BC: In retrospect... So was the entire experience flowers, fun, and wry commentary? Not quite. We saw many vestiges of pogroms, wars, and man's ongoing struggle to become human. But overall these experiences were balanced by the beauty we can demonstrate in painting, architecture, and sculpture. Since our return, I have found a trove of used art books and am heading towards "brain full" on the museums and artists we surveyed. Daniella's degree in Art History added immeasurable to the quality of our tour. We, the 28 on the bus, made new friends, laughed too much, and are forever changed. Thank you Rick! | And thank you Karen for being our good friend throughout!
FC: The sculpture at Grote Markt says it best "A picture is work 26 letters". Our Rick Steves' vacation had everything! Great companions, amazing sights, the best guides, wonderful food, all set in a Europe that is both modern and rich in history. Here are the highlights of our trip.
1: Haarlem was our first stop. Here is a typical residential street in the old section of town. Where are the SUVs?
2: Laocoon copy at a former palace now government building. We learned that the snake represented excessive taxation.
3: Energized Rick Steves compatriots, walking briskly in an outdoor museum. What you can't see is that they are following the food truck.
4: Daniela, our guide, knew everything about everything. She was helpful, kind, caring and now she owes me $20.
5: Why takes pictures of people and castles when you can find compliant subjects at the autobahn shops? We noted that these items were made in Tiewan, by craftsmen who practiced TieKwanDo. The term "Railroad Tie" is a derivative of this surviving form.
6: Herr Jung gave us a tour of Bacharach and we will never forget him. Why? Because of his soul - a beautiful radiant light that will never be extinguished. He has passed his gratitude, learning, and truth on to many people - a bit went my direction and I cherish it.
7: Lock design stolen from a Cincinnati Airport Marriot conference room.
8: The World Cup was in full swing during our tour. Inside this tent were over 150 Dutch soccer fanatics, suprisingly sober, calmly engaged in the tepid ball handling of their home team. Can you smell the Stroopwafles?
9: I prefer stripmall signs with blinking neon text, replete with typos, in a bizarre rainbow of fonts - but since we were in Rothenburg, Germany we had to suffer this...how can I put it...mess.
11: Dr Howard | German medical care delivery system most advanced in the world...maybe. | Dr Fine
12: A short history of European architecture: build, destroy, repeat. We are lucky to have benefactors who restored Rothenburg. | This local real-estate agent had the listing for the property (above left). He carried counter offers in the horn, shown his light on suspect appraisers, and got some really great deals using "Gungnir, the Spear of Odin."
13: Pickles and Preserves? Ok ... not something you see on the IHOP menu but more mainstream than the !Cucumber and Chocolates! buffet on the next table. | Richard, our skilled and friendly bus driver, gave me a full tour of the magic bus and let me pretend I could manage the beast as well as he did.
14: We navigated to Dominos.com on our iPad and found a Venice-based franchise. Who knew? The delivery person trucked (with some pizazz) across the piazza with the pizza. When I asked him about the origin of the caprese salad (pictured) he said that "off the top of my head, I don't really know".
15: This ogee arch could be an original element from the 1300's. | Why does this place look nothing like Venice, CA?
16: Since I am wealthy, I had one of these delivered to each of the families on our tour. After all, they did have to put up with me for 21 days. Unfortunately, 7 people had to walk alongside the bus on our way to the next attraction as the massive bouquets took up the first 12 rows of bus seats.
18: Nancy, aka "She from whom all things flow" with Michael McKinley. We bonded with Michael during the course of many meals and tours. I owe him $20. | Before email, there was: | Art is where you find it, in this case a find of a restaurant in Florence. We had just the right amount of time to explore on our own at each of the stops. Thanks, Rick!
19: We talk of (g)love. | We talk of food.
20: Things we did on the bus: sleep off the 2am dance at the cafe, read eBooks, listen to music, daydream, count sunflowers, get to know each other, share snacks, learn from a Daniela seminar on the European Union, try to find the plane tickets, nap, read an actual paper book, work (tsk tsk tsk - time to disconnect!), snuggle with your partner, memorize the Rick Steves' guide for the next destination, label photos, meditate, procrastinate, count the kilometers to the next autostrada, watch bus tv.
21: Scenes from Monterosso Al Mare
22: Zucchini blossoms at the vegetable stand near our hotel.
23: Richard's motto: If you bet, make it worthwhile.
24: The Lautenbrunnen Valley was one of the highlights of the tour for us. So much beauty in the alpine flowers, vistas, and villages. We had a rare clear day and could see the entire set of peaks that make up the ridgeline.
27: In Beaune, France: Wine tasting, shopping, and snacks....in that order. | Happy wife, Happy life!
28: Paris was our last stop (say it isn't so!). We drank in the views (and ate some too).
29: As a generous thank you gift to Daniela and Richard, I had their visages designed into this 3x4 meter window which - I assume - they have figured out how to share between them even though they live hundreds of kilometers apart.