2016 Europe Travels

Winter Parrot in London
Windsor Castle

Had a long day coming in..flight to London delayed 31/2 hrs in Houston. Flight was uneventful but over 9 hrs. Made my connections with relatively little trouble. Was a wet walk through Windsor Eton..which looks very interesting..to the Holiday Inn Express. Nice shower..and I took a long relaxing one..then to bed. Slept off and on till evening..skipped dinner..wasn't hungry. Guess I needed rest more than food. Windsor Castle tomorrow..hope the rain holds off.

Dancing Man..Southampton

1/3. Certainly got enough rest. Slept from 1:30 to 8 yesterday..stayed up till midnight..then slept till almost 10 this morning! Must have been the rainy English weather. Braved the rain..well..in a taxi..to Windsor Castle and took the self guided tour. Quite a few people despite the weather. Castle was impressive..very nice art collection and it was still decorated for Christmas which made for a warm holiday atmosphere. Had lunch at a Pub afterwards..decent Sunday roast with two glasses of very good Milk Stout. Walked for awhile in Windsor through the shop area..stopped raining..then back to the Hotel. A note: the St George chapel was closed for Sunday services so didn't get to see the final resting place of Henry VIII.At least I got close.

1/4. Was up at 7:15 this morning..a minor miracle. And saw some English sunshine for the first time. Birds and people are out and about..the day looks alive. Enjoyable train ride to Southampton which turned out to be a fascinating place. They have preserved many buildings and parts of the city wall that were built in the early 1300's. Had an enjoyable early afternoon exploring the town down by the harbor and seeing the Pilgrim Monument. Then ate at a really cool brewery named Dancing Man. Had steak pie with some delicious mashed sweet potatoes and some other veggies along with bone marrow gravy..shortbread and coffee. All served by a pretty redhead named Kate who had a strong resemblance to Sandra Bullock. The brewery was in a stone warehouse that was built around 1328. And of course a couple of pints of a really good coffee porter. Turned dark around 4:30 and in the upper 40's. Back to my hotel..which I also think was built in 1328.

Southampton

1/5. Relaxing sunny train to Surbiton. My knee was bothering me quite a bit so decided to rest. I can come back to Hampton Court from London if I want..short trip. So I rested for a few hours at the Hotel Bosco..which was a very clean and comfy place..very nice lounge and breakfast area. Close to train. Then went out and ate at the Antelope.. an old and bit worn Pub but comfortable with decent food and good beer..milk stout again.They played jazz from the 20's and 30's on vinyl..cool. Found a Starbucks and sat and had an Americano..watched the street scene..only 4:30 but getting dark. Then strolled back to the Bosco.

Surbiton

1/6. Pleasant breakfast at the Bosco..quiet..good music..good orange juice. Watched the people walking..sometimes running..to the train and school. A little foggy this morning..will be off to London later. Knee a bit better but still painful. Short train into London on an overcast morning. Walked the brief distance from Lancaster Gate tube station to Lancaster Gate Hotel and took it easy for awhile..knee feeling better. Then walked to The Mitre and had grilled sea bass for lunch with a beer and three glasses of a Zinfandel Shiraz..hey..it was good. Was nice to see my favorite Pub..even though it has been painted grey. Well..a late lunch ..it was around 3:00.

Seems to be my Pub

Ketchup..Had trouble accessing this journal. So a review. Went to a Bach concert at St Martins in the Fields. Great vocalists but the Church compositions by Bach not too inspiring. Walked around the Trafalgar Square area and across the Thames. Had lunch at an Italian place and talked to Ollie..the very nice waitress from the Czech Republic. Left London on Sunday the 10th and arrived in Paris..actually slept on the train..unusual for me. Hotel Gramont is nice..small room but comfortable and with some character. Dinner at la Taverne..chilly night in Paris. Heard from Marion..both the boys have chicken pox and Geoff is starting a new job.

St Martin in the Fields

1/11. To the Louvre . The Louvre deserves its reputation.Quite a place. Walked there about noon and spent about 3 hrs exploring..till I needed a rest. Saw the Mona Lisa and Last Supper. Started off with some light rain but that quickly ended.Turned into a cloudy chilly day..about 46. Stopped at Starbucks on the way back and relaxed a bit.Watched the people stroll bye.Now about 4 and thinking about dinner. The big pyramid is actually the entrance to the Louvre..never realized that.

