the Plazzo Pitti and spent 4 hrs  and could have spent 4 more ! Once inside the main entrance the property was all uphill and at the 2/3 point, I still had 5 storeys to climb (counted the steps)  before I got to the actual top, where the porcelain museum was….and for all the grumbling and frequent pauses to catch my breath, I would have hated to miss the view from the top as well as the Sevres porcelain. I saw 3 castles as I looked in 3 different directions.And besides the walk back was all downhill. The Italian Costume Museum was right up my alley. The Modern Art Museum didn’t have anything later than the mid 1800’s, which gives a whole new meaning to modern art.Then I took the train to Rome…it’s only 1 1/2 hrs away !! My cell phone completely drained (not good) so when I saw a Wind store (just like in Ottawa) I took my number and waited my turn to be served. But then this guy butted in front of me, and that was his first and only mistake. I don’t know if he knew English but he definitely got the drift of my side (and there was only my side) of the conversation. I just started giving him what for – where was his #?  did he have a #?  he should get a #  because I was next !! The guy at the counter knew English ! cause he was trying not to smile. Anyway he helped me by pointing me to an electronics store one level down , and they sold me a new cell ph battery.My final adventure has been to have a large dinner….and this is an adventure as I tend to only eat twice a day if I can find the time.Oops, time up on the computer…..Ciao Caio   Beryl/Susan the one who behaved crazy in the Wind store !!_#7 Thur Apr 28 2016

So…..on Tuesday I was at Paris Disney, and as per usual the weather was cold. But the highlight of the day was when I was watching the Magic Moments parade at 5:30 and it started to snow…….real Canadian type snow.

Wednesday, spent the Whole day on the train……wanted to go from Paris to Turin Italy, but all Eurail pass seats were taken so I went to Geneva Switzerland instead, waited a couple of hours, then landed in Milan Italy.  Today I was challenged by their Metro system, and I have to say they won !!  Bring lots of money with you for taxis !!

But the sights were Amazing !!  The Duomo was so spectacular. The line for tickets to view the interior was so long, I gave it a pass. Instead I met the new love of my life…..Flavio !!  Ok, so he was the waiter at the cafe I had lunch at, but he was willing to come back to Canada with me. Unfortunately his boss wanted 50 euros to release him from his employment !!  Flavio shall have to remain a dear memory !!

Tomorrow I hope to go to Florence. Its only 1 1/2 hrs from Milan. I was there on my bus tour but there is still lots to see!
Ciao…..Beryl/Susan

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#6 – Monday April 25Quick note to the Aussie readers !!  ANZAC day today, and met some Aussies in the train station going to see her uncle’s grave. Gave them some more of my poppies !! Knew they would come in handy !!A week ago I had never been in Lyon France, and now I have been there 3 times. The other day I was there, and thought I would take the local tram to the Museum of the Resistance dedicated to those who fought the Germans behind the scenes. When I got to the end of the tram line, I had my “Amazing Race” moment. I didn’t have enough change for the ticket machine (short a nickel) and it only took the local bus pass card so I walked down the street looking for a cab. No cabs !!  That’s the moment on Amazing Race where the couple start yelling at each other , but as I had no one to yell at, and what’s the point anyway?  I walked into an optical business and asked the lady there to call a taxi for me. With her little English and my little French we had a lovely time and she made me espresso while I waited. And I did get to the museum, and it was Amazing !! Although I had to give up listening to the personal accounts of what happened during the war, as the stories were horrific.At the hostel I met a Cdn girl from University of Waterloo  who is doing a work placement in Lausanne Switzerland , and had come to Paris for the weekend. Its only 2 hrs away by train. Now I know I was definitely born 100 yrs too early.But then I was on the Metro and got into a conversation with a nice man – he’s from Colombia and coaching swimming in Paris. When I said I was Cdn, he began asking the usual questions – did I ski, did I snowshoe, did I dogsled? I was wearing my tango shirt,  so then he asked if I had been to Argentina. I guess it really is the place to go to tango.My 3rd visit to Lyon was to go to the Lumiere Institute. They were the guys who invented cinematography  (moving pictures/movies) and apparently their place is like Mecca for Hollywood people. Last year at their film fest Martin Scorcese was the honoree and the year before was Pedro Amoldovar from Spain, who happens to be one of my favourite directors !! Even though the first film happened in 1895, the Lumiere brothers lived long enough to meet Walt Disney in 1935, and go to the Cannes Film Festival in 1954. And George Melies was the manager of the 1st movie house when the Lumieres showed their 1st movie…..actually it was 10 – 1 minute movies, and none of them had names, because that part of the process had not been thought of yet !!Today I visited the Vimy Ridge Memorial. Its a big deal for Cdns, as it was a difficult piece of land held by the Germans in WW1, but the Cdns took it …unfortunately at great loss of life, but they did it brilliantly !! The plaster casts for the figures on the memorial are available for viewing in the War Museum in Ottawa, and impressive to see so close up.

