Thursday, November 12, 2015

Nov. 6 - Rotterdam.

This morning Leonie and I set off to explore Rotterdam. Most of Rotterdam especially the harbour area was destroyed in WWII.  Therefore unlike other cities in Europe Rotterdam is a new city with innovative and sometimes weird buildings. There is a lot of new sculpture some of which makes you ask " Is this art or can I cart it away?" I took lots of pictures until my camera died and then Leonie took some. There are still some on their way.
The highlights of the day were the new Market building, the poffertjes and the marine museum display of boats in the water. We walked along the Maas, we watched the water taxis going at break-neck speed. I investigated the cube houses. They were very strange and topsy turvy. All the rooms are weird shapes and windows can look down on the street or up but rarely straight across to your neighbour. I think that some of the corners woul be hard to clean and the stairs are quite steep, but it is an innovative idea.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Nov 5th last day in Portugal

I saved the best for last. Today I travelled back in time. At one o'clock in the afternoon I left Spain by zip line and landed one mile later in Portugal at 12:01 p.m.

Ana and Paulo had been keeping me busy all week and it was lovely. Ana asked me what I wanted to do. I checked all the brochures and found that there was a way to zip line from Spain to Portugal. What a thrill!
This morning we left for Alcoutim. Ana checked and we could take a local boat across the river and we would be right at the office for Limitezero, the zip line people. We were fitted with safety gear and helmets. Paulo and I and two people in charge of sending us off the hill got in a Jeep and drove almost straight up to the top of the hill behind the office. We received a number of safety instructions and had the gear tightened.  The guide took our picture and Paulo shot a movie as I was launched into space and flew from one country to another. I travelled back in time. I left Spain at 1:00 pm and landed in Portugal 59 minutes earlier at 12:01 pm. It was the thrill of the trip. I am so glad I did it.
Ana had my camera and took some pictures but I also bought the official one.

After the adventure we walked around town and then headed for Mertola a town farther north which has a beautiful restored castle.  Mertola is farther up the river and is the first bridge across the Guadiana River since Castelo Marim. The distance between the two bridges is 62 kilometres. This castle is quite old but it has been renovate quite a bit. There is a one section that has been excavated to show the ancient ruins. The gentleman at the site was very pleased to talk to us about the site and the history. We climbed the walls and took pictures from each side. The amazing thing is that attached to the Castelo is a cemetery that is in use today. In order to get to the castle all roads led upward. I was a little worried about the cobblestones going down as they can be quite slick and there are no railings or hand holds. Paulo went down and brought the car up as he saw cars coming up to the castle. 
We thought we were fine for time to get me to the airport early for the flight to Amsterdam. Paulo and Ana decided to take a route across country which would be a bit shorter but slower as there was no highway. After a few miles we decided to pretend we were in a video game as the roads resembled Mario-kart. It would say winding road for 600 metres, then it would be windy for 2 kilometres, straight for 600 metres and then windy for two more kilometres.  Every five kilometres it would announce winding road 600 metres. Paulo would say - what do they think the rest of the winding road is?
All of a sudden partridge would run across the road. Ana would laugh and more partridge would waddle fast across the road. We stopped because we saw deer very close to the road and of course partridge running between them. Ana said there was a partridge festival in Alcoutim - maybe they were running away. We also saw cork piled by the side of the road and Paulo stopped so I could take pictures of the trees. They peel the bark (cork) up to the first branches which makes the tree two colours. All this starting and starting made me a little late but European airports and schedules are different from Canadian. I dropped off my bag and said goodbye to Ana and Paulo. I went through security and had about 1O minutes before boarding. If I was in Canada I would be hurrying and worried. In Europe the waiting room hadn't opened yet. People were sitting in the hall waiting for the attendants to arrive and open the doors. Finally we boarded and my row was the only one with an empty seat.  We arrived without incident in Amsterdam and caught a train to Rotterdam and a taxi to Leonie's house. Quickly to bed after a long day.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Nov 4th, Sevilla Cathedral, Real Alcazar, and Spanish Square

Paulo and Ana decided that today was the day to go to Spain. We are going to Sevilla and we will visit the cathedral, Alcazar, the Spanish Square and IKEA.
I am a little disappointed with the European Union. I don't end up with passport stamps.
When we arrived in Sevilla we drove around looking for the underground parking. It gave me a chance to see the city which is a mix of old and new. Strange round skyscrapers and old bull fighting rings. We parked in the underground in the centre of town and started our tour.
There is a very old large post office with concrete decorations that are mailboxes on the side of the building. Opposite the post office is the beginning of the cathedral. We walked around it and I discovered that just like Salamanca, graduates of the University had written their names (400 years ago) on the side of the building in bull's blood. You can still see the writing today. I went inside and took a few pictures. The outside was more impressive then the inside. It was beautiful but I expected the nave to be bigger.
We walked around the old city which included some of the outside walls of the Alcazar. We found a lovely restaurant. Ana and Paulo shared a variety of tapas but I missed having Paella when I was in Spain before so I had a seafood paella. It was delicious. Now it was time to go to Real Alcazar. We rented audio guides. Mine was in English. We travelled together for a few rooms and then we split up. Room after room opened to new splendours. The ceilings were gorgeous. The gardens were lovely. I got pictures of the peacocks, the fountains, the tile work, the ceilings, the carved walls. I loved it all. I decided it was time to make my way to the exit to find Ana and Paulo. Then I got lost. I kept heading in the right direction and ending up back where I started. People told me to go straight and turn left. I did it again and there I was again, back where I started. Finally a man told me to go straight through two doorways before I turned left. I made it to the exit and found Ana and Paulo. There are almost a hundred pictures of Alcazar on Facebook, I just couldn't stop taking pictures.
We had to walk about a kilometre to the Spanish Square but it was worth the walk. It is a beautiful half circle of building with an impressive square that was big enough that there were several bridges and a canal with boats in it. There are horse drawn coaches giving people rides around the centre of the square. Another wonderful attraction.
We headed back toward the old city and the car.
We had to stop for churros and chocolate before heading to IKEA. All IKEAs are so huge and you must follow around in a circle to find the exit, I was not surprised when Ana said that we had walked 11 kilometres over the whole day.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Nov. 3, Bone Chapel, Estoi, and Cerro de S. Miguel