Carving in Louvre

On the train to Bordeaux through a moody France. The skies are alternate shades of grey with off and on rain. The rivers we cross are swollen and to the tops of the banks full..been raining quite a bit here. I have no idea where we are..haven't stopped at a station yet and we may not stop till Bordeaux. It is a 3 hour journey. As I type the sun has shone itself a bit..have to see how long that lasts . Sitting in a 4 seat..the older couple across from me speak no English..she is restless and sneezes occasionally..he sleeps. They left a few minutes ago for the dining car..there is nobody next to me by the window..so I'm cruising through France by myself at the moment. Most of the fields are fallow with standing water..some are green with grass or some short winter crop. The trees are bare except for the pines and low bushes. The villages we pass through are older..with stone houses..weathered by time. No form..just helter skelter houses and buildings .Green to brown to furrowed dirt fields..a couple of tall white electricity windmills.More scattered houses, and on we go. Countryside seems to be opening and spreading out blocked from view from time to time by railway cuts. Passing through a small city..a rather long tunnel..more city..railway cuts..the end of the city and back into the country. Life goes by quickly on a Hi speed train.

Bordeaux

1/13. Had a late lunch in Bordeaux yesterday. Some dry chicken with a lot of pomme frittes. Very good Belgian beer and two glasses of Vin Rouge. Took a short walk afterwards and got caught in a brief but intense hail storm. Wish I had stayed another day here..bad planning. Now on the train to Pau..was nice getting out of the cold onto a warm train. 1st class..alone in a two seater..sky grey but no rain expected. Cranes..I think..in the fields. A quiet ride..nothing of interest in the refreshment car. Was never checked for a ticket..Made it to Pau and was met at the station by Marion and the chicken pox kids. At the house now waiting for Geoff to get back from work.

Been hanging with the family. Went to a farmers market..a picnic in the Jurenscon winery region. Saw the old Cathederal in Lescar. Had a nice Sunday afternoon at home. Tomorrow taking a three day trip to Toulouse and Carcasonne . Have to walk down to the Boucher and see if he is open. Need a Poule. Je parla pas Francais! Of course..went to the Pau hippodrome..nice little racetrack. Had lunch there with Marion.

Lescar

1/27

On the train to Toulouse. Basic train..nothing fancy. Feels good to be traveling again. Nice sunny day with some varied scenery..farmland to hilly. The openness is refreshing after Pau.

Cathedral St Sernin

1/28. Had a nice afternoon and evening in Toulouse. Walked to the Cathedral from the hotel and wandered around inside..very impressive..larger and more complex than others I've seen. Had two beers across from the Cathedral ..one inside because it was getting chilly and windy. Had two more beers at the Melting Pot while I waited for the restaurants to open at 7..very French. Talked to a girl from New York City who was living there with her bf. Very expensive dinner, 75 Euro. Oysters..very good..and scallops..also very good..all 7 of them! Hotel was good..room rather small. Didn't sleep all that well. Now on the train to Carcasonne ..nicer train than yesterday . Overcast day.

Arrived in Carcassonne ..taxi to the gate of the Fortress..very impressive place. Walked to the hotel up narrow cobblestone streets.Had to wait for check in so wandered about.. Had lunch..sat outside..Mousles and frittes. Mussels not so good..in cream sauce. Checked in..bag was already in my room.Room 29..very cool looking.. with one stone wall. Great view from my window of the stone turrets. Have a very secure feeling being surrounded by this mass of stone. Slept well...early to bed..was a little worn.

1/29. Awoke in my city of stone..a very unique place. I enjoy being here. Taking it easy..went down to breakfast about 8:15. Will take the tour of the inner sanctum later. Very overcast day..perfect ambiance for castle exploring. So I explored the inner castle..walked the ramparts..watched an interesting film on the history and restoration. Met Adam and Mallory from Georgia..two exchange students..he a tall oriental..she a cute little strawberry blond living in Toulouse. I ate at the same restaurant..decent calamari. Had a glass of wine in hotel bar.