Yup, I’ve been busy. Must go now and have my daily dose of lovely French wine !! Makes me think that apple a day thing is over-rated !!  Cheers, Beryl, and her thirsty evil twinSusan Sent from my HTC_______________#5  Thur Apr 21Flexibility is the key to great travel experiences. Today’s plan was to take a train to Caen, hook up with a tour of tour of the historic D-Day sites of WW2, and drop some poppies at Beny-Sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery.Here’s what really happened !!On the train at 9am, arrived in Caen by 11am, noticed the town is much larger than anticipated but no worries !! Asked about getting to Beny s/mer (thats how the French spell it) and directed to Bus #4. That took me to the small village of Beny s/mer and only 3.2 km left to walk to the cemetery !! The thing with French roads is that there are no sidewalks and no shoulders, so if you aren’t walking on the pavement, then you’re walking in the tall grass. Got about a km out of the village and decided to hitch-hike – after all I wasn’t really sure where I was going or how far away 3.2 km was !! Out went the thumb, but no luck. All of a sudden a lady stopped for me. I told her where I was going but with her lack of English and my lack of French, we first drove to Berniers s/mer…not right. Then we headed back towards Beny s/mer , and as we went round a roundabout I saw the sign to the cemetery, so we did another circle of the roundabout and a couple of minutes later landed at my destination. She wouldn’t take any money for gas but I think its because we had a good laugh together and she learned something about Canadians.My check off on my bucket list had been to assist the gardener at the cemetery but he was not to be seen, so instead I had a little cry as I looked out over more than 2000 Cdn graves. The land is a gift from France in perpetuity, and some of our tax dollars go for the upkeep. Best tax dollars ever spent !!  Also, farmland is not wasted in Europe, so it is huge to think about the more than 600 wartime cemeteries found just in France.Anyway, left poppies on quite a few graves – I didn’t have enough for all.And headed back to the village. A passing guy on a bicycle shouted at me I was walking on the wrong side of the road – like I didn’t know that already. I was hoping to catch another ride. And lo and behold, young man in a yellow Fiat stopped and took me to my bus stop.Now I’m feeling quite pleased with myself as my bus should be along in about  40 minutes…..except that when the 40 minutes came and went and still no bus, I tried reading the posted schedule and noticed I had missed a small detail. I needed to phone for the bus to come. Dialled the # and got the same message as in Canada…blah blah push 1, blah blah push 2, etc. Managed to get a human voice and with my French which is rapidly improving, I now knew the next bus would arrive at 5:15.Only 2 more hours to wait as the air got chillier and it rained for 10 seconds just to remind me of the lunacy. The time passed quickly enough….I immersed myself in the life of the village. The church bell across the street rang on the hour. The kids’ school bus let them off at 4:45. There was a glass recycling station across the street, and heard a lot of wine bottles getting dropped off!!Eventually the bus came, caught the train back to Paris, hostel @ 9:30 pm.All is good.PS – hitch-hiked across Canada back in the mid-80’s west to east on my own but that’s another story for another time !!Bon soir mes amies…..Beryl/Susan

Sent from my HTC

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Received Thurs. April 21, 2016

Paris France, April 20, 2016

Just when I thought I had tech challenges, I had to learn a keyboard not QWERTY – and this morning am back to a QWERTY. My fingers are confused !!

