Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Travelers

What are the world travelers up to today?  This is the seventh day of our France/Italy wandering. That can mean only one thing.... it's laundry day.  We've learned from our last three years of being nomads that it is important to take a day off every now and then.  It's cold and rainy today in Paris.  That makes it the perfect day to kick back and do life chores.

The new AirBnB we moved to yesterday is a comfortable 6th floor apartment.  Here is a lesson we learned yesterday, the 6th floor is really on the 7th floor.  Parisians count the ground floor as a zero (0), therefore a 6th floor apartment is really up seven flights of stairs.  Where is the elevator, you might ask?  Most buildings in Europe were built long before elevators were invented.

So it's simple, just climb 104 steps and you have arrived.  Remember we each have a backpack and small suitcase.   Somewhere between steps 90 and 104 a small suitcase doubles in weight.  Truth.

Looking down seven floors of spiral staircase.
Now as you may know I have one metal knee replacement.  This makes me an expert on step construction.  Many steps are built with bad engineering and are difficult to climb.  I have to say that the engineering on these 104 spiral steps are amazingly easy to climb.  They remind me of the steps we have climbed in American lighthouses.

Here's my review on the AirBnB's we have stayed in so far.  Each is an individually owned home or apartment so they vary in design, taste and what you get for your money.  You get a private bedroom and you get to share the kitchen, living and dining rooms with your host.  Each host we have met has been welcoming and fun to talk with.  Our current host is a medical student from Spain who is studying in Paris.  The last host lady was a ballet dancer.  They are each interesting people to talk with.  We are enjoying this form of accommodations.  I definitely like it better than a hotel.

Terri reading in the living room of the apartment.
Our comfortable bedroom.
The neighborhood view from our seventh floor bedroom.
Tomorrow morning we hop a high speed (200+ MPH) bullet train from Paris to Genoa (Genova) Italy.  We'll spend the next 5 weeks seeing the sites and eating good Italian food.

Life is good as we wander.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

A Stroll Around Paris

We're on the move today, but not that far.  Paris is divided in half by the winding Seine River.  We have been staying north of the river, so today we move to another AirBnB that is to the south.  It will be an easy move, two subways and 15 minutes and we will be there.

We woke up to rain yesterday so we waited until 2:00 to go out wandering.  We took the subway into a new area and then began walking.  When our feet got tired we hopped on a bus and saw more of the city.  Next we walked the banks of the Seine River for a  few miles.

Eating gelato aboard a river boat on the Seine.
How very European of us?
Next we hopped on a tour bus and went toward the theatre district in the northwest corner of the city.  It is very colorful and we could recognize some scenes from movies.  Terri wanted to eat at the Hard Rock Cafe, so we found it and had a great dinner.

Hard Rock Cafe - Paris
Today was a more relaxing day for us.  The 5.5 miles was done as a stroll and the walk along the river involved alot of bench sitting and people watching.

Walking under a bridge on the Seine with Notre Dame in the distance.
For a cool grey day it was more like being in the Pacific Northwest.  We are definitely looking forward to some sun and warmth as we go to Italy later this week.

I  liked this sign in front of a biscuit shop.
Life is good.  We will see how many steps up the next Bed and Breakfast will be.  Will it break the 100 mark?  I'll let you know.

NOTE from Russ:  We arrived, we climbed, we counted, we took a nap..... 104 steps.

More Hydrangeas.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Eiffel Tower & du Louve

We have been the typical Paris tourists the last two days.  We understand the subway and are getting around fine.  We have sat in sidewalk cafes, wandered the curving streets, enjoyed many different nationalities of food and even been lost a few times. 

We seem to have a 5-6 mile limit on our walking.  Each day when we get tired we come back to the AirBnB and take a nap before venturing out for the evening.  Dinner last night was Thai and lunch today was Turkish.  We never know until we see "it" what we will eat.  Dinner tonight is still a mystery.

