Archive for the ‘2019 Europe’ Category

Paris revisited

Monday, May 13th, 2019


Mont St Michel

Saturday, May 11th, 2019

Mont St Michel

The Beaches of Normandy

Thursday, May 9th, 2019

The site of the invasion was very different than that day.  These days the beaches are very quiet and used for recreational use very much in the summer.  The cemetaries were beautiful.  To know what this area went thru is very moving as well as the effort to regain France to the French.  The people here will never forget even if we do as time goes by.  I found it interesting although it definitely felt very different than how I felt the first time I saw Pearl Harbor when I was 21.  

Omaha Beach 2019,  beautifully preserved with memorials abound.

Paul takes in the view of Omaha from a soldiers perspective.

The bunkers from outside.  They are deteriorating but being kept alive for all to visit and learn about what the war meant.



Wednesday, May 8th, 2019

What a special little town, Bayeux  right in the middle of the action of WWII.  We spent several days here and really enjoyed the town, food and sites.


This was our patio at our B&B hosted by Jonna who treated us to breakfast in her home each morning and transported us to town often.  It was about 2 miles outside of town and some days  we walked as we needed to work off some of the fine cuisine.  We had crepes in more than one way and of course the croissants and latte’s.

The town as well as most of Normandy was getting prepared for the 75th anniversary of DDay.  The store fronts were welcoming all who had a part of the war.  The people here seemed very appreciative of the effort of the allies in getting their home returned to France.  



Flanders Fields

Tuesday, May 7th, 2019

From 1914 to 1918, Flanders Fields was a major battle theatre on the Western Front during the First World War.   Today, the peaceful region still bears witness to this history through its monuments, museums, cemeteries and the countless individual stories that link it with the world.

We took an all day bus tour of the area and learned so much about a war I never even thought about.  These people fought to save their country while whole cities were being destroyed.  Bruges had no destruction while Ypres only about 30 miles away was completely destroyed.  Ypres has been rebuilt exactly as it was using some of the salvaged materials.  It looks just as old as the other cities we have seen.  A million soldiers from more than 50 different countries were wounded, missing or killed in action here.   A 4 year war that was fought within a very small region, where the battle lines went back and forth until the end.

Paul walking in the trenches

The Poppies are a symbol of Flanders Fields.  We were early so this all we got to see.  The color is spectacular.  Another interesting thing we learned is this is farm land and the farmers still to this day a 100 years later dig up shrapnel left from the battles.

A German bunker on Hill 60 a preserved battlefield.

Flanders Field American Cemetery and Memorial is a World War I cemetery on the southeast edge of the town of Waregem, . This is the only American World War I cemetery in Belgium and 411 American servicemen are buried or commemorated there.  The memorials in this area are abundant and so well kept.  They plant flowers annually in front of most of the gravestones.

I was not expecting much from this tour but by the end I was so impressed by the care that the Flemish people take to preserve this area and keep alive the battle that was fought to insure their freedom.  They are very appreciative of the efforts of all the Allies.

Off to Belgium again

Sunday, May 5th, 2019

More beautiful buildings, cobbled streets and a very nice B&B right in the heart of this Medieval City. Bruges Belgium  the capital of West Flanders in northwest Belgium.   In the city center’s Burg square, the 14th-century Stadhuis (City Hall) has an ornate carved ceiling. Nearby, Markt square features a 13th-century belfry with a 47-bell carillon and 83m tower with panoramic views.

The two photos above are of The Markt of Bruges. A huge square with amazing buildings all around and fun restaurants were you were able to eat on the patio where the people watching was lots of fun.

The most important of Bruges’ towers stands 83 metres tall. The Belfry Tower has 47 melodious bells that on some evenings they have a concert, we missed it as they were doing repair work on the bells the days we were there, however I did climb the 366 steps to enjoy the views from above!


I had to buy some clothing as the weather just kept getting colder and colder!  New sweatshirt, scarf, mittens and hat.  I wore these until we got to Normandy!

We took another bike ride excursion to Damme Belgium along a canal and then of course another pub with another beer!  It was a short ride and our guide, Flavia was from Argentina with a masters degree in tourism who in 2018 was traveling in Europe and landed upon Bruges and stayed.  It was a great afternoon

Bruges was a tourist town but with so much to experience you didn’t ever feel as though it was just for the tourist.  We tried Mussels for the first time and truly enjoyed them.  Bruges is not cheap but so beautiful, and they have chocolatiers everywhere!


