Tuesday: Vienna

We headed from Krakow to Vienna this morning. It was a gray day and snow is expected in Krakow in a few days, so it was probably a good time to go. I enjoyed our stay in Krakow and would love to return.

The Czech Republic and Austria both require a sticker to drive on the main toll roads, so of course that was an important concern as we drove. The booth to get a “winiety” was behind a convenience store. The woman working there was very friendly and had stickers available for both countries, so that was out of the way without further searching.

We got to our lodging in Vienna in the late afternoon, but we realized right away that we are too far from the center of the city to walk there – or walk anywhere really. Luckily the bus and subway systems are very good but we should have researched a bit better. Still, it is nice to be on the Danube River.

We had weiner schnitzel and then enjoyed the Christmas lights, some hot mulled wine, and the holiday market. There are four of them here so we will check out more tomorrow. It is a beautiful city, full of people.


photos: some of Vienna’s holiday lights; chocolate tools for sale at a booth at the Christmas market; the small (just one person can fit in it, plus the woman woring there) hard-to-find booth to buy a sticker to drive on the roads in the Czech Republic and Austria.

Friday: Gyor, Hungary

The Gyor Book Festival is this weekend, so language barrier or not, of course I wanted to check it out. It is at the National Theatre, so I had the chance to see part of that building although the main stage area and audience seating was closed.

It was interesting to walk around and see all the vendors and there were speakers in some of the rooms – all parts I couldn’t enjoy. But a good inhalation of book puts me in a great mood regardless.

I left and went across the street to the Square Donut shop. I was disappointed that the squares were all pretty heavily iced and embellished. I would have gotten a plain one if there was such a thing. “Plain? I do not know this – plain,” said the young woman behind the counter.

We visited Bishop’s Castle later in the morning. There are a few hundred winding steps to get to the top, the castle’s lookout. It was worth the trip – the four-sided view of the city was gorgeous.

The cellar of Bishop’s Castle is where Bishop Vilmos Apor and others hid for protection from the Soviets during WWII. The bishop got shot protecting those people in the catacombs and he died a martyr. It is unsettling to be down there, with bullet holes still in the ceiling and some of the rooms just as it was.

We had lunch in a pub and walked around for a few hours, and planned the next few days when we will be in the ancient southern Hungarian city of Pecs.


photos: a view from the top of the castle; square donuts – not all that enticing; the start of the book festival

Saturday: Clermont-Ferrand

After breakfast in our hotel, we walked into the city, about a half-hour from where we are staying. There’s a bus and tram service close by, but it was a nice morning with temperatures in the sixties so traveling on foot seemed to be the best option.

It was an interesting walk – we passed very old buildings and narrow, pretty streets. We spent some time checking out the “Notre Dame de Clermont,” a replica of the famous cathedral built mainly in the 1300s. It’s black from volcanic ash outside, but inside it’s beautiful and used regularly, it seems.

We continued walking around and checked out some store, and stopped for coffee when a rain shower caught us off guard (without umbrellas). The sun eventually came out and we found a nice restaurant for lunch. We left a few hours later after eating too much delicious food and we started the walk back to our hotel and a comfortable reading spot.

Tomorrow: Lyon

photos- a narrow old city street

below – Notre-Dame in Clermont

from fromage at the farmers market this morning

Wednesday: Wexford

We left behind the bustling city of Dublin this morning and took a bus to the airport to pick up a rental car. We were surprised to queue up behind at least fifty other people, but 90 minutes later we had our car and drove to Wexford, a river city almost two hours away.

Sitting on the righthand side of the car and driving on the British side of the road were a challenge for sure (not for me, I sat on the left) and making a right turn takes some practice, but all is well and we made it here.

With Hurricane Lorenzo threatening very bad weather tomorrow, I am glad we are in a comfortable quiet place, with a lap pool and full gym that looks pretty deluxe if we are hotel-bound tomorrow. If it turns out to be a decent day after all, we will explore this very old and beautiful city.

photos: top – the tables and chairs are off the hotel restaurant’s back deck as they prepare for Thursday’s storm.

bottom: the noisy, busy nighttime streets of Dublin

The River Slaney in Wexford, Ireland

Monday: London

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The next leg of my travel adventure begins today. My rowing is finished, I said goodbye to my rowing friends, and spent the night at Heathrow airport where my traveling companion will arrive in a few hours.

We will visit friends in the city later on today and tomorrow before heading to Scotland. For now, some coffee after a workout.

20190922_232423Got to keep on keeping on now that I’m not rowing eight hours a day.

Day 7: Weybridge

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Today was the last day of our Thames River row and we ended our trip in Weybridge. This is where the River Wey joins the Thames.

It was an unseasonably warm day with lots of wind and many boats out enjoying the weather. It seemed as though everyone was outdoors, swimming, paddleboarding, kayaking, and rowing. We spent two hours total, we calculated, waiting to get into and through the 3 locks. Boats were lined up in both directions. When we finally arrived at the boathouse to wash the boats and put them away, it was close to 6pm.

We finished with a farewell dinner at a restaurant in Windsor, and agreed that our week was just about perfect.

On to London tomorrow as my trip continues.

[photos: above – packed up boats, Windsor Castle

below- black and white cows]

 

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Days 3 and 4: Henley

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We had two fabulous days of rowing the Thames.

