I love Italy

Cynthia and I have fallen in love with Venice.
Once you get past the crush of humanity in the main tourist areas you can find small streets lined with pleasant cafes and restaurants intermingled with shops.

Each turn of a corner reveals a scene more picturesque than the last.

Canals

The people here have been very kind and pleasant. You can walk the streets to all hours of the night and be completely safe. We strolled till nearly midnight last night.

The Venetian glass is truly beautiful and the masks are fantastic. As tempting as these items are, we cannot carry any souveniers back with us and the cost of shipping starts at 70 Euros and goes up. We must content ourselves with pictures and memories for the time being.

The one thing that continues to amaze me is that there are no cars, scooters, motorcycles or bicycles here. All the motorized traffice is by boat and the rest of the traffic is by foot.

Tomorrow we take the train to Florence. From all that we have heard this will prove to be equally wonderful.

Pretty Lights

Canal at night

Fire show at St. Marks

Venice!

Venice Picture Gallery

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The night train from Paris to Venice was an experience to say the least.
We shared a cabin with a Nigerian man who was friendly enough but seemed out of place on a train to Venice.

We made conversation and then bedded down for the night.

As the train rolled through the darkness I dosed off and dreamed of bizarre train sequences from various WWII movies. Then, at 4:00 am I was awakened by a knocking on the cabin door. We had stopped and a uniformed Italian policeman was asking us questions. He was most interested in the man from Nigeria. The conversation was mostly in Italian (which the Nigerian man spoke fluently) and the policeman searched his luggage thoroughly. After about 45 minutes he was done and he left. I fell back asleep as the train pulled out and continued us on our journey.

We arrived in Venice around 8:30 this morning.

I found my way to St. Marks and got a picture right where my grandfather stood in 1919.

Spanning the generations

One of the sites we were anxious to see was the so-called “Bridge of Sighs.” Legend has it that this bridge received it’s name because the prisoners who passed through it on their way to the prison cells on the other side would most likely see the beautiful sight of the lagoon and the island of S.Giorgio and freedom for the last time.

This is probably an apocryphal tale but it makes a great story.

William was happy to see it.

William at the Bridge of Sighs

The food here is awesome and the weather is magnificent. We leave the day after tomorrow for Florence.
Cynthia’s ability to speak Spanish is helping us in many ways since the languages are very similar.

It’s the little differences…

Yesterday, as we strolled down the famous Champs Elysse I found myself craving something to drink and maybe a snack.

Cynthia was somewhat befuddled about the fact that I was tickled to find a McDonald’s so I could spend 3 Euros to purchase a Royal with Cheese and a coke.

Today we did not go to the Louvre, instead we braved the Paris Metro and went to the Musée d’Orsay to walk among the best collection of impressionist art ever assembled. Monet, Latrec, Degas and many others including some more Van Gogh.

After that we walked over to Samaritain, a huge depatment store with a cafe on the roof that offers a spectacular view of Paris.

From there we went to the Cluny Museum, the home of the Unicorn Tapestries. It is an amazing museum of Medieval art and history.

From there it was back to the hotel and then out to the open air market for cheese, meats and breads so to make a little dinner.

We shoot for the Louvre tomorrow. Sunday night we take the sleeper train to Venice.

Finally got some IO

Found a cafe that will let you connect USB devices so I am adding two pics taken yesterday.

Yes, I AM a tourist.

William the sheep is overjoyed to be in Paris and see the sights.

William

We stayed up late so I could use the tripod and get this shot

Lights

Oh yea, before we left Bruges, Cynthia got the hookup at the Dumon Chocolate Shop. This place is pretty amazing. It went a long way toward lifting her spirits after the “incident.”

We went to the top of the tower today and we also walked to the Arc d’Triumph. Tomorrow is the Louvre.

Paris!

Bruges to Brussels no problem. Then the high speed train to Paris.

This will be short as the French excuse for a computer keyboard is an abomination. Who ever heard of using an ALT key to type a period…? And the Q and the A keys are transposed as well as a few other quirks.

It kills me I cannot show you the night shots of the Eiffel Tower!
There are some cool pics I will share when I can.

