Monday, August 31, 2009

Almost Home

We are in Denver, waiting in the Red Carpet Lounge for the last flight of the day to Jackson. It's been a long day, but not all that horrible. We got up at 6 AM and it's now 1 AM (German time)...and there are a couple of more hours to go. Considering we started in Antwerp, then bussed to Brussels, then on to's a long day with 8 hours of time to make up.

I must make a comment on the Red Carpet Lounge at Denver...the carpet is dirty, shabby and threadbare; the chairs are saggy and smelly (yes, smelly) but the restroom is sparkling clean. Generally speaking, the bizclass lounges are wonderful. The one in Denver is not. It is quiet and there are a few goodies to munch on, but that's as far as it goes!

On Sunday we were in Antwerp, which is one of my favorite European cities. It has a beautiful old square that is lined with ancient guild houses (think of a labor union circa 1495). The guild houses were all decked out for a city wide arts festival, so there were lanterns and balloons and booths and performers all over the place. The ancient city has a lot of life.

There are many highlights to write about, but the best is traveling with friends. Our little group of 6 has a wonderful time tripping over cobblestones, drinking the local wines, and eating. Belgian was a treat as the eating included excellent chocolates and Belgian Fries (no, they are not French fries, according to the Belgians!) When we get back to a more normal schedule I'll post some pictures and tell you more.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

German Keyboards

We are in the home of German Keyboards where the letters are not where we expect them to be. The biggest problem are the y and z keys as thez are mixed up. This makes for adventures in tzping. Therefore, if zou should receive a note from me, and the letters are crayz, it is the fault of the computer not the tzpist.

Todaz we are in Traben-Trarbach, a small town on the Mosel with lots of ancient history as it was started somewhere in the 800s. Zesterdaz we were in Trier, which is the oldest citz in Germanz...12 BC. In Trier we visited the ruins of the ancient Roman baths which are in better shape than the baths in Rome. From there we went to the Porta Nigra, or Black Gate, one of the original Roman gates to the citz. Verz impressive.

Traben-Trarbach is known for fine Mosel Reisling Wine, and I believe we are getting a good wine tasting tour of the region. This little town is known for an unusual brand of wine which translates roughlz as bare bottom wine...I am trzing to find the winerz to get a picture of the label. From what I have heard it is supposed to be amusing.

The river boat has been a perfect little home awaz from home. The room is just the right siye. After zears of RVing, we are used to living well in a small space. Onlz this small space is better as there are a host of people fixing delicious meals for us, making up our cabin and generallz waiting on us hand and foot. Getting home, it will be back to the normal routine and a lot less food.

This trip has not been filled with manz opportunities to visit internet cafes, which is unusual. In the past, we have seen lots internet cafes, but not this time. Mazbe that is an indication that more people have their own internet connection at home and do not need to use a public facilitz. In addition, I have not see much wifi. Mazbe that will change when we get to Bonn. Mz iTouch is feeling lonelz...

Lastlz, our partz of 6 is doing well. The oldest member of the group is walking all over the place with a smile on her face and a determination to see everzthing NOW. I believe she has met most of the people on our boat. The other DrC is enjozing himself bz sitting back, looking at the scenerz and reading books. He has enjozed looking at all the river traffic too. Me...I have been snapping awaz with hundreds of photos of wonderful architecture, flowers and the people. It is fun to go out on mz own and talk to the nice people in the little towns. Todaz I met a fellow who was the past president of the Harley-Davidson club on Germany. He was not a bad biker, but a white haired fellow who was proud of his 2 Harleys...and he had a dream of coming to South Dakota one day. I took his picture in front of his beloved bike.

Until next time...who knows when that will be.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Musings After One Week and One Day

We’ve been on The River Rhapsody for 8 days. We’ve visited some gorgeous places: tiny villages like Riquewihr in the Alsace, big cities like Basel and Strasbourg, and old towns like Boppard and Speyer. Right now we are in Bernkastel, on the Moselle River (sometimes spelled the Mosel) in Germany. As you know, we started on the Rhine; yesterday we turned the “corner” at Koblenz, and started sailing on the Moselle. (BTW: Koblenz means “confluence” so the name makes sense as it’s the confluence of the 2 great rivers.) We are heading for Trier, which is the oldest city in Germany before we turn around and join up with the Rhine again.

We have seen our share of castles of the Rhine, which are fortresses, but yesterday at Cochem, we saw our first fancy castle. Cochem Castle started out as a fortress on the top of the hill but over the centuries it had been sieged and gutted by fire many times over. By the 1860s it was a ruin, when it was purchased for pennies on the dollar by a German steel tycoon. Over the next 10 years he spent millions of dollars restoring it. He dolled the place up with tapestries and fancy ceilings and stained glass and parquetry. The result is an impressive monument. Sadly, he died 2 years after he completed his masterpiece. The castle now belongs to the State as not too many people can afford to live in the land of make believe and fairy-book castles. We climbed the stairways, discovered the secret passages, took a ton of pictures, and oohed over the furnishings.

Yesterday was Sunday on the Moselle, so there were people strolling along the market streets (which were open for business); eating in the sidewalk cafes, and picnicking along the beaches. The sun was out and everyone was enjoying it.

Everywhere in Germany we see people walking dogs, yesterday was no exception. I’ve been asking if I can take pictures of their dogs and each proud master has said “yes,” so, I snap away. We then have a little laugh and off we go. No matter the language, everyone is happy to show off their faithful friend.