Tuesday we traveled from Abington to Wallingford. I rowed in the double for the morning row and it was fantastic – cows wading in the water, beautiful birds, lush green trees.

We stopped at a pub for lunch and I was in stroke seat in the quad for the afternoon row. Dinner was at Brown’s Restaurant in Oxford. It was a long day and late night, but wonderful.

Wednesday we moved from our rooms at Wadham College in Oxford, after three perfect nights on the old Oxford campus. I lived it and was sad to leave. But leave we did, and we put our boats back in the water at the Brooke’s University Oxford boathouse where we had pulled them out last night. I had a nice morning row in the double, in bow seat. We passed by some collegiate rowers, miscellaneous other boats, some beautiful homes, and of course wonderful scenery. We pulled the boats out at Henley and checked into our hotel, where we will be for two nights.

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Day 2: Oxford

20190915_122359-1We checked out Blenheim Palace today. Maurizio Cattelan’s contemporary art was displayed at random places around the place where Winston Churchill was born.

I didn’t like it. A taxidermied horse hung from a ceiling, a boy sat up high and banged a drum, other odd displays were around the historical building. We weren’t able to see the $4.5million 18-carat gold toilet bowl because it was stolen yesterday – yanked out of the wall, causing massive flooding, and tossed in the back of a van.

I tried punting later in the day. This old English sport is difficult – pushing a flat-bottomed boat along with a long steel stick.

Tomorrow we start our row on the Thames.

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Tuesday, March 31: back home and Thank You

I am happy to say that our three flights yesterday were uneventful (although it was a l-o-n-g day) and we got back home last night at about 10:30. I unpacked and went directly to sleep and am hopeful I can get back in the time zone here without too much adjustment.
( This is a ridiculous thought because even turning clocks ahead an hour a couple weeks ago created sleep problems!)
Thanks for following my adventures over the past two weeks. I’ll update my blog throughout the busy summer, as well as 109daystoalcatraz.com

Adios for now,
-Susan
[mrslud@aol.com]

Cans of fish- tuna, octopus, salmon- that will be a nice treat in the months ahead, and the old, heavy candelabra we got for ten euros at a street festival.

Cans of fish- tuna, octopus, salmon- that will be a nice treat in the months ahead, and the old, heavy candelabra we got for ten euros at a street festival.

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Drank my coffee without milk this morning since the refrigerator is just about empty (choices were beer or mustard)

Friday, March 27: Barcelona

Today we took a tour of the Segrada Familia, which is a very well known and interesting place to see here in Barcelona. By taking a tour, we got a nice ride from a location near our hotel, met two nice women from Brooklyn, and were treated to details of this huge project that is taking almost literally forever to complete.

The Segrada Familia is the largest Roman Catholic church still under construction in the world, and began as just a neighborhood church in 1882. The first architect left the project after a year, and Antoni Gaudi stepped in with much, much more grand and complex plans than originally imagined. It is sort of astonishing to see, and the closer you are, the more you realize it is not just a masterpiece, it’s overwhelmingly impossible. The intricate stone work on the outside and the unbelievable detail on the inside can never be finished, at least not by 2021 (for the outside) and 20 or so years later for the inside. Gaudi died in 1921 and left his plans, which are being followed closely. The 2021 date for finishing the outside is to coincide with the 100th anniversary of his death.

With our tour group of maybe 20 people, we got some interesting details from our tour guide, our tickets handed to us, we were ushered in through a separate entrance, and were eventually led out. It was well worth our time. There were already thousands of tourists there today. When summer hits, I think it will be paralyzingly slow to get around.

After that we walked around for a while, did some shopping (I got some shoes) and tried to avoid pickpockets (who are all over the place and everyone everywhere warns about them. Still, there are people walking around with unzipped purses and backpacks. Easy prey.)

We went into the Gran Teatre del Liceu, the Barcelona opera house since we found ourselves walking right in front of it. We were able to have a quick tour. It opened in 1847 and is a very beautiful place. The two opera singers who died in the recent airplane crash had performed there just a few nights ago. That was very eerie in a way, and the young woman walking us around teared up talking about it.

We went back there this evening for a Beethoven orchestra concert. The music was terrific and it was a treat to be at the grand theater for a performance. Sitting next to us was a student of the pianist who was on stage for part of the concert, and he was a wealth of information about the orchestra company. So we lucked out having Edoardo and his friend Juan beside us. Juan is from Barcelona and I mentioned to him that the Segrada Familia would never be finished, and he insisted that it would be. Someday. He said he walks past it every day and sees progress.

We had a very late dinner and called it a day. By then I was having problems walking in my new shoes.

Adios,
-Susan

This building is in the shape of waves, and it's like that on the inside, too. A Japanese architect designed it.

This building is in the shape of waves, and it’s like that on the inside, too. A Japanese architect designed it.

Barcelona opera house

Barcelona opera house

There's a magic square on one part of the outside of the Sagrada Familia, where all the rows add up to 33.

There’s a magic square on one part of the outside of the Sagreda Familia, where all the rows add up to 33.

The inside of the church was massive and it sure looked finished to me. It's not though - the have at least 25 years of work left

The inside of the church was massive and it sure looked finished to me. It’s not though – they have at least 25 years of work left

The Sagrada Familia is a huge unfinished church in Barcelona. They're actively working to get the outside done by 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death.

The Sagrada Familia is a huge unfinished church in Barcelona. They’re actively working to get the outside done by 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death.