Tag Archives: Hotel Ibis

Lisboa – Lisbon – Portugal

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Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world, and the oldest city in Western Europe, predating other modern European capitals such as London, Paris and Rome by hundreds of years.

Julius Caesar made it a municipium called Felicitas Julia, adding to the name Olissipo. Ruled by a series of Germanic tribes from the 5th century, it was captured by the Moors in the 8th century.

In 1147, the Crusaders under Afonso Henriques reconquered the city and since then it has been a major political, economic and cultural centre of Portugal.

Unlike most capital cities, Lisbon’s status as the capital of Portugal has never been granted or confirmed officially – by statute or in written form. Its position as the capital has formed through constitutional convention, making its position as de facto capital a part of the Constitution of Portugal.

We began our journey to this beautiful place on an overnight train from Madrid…

Filled with charm and old world experiences…

A Marvelous Multi-Course Meal…

 

Marvelous Views zipping by………We had a Private Cabin with Full Bath

……and there she is, Lisboa, waiting for us to explore her beauty…..

We stayed in the Hotel Ibis (our fav European chain), just steps from the center of all the action…

Lisboa……….filled with Charm……

 

Glorious Art……….

Unique Inventions……….an Elevator in the Street to take you to the Higher Neighborhoods……

Wherever you turn, Beauty ……….. The Castle of St. George, always watching over you….

If you want to read more about this Beautiful Place………..CLICK HERE

The Streets filled with Delightful Cafes…..

 

Who could resist these delights…………..certainly not I……..everyday, my favorite place for coffee and a goodie!!

The Beauty of Lisboa is only outdone by the Kindness of Her People…

We, of course visited The Tower of Belem….CLICK HERE…

What Wonders You can find in the Streets…….

How we loved our time in Beautiful Lisboa…….and look forward to our return someday….

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Madrid – Spain

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While Madrid possesses a modern infrastructure, it has preserved the look and feel of many of its historic neighborhoods and streets.  This reason is perhaps why we so love to visit this magnificent city.  We always stay in the old section near the center so that we can walk to all the interesting places.  We find Madrid to be so clean, friendly and fun.

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Madrid  landmarks include the Royal Palace of Madrid; the Royal Theatre with its restored 1850 Opera House; the Buen Retiro park, founded in 1631; the 19th-century National Library building (founded in 1712) containing some of Spain’s historical archives; a large number of National museums, and the Golden Triangle of Art, located along the Paseo del Prado and comprising three art museums: Prado Museum, the Reina Sofía Museum, a museum of modern art, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum.

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Many contend that the original name of the city was “Ursaria” (“land of bears” in Latin), because of the many bears that were to be found in the nearby forests, which, together with the strawberry tree have been the emblem of the city from the Middle Ages.  Whatever the derivation of her name, she remains a noble and beautiful city of the world.

When Toledo surrendered to Alfonso VI of León and Castile,

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 Madrid was conquered by Christians in 1085, and it was integrated into the kingdom of Castile as a property of the Crown.

This becomes important to us because King Alfonso has added Augustine’s family (PENALVER) to the Royal Court just before and given them the Cross of St. John, symbol of the Templars as their crest…

….which is also the Flag of the Country of Malta….where the Knights of Templar took possession of the island, a gift of the Emperor Charles V with the approval of Pope Clement VII.,

 including the Knight Penalver from Spain….

The Penalver Family has left their Castle in Penalver, Spain to join King Alfonso IV in re-establishing the Royal City of Madrid….

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Madrid has a beautiful street named after the Penalver’s first Count……

El Calle del Conde de Penalver…

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The perfect place to stop and enjoy a coffee….

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 Christians replaced Muslims in the occupation of the center of the city, while Muslims and Jews settled in the suburbs…

The Calle de Conde de Penalver begins with this iconic street corner…

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On this trip we began and ended our visit to eight countries in Madrid.  From the photos you will see the difference in the weather during those visits.  The initial visit was cold and overcast and the end visit was sunny and fair, as you can see from these photos of the Plaza Mayor…

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We always stay in the Hotel Ibis Prado, which allows us to exit the lobby and find ourselves in the middle of the old city.

The hotel has a Wine Theme, which works perfectly for our tastes!  We always stay on the top floor and have a private balcony, wonderful for enjoying a glass of wine in the evening…

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The colors and art of the hotel are so vibrant and reflect this wonderful city….