Tulip Tour on Bikes

Saturday, May 4th, 2019

From Amsterdam to Zaandam, Alkmaar , Egmond aan Zee, Hargen, Bergen, Heiloo, Bakkum, Uitgeest, Haarlem, Lisse, and all the quaint villages along the way to return to Amsterdam after 7 days aboard the Dutch Melody.  So many amazing things we saw and did as well as partaking in lots of cheese, local pancake concoctions, beers, and of course coffee!  The main attraction was the Tulips. We saw them in the fields growing, on an experimental farm, in towns, in a flower park and all spots in between.

We just missed the peak by a day but it was still spectacular, actually it was even better because in the fields we got to see where some flowers had been headed which is the removal of the flower and leave them in the rows.  They do this because the bulbs are what they are after.  They sell the bulbs internationally and that is their industry besides tourism coming to see the flowers in bloom.

The bike ride was the best way for us to see all of the things we wanted.


Without this we would have been lost.  If the teeth are facing you yield!  We thought we had never seen this before but then when we get home we find them in our own community!  Just shows you how unobservant we are until we are placed in a strange situation.

The tour was on your own each day but we buddy up with others and had a great time.  Above is our last day and Paul is the fearless leader of about 12 of us!  Good thing he had GPS.  We had a written explanation each day with numbers to follow, kind of like dot to dot! but the GPS app that the barge company provided was the best tool.  Many got lost and the locals did their best to help.  One day a mom escorted our dinner mates all the way back to the boat as they had gotten way off track.

This is a parking garage underground just for bikes in Alkmaar.

Our Tour leader Sondra.  We would find her along the route often, riding a helping those that were lost.  The tour was 60 riders, mostly in there 50’s.  I think we were among the 20 % that were over 60.  I had an electric assist bike, but Paul plowed along everyday for about 28-34 miles with no assistance.  One day he had a rough one as it was one of the longer days, we missed the shortcut and it was along the sand dunes with some hills and a lot of wind.



We found really charming little coffee spots, cheese houses and of course the beer.

There are so many churches in Europe but this one wins the prize.  It was in a village across the river from Amsterdam.  The village had only a few homes and this beautiful church.  Outside the sign said yogurt!  Inside there was a cafe counter where you could get coffee, pie,yogurt, ice cream,  beer and toilets!  But on Sunday am it is a Presbyterian Church!

Coffee, Beer, Sunday Church Services

Sometimes it was very confusing as there isn’t always lanes, or anything other than the sharkteeth!

Ferries to get us across the water.  We took the second one that cost us 1 euro.  The top is a people powered one that these two joggers knew how to avoid the 1 euro!  I guess if you are jogging everyday that could get pricey and besides its a work out at least for the one girl.  The other was cheering her on!

We saw lots of RV’s.  This one was among a long line of them camped along a path in the Tulip fields.  What a peaceful, beautiful spot to park and enjoy the scenery.

I love public art and these were among some we saw on our trip.  I didn’t see as many as we often see in towns in the US but there was some.  They have such beautiful architecture I guess they don’t need the extra art.

We even happened along a vintage car club.

And this guy was walking his new pet!  The horse was huge but the guy was so tall the horse looks like a pony.

Some of the beautiful buildings that are everywhere.  There is amazing structures that are so old and still so beautiful.

And finally another tribute to the toilet scene in Europe!

There were a couple times where I thought this may be an option!

Bike Barge Arrival

Saturday, April 27th, 2019

We had figured out how to get to the train the night before so we were up early and out the door by 8 am.  We stop at the Starbucks and they don’t open until 9 am!  What!!! Are you kidding me.  Europe definitely keeps different hours than we do in the States and Paul and I are still a bit jet lagged.  We are ready for bed by 9 pm and awake by 7 without an alarm.  I’m hoping this adjust soon because it isn’t even dark here at 9 pm!

Anyway there was a McD across the way so Paul got his fix and I tried a latte and off to the train station.  This train to Amsterdam we chose a prepaid 1st class ticket as we needed to besure to arrive to meet our Barge by noon.  Very nice seats, with a clean toilet room and breakfast!  More croissants.  So far I have had one every morning!  We made it to Amsterdam  and before walking the short distance to the boat we paid again for a toilet!  So far the toilets have almost costs as much as our first breakfast!

