Tuesday: Vichy

We had a relaxing Tuesday in Vichy. After a couple of raisin pastries and coffee at a patisserie in the city, we were off to the Hall des Sources. This 1903 building is where the medicinal Vichy water is sourced. The water is said to cure all kinds of ailments and to be good for overall health. There are a few different thermal springs in the city and sourced in the building, but only one of them is accessible to the public. The others are only available with a doctor’s note.

We tried the water. First you have to buy a cup from a machine. It is sort of funny to insert €.25, press a button, and have an empty cup drop out, but that is what happens.

The water is from an ancient-looking faucet and tasted slightly salty, not refreshing. I had read that people fill up bottles there, and they must be forcing themselves to drink the water because really, it was not good.

Next we checked out the old opera house. The building is beautiful and used for all types of performances now. There is nothing scheduled until a dance troupe this weekend.

We had lunch and walked around the park, then went back to where we are staying so that I could attempt to consolidate some of our luggage.


photos: on the doors of the opera house; the Hall des Sources; holiday stars in the park

Thursday: Arles

We left Mantry, France early to drive to Arles. It was only intended as an overnight stop and there was nothing we were interested in seeing there – and didn’t want to wait for shops to open. We had a 4.5 hour drive ahead of us.

It was well below zero Celsius and there was frost all over as we drove south. I tried to assess whether the trucks on the highway were taking part in the strike here today and purposely slowing down – especially as we approached Lyon – or just driving cautiously. It didn’t really matter since there was little traffic on our route. It sounds like Paris is a mess.

We stopped for lunch in Flaviac, a small town on the Rhone River. The staff was so kind to us and I’m sure they rarely have Americans visiting. It was a treat for all of us.

We continued on to Arles and arrived in the late afternoon. After getting settled we checked out the city and will visit some of the many points of interest in the days ahead.

photos: an interesting wall a few miles from Flaviac; the Rhone River in Arles; a pretty area near where we stayed last night in Maltry, France

Sunday: Salzburg

December first! The year is almost over.

There were probably half as many people at the Christmas market today as last night so we were able to walk around, check out the booths, and have some hot punch in a Salzburg festival mug.

It seems that most everything at this city’s market is a holiday decoration or Christmas-related. Other markets we have visited have more random handmade gifts that are not necessarily Christmas- themed.

We had lunch at a busy pub where we were cautioned “One hour!” before I guess we would be asked to leave. That was fine since everything was served quickly and my goulash was very good.

We walked along by the river until the late afternoon. We go to Strausbourg tomorrow.

photos: Mulled wine mug from Salzburg’s holiday market; the river today; a street performer seeming to defy gravity.

Monday: Krakow

Today we visited Kazimierz, Krakow’s Jewish Quarter. We found a hip coffee shop/bookstore – Cytat Cafe – and relaxed there for a while. I could have spent hours there. It’s a very comfortable place.

We wanted to go into the Remuh Synagogue but the doors were locked and it is being renovated, with workmen actively on the job. The building looks huge from the outside and it is centuries old.

We walked to the Galicia museum and spent some time there, which looks at the Jewish history in Poland, remember the victims of the Holocaust, and provide information about life in this part of Poland.

We checked out some shops in the Quarter, but mainly walked around looking at the very old buildings. It is a beautiful part of Krakow and seems to be very vibrant.

We had a very long lunch today, mainly because we were one of the few in the restaurant on a Monday and neither us nor the server seemed to be in any rush.

We leave in the morning for Vienna.

photos: the ancient Jewish Quarter of Krakow. Not all of the buildings are in need of renovation but many are and they have tons of character. It is a beautiful part of Krakow; a very hip, fantastic coffee shop in that area. Books were for sale all over

Tuesday: Trieste

Today we visited the Castle of San Guisto, a fortress that protected the town in the late 1300s when it was under Austrian rule. Most of the castle is now a museum to display ancient armory, and the range of very old sword types is sort of startling, but impressive. Written explanations in English were throughout the armory collection, which made it more interesting.

I most enjoyed the panoramic views of the harbor from the windows of the castle and then out on the back deck (they probably didn’t call it a deck). Even with the constant rain today, it was still something to be seen. Afterwards, I met Marija, who runs the visitors center there. She wanted to talk about the Chicago Bears, who I know almost nothing about. Her husband runs football camps in Trieste and invites retired American football players to come over and participate so Marije knows many of them. She was fun to chat with.

Last night we tried to get into the Antiquarian Umberto Saba bookstore, a historical landmark I had read about and was anxious to check out. It wasn’t open when we went, so we tried back today but it was still closed. Perhaps the owner is sick, although I did read that he tends to keep his own hours despite what is posted.

On to lunch at the wonderful, charming Tavernetta. This small restaurant was fantastic – what could be better than five enticing choices written on a blackboard and a kind owner who was happy to make us comfortable.

Today we experienced Trieste’s “bora” – the intense winds that are unique to the area. When they are accompanied by rain they are called the “dark bora.” So today was a dark bora day, with winds so strong they pulled you with your umbrella. Or in the case of my traveling companion, wrecked your umbrella altogether.


photos: The castle provided the most beautiful views of Trieste; dessert- fantastic; part of the sword display at the castle museum.

Friday: Viareggio

Today was mainly a relaxing day. I did some reading and some work, and we went to lunch in the city – the same restaurant as Tuesday since we liked it so much. I have been eating squid at every opportunity since it is so fresh and we don’t have it often/ever in the Midwest.

We did some planning for the weeks ahead and walked around the city.

Of course it was raining.


Photos (it was not much of a photo day, especially with no sun) – a typical apartment building in the city; my favorite food around here; our home here.

Thursday: Manarola

We visited Manarola in the Cinque Terre region today. The five old towns are all linked along the Italian Riviera coastline. In good weather it is possible – and fun – to hike from town to town. This takes about six hours with few stops, but to enjoy the towns and their breathtaking scenery, at least a couple days’ trip is a better idea.

Another option to visit the towns is to take the train from La Spezia, which stops in each town. The stops are about five – eight minutes apart, so getting off the train and getting back on later is easy.

We did none of those, but still enjoyed a very nice day. Since two of the hiking trails were closed today and the others were full of mud because of all the rain the area has had in the past few weeks, hiking was off the list. Instead, we took the train to the second stop: the town of Manarola. It has arguably the most beautiful views in the region.

We arrived there at about 11a.m.(the La Spezia train station is about 45 minutes from where we are staying). We were immediately amazed at the colorful buildings of the city seemingly built into a mountain.

We walked past some fishing boats that were covered up, and I imagined they had been used that morning to catch fish for the community and the restaurants. There were about a dozen boats near the launch area.

We hiked up on the narrow trail above the sea and the view got more and more fantastic. The only people around were a large group of Korean tourists and their guides. A tour guide didn’t seem necessary though – all we did for a long time was just walk and look and take photos.

Most of the restaurants have closed for the season but we found one that looked good and we shared delicious spaghetti with seafood. Soon the large group of tourists found their way to the restaurant too, and the atmosphere became lively and fun.

I asked our waiter about the fishing boats – what time did they go out in the morning and what did they catch. He laughed and said the last fisherman died two years ago and the boats are used as pleasure boats by their owners, who don’t typically take them out this time of year.

Fantasy squelched.

We walked around a bit more, got some gelato (the owner said he is closing tomorrow for the season), met two American couples and chatted with them for a while, then took the train back to La Spezia.

photos: the fishing boats that apparently just sit there must of the time, to my disappointment; two beautiful views of the city