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One evening we were sitting on the balcony and suddenly the city erupted in firework, music and shouts from every direction!  We were astounded by the noise.

We had to go out into the streets to see what had transpired………they were PACKED with thousands of happy people…

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Oh……..Madrid had just won the world cup in Soccer ……….how we get it!!  Of course we joined in the fun!

I suppose our favorite part of visiting Madrid is the food……..TAPAS……..TAPAS………TAPAS……..

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One of a fast, fun, favorites is el Museo de Jamon, located near the Plaza Mayor…..there are many other locations; however, this one is always the best…

Here is the inside…………a world of culinary delights…….

We had to order EVERYTHING…..

Then of course there is Meson el Jamon de Gran Via…….with the best croquettes EVER….

………….oh and then there was this place…….I have forgotten the name!

…..but the Serrano Jamon and Seafood Delights were amazing…..

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Perhaps some crepes at Cerveceria Santa Ana…..

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At the heart of the old city lies the Plaza Mayor…..a center of continuous activity and to be entered through these marvelous arches….

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Once inside the world changes………

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the street performers delight and entertain…

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Here are some more shots of this most beautiful city…..

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…..one of our most FANTASTIC dining experience of our lives took place just outside the Plaza Mayor…

El Rincon de Madrid…an unassuming small place with a typical Tapas Bar….the difference…at the end of the bar is a stair case leading down into a vaulted chamber that dates to Knights Templar…

europe2 895The staircase open into this most marvelous dining area with four small tables….the owner shows us around…europe2 891

We have the place to ourselves………..

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The food is wonderful……….but the experience is over-the-top!!

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The Paella from his Grandmother’s recipe……..he said he is still trying to perfect it to what she prepared….a true passion and love for food…

We so love visiting this most wonderful city and look forward to returning again soon….

Avignon – France

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Avignon  is located in southeastern France bordered by the left bank of the Rhône river.

It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It is a place I have dreamed of visiting since I was around ten years old.

When we checked into the hotel and opened the window, we were greeting with an amazing view of the Palais des Papes

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Often referred to as the “City of Popes” because of the presence of popes and antipopes from 1309 to 1423 during the Catholic schism.

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Avignon is one of the few French cities to have preserved its ramparts.

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In addition, its historic center, the palace of the popes,

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 and the bridge of Avignon………..

……… Pont d’Avignon  Only four of the eighteen piles are left; on one of them stands the small Romanesque chapel of Saint-Bénézet.are well-preserved.

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But the bridge is best known for the famous French song Sur le pont d’Avignon.

In 1309 the city, still part of the Kingdom of Arles, was chosen by Pope Clement V as his residence, and from 9 March 1309 until 13 January 1377 was the seat of the Papacy instead of Rome.

The Palais des Papes is an amazing building….

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By choosing to “move” the Vatican to Avignon Clement caused a schism in the Catholic Church.

At the time, the city and the surrounding Comtat Venaissin were ruled by the kings of Sicily of the house of Anjou.

The French King Philip the Fair, who had inherited from his father all the rights of Alphonse de Poitiers (the last Count of Toulouse), made them over to Charles II, King of Naples and Count of Provence (1290).

Nonetheless, Philip was a shrewd ruler. Inasmuch as the eastern banks of the Rhone marked the edge of his kingdom,

when the river flooded up into the city of Avignon, Philip taxed the city since during periods of flood, the city technically lay within his domain…..interesting tax laws!

Here the flood levels were recorded ….

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The Popes who resided in the Palais des Papes were

Clement V: 1305–1314

John XXII: 1316–1334

Benedict XII: 1334–1342

Clement VI: 1342–1352

Innocent VI: 1352–1362

Urban V: 1362–1370

Gregory XI: 1370–1378

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This period from 1309–1377 – the Avignon Papacy – was also called the Babylonian Captivity of exile, in reference to the Israelites‘ enslavement in biblical times.

The inside of the Palais is eerie and haunting…

europe2 799It feels strange to walk these empty rooms and hallways….

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….and of course there is the garden of the Rocher des Doms…

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Now time for some lunch at 46 Bistro……….escargot …….of course…

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…then a walk about town……to the place to be…………the Place de l’Horloge..