November 3rd
We decided to go back to Faro because we discovered that the Bone Chapel we visited was a small one and not far away was one with the bones of 1245 monks. The first gypsies I had seen were sitting in the entrance to the Igraja do Carmo. We entered through the church and I took pictures of the altar and the organ. We went out into the walled garden and found the chapel (s) as there were two of them. One large with bones in the walls and ceilings and one small with only one wall facing you and the bones inserted in it. This is a way to respect the dead and preserve the bones that are found in unmarked, ancient or mass graves. The tombstones of some of the bodies have been preserved as paving stones.
Outside the church was a carob tree and strewn on the ground were carob pods. I knew people substituted carob for chocolate but I had never seen carob before.
We headed for the little town of Estoi. There is a castle there that is more modern than the ones we have been looking at. It is probably more like a rich estate than a castle. It is a heritage building but it is now also a hotel. E hotel has to preserve the outside and integrity of the building but they have turned the inside into hotel rooms. We walked all around it and I took pictures of the gates and towers. The last picture is of a room off to the side at the back. It appears to be a public laundry area. The blue tile portrays a woman with her laundry and there is still water in the various pools.
We now headed to Cerra de S. Miguel which is a height of land in the area. On the way I took a picture of cork trees. We found better ones a few days later but these were the first I got pictures of. Paulo drove up the hill and it was quite steep and windy. On top there were aerials and phone and TV towers. We parked and walked around and took some pictures of the valleys and of sunset. While we were there, Ana and Paulo did a Geocache which I signed onto as well. Will report it when I get back to Canada.
We drove back down the hill just as the sun was setting on another wonderful day. Off home to send a few postcards and then to bed.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

November 2nd Silves Castelo

When I woke up this morning I was happy to see that there were patches of blue sky, even if there were still grey clouds when you looked different directions. We were not going to stay inside today. We were off on another set of adventures. Ana and Paulo would tell me that we were going one place but we usually end up seeing several things along the way. I never know what the adventure will be.

They told me today that we were off to see a castle or castelo. Along the way we changed directions so that we could see Our Lady of the Rocks Chapel. In this part of Portugal the cliffs are a sheer drop down to the sea with a small beach at the bottom of the cliffs usually accessible only by many stairs. It was very windy and there were pools of water along the paths and the chapel was perched out on the farthest point on the cliff. The chapel itself was closed but I took a picture through the glass door. We walked along the path but turned back when the pools of water flooded the way.

Castelo Silves
On we continued until we reached Silves. We pulled over at a lookout point so I could get a picture of the castle silhouetted on the hill. On the way to the castle we stepped inside the Cathedral which is very close to it. The choir was practicing the hymns they would sing for the Mass and I took one picture with no flash because I didn't want to disturb them. In church the pictures always turn out better without flash. We toured the castle and climbed the walls. Some areas have been renovated and some are still being dug out. They have handrails in some places and none in other. Paulo offered help when we were going down wet staircases with no handholds. In the center of the castle courtyard there is a building underground that is devoted to Iberian Lynx. They have a breeding and release program trying to repopulate the area. It was very interesting. The battlements were very old but there were fantastic views of the surrounding city from the heights.

For lunch we stopped at a restaurant that people had told Ana and Paulo about. There is no menu. They serve Portuguese grilled chicken. Delicious, fabulous grilled chicken. Of course this is Portugal so first comes the cold starter - Olives, cooked spiced carrots, pickled cabbage and some peppers. Then the salad of tomatoes, lettuce, onions and a few minor veggies. The plate of chicken (one whole chicken split open and grilled on an outdoor barbecue type grill and then chopped in pieces) arrived with a large platter of beautifully done french fries. They were crisp on the outside and hot and tender on the inside. When we asked for the bill we were treated to a plate of fresh and dried fruit. We had figs with almonds in them, melon, and orange slices with cinnamon sprinkled on them. I think it was the best restaurant meal I have had in Europe. The bill was about $10.00 each in Canadian money. I love Portugal.

We drove to the town of Loulé and decided to take a walking tour. We found the local market. We had taken too much time over lunch so the stalls were mostly closed up but I took pictures of the building and the halloween decorations. There was a statue of an old woman representing the market sellers. We toured the old town and found historical plaques telling us about the designs of the windows and the arches etc, We stopped in a little cafe and had coffee and Portuguese custard tarts. The food here is wonderful.

