Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Final Days in Europe

May 20 - August 21

First of all, I send out a overdue Christmas letter and within it I referenced the www.1ktothebay.com blog.  Got to increase that readership you know!  Wouldn't you know it, as soon as we mailed the letter google informed me that our payment for the domain had expired and it was off line.  Great.  So to the 4 or 5 of you that actually tried to read the blog during those couple weeks as I sorted everything out, thank you.  I am happy to report Google has my money we are up and running.  Now I just need to get some updated information out there.

I'm going to immediately start with the big news........  WE ARE MOVING BACK TO OREGON!  Our organization made some changes  in the support structure at WHQ and there was a job created that our leadership felt I could actually do (go figure!) so they have reassigned me to WHQ.  Feels strange as we have settled here in Amsterdam and will need to re assimilate in the Portland area.  Truth is we never really assimilated here.  Though we love it in The Netherlands We still stick out as tourists. Since we sold everything we own we need to figure out EVERYTHING.  Do we live Portland, in the country, suburbs or maybe the RV!  Oh well, more on that later.  Let's catch up on our "recent" activities.

People in Europe vacation different that people in the US.  In the US you take maybe one week off at a time, usually once a year, possibly twice a year.  In Europe the entire month of August is reserved for vacations.  People take a minimum of two weeks but usually three.  SO this year we decided to take two weeks and go to northern Italy and just relax for two weeks.  Then I was notified about coming back to WHQ and we realized there were some places in Europe we hadn't seen yet so time to SCRAP the two week relaxing vacation and get going on a last minute European Vacation!  

Italy Italy Italy.  You got to see Italy.  So we decided to fly into Milan, train down to Rome and drive up through Tuscany to Cinque Terre then back to Milan.  Easy Peasy!  Pretty much a whirl wind as it was then Cheryl says OMG we have to go to Prague.  Hmm OK sure, let's fit one more thing in.  

So off to Prague we go and I'm glad we did.  It is an absolutely beautiful city.  Our hotel was in the heart of old downtown which was amazing.  I must say that is a popular city.  I went for a run early in the morning and saw very few people. Primarily shop owners preparing for the day.  Two hours later it was a mad house.  Literally people shoulder to shoulder.  

Of course we always need to try the local street sweets and a must have in
Prague is a Trdelnik.  Its kind of like a rolled Elephant Ear on a stick but much better.  You can add ice cream or chocolate or any number of toppings.  I had 3 of them in the 48 hours we were in Prague!  I think it would be a gold mine at a food cart court in Portland.  

As expected, it was a whirlwind couple of days including a boat ride watching the PRIDE parade and a tour of the city.  No visit to any city would be complete without tasting the local beer.  Prague is similar to most European cities in that they like plenty of foam in their beer.  

Off to Milan to start the Italian excursion.  It was holiday season in Milan and many of the stores and small restaurants were closed.  That was fine as we were able to fill a couple days up with walks to the fashion district and of course the Milan Cathedral.  What a magnificent place.  As we have found in many of our travels, the pictures you see do not do the historical sites justice.  One of the most amazing things about the cathedral is is the level of detail throughout.  It's no wonder that it was built over centuries.  Original construction started in 1386 and wasn't "completed" until 1965.  Of course we did the tourist thing and paid 3 euros for a nickels worth of birdseed so Cheryl could get up close and personal with the pigeons.

Off to the train station and the 3.5 hour high speed train ride to Rome.  Our hotel looked great on-line and was right next to the train station so how could we go wrong.  Well we did.  Not the best part of town or a great room but heck, we wouldn't be in the room much anyway right?  At least there was a
continental breakfast even thought it consisted of packaged bagels and cream cheese and instant coffee on a two person table right next to the check in desk.  It was nice to greet the guest as they arrived.  "Welcome, may I interest you in a bite of my bagel?"

Being filled up from breakfast we decided to head out for the day.  Of course we had to hit the Hop on Hop off bus tour which we always love as it gives a great overview of the city.  So many sites to see including a tour of The Coliseum and a trip to Vatican City.  

After a couple days in Rome it was time to rent the car and head north towards Tuscany.  It was a beautiful drive as expected.  We decided to spend the night in a beautiful little town on the top of the hill named Montepulciano in Siena.  It was quite the workout walking up and down the streets.  As it turns out, I am not a big
cigar guy but when the stars align and the alcohol flows it is sometimes the perfect exclamation point to an evening.  The night in Montepulciano was one of those occasions.  

We continued the drive north to Pisa.  I asked my European colleagues and very few were impressed with Pisa and said if your are to stop, make it a short stop for coffee.  I must say we really enjoyed Pisa.  The leaning tower is one of the most photographed buildings and so I thought I knew what to expect, but seeing in person was amazing.  It was so clean and bright.  We decided to spend the night.   Of course we have never pretended not to be tourists and our visit to Pisa was no different.  Of course I had to.....

Next we headed West to the coast and the town of La Spezia.  Our intent was to go to Cinques Terre but there were no rooms available so we decided to spend the night in La Spezia.  While checking in the hotel we were asked "so you are here for the Madonna Bianca Festival?"  We said of course!  Sometimes fate works in your favor and that was the case here.  Once a year they line the Church of Portovenere with candles and light them.  It is the most beautiful site and we were so luck there were no hotels in Cirque Terre.    

Next stop Cinque Terre.  There are 5 villages that make up this beautiful place.  Monterosso el Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.  We stayed in Riomaggiore but took the boat to the other cities.  There is a hike you can take where you start at the northern most city of Monterosso el Mare and walk to Riomaggiore.  It was about 90 F the day we did it and it was a good work out but we made it.  You are high above the cities and it is beautiful.  

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