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….looks like these two have been sitting around here for a while…

…amazing Carrousel…La Belle Epoque…

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We visited the most wonderful Musee Lapidaire, CLICK HERE to read about that visit…..

……………..we encountered wonderful architecture, as we strolled about….

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….of course the cafes attract our attention….

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….and we decide to have dinner at lou Mistrau….beautiful outdoor dining with wind shields….good because it is quite nippy….

we begin with………….you guessed it escargot…..the best we have ever eaten…

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….followed by my very favorite dish on the planet…..Cassoulet……

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….then perhaps some beef and potatoes….

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……ahhh but let us not forget dessert and cappuccino ….

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walking about we encounter these wonderful ladies dressed in vintage clothing….

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It has been a most wonderful visit, filled with discovery, wonderment, lavender, culinary delights…..

…..but we must move on….

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Zurich, Switzerland

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We love to travel Europe by Train………the Global Eurorail Pass allows the freedom to explore where and when you want….

We decided to take the train across Switzerland and enjoy this beautiful country…

As we approached Zurich and this is what we saw out the window, we knew we were in for a real treat……..

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The city was beautiful and pristine………..

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Zurich  is the largest city in Switzerland and the capital of the canton of Zurich. It is located in north-central Switzerland at the northwestern tip of Lake Zurich.

turiThe municipality has approximately 390,000 inhabitants, and the Zurich metropolitan area 1.83 million.   Zurich is a hub for railways, roads, and air traffic.

 Both Zurich Airport and railway station are the largest and busiest in the country.

The Train Station is clean, organized and beautiful….

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Permanently settled for around 2000 years, the history of Zurich goes back to its founding by the Romans, who, in 15 BC, called it Turicum.

However, early settlements have been found dating back more than 6400 years ago.   During the Middle Ages Zurich gained the independent and privileged status of imperial immediacy and, in 1519, was the place of origin and center of the Protestant Reformation in German-speaking Switzerland, led by Ulrich Zwingli.

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Zurich is a leading global city and among the world’s largest financial centers.

The city is home to a large number of financial institutions and banking giants. Also, most of the research and development centers are concentrated in Zurich and the low rate of tax attracts overseas companies to set up their headquarters there.

Monocle’s 2012 “Quality of Life Survey” ranked Zurich first on a list of the top 25 cities in the world.   According to several surveys from 2006 to 2008, Zurich was named the city with the best quality of life in the world as well as the wealthiest city in Europe.

We could believe that as we had our coffee on the Limmat River, which flows through downtown…

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……..and Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate……….EVERYWHERE….

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The people were all so happy and friendly, the city filled with nooks and crannies ……

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We loved wandering this beautiful city and enjoying all the fountains..

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We had lunch at  Restaurant Schipfe on the banks of the Limmat River, can you imagine a river running through a major city in the United States …………this clean!

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The people at the restaurant were all so friendly… and the food divine…

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After lunch we continued to explore Marvelous Zurich…..

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We visited the Fraumünster Church built on the remains of a former abbey for aristocratic women which was founded in 853 by Louis the German for his daughter Hildegard.

He endowed the Benedictine convent with the lands of Zurich, Uri, and the Albis forest, and granted the convent immunity, placing it under his direct authority.
Today, it belongs to the Swiss Reformed Church.

The Windows were designed by Marc Chagall and installed in 1970…..

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I loved the  décor in our hotel, the Ibis Zurich West ………the bar and the restaurant…..

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….but with all wonderful trips…………it is time to MOOve on……

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Munich, Germany

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We are on the train to Munich!  This is probably our last train trip on this voyage.  We are  still so amazed at how comfortable and efficient the transportation system is here in Europe.  We are mesmerized by the beauty as we travel through the mountains — may with snow!  This has been one of the most beautiful places on the planet.  The homes all have the typical German architecture and the forest is dense tall pine trees.  So lush and green as compared to our parched Texas.  We pass through village after village of quaint gingerbread houses surrounding a grand church whose steeple towers over the village, all nestled in the mountains of pine trees with clouds tucked in the crevices and clear pristine rivers running by.

