Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Greetings from the River Seine, We have just spent the last two hours waiting our turn to go through the locks that take us from the la Havre Canal into the Seine. We are now heading up river toward Paris. We joined the ship Sunday and had a slow day after the lovely morning train ride from Paris to La Havre. Monday we spent all day touring Normandy Beaches made famous during the D-Day landings of 1944. We were at Gold Beach, Omaha Beach, the American Cemetery, and Pointe du Hoc. War creates heroes, but war is hell. Today we spent the morning touring Honfluer, a wonderful old city still retaining its medieval ways. Now we are cruising to the next port of call. We had some rain yesterday at the cemetery, but lucked out today until we were back at the ship. Now that we are underway again, we hope to see some interesting scenery. The Normandy countryside is beautiful, with cows in emerald green pastures, apple trees in bloom, and wonderful old stone farm houses and village churches. We thoroughly enjoyed our four hours of bus riding yesterday. Au revoir.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
It seems to be a popular time to be a tourist in Paris, French or foreign. We had lots of company wherever we went. The weather was great, the sights were spectacular, and the trees and flowers are blooming. This last is a mixed blessing, as we seem to be taking turns being stricken with allergy attacks. We've covered Sneezy, Dopey, and sometimes Grumpy. Today we got out of town and went to Reims to tour the historic cathedral. Riding the train through the countryside made me long to be out of the big cities. Hopefully we can slow down now that we are soon to resume river cruising. We are ready to be taken care of again. Au revoir, Linda
Monday, April 21, 2008
As we have traveled across Holland and Belgium, and spent time in Amsterdam, I am always aware that I am living in a painting. The sea, the sky, the windmills, and the ships are a canvas for light to play on. In Amsterdam, the facades of the old buildings, the canals, bridges and canal boats are always another photo op, a photo being my way to capture what the old masters put onto canvas with paint. It is early spring here and the linden trees that hang over the canals are just showing a green fuzz of blossom ( enough to activate out allergies). People are dressed in coats and scarves, but they were coming off today and the outdoor cafes were becoming crowded with the arrival of the first warm day. We have been doing museums: Rijksmuseum, with Vermeer and Rembrandt and many other old masters, an old house museum to see how the rich lived in the last three centuries, the history museum for the Amsterdam story, and the Anne Frank House to remind us that there are many stories here of people who have suffered in this beautiful setting. Amsterdam is a free city, and you can find just about everything here. But they do understand that freedom also requires tollerance. We visited the Van Gogh museum earlier. Now we move on to France, where I am sure I will feel myself living in an impressionist painting. I'll see light as dabs of paint. And there will be lots more museums and another beautiful city. (Jill, I hope I sent an email. I tried to. Let me know if you didn't get one for April 21.) Linda
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Amsterdam Round trip We are still weighing the success of our first river boat cruise. We saw some great places, learned a lot, and didn't have to drive or navigate or find hotels or even pack and unpack. Those were all plusses. On the minus side, we go every where at a slow pace, with lots of other people, and the schedule doesn't usually allow as much time in one place as we'd like. We have enjoyed the trip so far, but would have made a few changes if it were under our control. We do look forward to having a week on our own. By then we'll probably be ready to be taken care of again.The name of our cruise is Windmills and tulips. We have seen both. The windmills are wonderful, old and a preserved part of the constant struggle to keep the water off of the land. Yesterday we saw the modern attempt, the Delta Project, with it's amazing technology. It is a system of gates that will close when a storm surge threatenes to inundate the land. So much of the Netherlands is land reclaimed from the sea, below sea level and sinking. Disasterous floods in the past have led to some amazing solutions.The tulips were beautiful, displayed in an 80 acre garden along with daffodils and hyacynths. Our visit was well timed for a good display, even though they are having a cold spring here too. We have been very lucky to not have rain. the weather here is much like Seattle's, which means 9 dry days in a row is phenominal.tonight we have our farewell dinner in the ship. We'll dress up a bit for dinner. Most days our denims had sufficed. Now that we have located this cafe, we'll be in contact before heading to France.Bye.Linda
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Today, April 16, Brussels and Antwerp: shopping for chocolate, lace, tapestry, waffles, Belgium fries, beer. Only some of this will make it home. Old guild halls, city halls, cathedrals decorated by Rubens masterpieces, glitz from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. All of it wonderful. Yesterday: Dutch countryside, canals everywhere, sheep grazing on the dikes, old windmills built in the 18th century to pump the water from the drainage canals up into the rivers. Polders – land below sea level, always a struggle, yet rich in grass for the cows who will produce the milk to make the cheese. The city of Dordrecht, oldest in Holland, maybe the most underrated. Beautiful church, canal harbors, great old architecture. We’re having a good time and making the most of every opportunity to break free of the tour groups and explore on our own. Happy Birthday to Irene. We’ll be looking forward to spending time looking at photos when we get home. Linda and Tom