We have been discussing the wonders of river cruises with our fellow travelers. As with any cruise, there’s great food, but it goes beyond that. We have good company, beautiful scenery, well planned shore excursions, and every night we don’t have to worry where we are going to stay. All we have to do is show up at the boat.

We are all practicing our German “skills” and the locals are coping with our mistakes with a smile. Yesterday, I was in a little shop and a local started asking me something (I have no idea what?). I just stared at her, she stared back, I smiled and said in my best “German” that I did not speak German, finally, I told her I was an American. We smiled and laughed, then she replied that “I looked German” (in English), and we laughed again – so folks…I look German!

Our party of 6 is having a grand time. If we do not see each other during the day, we discuss at dinner all the great things we have been doing. Today they are going on the tour of Bernkastel while we are inventing our own tour of the town, which will include a stop at an internet café. I even remember where it is from our last visit here 6 years ago. We sailed on a lot of water since then!

Keep watching this space as I’ll post pictures when I get home.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Boppard and the Rhine

We are in Boppard, Germany sailing on the Rhine. We started in Basel in Switzerland. A river boat is a wonderful way to see the country. Today we cruised by a bunch of castles on the Rhine. Do not think of these castles as opulent buildings...think ruins in picturesque places...very pretty and very old.

Yesterday we were in Speyer, home of one of the many Prince Bishops of ancient Germany. We looked at the Romanesque cathedral, the walls around the city and the ancient tower gate. Boppard too is an ancient Roman city, which was surrounded by a wall, and 48 towers...a big city.

Tonight we will be in Koblentz where the Moselle and Rhine meet. Then we will sail to Trier the oldest city in Germany.

My few minutes are just about up...more later.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

And so it begins...

We are at the President's Club in Terminal A at Denver International. The flight here from Jackson was uneventful, except for a few bumps as we crossed over the Front Range. That is to be expected. In Jackson we were not able to check in all the way to Basel, Switzerland, but thru the marvels of electronics, our luggage was checked to Basel. I hope we both get there at the same time! Once we arrived in Denver, we checked in to Basel.

The President's Club is the bizlounge for BritAir that Lufthansa is borrowing. It has that understated "English Elegant" feeling of white leather, dark woods and, that ever so "English" utility--free wifi! This might be the last free wifi till we get back here in 14 days.

The adventure begins, next stop is Frankfurt, then to Basel where we'll pick up the River Rhapsody and cruise on down toward Antwerp. Keep watching this spot to find out where we are!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Yellowstone Redux

Sunset on Yellowstone Lake

A trip to Yellowstone makes the summer "seem" right. I know, that does not make much sense, but Yellowstone and the Tetons are why we moved here. After 30+ years, the two parks still lure us their treasures. One of my favorite places to visit is Artist Point also called The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Lower Falls is spectacular, what else can I say.

We saw a mess of bison. I have no idea how many, but there were bunches of them. Young 'uns, old un's and some in between...and they were all walking in the road blocking traffic and putting on a great display for first time and many time visitors alike! It was a treat.

As usual, the wildflowers caught my attention. I learned that the Fringed Gentian is the park flower, and we even saw some. Also saw lots of asters and groundsel and cow's parsnip and yarrow. It's been a good wildflower year in the Rockies.

A trip to Yellowstone also gives you the chance to see the largest thermal display in the world. Rotorua in New Zealand boasts thermal features, but frankly, I was not impressed. Yellowstone is tops! We did see Old Faithful as well as some lesser known geysers erupt. But this time the clear pools filled with really hot water caught my attention. The color of the water tells you how hot the pool is. If it's clear blue, it's 199 degrees, if it's white, it's 140 degrees, and if it's brown, it's 80 degrees.

All trips have to come to an end, and this one ended after four short days. But more adventure is on the way as we head for Germany and a River Cruise on Sunday!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Bounty of Summer

The flowers are starting to wane. The colors are not as vibrant. The flowers have changed. They are now dispersing their seeds for next year. This salisfy puff ball is just waiting for someone to walk by so it can give up a seed or two.

The coneflower is a strange delight. Each day a few tiny, tiny yellow flowers bloom on the dark brown cone. Each day the circlet of yellow moves up a notch, until one day, the whole cone has bloomed. If you did not pay close attention, you might have missed it.

The thistle is the bright magenta "bad guy" of the garden. This plant grows tall and fast and spreads seeds everywhere. Even though it is beautiful, it needs to be eradicated before it takes over the garden, pushing out the less intrusive flowers.

The fragile daisy hides in the background. I don't know what it is thinking, as it's the only yellow flower left in the garden and the color screams out LOOK AT ME! But the daisy does not know that, so it settles back and enjoys the summer day.

What anchors the garden are the aspens, straight and tall. The towering trees bring solitude to my little corner of Wyoming.

Monday, August 3, 2009

License Plates

Those of you who read this blog know that I like wildflowers and license plates. On the last trip to Canada we saw one of the most unusual plates in the world--the plate for the Northwest Territories. Most license plates are rectangular, but the NWT license plate is the shape of a polar bear!

I was also able to add a Nova Scotia plate to my collection too.

We also saw some cute old cars along the way. One was a 1962 Corvette with a matching custom trailer.
The other was a 1935 Hudson V8. They sure don't make cars like they used to!