We arrive in the city of Munich with the weather clearing and the sun shining!  Our Hotel Ibis is located near the old section of Munich and all that lies between us is the botanical garden — not a bad walk!  We just finished dining on schnitzle and spatzel with mushrooms and gravy.  We sit and review our plans regarding the sites to visit while we are here.  Our room at the hotel was rather small, so we met with the manager Karina Nolle, who moved us to the top floor of the hotel in a lovely room overlooking the entire city……what a wonder person she is!

We had a grand breakfast at the hotel of some of the most wonderful smoked salmon I have ever tasted with horseradish and sour cream with chives and onion —— ooohhhh my!  Of course I visited my new friend — the European coffee machine — several times for wonderful rich cappuccino.  We then ventured out to the subway and off to Marionplatz, home of the famous glockenspiel.  The glockenspiel is basically a life-sized coo-coo clock in the tower of the town hall built in the 1500s.  The figures that spin and dance re-enact some royal wedding and they are all life-sized and carved of wood.  It is a marvel to behold.  unfortunately it is Sunday and all the shops are closed!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have dinner at a wonderful German Restaurant, Rechthaler-Hof.

We sit near a beautiful harvest crown make of wheat.

Our first course is beef broth with a large liver dumpling– oh delights this is so very good!

The main course is a pig leg baked to crispy perfection, served with fresh sauerkraut and a huge potato dumpling. I am reminded of Botin’s Restaurant in Madrid and the Cochino al Horno.

The meal was so marvelous. The skin of the pork was crispy and the dumpling was so very, very good. We had to skip the beer and desert, the meal was so rich and filling.

We walked back to the Hotel Ibis, the temperature is below 40 degrees and there is a slight rain and strong wind. We discussed what an adaptation we will have to make when we return home to Texas.

It is time to visit a traditional Beer Garden and enjoy one of the true gifts of German society. We pick the Augustiner-Keller, which was established in 1812.

It is a very large beer garden nestled under dense trees. When we left we found out how dense the trees were…..it had been and continued to rain! We remained dry the entire time we ate our meal under those trees! I would estimate a half an acre of food and beer. We enjoy a plate of assorted Bavarian sausages with the most delicious sauerkraut and potatoes. We drink the beer that is brewed on site and served out of ancient wooden barrels — another amazing treat.

We have such fun spending a day in the ourdoor market and marveling in the sounds, smells, sights and tastes of this wonderful city.

When we awake to leave for the United States, we find a beautiful moon over Munich and almost decide to stay………..

Salzburg, Austria

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A very comfortable train ride through the Austrian countryside.  I keep hearing Julie Andrews singing “The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Music”  We are on a train that will continue off to Zürich and I think of the families that escaped the Nazis by traveling through these very hills.  We are hungry upon our arrival in Salzburg and run directly to the Restaurant Mundenhamer, one of the oldest and very typical Austrian restaurants. 

Our first course is white asparagus soup with a breadstick wrapped in crisp prosciutto.  It is asparagus season in Austria and special menus and dishes appear everywhere.  The soup was creamy and silky –ssooooooo good!

The second course was a typical Austrian Goulash with spicy sausages and potatoes — so wonderful. The people here are so friendly and smiling all the time, such a difference from Prague where they were so sullen and unfriendly.

We just toured Mozart’s home — how incredible to walk the same floors as the Master himself. Many of his original works were on display along with his instruments. The steps going into the home were red marble and worn down through the years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We walk the streets of the old city and gaze in amazement at the castle on the hill overlooking us. How grand life must have been during the height of the courts.

We walk about the town square and enjoy the open air market and stop here and there for a snack of weiss wurst and coffee. The surrounding architecture is so beautiful and everyone seems to have a smile on their face.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walking across the bridge over the Danube affords such majestic views!

It is raining fairly heavy now so we decide to relax in the Hotel Ibis, dining on wonderful breads, meats, cheeses, yogurt and granola. The hotels all have the most wonderful coffee machines that by the push of a button make espresso, cappuccino, hot foaming milk and all sorts of various assortments of coffees, all made to perfection.

We ponder our next stop …………….Munich!