Arc de  Triomphe
 This morning we were up earlier than normal in order to be at the Louvre Museum early.  Most of our 5 miles this morning was spent walking the halls of the best museum in the world.  We saw all the great art and I'm sure that Mona Lisa winked at me.  Every great artist is on display there, but the early Dutch painters are still my favorite.  Each painting is like a photograph with a story inside it.

Terri having croissants and a mocha on a sunny morning at the Louvre.
I didn't shoot a lot of photos this morning, we were to busy enjoying all that was to be seen.  Sometimes it's best for us to just absorb it all.

And no trip to Paris would be complete without the Eiffel Tower shot below.

Terri holding down the tower.... or is she going to tip it over?
Life is good.... the old people are having fun.

Hydrangeas in Paris.... my Mom would like this. 

Friday, May 27, 2016

The PLAN - France & Italy

We said our goodbyes to Dave and Jamie in Brussels.
So here's the plan for the next six and a half weeks.  During a free day last week in Brussels we sat down and penciled out a plan for France and Italy.  We had a map that sister Sara had given us from one of her previous trips to Europe.  Between Sara's markings on the map and Dianna's advise we've chosen our 13 stops for the next 46 days.

So here's our plan:

Paris - North City - 5 days - May 25-30
Paris - Center City - 2 days - May 30-June 1
    High speed train to Italy.
Genoa  -  4 days - June 1 - 5
Cinque Terra - 2 days - Corniglia - June 5-7
Cinque Terra - 4 days - Monarola - June 6-11
Pisa - train stop visit
Siena - 2 days - June 11-13
Rome - 5 days - June 13-18
Sorrento/ Capri/Positano - 7 days June 18-21
Assisi - 1 day - June 25-26
Florence - 3 days - June 26-29
Venice -  4 days - June 29 - July 2
Verona - 3 days - July 2-5
Geneva, Switzerland - 2 days July 5-7

After we had our basic plan in place I sat down at my laptop and booked AirBnB's for the first 11 locations.  The Bed and Breakfast places varied in price but they averaged out to $64.30 per night over the month.  Almost all are private homes with a few being businesses.  So far we have enjoyed talking with the owners.  I thinks it will make the trip more personal as we go along.

Here are a few pictures that I skipped over as we were getting ready to leave Brussels.  Dave and Jamie had found the statue of Mannekin Pis near their hotel so they took us to see the infamous statue.

That's the young Mr. Pis peeing over my shoulder.  Not on my shoulder.

It's really the least impressive statue in Europe.  But it is funny, in a kids kind of humor.

It's time to take off exploring Paris.  Life is good.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Notre-Dame - Paris

In the middle of our 6.4 mile walk today we visited a most impressive cathedral, Notre-Dame.  This was easily the most beautiful church we have seen in our European trip.  It had amazing stained glass windows and for a building that took over 500 years too complete it had a look of continuity that is lacking in many we have seen.

Even the back side is amazing.

Nice front doors.

Terri walking in the gardens behind the church.

Life is good.... we're both happy to be here.

Beginning Paris

Parisian Jazz over the Seine River
We're in Paris for 7 days.  We love the subway system and have begun exploring the city.  I keep telling Terri that it looks just like Paris here and people really speak French.  Duh.  I don't care, it's just too cool.

They have amazing architecture every where, they have street musicians, they have a ton of sidewalk cafes, they even have French bakeries.  I'm already having to much  fun.

Eating French bread in front of Notre Dame Cathedral.
More photos to come, but it's time to do some walking.  After arrival yesterday we walked 6.6 miles.

Guess what Terri is drinking?
Life is good.  More blog tonight.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Think Easy

Today marks one month since we left home, or to be more accurate, since we left our motorhome.  Today we are resting up for our next months travels through France and Italy. 

Terri found a Saluki to pet in the train terminal.  Just like a big Eva.
We are learning lessons as we go.  The most important lesson is to take some days off from being a tourist.  We have had some pretty high mileage days and we pay for those days with sore muscles and weary feet.  Also we old people need time to recover mentally from the overload of visual experiences.