1/30

Breakfast in hotel. Got a bumpy ride down to the taxi stop through the city and over the stone streets..now on the train to Toulouse..then to Pau. Sunny day.Made the transfer in Toulouse..nice 1st class car..almost empty. Purple seats..comfy. Getting close to Pau..can see the snowy peaks of the Pyrenees . Getting a little overcast. Hope I can find something to eat in the train station. All the restaurants are closed already . It's been an enjoyable side trip.

1/31 Home with the troops and have the start of a cold. Today a day of rest and sitting around the dining room table.

2/1 Have the house to myself today. Trying to figure out my journey to Barcelona. Wasn't supposed to rain but have had a steady light rain all morning. I'll try to get out for a bottle of wine later. Cold not too bad but a little draggy.

2/2 Cooked veal chops and spaghetti for dinner.

2/3 I made duck breasts with the butchers dauphinois . Turned out well.

2/4 Had a nice walk into the center of Pau. Nice sunny day. Bought a sandwich from a patisserie as well as two baguettes and two slices of a chocolate thingy for dessert. Then went down to the local market for wine and beer and tangerines. Geoff made a potato omlette for dinner and Marion made vegetable soup.

2/5 Starting to pack. Finished planning as far as Rome. Gave Nouga a piece of duck this morning and a little milk. Waiting for Geoff to get home then I'll walk down for some wine. Another sunny day. Think it's pizza tonight.

Dinner

2/6 Drove an hour to the seaside town of Biarritz ..nice trip through mostly farmland with some older villages along the way. Biarritz is very nice..a French Carmel. Ate lunch on the beach with family and Marion's brother. Pastry and coffee after sitting outside..was cool but had a heater. Went back to Regis's apartment for awhile then home. Back about 7..Geoff made mostiacolli with a creamy smoked salmon sauce and a bottle of a dry Muscadet. Nice day

2/7. Said my good-byes..had a pastry with Felix as we were the first ones up. Geoff gave me a ride to the station..now on my way to Perpignan . A new journey begins. Rainy day on a cozy train. I will miss Pau. My butcher and my wine lady. And Nougat. And the family.

2/8 Arrived in Perpignan. Easy walk to NYX hotel. Check in took a few minutes..very personal service..was shown to my room. Went out to dinner..bad calamari and good mussels. Walked around Perpignan..bought a train ticket to Barcelona..watched some rowdy guys get busted by the cops. It was a beautiful day around 70. Good lunch..grilled squid with mussels..vin blanc..lemon torte. Sat outside in the sun..enjoyable.Walked some more. Too nice to go back in.

Grilled Calamari

2/9 Up and showered. Skipped hotel breakfast..had an apple thingy at Gare Perpignan. Had to return an extra train ticket..was sold two. Noticeable police presence at train station. Now on a speedy train to Barcelona. 3 uniformed police on the train..never saw that before. Fruit trees are blooming ..pink and white..saw some in France also.

2/9-2/13 Barcelona..Nice hotel..upgraded room..found Starbucks..saw Segrada Familia and the beautiful open air market..ate too much seafood..got sick..day in bed..used the bidet..taxi to Barcelona Airport Hotel..nice. Met a lady from Germany..Margrit..nice. Have to get up early to catch the plane to Naples..Napoli. Was up at 7..all that rest.

2/14 Listening to my first Italian conversation in the Barcelona airport..a little taste of what's to come I guess. Like watching an episode of the Sopranos. Getting to airport was easy enough..10 min shuttle ride. Vueling was simple enough..once I figured it out..a baggage check window for each destination..many windows. Got here early though..still have 45 mins till boarding. Had a thunderstorm last night but sunny today. BAH was surprisingly nice..clean and spacious with a bar and a good breakfast. Stomach is feeling 85%..seem to have my energy back. Food still isn't that appealing yet..that will save me money! Well..off to Napoli..grazi.

In Napoli..raining..hotel in a grimy neighborhood . To walk in the rain and dark for pizza at 7 or tough it out with potato chips and peanuts?