Vienna, Austria

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On the train to Vienna — what a chaotic scene — a group of loud — (yes and ugly) women have claimed the first class car as their own.  It is apparent they belong in second class car and here come the conductors to remove them.  Immediately the smell and general atmosphere improve.  We decided to move to the dining car and had a marvelous time sitting next to a couple from Kansas (Dorothy’s home planet).  The chef and waiter just had a wonderful shouting match in Czech!  I loved it and could not help myself.  The dining car was full of English speakers so I pretended to interpret and said such things as: “stop bringing me all those orders, I want to sit down and have a cigarette!  I can’t be cooking all the time!”

We have arrive in Vienna!  We check into the Ibis hotel and rest a bit and off we go into the center of Vienna to the Hotel Sacher so that August can have one of his favorite things on the planet — Sacher Torte!  We decide to have complete dinner here, rather than just the Torte.

We begin with Pikante Gujasuppe Czardus Furstin for August and Sacher – Gaseleber Torte for me with a bottle of Grurer Veltliner Kemser Regl.

That is a spicy beef soup for August and a liver pate cake for me with some wonderful dry white wine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our main course consists of Wiener Schnitzel with turmeric parsley potatoes and salad for me and Edward Sacher’s Tafelspitz for August – a boiled beef steak with veggies and a fried potato cake.

Ending with one of the most famous dishes on the planet…………..The Sacher Torte!

We go back to our hotel after strolling through the streets for an hour or so. We are tired from out travels, but exited to be here. The architecture is so extravagant and beautiful. We look forward to our exploration tomorrow.

We wake early and prepare for our day. After breakfasting at the hotel (Ibis Hotels offer the most amazing breakfast buffets) Our first stop is the most wonderful and breathtaking Schonbrunner Palace (www.schoenbrunn.at). We tour and are humbled by the history through which we walk. We stand in the concert room , where at the age of 6 Mozart had his first public appearance with the Royal Hapsburg Family — amazing!

As we walk the palace grounds the majesty and beauty dwarf our very presence. The day is warm and we venture into a cafe on the grounds for sme refreshment and rest.

Back onto the metro to venture to the heart of the city to St. Stephen’s Cathedral. The stone of the cathedral so finely carved that it seems to be lace stretched into the sky.

We wander the streets of old Vienna and visit the Hofburg Imperial Palace and enter St. Michael’s Church — we marvel that outside the doors are hundreds of people from all over the world walking the streets as like ants on a slice of sweet bread — inside this grand church built in the thirteenth century, filled with the most incredible huge marble carvings and so many chapels, I do not bother to count them, there are no people.

As we exit we move about the streets and stop at many a sidewalk cafe to watch the people go by and to take a refreshment. The buildings that surround us are works of art all in themselves.

We stumble upon the famous golden Strauss statue just 40 meters away from the Kursalon Wien.

The following morning we forego breakfast and hop the metro to explore the Danube. First we cross to the island to the marina area, which we find quite charming. We have arrived too early and all the cafes are closed.

We make our way, by metro, to the station in the center of the bridge over the Danube and disembark to admire the beautiful river.

Back onto the metro to the Naschmarkt, the largest of 26 permanent street markets in Vienna. We meander among the booths offering all varieties of fish, fowl, cheese, olives, produce, nuts and spices.

We stop at the sausage hut and enjoy some very fine sausage, bread, mustard and olives. We are surprised to find so many Asian and Turkish restaurants and vendors here.

We have an early dinner at the Vietnam Bistro and enjoy our spring rolls and pho. The owner is a very nice man who visits with us often during our meal.

We spent the evening sitting on the back patio of the hotel Ibis, enjoying a great Chardonnay from Venice that was only 2 euros at the grocery store! It has been a great stay here in Vienna, but now it is time to head off to Salzburg!

Berlin, Germany

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We sit in our cabin on the train to Berlin with a very kinky middle-aged woman in short boots, black lace stockings, short denim shorts and a sexy black & white top, she looks ready to hit he cabaret stage, but is actually a business traveler working on her computer. We have moved to the dining car — now there is a surprise! I have a wonderful plate of Nurnberg sausages and bread whilst Augustine has his favorite Goulash Soup. We dine and sip a lovely chardonnay while the German countryside goes by. The beautiful lush green fields filled with the most beautiful dairy cows. I so love the Fatherland and the lush bounties it offers.