Before heading home Paulo drove us to a modern round church on a hill overlooking the town. The church was not open but it is the outside architecture that is so interesting. The previous church was saved and is on the same property.

We headed home just in time as the sky opened up and it started to rain again.

Monday, November 2, 2015

November 1st Nanaimo Bars and visiting friends.

Early Nov. 1st Ana and I went grocery shopping to find missing ingredients for the Nanaimo Bars. We needed wafers to replace the graham cracker crumbs, icing sugar and more butter. We will use cornstarch and real vanilla from vanilla pods to replace the custard powder.

We had a wonderful time making the bars. She did most of the work and I supervised. Paulo was happy to eat them. The whole experiment has been declared a success and Portugal now has Nanaimo Bars.

We spent a quiet afternoon. I sent some postcards and Paulo and Ana were busy with the website. Around 4 o'clock we headed out to visit friends for a birthday. It had rained most of the day but we thought the worst was past. Half way to the friends we discovered that there was a road washed out and we had to detour to higher ground to avoid the flooding.

We arrived safely and I was made to feel very welcome. One of the couples had just returned from Calgary, where they had spent the last two years. There was lots of food including Ana's special carrots, quiche, leek pie, apple pie, potato chips, beetroot chips, roast chestnuts, olives, iberico ham, cheese, and regular ham. Everything was delicious and I learned to eat roast chestnuts by dipping them in coarse salt. I was treated to Mateus Rose and we finished off the night with Birthday cake.
The ride home was uneventful as no roads were flooded and the rain held off until we were safe and sound.

October 31st. Market Day.

Market Day in Olhão

Today was Market day. Olhão is not far from here and has a beautiful fish, fruit and vegetable market. Outside the building there were people selling clothing and handbags etc and there were beautiful tile benches. Inside there was every kind of fish you could think of. Big ones, small ones, some whole, some in filets and steaks. Dorado, cuttle fish, Crab, salmon, tuna, octopus, squid, sword fish, eel and even shark. Then we moved on to the fruit and vegetables. Pomegranates, oranges, mangoes, apples, grapes, figs, sweet potatoes, avocados and many more. I kept asking "What is that one" Sometimes we could figure it out but one or two did not translate to English.

We stopped for coffee with Flávio and Ana and then had fun buying vegetables for dinner. Paulo bought some figs and I bought some raspberries and some churros which we shared as we walked around.
The weather had turned cold so we headed back home for lunch.  On the way we stopped at Canada- that is Rua da Canada and Edificio Canada which is an Apartment complex near here.  We spent the afternoon discussing places and food from Canada. We found there is a place called Faro in the Yukon but it is very far from everywhere. We also had a discussion about Canadian food and decided that we should introduce Nanaimo bars to Portugal. Late in the afternoon there was a beautiful sunset so we went up on the rooftop terrace to watch the sun go down.

October 30 Fishing Village, Salt Ponds and the Old Town of Faro

Arraial Ferreira Neto or Vila Gale Albacore
First thing in the morning we headed out for this site. it was a Tuna fishing Village originally that was only inhabited during fishing season. Once the tuna hanged their annual course and didn't come this way anymore the village was abandoned. Portugal made it a National Historic Site but in order to preserve it they have allowed a resort to renovate and renew the site. The resort allows people to visit; they have a small museum on the premises and all the fisherman's housing has been transformed into the hotel rooms.  When you walk through the area you are looking at the village as it was 75 years ag. The chapel is still there and the school is now the children's activity center. Except for the reception area everything is the same. the large anchors used to tie down the nets are still along the walls.

Salt Evaporation Ponds
Every day we had driven past large white piles along the roads and there seemed to be a lot of man made ponds beside the roadways as well. Today we went to get a closer look at the Salt Evaporation Ponds or Desalination ponds. Portugal gets quite a bit of its salt both for industrial use and for cooking and gourmet uses from desalination. The salt we saw is industrial grade. It reminded me of the salt piles we have for salting the roads in the winter. The salt water is pumped into the pond area and allowed to evaporate. The salt remains behind and is scooped up for use in industrial processes.

Back home for lunch. Delicious as always. After lunch we headed for the old town.

Old Town of Faro
The Old Town of Faro was established in 1269 and the main gateway is the Arco de Repouso or the Resting Arch which of course leads to Rua Do Repouso.
We followed the street past colourful tiles and beautiful ironwork balconies to the statue of Alfonso III and the town square. We turned to the side and saw Stork nests and storks on top of the church.
I love the decorative street lights as well. Even the doors are inlaid with metal work and lovely door knockers. We wandered past parks and a marina and the local firehall and found the New Gate which is only 400 years old. The flowers are all still in bloom.
We headed for the Faro Cathedral. This church was originally built in 1251 but redesigned when it became the seat of the diocese of the Algarve in 1577. At that time they modernized it and added the medieval elements including the bell tower and the two cross chapels.  We went up in the tower and saw the bells - some are still working but others have no clappers.
There is a marvelous view of the town and the sea from all sides of the tower. The chimney pot on the roof is quite ornate.
I took some pictures of the altars and the organ and outside there are two chapels. One is devoted to St. Michel and the other is a Bone chapel.
This probably sounds weird but the chapel is full of bones and skulls, probably of unidentified bodies that were buried in the area between 1269 and the 1577 date of reconstruction. At the back of the cathedral is a beautiful wall with Gargoyles at the top. I love gargoyles. As we walked back to the car we saw an outdoor public gym, so I had to take two pictures of that.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Tavira, Vila Real Santo Antonio, Castelo Marim and Cacela Velha Oct 29