You can only see so much before your brain turns off.  (very scientific Mr. Ranger)

Next we are learning to do our research and planning in smaller segments.  About a week out is too far to remember details.  So why plan ahead.

If it's important, write it down.  With all the space age electronics we carry you might think a pencil is an antique.  Here's a fact: the battery on a pencil never goes dead.

Here's another amazing fact:  You can turn a paper map in the direction you are walking.  Try that with a GPS when you come to the intersection of two winding roads.  Maybe it's our age again, but a paper map is reassuring.  It gives you the big picture.

We have been using our son Matt's home as a base between outings.  That will be changing with a one month adventure.  We have to pack differently because we won't be back in a week.  Weather will be changing as we go South to Italy in June.  It could get HOT.  We hope it does.

So you might be curious how our budget is going.  Since the first few days of financial shock at London prices things have calmed down on this side of the channel.  We will finish the first month under our planned expenses.  We've been in London, Belgium, Netherlands and Germany.  We are not scrimping but are careful to match our regular lifestyle with our travel lifestyle.  We Ranger's might call it, "tight but not cheap".

Our budget for Europe was to spend only our usual monthly income.  We did save up a reserve fund while in Mexico this winter in case my estimates did not match up with reality.  So far we haven't touched any of that money.

Still smiling.
It really has been a month of learning.  Most of the challenges are in my head.  I am trying to apply a principle I learned during my years in business.  Think Easy.  When too much was going on and my workload was too heavy I would tell myself to relax and take one problem at a time.  The world never came to an end and soon enough life was back to normal.

So with almost nothing big to worry about in life I can just..... Think Easy.

Life is good.

Koln / Cologne - Is Bigger Better?

Is bigger always better?  All the photos above are of the cathedral in Koln.  It was huge, it was impressive, it was too much.  Yes, there is too much of a good thing.  I'm glad we saw it but size did not make it my favorite.

The same might be said for the rest of the city.  It was big and beautiful, but I'll take a small village over Koln every time.

If one statue isn't enough, have 20 or 30.  On each side of the building.  Too much!
 We stayed two night in Koln.  The second day we did very little, it was more a day of rest after the overload of day one. 

Train station.
We are back in Brussels for a few days.  We had dinner with brother Dave and Jamie. They are here for a few days until they catch their flight home on Tuesday.  They had a good time visiting Eastern Europe and we enjoyed hearing their stories over an Italian dinner at the Grand Place in Brussels.

We take off for a week in Paris on Tuesday.  It will be the beginning of a month long tour of France and Italy.  Italy will begin with Genoa and then it is down the coast to the villages of Cinque Terra for a week.  I'll turn 65 during that week.  It will be a nice place to officially become an old man.

Life is good.  Can't wait to become a senior citizen.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

I Like Linz

We  cruised on a Rhine River boat to the village of Linz today.  This small town was started in 874 so the history here was great.  It was a 2.5 hour boat ride up river passing many manors and castles.  We had 4 hours to explore and eat our way through Linz.

Passing through the gate into town.
Most the original wall around the village is gone now but we found several parts as we wandered.

One of the corner towers from the wall was up this street.
We found a square to sit and have a German lunch.  The best food here is not German food but just like at home it is all the other countries that provide the best food.

German food.... not my favorite.
But the accordion music was outstanding.

We walked to the highest part of the town to visit St. Martin Church which was built in the 13 century.  I liked the simple interior and the painting on the walls.

There is hardly a straight street in town. The village grew following the curves of the countryside.  It always left me wondering what was around the next corner.

And to go with the crooked streets they had crooked houses.  I loved that I could not find a straight, perpendicular or level line in this whole house.

I could live in a house like this.
Where ever several streets met there would be a plaza with a fountain.

We found a graveyard to walk through which is normal for us.  The difference here was the age of the occupants.  The USA does have quite the same history.

We walked five miles and were ready for the boat ride home.  This is the view as we sat in the front dining room.

Life is good along the Rhine.