Monday, April 14, 2008
Amsterdam is wonderful. Hoor was historic and old. A great stop. Today we're in Arnhem and toured a battle field area of the Battle of Arnhen, Sept 17, 1944. The cemetary was thought provoking. We had watched the movie A Bridge Too Far last night and understood the event. Those soldiers gave so much to achieve so little, and yet are honored every year by a greatful Dutch people. My thought for the day: soldiers will do whatever it takes to carry out what they are sent to do. Be careful what you chose as their mission. The cost is high.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Isaac's connection with France is underpants. He decided we could were our underpants over our pants there, so on this snowy morning in April in Colorado, he and his mother modeled the look. What do you think? Isaac promised he would not laugh at me, but I'm not so sure of those older and proper French.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Now that I have one, that is the question. Obviously I will try to post travel updates. Aside from that, what else? Martha Stewart uses hers as a journal of her activities. My son Jake uses his to share his thinking, often to rant. I don't have much experience with others. But before I depart for my pleasure trip, I have something stuck in my craw, and I feel a rant coming on. Every Friday morning Tom and I meet with a group of ladies for breakfast in Des Moines, a suburb south of Seattle. These ladies are all retired teachers who worked with Tom at Des Moines Elementary School. They have been having breakfast together for many years, and when I retired they welcomed me into the breakfast club. Each week we meet, eat and talk about things from personal to politic. We never know when someone will find a segue to a new topic and mapping the conversational stream would result in a very complex diagram. Last week we were just finishing up our typical two hours when a young man approached our table. He was a former student of many of the teachers and he recognized them, so came to say hello. After greetings, I, not knowing him, asked him what he was doing now. Here is his story: This young man is now attending community college on the GI Bill. He contributed to this fund while he was in the Army on active duty, and it is now paying off well for him, thankfullly. He served a 15 month tour in Iraq, preceded by two short trips over there, providing support for special ops. He is now out of the army, but is subject to being recalled under stop loss for five years. When asked what he thought of the war, he said he didn't think we should be there. Someone asked him who he was supporting for President and he said he was supporting Hillary, but would vote for Obama if he was the candidate. He said he could not vote for the Republican because of what the current administration had taken away from him. When I asked him what he meant by that he told us that while in Iraq he had qualified for three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and a Silver Star with Valour. If you don't know what those medals mean, Google them. You will be impressed. But on arriving home he was informed that no medals would be awarded. His mission was classified. He could not tell anyone what he did, and he would not be recognized for it. I was appalled. I commented that in affect, his service had been denied. He agreed. But he said he could do nothing about it. If he went public, he was subject to arrest and could basically be dissappeared. Now, Purple Hearts are for service injuries. I didn't ask about these, but fortunately they were not of a severe enough nature to be visable. Undoubedly he must be suffering from some amount of post traumatic stress. How could he not? He is subject to being recalled for a cause in which he no longer believes. But his service does not exist! I'm sure there are many stories like his, but when you have the personal experience of hearing one first hand, it becomes personal. And it makes me mad!! Just what does "Support Our Troops" mean anyway?
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
We will soon be leaving on another big adventure across the pond. We leave about 1:00 Thursday, April 10th for Amsterdam. There we will board a Viking River Cruise boat for a nine night round trip cruise through waterways in Holland and Belgium. It's called the "Windmills and Tulips Tour", and we'd better see some tulips, since we will miss the Princess Irene tulips we planted last fall in our own garden. After this cruise, we will spend two nights on our own in Amsterdam. Then we will take the train to Paris, where we have five nights in a hotel there and touring on our own. We finish up with another Viking River Cruise on the Seine, which we will join by taking a train to the Normandy coast, then cruising back to Paris. We fly home May 4th. We have been scrambling to get things ready to leave here, dodging showers and bundling up against the cold. Our neighbor lady will water the green house plants and her lawn guy will mow. We think we have the home front covered. Travel documents have been photo copied and tour books studied. Our itinerary is complete. We are just about ready for "Bon Voyage".