In the morning Ana and Paulo worked on the website and made sure everything was working as it should. After that we headed off to the old centre of Tavira. There are supposed to be 37 churches here but we didn't look for them all. I love to saunter through old towns like this and see the heart of the community and get a feel for it.
We crossed the river Gilao that runs through the town to go to the town square. The tide was out and the river which goes to the Atlantic was very low. The town is full of beautiful tile walls and very old buildings. The iron work on balconies is intricate and there are blooming bushes and trees all around. We investigated the Castelo which is now the walls of the old castle surrounding a beautiful garden.
The town square is full of beautiful sculptures and statues. Many of the walls are covered in the blue and white tiles so familiar in Portugal. While we walked back to the car we watched the river bed looking for crabs scuttling in the mud and fish the size of sardines in small schools swimming in the pools. Many of the walls have raised decorations which I tried to capture.
We visited a beautiful Church in Tavira. Igreja da Misericordia has a museum attached to it as well. The interior is all blue and white tile. The altar is very ornate with gold leaf and the organ is magnificent. Part of the museum dealt with the soldiers from the village who were conscripted by Napoleon. No one ever remembers the losing side; they only remember the winner and the losing commander.


Next we drove to the Spanish border and to the river Guadiana and visited Vila Real de Santo Antonio. We stayed on the Portuguese side of the river but walked along the river bank. The first thing you notice is the decorative cobblestones. They have pictures of lobster, fish and anchors in different colour stones. The older buildings including the old customs house are covered in wonderful decorative tiles and pictures made up of tiles. The harbour is full of sailboats, moored along the banks. As we walked up the street we found that the art was a mixture of old statues dedicated to heroes of the past and some very strange statues that were modern.  There are orange trees everywhere in Portugal and a few lemon and lime trees as well. We wander up and down the pedestrian streets taking in all the sites. One building that is now a public washroom used to be a public bath so the sign still reads the same. They have tried to beautify the city and in spite of the graffiti it is very nice - even the garbage cans are pretty. We passed some domed buildings that might be part of the moorish influence.
Next we were off to Castelo Marim. From the highway you can see the walls of the two fortresses that guarded the area hundreds of years ago. They are now ruins but still very interesting. We climbed up to the entrance to the Castelo and even outside the gates the view is beautiful. We went inside for free because it was late and it was closing soon. There are reenactments carried out here during the year. We climbed the walls to see out over towards Spain. We could see the town we had visited earlier. It was a spectacular view.
On the way home the sun was in Paulo's eyes so of course we had to detour to watch the sun go down. We visited the little town of Cacela Velha which is right on the ocean but is protected by islands and a spit of land that form a long narrow lagoon. We could see the tide rushing out as we watched the sun go down.

Over the last few days we have seen several black cats. Since the weather has called for rain and we haven't had any I think the black cats are a good sign not a bad one.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Oct. 28th Basel and Arriving in Portugal

I woke up early and finished packing for the plane trip to Portugal. This meant that everything had to fit in my suitcase. I kept my large purse and a few things out but I made sure there was room to pack everything in when I got to the airport. Easyjet says one item only, so no purse. Well I have the little one that slides under my sweater and doesn't show. It has my passport, credit card holder and boarding pass. On the plane my iPad will fit into the purple sweater inside pocket so I will have that as well.
I left Sabrina's key in her mailbox and left it on a Canadian key chain. I walked to the bus for the last time and headed off to the train station. I took the train to Zurich, bought a banana and a croissant to eat on the train and off I went to Basel. Once in Basel I knew I had several hours before I had to go to the airport. I hopped on a tram and headed downtown hoping to find the pedestrian streets. A few blocks later I exited the tram when I saw some carnival rides. Right across the road was the beginning of the old town and the pedestrian streets. I love the winding streets in these areas and the very old architecture. The decoration on the building is lovely and the building could not be duplicated today. I spent some time window shopping and finding all the interesting spots including a park with lots of mechanical machines like large toys in a reflecting pool. There was a gorgeous church a few blocks away. I took pictures of the outside but there was a young lady giving a concert on the inside so no pictures. I started to follow the signs for the hauptbahnhof but after a few blocks I gave up and hopped on another trolley. Of course it was going the wrong way. I rested on the trolley for several stops and finally decided to get off and go back. It turned out I was only 3 stops from the central station if I had gone the other way to start with. I took the airport bus and arrived at the airport about 2 hours before the flight. I didn't realize how small the airport was. Security was a breeze compared to Toronto, Amsterdam or most other airports. I stopped at this point and packed my purse and things into my suitcase or my pockets. The flight was uneventful. When I arrived in Faro, Ana and Paulo were waiting for me. I passed through a gate that said customs but didn't see anyone and walked out to join them. We drove to Tavira and nice warm soup was waiting for us. Relaxed for the evening and we will start our adventures tomorrow.

Winterthur and Liechtenstein October 27

I headed out nice and early so I could explore a bit of Winterthur and then off to Liechtenstein. I had only seen Winterthur either in the dark or on the train which isn't very much. I took a picture of Sabrina's building - very new and one of the older style one beside her. I caught the bus at the round about and headed to the station. The buses and trains in Europe usually have a TV screen at the front that shows the next three or four stations. It is great because if you don't hear or understand the announcement you can read it on the screen. Less chance of getting lost, though I can "take the scenic route" (get lost) anywhere.