Thanks to every one for the well wishes and good thoughts!
Cynthia is doing well and so am I.

A quick update

Back at the Internet cafe for a quick update. Cynthia is fine. We got around today with no problems. Even with a bandage on her nose she is still the prettiest woman in Europe. She climed the 375 steps to the top of the clock tower in the central square and that perked her up.

We found the world famous Devon Chocolate Shop and stocked up. Wait till you see those pics! William the sheep has made some new friends. You could say he is a “good wool ambassador” (groan).

I purchased two Cohiba Cuban cigars at the local tobaccoist and have smoked one in a nice pub as I drank a brandy. Ahh, decadence!

This is the coolest little town. We saw a lovely statue of Madonna and child. It is said to be the only Michaelangelo statue outside of Italy. It is carved from a single block of Marble as is his style. It’s awe-inspiring.

Gotta run! Tomorrow is Paris!

Disaster

Upon arrival in Bruges we had a bit of a scare. As Cynthia was entering the cab for the ride to the hotel she slipped and smashed her nose on the door frame. Blood began to run down her lip and there were numerous abrasions to the forehead and the bridge of her nose.

Our desitnation quickly changed from the hotel to the nearest hospital. The nurse admitted us quickly and within 20 minutes Cynthia was being x-rayed and treated. Fortunately the nose is unbroken and in tact. No concussion. All in all it took 1 hour in the emergency room and we were on our way with a prescription for extra strength ibuprofen.

The doctor spoke Dutch and a little English. When he looked at the paperwork and read where we were from he quipped “Houston, we have a problem.” The levity went a long, long way.

The hospital did not charge us. They will mail us a bill back in Houston. Can you imagine? We walked in, got treated and were sent on our way. Imagine some poor sap from the EU who spoke no English getting such good treatment in an emergency room in Houston…

All is well now and Bruges is fantastic. The Internet cafe I am in rests in the shadow of The Curch of Our Lady and is quite cool.

More when possible. Two days here and it’s off to Paris.

It’s all “Dutch” to me…

I’m using the B&B landlord’s PC. I managed to hook up the iPod successfully (even with Dutch instructions).
The plane ride was uneventful. When we arrived in Amsterdam we found out George Bush would be visiting. There were some protests. Getting “Stop Bush” fliers handed to us by the local dissidents was a hoot.

Cynthia and I hooked up with my friend Carl and his lovely lady Suzanne. We did some sight-seeing by foot on day 1 and managed to stay awake the whole day before crashing around 7:00 pm. That meant we were awake better than 24 hours and allowed us to (mostly) overcome jet lag.

The next day we went to the Van Gogh museum. Very nice. That evening was spent with Carl and Suzanne at their place. We had a lovely dinner and if I hadn’t been overcome by a hefty sinus headache we would have been up all night engaged in wonderful discussion. As it was, the evening was still mighty fine.

Today was spent taking the train to Liden and on to the Keukenhoff to check out the Tulip festival. It was spectacular!

Tomorrow is on the Bruges Belgium for chocolate and beer. I’ll update as I can.

Stephen Hawking, Ray Romano, The Simpsons and analogies

Commencing countdown, engines on.

If my impending trip to Europe were to be compared to a black hole you might say I have reached the event horizon. Time is slowing down as I am pulled into a singularity that is my vacation

The next few days stretch out before me in what seems to be an eternity.

It’s an odd feeling. Matter is energy and I am vibrating at a whole new frequency. Soon I will be invisible to the naked eye of employment (if only for a short time). Who knows what wonders await on the other side?

I guess I do since I have been planning for so long now.

iPod is go for launch

All the bugs seem to be worked out.
The iPod now successfully interfaces with my laptop and with my camera.

Yesterday I took my Sony DSC f828 camera and shot 228 5 megapixel images on my 512 MB memory stick.
When I arrived home I dined on delicious home made sloppy joes that Cynthia had made for dinner.

I was upbeat and optimistic and ready to take on the iPod for the final round.

My first order of business was to connect the iPod to the laptop and download the 300+ songs Cynthia had ripped (so far) from our CD collection.