Our Barge is not exactly a Barge!  They had to upgrade our Barge because it didn’t get out of drydock in time.  So the Dutch Melody will be our home for the next week.  A much large boat with a real bar, library and usually carries 140 passengers; we are only a group of 60!  The good news was we had plenty of room and the accomodations were definitely very nice.


We arrived and settled in.  The plan was to venture into Amsterdam but it was raining again so we had a nap and then drinks in the lounge before our briefing about our bike rides!


Antwerp, Belgium

Friday, April 26th, 2019

Woke up to rain and walked the block to the laundry before leaving Paris.  Doing laundry on the road is not my favorite but it is colder than we expected so I want to make sure we have what we need for the bike trip.  Laundry done and off to the train station to find the Thalys Train to Belgium.  We walked about a mile through MontMarte to the station and had plenty of time to find our train.  While we waited I found the toilets and paid my .70e!  Paying for toilets is just too bazzare.

The trains are a great way to travel, its a bit confusing looking for the right type of train as they have their own schedules and appear to be in the same station but they are not.  The good news is everyone in the train stations so far are very nice and so helpful.  Our train finally came and we had good seats for the ride to Antwerp.

We arrived in Antwerp and after getting out of the train station we kept getting turned around and finally decided on a taxi instead of walking with our bags to the apartment.  The taxi driver was very nice and definitely knew where to go.  They don’t have Uber in Belgium yet but the taxi’s seem really good and not too expensive.

Surprising!  Our AirBnB is in a great location and brand new inside!  Only 2 nights but is will be very relaxing.

The view from our 2nd floor apartment

Antwerp is a beautiful city from what we can see.  We are staying right on the market square and there is so many shops and restaurants and amazing architecture.  Cobbled streets and beautiful churches.  This is really nice.

                                                                      Cathredral of Our Lady of Antwerp.  


Sleeping child

This was so cool.  A huge sculpture built right into the cobbled patio.  It was so interesting that their was lots of tourists just standing there looking at it!  Impressive.

Not all the architecture is MidEvil.    The Museum aan de Stroom.  This one was on our way to the port to take a cruise around the port.

Then we have the entrance to the port.  We enjoyed a really nice ride around the port and saw lots of ships, big and small as well as lots of windmills.  

After our boat ride we decided to give the scooters a try.  Paul downloaded the Byrd app and located 2 scooters.  We keep seeing these in all sorts of places and really wanted to try them.  It took us longer to locate 2, load the app to both our phones and then learn to make them go than we spent riding them.  We rode them back to our apartment, about 2 miles.  I think it costs $10.  No one got hurt, no trips to emergency so it was a bunch of fun.  I think they are definitely best for commuting so you know where to locate and where to go with it.  We were just having fun.

We leave for Amsterdam in the morning but we will be back to Belgium after our Bike Barge trip

The Main Attraction

Thursday, April 25th, 2019

We got a glimpse of it yesterday but today was the day we got to go up to the second level.  Not the top but the second level has a great view of Paris and was high enough.  The Eiffel Tower was built for the Worlds Fair in 1889 by Gustave Eiffel and was not suppose to be permanent.  Our guide told us on the boat tour that we would not recognize Paris without it and that is part of how it got to stay.  Makes sense, its a long story of how it became and why it is still here.  It took just over 2 years to build and erect.  It was built piece by piece off site and assembled where it stands today.  Pretty amazing engineering without computers.  Its beautiful and paying for the tour definitely beat standing in line for hours just to get to the elevator line and then standing more.  This is off season and the signs said it would be about a 4 hour wait.  If you choose to buy the unguided tour it costs only 18e.  We paid $54 each.  That gave us the skip the line and a nice guide from Scotland that knew a lot of the history we would have had to read on Wikipedia.

Favorite shot of the day


Our guide, Jade took our photo in the spot she takes all her customers photo.  Its a pretty good location.

The iron work almost looks like lace



I don’t think the view would have been any better had we ridden the elevator to the top, besides it costs more and your only choice was to buy a ticket to the top and wait inline.  Paul would not have gone under any circumstances and I think enjoying the view longer from here was perfect.

Sacre Coure Basilica

That is the church that sits on the hill above our apartment.  It didn’t seem that far away but from up here it does.  The city of Paris  41 square miles with a population of 2, 140,526.  It is very concentrated with residents.