I found the pedestrian streets and all the bicycles. It was very early so not much was open. I headed back to the station and found people dressed like bananas handing out Bananas....... Maybe they were supposed to be Minions handing out bananas. Something to eat on the way to Zurich. The white lines on the street are used by blind or partially sighted people to find their way around the stations and bus stops. There is always a patch of white lines where the doors open. Also they lead from the bus into the station. I took a picture of the inside of a truck because the cards were arriving already shrink wrapped onto the card stand. I had never seen that before.

Off on a train to Sargens and then a bus to Liechtenstein. On the train I met a woman who had recently visited Canada and she pointed things out to me. I took some pictures of the lakes and the beginning of the mountains through the train windows. Not the best but the only option I had. When I arrived in Sargens the lady made sure I was heading in the right direction for my bus. I thanked her and I was off on another adventure. I got on the bus and asked if the driver could let me know when I was in Liechtenstein. As we crossed a bridge a few miles later she showed me the flags in the middle marking the border. About a mile further I asked if I could get off the bus and take the next one as I saw this beautiful castle on the hill. Of course I could so here I was in Balser not Vaduz taking pictures. I couldn't see a way up to the castle but it was still beautiful. On to Vaduz.

Next bus came and I was off to Vaduz. The closer we got the more the horizon was dominated by mountain ridges. Probably not the highest mountains but very dramatic. I got off in Vaduz and visited the church near the bus stop. It was very pretty and I took pictures inside and out including a gargoyle head. From the church you could follow the pedestrian way and it was dominated by many forms of art - metal sculpture, colourful heads, bronze works, granite etc. as you walked along, every time you looked up you saw the Schloss were the Prince lives. I found the Post Office and their postcards of Liechtenstein were reasonable so I bought some and sent them to the people I had stayed with. The stamps were beautiful. I wish I could have sent one to everyone I knew. I wander up the street, checked out the Postal Museum and the tourist shops. I stopped and had a bite to eat and decided I had to walk up to the Schloss or I would always regret it. What a climb. The lady in the tourist office said 20 - 25 minutes. It took me 50 going up and 25 coming down. Part of the way down was cobblestone and didn't have a handrail so I had to be extra careful. The views going up were spectacular. A camera can not properly capture them. There were benches along the way and a railing once you were on the actual Schloss trail. I stopped at the lookout point and took more pictures, some looking down. The tree with the red berries I took pictures of is a holly tree. I was a bit disappointed at the top as the trail stopped at the back of the Schloss and I was hoping the grounds around it were open. I took some pictures and headed back down. I caught the bus back to Sargens and after a train delay I made my way back to Zurich and Winterthur.
Sabrina had made a wonderful chicken dinner and after dinner I started packing as I leave for Portugal tomorrow.
More later - thanks for reading.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

October 26th Zurich

In Zurich early this morning. I wanted to explore the old city, go down to the waterfront area, go up the Uetliberg and explore the part of the old city on the opposite side of the river.

Started off at the Hauptbahnhof and saw the Blue Angel hanging from the ceiling. Filled my water bottle from the boy with the alligator and off I went. The broad yellow lines are pedestrian crossings and give you the right of way if there is no light. I love the little covered balconies that hang over the road. Every one is individually designed so I took lots of pictures. There were also paintings right on the walls plus statues and fountains. i found some beautiful old churches. No pictures allowed inside. I walked down to the waterfront and found people feeding the swans and ducks. I caught a tram that I thought was heading north but it went to the side so I hopped off just past the opera. I went into the grocery store and bought lunch. A sandwich and a banana. I walked back to the Opera house. There is a big plaza there with lots of chairs. They chain two chairs together so people won't steal them. I was watching the fountain and eating. It was a warm day and the sun was shining. Could I ask for anything more?
After lunch I took a tram back up to the station to go up the Uetliberg. It is a high hill outside of Zurich - not a mountain. It helps if you get on the right train. I didn't. So I had to come back and start over. Luckily it was only a twenty minute ride for each trip - the wrong one and the right one. After you get off the train you are only about half way up. Now you start climbing. That is what it felt like as the road was on a steep incline. I made it and after taking some pictures I decided I had better climb the tower or I would regret it. There are 9 flights of 17 steps each and 3 straight landing platforms. It is 180 metres high. Tough climb but I made it. Another adventure and victory chalked up!
I returned to the city and explored the opposite side of the old city. There is another old church filled with Marc Chagall stained glass windows - no pictures allowed. I went outside and discovered that the banners hanging from the light standards were copies of the stained glass windows inside. So I took pictures of them. I wandered through the narrow curved streets window shopping and taking pictures of every unique thing I saw. I ended up near the station on a bridge with the beginning of a love lock collection.
I headed back to Sabrina's house and made dinner of Spaghetti Bolonaise for us. More adventures tomorrow as I go to Liechtenstein.

