Archive for December, 2014

The Madonna

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

A friar from the Church of St. Stephen visited Florence and talked his buddy , Michaelangelo ,into sculpting him something for his church. And he did! The ONLY example of Michaelangelo’s work outside of Italy is in Brugge, Belgium. And this beautiful Madonna and Child (naked Jesus as a toddler) is a center character in the movie “Monuments Men.” The movie is awesome and very true to the book . The work of these dedicated fellas is accurately told and very moving. The Madonna was located in a salt mine in Austria after the Germans kidnapped her and even killed a monuments man in the taking. She has only left her perch in the cathedral twice; once Napoleon stole her (but was returned) and then Hitler wanted her. It was very moving for me to seek her out and gaze at her beauty while spending a rainy day in Brugge. She has quite a history.

A real 'movie star' !

A real ‘movie star’ !

114 Days Later

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

Paddington says farewell!

Paddington says farewell!

When you start to look like your passport picture, it’s time to go home.  So I guess it’s time.

It has been a trip where God has opened our eyes to the wonder of His creation (and  also showed us where man is screwing it up). I love the churches and their testament to the faith of generations past. I love the flavors of the food and drink that are uniquely regional. I soak up the beauty of the countryside, and cringe at the overwhelming number of people who can be in one place at one time. The people who joined us on our sojourn added their flavor to the experience, and the events back home that we missed tugged at our hearts. We prayed more, hugged more, fought too much, ate more, spent more and marveled more.

So I guess,a trip like this is MORE of everything. There is s depth of appreciation that comes with a trip like this: for what I saw, what I left behind, and those that cared about us in both arenas.

I missed so much back home, but I would have missed a chunk of the world that I was blessed to have experienced. But it’s time…

Lady Di

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

DSC03751I thought I would honor Princess Diana while in London by seeking out her memorials, if there were any.

I know that on the Spencer family estate she is buried on an island in a small lake, but what about here in town? We were lead to Kensington Gardens where there is a memorial playground with a large pirate ship to climb on in the middle.

Then at another end of this large park there is the “fountain” in her honor. This looks like a big circular drainage ditch. It is even with the ground and percolates as it circumnavigates the area.

I guess I expected more but the next generation has moved on to Princess Kate.

I remember where I was when I heard the news that she had died; do you?


Black Everywhere

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

and I mean black as in Burkas.

We must be in a Muslim neighborhood because every woman is shrouded in volumes of black cloth. And they are all out shopping the stores on Oxford street….what could they be buying???

20 Years Older

Sunday, December 14th, 2014

Took the Eurostar today from Brussels to London.

It was 18 years ago that Steve, Robbie, and I took it to Paris from London.

It still is amazing to spend 22 minutes of the 2 hour train trip under the English Chanel. It is actually 3 tunnels: 2 for trains and 1 small one for repair vehicles.

Lots of security (thank heavens) and so much easier than an airport. $70 apiece because we bought the tickets 4 months ago. The closer to the travel date, the more expensive the ticket. So we are winding down with a final 5 days in London.

Wow, never saw soooo many people here on Oxford Street, which is around the corner from our Victory Services Hotel for military folk.


Post Cruise Blues

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Twenty-three folks signed on for the land extension; people who needed a few more days before facing that long plane trip home. Ours involved learning more about Delft, Antwerp, Brussels and Brugge.

This was from the window of a large bus that was most often stuck in endless hours of traffic. That was a real joy killer and wore on our sweet dispositions.

There was still much to explore and learn, but I think I’ll come back sometime but without the bus.

Belgium Chocolate will make even the worst bus trip bearable!

Belgium Chocolate will make even the worst bus trip bearable!

Grand Circle

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Well, like so many things in life, it’s not about what you did or saw but the people that you met along the way.

Our awesome 10 day cruise was a joy and a delight. We were pampered and over-fed, entertained, surprised, and educated.

The crew from the captain on down ran a tight ship but made sure to learn our names and something about us; starting with the waiter who knew we didn’t like coffee and brought us tea each morning, to the cabin steward who tidied around us when we were ill, to the teen choir that came on board to serenade us , and the the zany crew who found time after a long day to put on their own talent show.

My photo album from this trip will show many friends for a time, who experienced it all along with us. but for now, here’s the crew of the ‘River Harmony’.


Market Meltdown

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

The nights are crispy-clear, the lights twinkle, the smell of pine, the scent of spices …add to that the tastes of bratwurst, gingerbread, mulled wine, rich chocolate, things to buy, ornaments, carvings,glittery things. This is the essence of European Christmas markets; THE place to meet, eat, gather, shop, meander, and anticipate.

Each village, town, and city have their own version and the bigger the city the more markets they have. These can be sponsored by civic groups like Kiwanis, or a church guild, or have themes such as “Angel market or “Gnome market.”

But just like that first Christmas cookie that makes your mouth water and doesn’t disappoint, the 6th to 8th cookie is not enjoyed with the same gusto.

Some of the markets seem like a carbon copy of the last one and some are just imports, some have made no effort to be unique and magical. But it’s what I came for and it has been fun…but just like after too many cookies, it’s time for a diet.


Did I hear a Yodel?

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

We have walked a LOT! But most of it has been on cobbled streets.

We finally got a chance to hit the hills in Austria before heading to the boat. Alpine meadow, pristine lake, cog train passing by, and snow just out of reach.

We fell into a postcard!

I’m not sure which was hardest; the up or the down?

I wish I could say the jeans were as loose now as they were at the beginning of the trip. Streudel should be illegal. Oh and chocolate.


My Room

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

We are aboard the Riverboat Harmony, sailing up the Rhine River in western Germany. We started in Switzerland (Basel), then Alsace in France, and now Heidelberg!

Thought I would show your our room #325. Everything we brought is nicely tucked away and our bathroom has a 4’x4′ shower with handheld shower head. We have a desk, and central table where we find our daily activities for the next day.

Our beds are turned down with a chocolate on the pillow each night.

There are about 140 passengers and 40 crew, 3 cruise directors, live music, a gourmet kitchen and too many fun things to mention. Talk about spoiled!!!