2/15..took the tour of Pompeii. Had a nice guide and a nice small group..English couple and Kelly..So Cal girl. Pompeii was very impressive..really took me back in time. Found a newish pizza place afterwards. Pizza was great..thanked the owner who told me i looked like George a looney..obviously blind. Be glad to leave Naples..not a good feel to it.

2/16 Short train to Rome. Think it was love at first site. Beautiful buildings..wide Boulevards..so much different than Naples. Walked..ate a pizza al fresco..walked..then had spaghetti ala Vongole and wine. Hotel was 4 star despite two twin beds.

2/17-2/20.. Got to know Rome. Saw the sights..Palatine hill was a great walk and an amazing place. The Forum..Trevi Fountain..the Capital. Was just an inspiring place to be. Best restaurant by Trevi Fountain. Best pesto ever with squid. Found a good beer place to sit in the afternoons a short walk from the Hotel. Weather was mostly sunny but cool and sometimes windy. Saw the President of Itay pull in with his motorcade to what was the former residence of the Popes. And the Vatican. Was amazing to stand there looking up at Michaelangelos Moment of Creation. The guards were stern and kept the crowd quiet and no pictures please. English was widely understood..much more so than France. Ah..the Colosseum..the brutality aside..a great work of engineering and creativity.

2/21 on the train to Milan for a night. Last trip on my pass. Some smell just reminded me of the fragrance in the kitchen in Framingham on Sunday with a roast beef in the oven..the string beans..the Yorkshire pudding. Or maybe it was lamb with mint sauce..and probably mashed potatoes. Strange and wonderful memories. Tired of watching my suitcase..wish we would start to roll. Rolling. No sun today..a sky of light and dark grey..starting to turn flat grey it seems. Damn..some long ass tunnels on this route..out for a second then back in..on and on..strange..think we have gone subterranean. But in the breaks I see the sun is out. Even the Bologna train platform is the underground. Arrived to a beautiful afternoon in Milan. Sunny and 61 with a seductive light breeze. Walked..found a really nice restaurant and had Osso Bucco with saffron rice..chocolate ice cream for dessert. And of course a half bottle of chianti and a beer. Explored the train station a bit afterwards. Quite a formidable structure.

2/21..Wow..eventful day. Was on a train to Zurich..but it broke down. Had to switch trains and picked up two travel Angels..an English speaking Swiss lady and her boyfriend who were also on their way to Zurich. Never would have made the next switch without them..in Bellinzona. Quick change to another train..now on to Zurich. Conversation in 3 languages with Brigid and a local old Swiss man on second train..interesting. Her bf Gaitano..Italian.Not much snow in Switzerland this year..but the higher peaks are frosted. We ended up on a local Swiss train that made plenty of local stops making for a long trip. Got into Zurich about 4. Had some trouble finding the hotel but turned out to be in a good location..next to a Starbucks and restaurants though I ended up in Newsbar. Had 3 beers and 2 empanadas..wasn't hungry after the bratwurst in the train station. Liked what I saw of Zurich..wish I had spent another night here.

Up early..bout. 6:45. Had a coffee and blueberry muffin at Starbucks. Then the short walk to the station. Grey sky..few drops of rain. Hustle and bustle of everyone going to work and school. First class on the 9:09 to Munchen. Humming along through the Swiss countryside..sky clearing a bit. Off and on light rain..sky grey now. Bout 1/12 hrs to Munchen on this comfortable Swiss train. Now of course in Germany. Not exactly speeding along..moderately paced train? Now stopping in Memmingen.Beautiful open farmlands on the way into Munchen. Train has sped up..the final leg.

Arrived in Munich..got a nice room with a view at the Eden Wolff. Walked to HB..rather chilly with very light rain. Potato Soup and schnitzel. Met Stephan and friends..3 young girls from Australia and Canada. Had our pictures taken by several tourists. Finally met a couple from England. Drank 4 liters and didn't sleep that well..Mmmm. Oh yeah..closed down HB about midnight..cool. Good evening. Or maybe it was 5.

2/24 Sunny day in Munich..got a late start but managed a long walk..found Feldherrnhalle..Starbucks for a coffee..back to the hotel for R and R. Then out to dinner at Augustina..venison patties. It was a sunny day after snow in the morning that is. Ate lunch at Nordsee.