Monday, October 26, 2015

October 25th

Egni, Nissimor and I left Einshlingen around 6:00 a.m. by taxi for the hauptbahnhof of Bielefeld to catch a train to Zurich. At first I was wondering why I had chosen to leave so early but later I was glad. We had coffee and a bite to eat in the station and caught our train. I fell asleep and woke up with a jerk and asked the man beside me "Are we ther yet?" Of course the answer was not for several more hours. I got to see the cathedral in Koln or Cologne in English. It is just outside the train station so I saw it as we entered and when we left. A couple of hours later Egni told me that the announcement in German said we were an hour late and we had to switch trains in Freiburg not Basel. What would I have done if I was travelling alone? They give two sentences in English and 25 sentences in German.
Nissimor missed her rehearsal for the concert tonight by her choir. Egni let her husband know that the train was running late.
When I arrived in Switzerland I found the prices were quite high compared to Germany or Canada. A cup of tea or coffee can be 4 Swiss francs or Euros  which is about $6.00 Canadian and double what it was in Germany. A locker was 6 Swiss francs or about $9.00. I dragged my suitcase around and explored the area around the station. Straight out the main doors is the new city but there is a lovely stream with spots for people to sit and enjoy the waterfowl only a block away. To the left across the bridge over the river is the old town. I love the amazing buildings and the decorations that have lasted four hundred years or more. The crosswalks here are marked with yellow lines. If there is no light the cars have to stop if you step off the curb. Watch out for trams as they have the right of way it seems and stop for no one. In Canada if the light turns yellow and then red the cars will wait for you to clear the street. Not here, if the light changes get off the street because the cars barrel into the intersection the moment it changes.
I found a water fountain of a boy holding an alligator and filled my water bottle. I bought a bun and cheese at one of the shops for lunch. I fought with a ticket machine to get a train ticket. I bought a Switzerland t-shirt and a Zurich card for the next day.
I headed for Winterthur, arrived, found Starbucks, bought a tea, figured out the iPad charging stations and read while I waited for Sabrina.
Sabrina arrived, a little late but I was reading so I didn't care. We took a taxi home; had a bite to eat; figured out what I was doing the next day and made up the couch as a bed and hit the sheets to get some rest. More tomorrow.

Oct 23 & 24th in Bielefeld

I slept in until 9:00. I woke to a European breakfast of juice, coffee, a variety of buns and bread with cheese, meat or jam to put on them.  After breakfast we made our plans for the day. I signed cards in the morning. I love looking at the variety of cards that people bring. Many of these aren't available in Canada. Everyone here loves our nature views and complains about not finding them in Europe. They love the cards of trees in autumn. LadyP says all she gets are Mounties and Squirrels and she would like some view cards please.
After a hot spaghetti lunch with chocolate pudding for dessert Leonie, Desmonia, Killiwips and I went to downtown Bielefeld for a shopping expedition. A large factory in Bielefeld is the Dr. Oetker plant. I buy Dr. Oetker food in Canada. Downtown we found the pedestrian streets. I love Europe because of the pedestrian streets. No traffic lights you can wander across the road. It's great. I had a chocolate and vanilla softserve ice cream. Best buy so far. It was huge and inexpensive. I only bought a small. We did a lot of window shopping and the others bought some postcards. I have too many as you get a pile free when you come and I will buy some from the postcard people who come to the event and give us a discount.
Back to Einshlingen for more signing, a glass of wine and supper. Pixelpups is a teenage boy who comes with his mom and gets bored so he plays the piano for hours. It is very relaxing to sit and talk and stamp some postcards with piano music in the background.

Oct 24th

More of the same during the day. I took a walk through the park area here for a break. Sometimes the house is full of laughter and sometimes the noise level gets high.
In the afternoon there is a lottery which is really just a present exchange. I got a lovely gift bag of stickers and tape and stamps and Stroopwaffels, so I know it came from Leonie. She will take it and a bag of extra things to the Netherlands for me so I keep the packing light on the way to Portugal.

In the evening I packed as I am up early to catch the train to Switzerland. We all sat around and read off weird Canadian place names off the internet. Everyone here loves Crispy Crunch chocolate bars. I may have to send some for Christmas. Everyone said goodbye tonight. Lots of hugs and of course everyone wants me to come back next year. I don't think so. We will see.

Saturday, October 24, 2015


Oct. 22nd

We started out by car after breakfast. Nicole left her husband and two sons at home, but we will drop Larissa her daughter off at her aunt Martine's house for the weekend. This is school break week so there is no school today and tomorrow. Martine's house is in Neustadt about 2/3 of the way to Bielefeld. She doesn't speak English but was very welcoming to me and fed us a hot meal of noodles and meatballs with peppers in a red sauce with chocolate pudding for dessert. We said good by and we were off again.

I don't think I have been hugged as much as I was when we arrived in Bielefeld. Everyone remembered me and was happy to see me again. I found my room, I am sharing with MissMaple and Roos. It's on the first floor so no stairs to climb this year. I found Egni and Nissimor. We are travelling to Switzerland together. I am sitting with the same group from last year. They are always finding something to laugh about. I keep telling them they are having too much fun. Off to bed around 10:00 but I sat up reading for awhile. It is very relaxing here. I stamped about 500 cards tonight. My stamp has a Canadian flag and my name - LyndaC.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

October 20 Bremerhaven to Hamburg

I spent a quiet morning packing, and left Bremerhaven by train for Hamburg this afternoon. I am getting good at figuring out the trains and their schedules. I arrived in Hamburg around 5:00 o'clock and got directions to Nichole's house. I got a little excited and almost got off the bus early but I made it to her house on time for supper. Not a very exciting day but that is what travelling can be like.