Saw the Moulin Rouge Monday night and it was terrific. They pack about 1000 folks into a very small room cheek by jowl, feed you, then begin .the show with dancing girls in lots of beads and feathers and dancing boys, some beads, no feathers. It was a super way to end the tour, and tomorrow I am on my own.Went to the Shoah Memorial. It is guarded by 3 fully armed soldiers who look very fierce. Then one goes through a security check complete with xray machine before actually being in the museum. In the main courtyard is a large bronze cylinder replicating the smokestacks of the crematoriums at the death camps. On it are the names of the main death camps.On the bottom floor of the museum is a large star of David with an eternal flame in the center of it. Inside the star are the ashes of 6000  people. On the back wall is the front wooden  wall of a real barracks building from one of the death camps. There was a sign saying how large the whole bldg would have been and how many people would have been crammed into it, but I was so horrified the numbers haven’t stuck with me. Just know that it was inhumane.The rest of the exhibits showed life in Europe before WW2, during the war as well as how repatriation worked after the war. So many people without homes/money/jobs, children without parents, lives unsure as to how to begin again.One particularly poignant display was of a small purple sweater, and a photo of the 11 year old Jewish girl wearing it. I can’t even imagine how those items could have been found and matched up.On a lighter note, am staying in a hostel room with 6 other females – can’t say other girls as I’m no longer of a girl’s age – but have been accepted !!Must get moving – need to catch a train to Caen and see the D-Day beaches.Ever present, Beryl / Susan

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Posted April 16, 2016

Today is Friday, April 15 and life has been absolutely crazy! I have been in at least 1 country per day, but more often 2 or 3 and I just found this computer and it is not a QWERTY keyboard, so I am having a slow time of it!

So far have been in Germany, but none of the big towns, then Lucerne Switzerland, passed on the option to go up an Alp and those who did saw nothing as it was a rainy day and heavy cloud cover.

Although the views of the Alps as we drove to Venice was like looking at the Rocky Mtns on crack !!!!!George Clooney

Passed the Lake Como area, but did not see George Clooney.

It was raining in Venice when we arrived but stood outside with the water taxi driver so I could take pictures as we headed along the Grand Canal…..absolutely amazing!!! BEAUTIFUL BUILDINGS !!

St Marks Square is as lovely as in the photos, but almost better was wandering down the little side streets, seeing a glass blowing demonstration, and Burano island, where each tiny house is painted a bright and very colourful colour !220px-Sistina-interno

Then it was off for a couple of days in Rome and the other country Vatican City…….saw the Sistine Chapel and St Peters, both of them awe inspiring and amazing, and the numbers of folks standing in line to enter each place is mind-bogglng. I was very appreciative to go in with the group.

Italians are extremely creative when it comes to parking, sometimes 3 across, and thats on a city street.

Made sure to throw coins in the Trevi fountain for good luck, and got to exchange hand gestures with an Italian photographer when  I accidentally walked in front of him! Cdn politeness takes on a new meaning? When in Rome, do as the Romans !!

Next Florence and Michaelangelos David (sorry, cant find the apostrophy on this keyboard) and the Duomo (its dome is an engineering marvel built several hundred years ago)

On to Monaco and Monte Carlo, where workmen are already setting up for the Grand Prix in May. Have an entirely new appreciation for those drivers as the streets they race through  barely allow room to pass ! And on the same day we had an hour and a half in Cannes, and then a little further into France to stop for the night.

Tomorrow,Sat Apr 16 we head to Avignn and Lyons France

And I am out of breath just recounting (very briefly) where I have been so far.

Thx for the updates on DWTS and Amazing Race; Pls keep them coming.

Loving this !!!!!  Beryl and her tired alter ego Susan

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PS     please share this on Facebook including my name as I am being challenged electronically…….Merci beaucoup …….you should hear my Italian !!!!!

April 3, 2016

Here we go !!  Boarding Air Canada direct to Heathrow in a few hours, so shooting out an email.

Here’s some useless trivia for you – did you know that tourist travel , as we know it today did not become a thing until the 1960’s? That’s when passenger airlines came into their own as an industry, and folks had more disposable income for travelling for pleasure, as opposed to migration to other parts of the world by third class steamer ship !!

This makes checking off items on my bucket list SO much easier !! And I have managed to pack in one small-ish suitcase, only a couple of inches larger than carry-on. And of course it contains another bag for bringing home treasures from the travels…..although not large enough to hold any soccer players or matadors I meet along the way.

When I get off the plane tomorrow morning, my first stop will be for a bag of Walker’s Prawn Cocktail crisps (potato chips) . It’s always good to have priorities !!

Cheers, Beryl / Susan

 

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Beryl Staves / Susan here…..and I am preparing to go out on the road again.

This time I am heading off for 3 1/2 months to Europe and England.

It’s going to be a huge checkoff on my personal bucket list, and as I have been organizing myself for a year with this, I have a lot of things to do and places I hope to visit.

I depart Ottawa Sunday April 3 and return Wednesday July 13.

I hope to send out a post about 2 or 3 per week.

Each new post will be added to the top of this page…  So scroll to the bottom and read back.