I must confess that this train trip has turned tedious. We expected a fast train to Berlin; however, our train stops many times with many passengers getting off and on. We finally settle in the dining car for even if it is full of the sounds of clinking dishes and many conversations; it seems calmer than the up and down of passengers and luggage. Berlin will not come soon enough for me. We arrived fine and will rest well in our large comfortable room at the Hotel Ibis. We go to the grocery store and purchase 3 bottles of wine — one of which I promptly drink and off to bed!

Awoke early and begin our adventure in Berlin. We began with a wonderful breakfast at a gas station! Yes, a gas station. Wonderful food, exceptional coffee in a nice dining area served on china! Who would have thought! We make friends with the manager who loves her new American friends.

We then hopped on the tram and headed off on our exploration. WE switched from tram to train at Alexander Station and made our way to the Brandenburg GateCheck Point Charlie. What history lies at our feet — it makes one realize how fleeting freedom can be. We watch as people walk freely back and forth from East to West and reflect on how many lost their lives attempting to cross this place. We find a young man who stamps our passports with the verfication stamps no longer necessary and gives us a day visa to cross into the West.

We sit under the flowering Linden trees and I quickly sing an old East German song “the branch of the Linden is leafy and green, the Rhine gives her gold to the sea; the morning will come with the world is mine — Tomorrow belongs to me!” We enjoy a Berliner Beer and I write post cards to the United States. We continue our walk to the Berliner Dom — a beautiful church that ws bombed during the war, and explore the crypt full of coffins from teh German Kings and Queens, many are coming apart and the crypt smells of death.

We enjoy a marvelous dinner at a sidewalk cafe: August with schnitzle and asparagus and I with knockwurst and kraut and a beautiful bottle of dry Riesling, sitting in the sun, remembering our day of exploration in Berlin. The transportation system is very interesting here. You buy a ticket that entitles you to the tram, bus and subway — both of which are necessary in order to move about the city. We explored every inch, I do believe.

Our last day in Berlin. We awoke at 6 A.M. and took a leisurely time getting ready for our day. Of course we had breakfast at our favorite cafe — the gas station! I must say the food is better than many a restaurant and the staff is so very pleasant and friendly. We hop the tram and then the train to West Berlin and find ourselves in the midst of some marathon being run in the city. We want to see the ruins of a bombed church, only to find it has been encased in aluminum for restoration!!! They do allow us in and it is spectacular.

We walk about and enter a chapel that has been constructed of the broken stained glass from the original church — what majesty shines though this glass and what pain it reflects.

We hop the train back to Alexander platz and switch to the tram to go back to the hotel.

 

 

 

 

 

We find a cafe down the street open and decide to dine at the “Do The Pop” (www.cafe-do-the-pop.de).

We sit outside with a white wine and a Berliner beer and have some luncheon, a spicy carrot soup and wonderful German bread.

Gent, Belgium

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In Gent at our hotel, the Ibis, next to the grand cathedral on the town square — our room on the corner with two windows facing the square.  We have found a new hotel chain that we love.  As a member of the Accor Hotels, which include Le Sofitel and the Ibis, you are guaranteed a room if you book within 24 hours, this is perfect for our unplanned travels and allows us so much freedom.

The cafes around the square are brimming with people, all of which have a beer in hand. We have moved from the land of wine to the land of beer. We stroll through this lovely city admiring the architecture.

We are wanting to eat something interesting and find a local to ask about fun places in which to indulge our culinary senses.

He suggests a portion of the city know as “Little Turkey“….yeah we both love Turkish food so off we go….

We find Restaurant Ornek and sit outside.

The waiter comes and August begins to speak to him in Turkish, he gives out a yelp and claps his hands, we are ensured a wonderful meal.

We order a most delicious plate of a combination of all sorts of salads and a beer. Oh my, the food is fantastic! We wander by all sorts of wonderful buildings on our way back to the hotel.

We awake on the second of May to find that it is a holiday and most shops are closed. We enjoy the necessary Belgium waffle…

Based upon the recommendations of our bartender at the hotel we now venture into the cathedral and find the entrance into the catacombs which she promises hold great and beautiful treasure. It is a bit creepy, as we are the only living humans in the building; however, down into the crypt we venture. It pays off! We are surrounded by beautiful art and incredible artifacts of the church. All of my favorite things: chalices by the dozen, so many monstrance the I begin to salivate, beautiful brocade robes with heavy threads of gold, mitred hats — oh my, I could live here!