October 21st.
The next morning I began the day with laundry. Nicole took me to the local laundromat and I got everything washed and dried. Then I went downtown to explore Hamberg. I took the subway to the harbour. I had purchased an all day ticket so I rode the ferry around the harbour. It was included in my ticket. Since all the tours were in German I wasn't missing anything taking public transit. The harbour has container ships and container loading areas, lots of tour boats, small pleasure craft, tugboats and barges. They are all crossing back and forth but seem to keep out of each other's way. The Queen Mary 2 was supposed to come into port but I didn't see her. There are also a number of sailing ships tied up at different docks. I checked out a number of stores and wandered from one end to the other taking in all the sights. It was a cloudy day but no rain. Once in awhile the sun would peep out for a few minutes.

I went on to the central station or haufbanhof. I needed to change some money and to do a little shopping. I bought a hot pretzel and ate it as I walked. I went over and down a few blocks and then followed the signs to go back. On the way I found a shop that sold soccer shirts that said Hamburg. This goes with my new Viking t-shirt from Norway. I am also trying to buy small presents from each city so I have a few things to take home.

I found the pedestrian streets around the Haubanhof and had a delightful time window shopping. I stopped for a rest in a book store and signed on to the Internet and checked the mail. I found the bank the money exchange and decided to head back to Nicole's. Lasagna for supper was delicious. I got all my cards ready for Bielefeld and headed for bed. We are off to Bielefeld in the morning..

Monday, October 19, 2015

Day Two in Bremerhaven

The restaurant last night was over by the commercial area of the port. I wish I had taken some pictures but the battery in my camera died. It was decorated like an old sea shanty, it even had a naked mermaid. It also had an aquarium right beside us. There were two clown fish and two "Dory" from Finding Nemo and several other varieties of tropical fish.We had Bouliabaise and a Bremerhaven Fischteller or variety of fish. It was very good and I ate almost all of it.

This morning after breakfast we went down to the port to see a cruise ship that is being outfitted in Bremerhaven. Angela Merkel is holding a conference later and 800 will have dinner on the ship tonight. After the ship Brigitte dropped me off down near the pedestrian streets and I walked along taking pictures. I wanted to go into the old church but it wasn't open.

I went to the Marine museum and looked at everything from a boat that was dug out of the harbour to whaling equipment to new sailboats and arctic explorations. There was a skeleton of a whale hanging from the ceiling. There was a huge artificial pond in the basement and I got to steer a cruise ship around from one end to the other and turn it around and go back. It wasn't my fault the other boat and I banged into each other.

I'm off to Hamburg again tomorrow. I want to explore the port there the next day. Bye for now.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Hamburg and Bremerhaven

October 17th
Woke up early this morning and read until I heard the family wake. I had a beautiful hot shower before breakfast. Breakfast was buns and pastries with a selection of meat, cheese, jam and a special concoction of susauge, and mayo and a crisp vegetable. I tried it as I have tried everything people have fed me but it wasn't my favorite. It was a bit too sour. If there are spelling mistakes it is because I am using a European Keyboard and the letters are in different places.

The Postcard meeting started at 11:30 and we met at Central Station. Once everyone was there we left to walk around downtown and look at postcards. I bought a few but not many as I don't send foreign postcards from home very often. We walked and walked and went to many stores. I took pictures of the harbour. We finally stopped to eat and write postcards. I ate a very delicious potato soup with sausage. Around 4:45 Nicole and Larissa and I left to get me on the train for Bremerhaven. It was a quiet trip but it looks like the same festival was on in Bremen as last year. I could see the lights and the ferris wheel. Brigitte met me at the train. She has a broken foot. But she is feeling better than she was last week. She made a beautiful dinner of bacon, peaches, beans and potatoes. We sat up and watched tv about Cuba.

Oct 18th
This morning Brigitte and I sat and had coffee and breakfast and talked about Bielefeld last year and what we are doing this year. This afternoon I went down to the harbour for a few hours and watched the ships going in and out of the inner harbour through a lock. I walked along the sea front and went to a shopping mall under the conference center. I enjoyed myself but it was getting cold and foggy so I took the bus back to Brigitte's house. Tonight we are going out to a fish restaurant. I'm off to write some postcards.

My cold is getting better.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Arriving in Hamburg

I left Norway this morning. It was a long walk up that steep hill but a beautiful day once the fog lifted. Cathrine came with me Jevnaker to say good bye and make sure I got the right bus.

The plane was on time but I tried to go the wrong way. Luckily Passport Control are nice people and sent me back the right way. I had a window seat but we were above the clouds so not much to see. We landed in Hamburg and it was raining.

The S-Bahn said "All trains go to Central Station" which is where I was to meet Nicole, that was before the accident on the tracks. We all had to get out and transfer to another line and another train. The first was so full I couldn't get on. Well I could have but when I bent down to get my bag two men jumped on and took my place. It took awhile but Nicole and I found each other and went home to her house to have soup. It was excellent soup - chicken with peppers carrots and chick peas.

While waiting for her husband to come home I played Rummikub with Nicole and her daughter Larissa. Larissa won twice. When Nicole's husband came home she and I went to Miniature Wunderland. It is set up with hundreds of train tracks in 3 or 4 rooms and a working airport where planes take off and land. Parts of it were set up for Halloween and when you pushed buttons different sections had action. The midway rides ran, the fire engines went to a fire, cranes lifted loads etc. it was a lot of fun.