*side note; The iTunes software is pretty damn amazing. Cynthia is not all that technically savvy and does not warm up to new software applications very readily. That being said, she has pretty much mastered the ripping process and has even begun to create some nice custom play. This is a HUGE bonus as it has sped up the process of digitizing the music collection.

I connected the iPod and, as it should, the iTunes software fired up. iTunes allowed me to name my iPod and initialized it correctly for Windows use. All 300+ songs were uploaded to the iPod in less than 10 minutes.

The next step was to connect my camera to the iPod and pull off the 228 images. All went as planned and the iPod brought up the proper menus and allowed me to offload the entire memory stick. It took approximately 30 minutes to transfer the whole load and used about 1/3 of the battery charge to do so. I deleted the memory stick using the iPod and disconnected.

Now for the real test. Could I recover the images from the iPod?

I connected to the laptop and looked under the “My Computer” icon. The iPod showed up as an external drive and I was able to browse the contents. There were my images in a folder. I copied the folder to my laptop in under 5 minutes. I then deleted the files from the iPod which took another few minutes.

All in all, a huge success and a much less painful day than the one before.

At this point I feel confident that I made the right choice. I have a solution for handling my pictures while traveling overseas.

And the bonus (as previously mentioned) is that I have an iPod.
I’m sitting at my desk listening to Cat Stevens as I type this.
On top of that Cynthia can use it and she is even excited about it. The idea of having access to some of her favorite music on the flight or when riding on the train has great appeal to her.

So, in the end, I not only have a practical solution for a problem that was presented in the planning for our trip, but I also have a gadget that will enhance the travelling part of the vacation for Cynthia.

mmmmmmm…..beer

So, my friend Bill Shirley has announced his “plan” to go to Belgium, Holland and France in June.

I have not even left for my trip (which includes those very same destinations) and I am envious!
Good lord, what is wrong with me?

To say I am amped up about my own trip would be an understatement.
I fear now I may be jinxing myself just talking about it. These next few weeks are going to be tense with stress.

I am knocking on wood and request Dekan and Andrea please do the same (on my behalf).

The End of the WorldDistraction is the name of the game. The last two Saturdays have included a trip to The Flying Saucer to be introduced to Belgian and Belgian style beers. Kind of a warm up, if you will. The staff there are quite knowledgeable and during the day very patient while educating the beer simpletons about the various brews.

Cynthia has become a fan of lambic style beers. I have discovered Fin Du Monde.

Our excursions have really only served to heighten our sense of anticipation. Still, it’s been fun. And I have a new appreciation of beer that will, with any luck at all, serve me well in Belgium. I suppose this is why I am envious of Bill’s trip. I am certain once I go I will develop a taste for well made beer and want to return to the land of beer often.

Baa!

One of the common threads of our trip to the UK two years ago was the sheep. Cynthia thought they were sooooooooooooo cute and commented (with a smile) each time she saw them. When we were crossing the field to go to Hadrian’s Wall we had to walk through a field of sheep to get there. We got more pictures of the sheep than we did of the wall. There is even a tuft of wool in our photo album from the trip.

Being the considerate mate that I am, I made it my mission to find the definitive sheep souvenir to give to Cynthia so she would have it as a keepsake of our time there.

Cynthia hates tchotchkes so a plastic sheep figurine would not do it.
She is not a big fan of the t-shirt so that was out.

My best bet would be a stuffed animal or plushy.
Of course it couldn’t be just any stuffed sheep.
It would have to have “cute-appeal.”
Over the years I have proven myself capable of picking out a good stuffed animal.

It was at the very top of The Royal Mile right as you start the downhill trek from Edinburgh Castle that I hit pay-dirt. We had just browsed around The Edinburgh Woolen Mill and we coming out on the street to go to the next shop when I spotted a wicker basket containing some very cute (and very small) stuffed sheep.

One was quickly purchased and presented to Cynthia and she treasures it to this day.
I was tasked with naming it. We were in Scotland and before I could catch myself I blurted out William Woolace”¦an unfortunate pun. It stuck.

William will be joining us on our trip to Europe.
He will have his own Journal and I offered to capture him in still life at various locations as we travel.

Something like this:

Still life with William Woolace

Yes, I am a sentimental and sappy dorkus malorkus.