We have had such a grand time exploring the city of Gent. The people here are so kind and helpful. Last evening we found an antique shop, filled with beautiful treasures and today we returned and now many of those treasures belong to us! The elderly gentleman who owns the shop was so pleased to have customers appreciate his items, which were simply amazing. We spent the evening enjoying wine and snacks in the hotel bar, chit chatting with our new friend the bar tender who guided our exploration.
We awoke early the next morning and dined on all sorts of wonderful local meats, cheeses and yogurt. Off in a cab to the train station, our cab driver a very pleasant young man who is getting ready to holiday in the Congo! How exciting! We are now on our train to Amsterdam. I hope the journey continues to be so pleasant…………please no poison poppies!

Paris, France

Standard

We took the early (ONLY) bus out of Penalver, Spain, to Guadalajara and purchased tickets to Madrid  Once in Madrid we spent 3 hours in lines only to find out that we must take a train to another station, Chamartin, in order to purchase our Eurorail passes.  We take the train and spend another hour waiting in lines and finally purchase our passes and our tickets on an overnight sleeper car from Madrid to Paris………….the city of lights.

We are in a sleeper car that will hold four persons, upon arrival we find there will be only one other occupant.  His name is Trakhed, a very nice man from Morocco.  He speaks French and a little Spanish, we leave the station at seven in the evening.  We have been lugging suitcases, standing in line and fretting since eight in the morning!  We go off to the dining car and enjoy a light dinner and some wine.  At nine in the evening the attendant lowers the beds and I promptly climb into the top bunk and our Moroccan friend leaves the quarters.  I fall asleep immediately and sleep rather well throughout the rest of our 14 hour journey across the Great Pyrenees Mountains.  Before the sun sets we enjoy the sites of the Spanish Country side filled with castle after castle.

 We arrive in Paris at 9:30 A.M. and find the weather to be cold and rainy. We stumble upon a most wonderful cab driver who takes us to hotel after hotel as we find no rooms at any inns! He then suggests a chain of hotels called the Ibis, off we go. The hotel is walking distance to Notre Dame and has a very large room with a comfortable bed and full bath — a bath we desperately need after now 27 hours without one! We wander the streets of Paris, just enjoying being here again…………..and being clean!

Saturday, we awake to the city coming to life. The streets are being set up with the Farmer’s Markets throughout this beautiful city. The stands full of fresh meats, herbs, cheeses, flowers, vegetables and even socks and underwear! We so enjoy strolling about and tasting all the delights.

Off we trot to Notre Dame and marvel, once again, in her magnificent art and architecture. We sit in her shadow and enjoy a coffee and parisesane hot dog.


We purchase metro tickets and off we go into the belly of Paris — our first stop the Eiffel Tower, where we stop and help young lovers by taking pictures of them in front of the tower. A young Russian couple returns the favor and takes a photo of August and myself…..how fun!

We rest at the Museum of Modern Art and dine on the patio. Soon back to the metro to continue our exploration.

Our day ended at the Arche de Triumph on the Champs de Elysees

We visited many of our favorite places in Paris and so enjoyed dining at the outdoor cafe with the gracious and fun French wait staff. It seems that whenever we are in Paris that we have returned to Oz.

Sunday May First………..May Day!
The streets are full of flower vendors celebrating this day! We feast upon local meats and cheeses accompanied by croissants — of course and then venture off to the North of Paris for the next leg of our journey…..Belgium! Oh, my mouth waters for the rich beer and a plate of local mussels – and one must not forget the chocolate!!!

The train station is a true representation of all the cultures of the world. People from Africa, in the most beautiful clothes, Germans, Russians, Indians, Pakistani. I found a delightful woman in the tobacco shop who assisted me in purchasing stamps for our post cards and located a postal drop for me.

I am amazed that in the midst of all this chaos and activity when someone stops to be so kind and patient. Our train comes in 45 minutes and we are anxious to be on our way. On the train now in our first class seats, so comfortable and ready to see the sights on this next leg of our voyage. I so marvel at the efficiency of the transportation system here in Europe. Should we have this in the U.S., I believe many more would engage in exploration of our beautiful country. We change trains in Brussels and move on to Gent — watching the charming countryside as we move along.