I'm getting ready for bed now so I will write to you from Bremerhaven tomorrow night.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Lazy day in Norway.

Today we decided to rest and relax. I read a book. We took a walk through the village. We wrote some postcards. We traded a few cards. I got packed as I have to leave around 7:30 tomorrow morning. The day started out foggy, it looked like it would clear then it started to roll in again. By 5:00 we couldn't see past the tree on Cathrine's lawn. We decided the trolls were out and about so it was a good thing we had taken our walk earlier.
Cathrine and I had sandwiches for lunch and she cooked up chicken, rice, a stir fry of veggies and a delicious chicken gravy for dinner. After dinner I realized I had packed the liquids and forgot to pack other stuff so I had to do it all again. Off to Hamburg tomorrow. I posted lots of pictures on Facebook.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


I forgot to say yesterday that Norway is beautiful. There are birch trees and evergreens everywhere and calm beautiful lakes with ducks and wild swans in them. Cathrine lives on the edge of a forest and on the other side are farms.
Early this morning we left to go to Oslo. It is a two hour trip. Two buses. But very comfortable like an excursion coach. We walked through the bus terminal and headed toward the harbour.
We walked up the Oslo Opera house. Yes I said up. You walk up different levels until you are on the roof. All the pieces of the roof slant at different angles so it is not too steep. I took pictures on the roof and we asked someone to take our picture.

We went to the museum of architecture. It was a strange museum because they were also looking at architecture in Comic Strips. It was like the architect was drawing the strips. There was also a short movie showing the history of Norwegian Architecture.

Next we walked towards the city hall and past the fort that guarded the harbour many years ago. The museum devoted to the Nobel peace prize was on the corner so we went in that one too. All the different peace prize winners were shown in a room where you walked along and if you waved your hand in front of the picture, it lit up and gave you details. There were seperate rooms devoted to special people like the Dalia Lama and Malala.

From there it is only a couple of blocks to the Royal Palace and the palace parks which are open to the public. We walked through them and found a little park with two dragons guarding a statue of a children's author. Luckily we found a restaurant nearby as it was getting late. I had a Norwegian sandwich of shrimp and crawfish at a restaurant whose name translates to "the happy pig". Cathrine had a Caesar salad with added chicken and bacon.

After lunch we went to the National Gallery and saw among other paintings Edvard Munsch, "Scream". It reminds me of a Halloween Mask.

Cathrine had a book crossing meeting in the mall beside the bus terminal. I said hello and then I sat and read a book. We got home around 8:00 o'clock. So it is off to bed very soon.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Arriving in Europe

Greg and Crystal (my son and daughter-in-law) drove me to the airport on Monday. Lots of traffic backups and a few accidents but we left in lots of time so we were fine.
They switched airplanes on me again and I was going to end up in a middle seat in the middle edition on the plane. I told one of the attendants and he found me an aisle seat. Thank you.
Supper on the aircraft was good - Beef, rice, onions and gravy. Breakfast was a disappointment. I think the whole thing was frozen and defrosted overnight. The blueberry muffin was still half frozen and wet from defrosting. Oh well the service was good.
When I landed in Amsterdam the strangest thing happened. We had to go through security to get out. So two of us were not allowed to bring water that we purchased while in a secure area through security. Passport control was a bit of a joke. I don't even think he made eye contact with me.
The gate for the plane to Norway was at the other end of the terminal. I bought a croissant and a tea for breakfast.
Smaller plane to Oslo. Not a bad ride I slept most of the way. Cathrine met me in Jevnacker and we walked to the local glass making plant. This area is kind of like an artisan's village. There is a bakery, a porcelain works, a honey hut, several factory outlets for the porcelain and glass, an art gallery and a factory that makes hand blown glass objects. The men in the factory work as a team on different projects. One team was making glass decorations that were shaped a bit like Christmas trees but we're also reminiscent of some type of light fixture. As each member of the team finished blowing and shaping them the finisher would break off the bottom using a special machine and then polish the bottom so it was smooth.
The second team was making wine glasses. Two or three were allowed to make the bowl of the glass and blow it to size then shape it and pull out the stem. Then another man added a blob to the bottom and a third turned this into the foot. The last man cut off the top and ground the edge. I think the foot turner had the hardest job , because if the foot wasn't level and even then the wine glass would slant over when used.
We took another bus to Cathrine's house. She lives down a steep hill in a building that looks like a big house but is several apartments. She fed me a wonderful supper of beef patties served in delicious gravy, with potatoes and peas.

After I post this I will be heading for bed. Off to Oslo tomorrow.

Monday, October 12, 2015

2015 A new Adventure

I know I haven't blogged for a year but here I go again. I'm off on a new adventure.

Today I leave for the adventure of 2015. I am going to Europe and again it may be my last trip across the pond. I am scheduled to visit Norway, Germany, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Portugal, Netherlands and England. I have booked all the trains and planes. I have friends from last year that I am staying with, and my luggage is packed.

Greg, Crystal and the family are driving me to the airport. I have managed to get a cold but I have cough medicine and cold pills so hopefully that won't bother me too much.

I have difficulty putting pictures on the blog so you will have to check my Facebook page for the pictures.

My first stop is Norway where I will be met by Cathrine, also known as Norway_girl. We plan to go to a glass works tomorrow.