2/25 Woke up to a snowstorm. Waited till almost one to go out. Ate lunch..Weisswurst. Went to the Munich Stadtmuseum. Decided to eat early at the HB and ended up with Stephan and friends again but managed to get out of there after beer and shots about 10:30. Took the S-Bahn in the morning..it snowed until about 2:00.

Snowy Day Munich

2/26 Up early..had a pastry and a Starbucks. Now on the train to Berlin with a change at Göttingen . Snow frosted scenery.

Gravestone..

3/12. First time at the M-bar..there was Britta sitting with a friend..Annett tending bar..good enough homecoming. Have been doing my usual..have found some new things..visited some already seen things. Weather has been pretty accommodating..some rain but not much..was rained in one day so far. Saw the Revanent at the Cine Plex. Have had two good dinners at the Italian place on the corner and one in Potsdamer Platz. Have been shopping at Rewe and cooking at the apartment a bit. Detloff introduced me to the Irish pub..nice place..English spoken and no smoking inside. Have been fighting my back and going out every other day..not necessarily the back..just one day of walking tires me out..welcome to 67. Staying in Berlin two extra days so I can attend the closing party for the M-bar. Then off to Cologne. Apartment is OK but some things..manche dinge..like the shower..are a pain in the ass.

3/14 ..Went to the Judisches Museum ..finally. Then took a long walk to George and the Dragon for lunch. Great beer..good red cabbage and potato dumpling..pork was so so. Back to Feuerbachstrasse..walked to Starbucks for a coffee..then walked home..I'm walked out.

3/15. An in day. Didn't wake up till 11 ! Finished planning my return trip. Ate a late lunch at Sylt. Went to the M-bar.

3/19..Got out at 2. Turned into a sunny day but still chilly .Ate lunch at Sylt..coffee at Starbucks..couple of beers at M-bar..Mona bar tending. Haven't done anything exciting except for lunch outside ar Hackescher Markt day before yesterday. It was sunny and 53. Some good music..so so Schnitzel. Market was on..very crowded.

3/25 ..Haven't done too much the last few days. The last two have been drizzly and cold. Have been enjoying the Hotel am Steglitz. Came here for two days for the M bar party and ended up staying four after I cancelled my plans to go to Brussels and take Eurostar. Now I am flying to London from Berlin tomorrow and staying 5 nights..then home on the 31st of March. Spring is coming slowly to Berlin but some bushes and fruit trees are blooming. Hopefully London will be farther advanced into Springtime. The party was fun but sad. I've lost my home away from home here in Berlin. Life goes on.

Last Hurrah M-bar

3/30/16 I'm here in the Park Inn by Heathrow.Flying home in the morning at 10:35. London was great as usual. Had an HaHa moment when walking down from Piccadilly Circus down towards St. James Park. I suddenly realized how London was laid out and everything was put together. Central London has become walkable for me. Also had a very expensive hair cut at Ruffians from a cute British girl. Nothing special but at least had a good shot of whiskey out of the deal. Will miss the Mitre although the beer isn't that good but the food can be although the Sunday Roast was a bit of a disappointment..but the Yorkshire pudding and black pudding were good. Also visited the Victoria and Albert museum while I was here..got caught up in a hail storm coming back through Hyde Park but survived. Also ate rack of Lamb at a place down from Piccadilly square..was OK but not great. Walked to Paddington station this morning..sun was out..hopped on the Heathrow Express and bid goodbye to London.

Piccadilly Circus

3/31/16 Up at 6..no problem getting to the airport..had breakfast..now in the United Lounge drinking some hydrating concoction and some water. Using their nice restrooms. Should be loading about 10:30. The flight is delayed 35 minutes. At least it isn't 3 hrs like my beginning flight in Houston..3 months ago. Really didn't travel 3 months..3 weeks in Po..almost a month in Berlin. So about 6 weeks on the road. London..Paris..Bordeaux ..Po..Carcassonne..Barcelona..Naples..Rome..Milan..Zurich..Munich..Berlin..London..plus Toulouse and Perpignan. Plane late taking off..something with a latch..almost an hour late now.

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