Dom’s Proposed Tours in Western Europe

Tuscany: Dom’s Proposed Tour: Gubbio, Arezzo, Monteriggioni, Volterra, Massa Marittima, Pienza, Monticchiello, Torgiano, Foligno, Montefalco, Spoleto, Todi

Northwest Italy: Dom’s Proposed Tour: Dolceacqua, Turin, Vigevano, Genoa, Recco, Camogli, Portofino, Chiavari

Southern France: Dom’s Proposed Tour: Carcassonne, Besalú, Saint Paul de Vence, Eze, Aigues-Mortes, Avignon, Gordes, Aix-en-Provence, Marseille

Portugal: Dom’s Proposed Tour: Porto, Guimaraes, Monsanto, Óbidos, Lisbon, Sintra, Azenhas do Mar

Central Germany: Dom’s Proposed Tour: Münster, Goslar, Quedlinburg, Magdeburg, Staufenberg, Gotha, Weimar

Ireland & Northern UK: Dom’s Proposed Tour: Edinburgh, York, Waterford, Cork, Limerick, Chester, Galway, Dublin, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool

South East Italy: Dom’s Proposed Tour: Castelmezzano, Altamura, Ceglie Messapica, Oria, Galatina, Santa Maria di Leuca

Austria: Dom’s Proposed Tour: Lienz, Berchtesgaden, Hallstatt, Mariazell, Krems, Graz, Bled

South West Italy: Dom’s Proposed Tour: Paestum, Marina di Pisciotta, Maratea, Scigliano, Scilla, Herculaneum

Norway & Sweden: Dom’s Proposed Tour: Oslo, Geiranger, Hamnøy, Bergen, Stavanger, Gothenburg, Vadstena, Linköping, Mariefred, Sigtuna, Stockholm, Sognefjord

Central Italy: Dom’s Proposed Tour: Talamone, Sovana, Pitigliano, Calcata Vecchia, Tivoli, Sulmona, Cheti, Sermoneta

Eastern France & Switzerland: Dom’s Proposed Tour: Cluny, Annecy, Chamonix, Zermatt, Gimmelwald, Grindelwald, Interlaken

North Central Italy: Dom’s Proposed Tour: Cinque Terre, Porto Venere, Tellaro, Bagnone, Parma, Modena, Dozza, Ferrara

Denmark & Northern Germany: Dom’s Proposed Tour: Aarhus, Ribe, Odense, Funen, Faaborg, Lübeck, Wismar, Hamburg, Schwerin, Stralsund, Bremen

North East Italy: Dom’s Proposed Tour: Mantua, Vicenza, Tremosine, Rovereto, Trento, Guia, Treviso, Urtijëi, San Pietro, Vipiteno, Trieste

Southern Germany: Dom’s Proposed Tour: Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Dinkelsbühl, Nördlingen, Esslingen, Tübingen, Baden-Baden, Freiburg im Breisgau, Basel, Landsberg am Lech

Southern UK: Dom’s Proposed Tour: London, Cambridge, Oxford, Cotswolds, Bath, Winchester, Brighton, Rye

Sicily: Dom’s Proposed Tour: San Vito Lo Capo, Trapani, Marsala, Agrigento, Monreale,

Sicily: Dom’s Proposed Tour: San Vito Lo Capo, Trapani, Marsala, Agrigento, Monreale, Cefalù, Calascibetta, Caltagirone, Palazzolo Acreide, Scicli

Western France: Dom’s Proposed Tour: Vannes, Guérande, Nantes, Vouvant, Rocamadour, Saint-Émilion, Bordeaux

Northern Spain: Dom’s Proposed Tour: Ávila‎, Santiago de Compostela, León, Santillana del Mar, Burgos, Bilbao, Logroño, Jaca

Northern France: Dom’s Proposed Tour: Mont Saint-Michel, Vitré, Sully-sur-Loire, Paris, Troyes, Colmar, Provins, Vézelay, Rennes, Saint-Malo, Dinan

West Central Germany: Dom’s Proposed Tour: Monschau, Marburg, Luxembourg, Trier, Cochem, Rüdesheim am Rhein, Würzburg, Bamberg

Croatia: Dom’s Proposed Tour: Dubrovnik, Split, Motovun, Poreč/Rovinj/Istria, Zadar, Trogir, Pučišća, Hvar

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Return to Europe Post-COVID: Northern Italy and Bike n Barge in Northern Holland, April & May 2022

We start our trip with a first night in Milano Italy, on Saturday, April 16, 2022. The Piazza Duomo in this city is utterly overwhelming. “Overwhelming” was put on steroids for us, as we were at this monumental cathedral on Easter Sunday.

We rented Bike Mi shared bicycles while in Milano. Very quick and easy to use.

Day two was also in Milano. It was chilly in Milano, but warm enough for walking and bicycling. And that is all that matters. We enjoyed the obligatory, aesthetically pleasing walk through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II Milano fashion district. We thoroughly enjoyed dinner at Naviglio Grande.

One curious architectural aspect of Milano is that a large number of homes and offices have balconies overflowing with trees, shrubs, and flowers. Another Milano trademark: Cute, human-scaled, post-mounted, admirable traffic signals.

Milano does admirably well in properly aligning their street and park trees in a photogenically formal way. City arborists: Please visit Milano and take notes.

Milano is full of charming cobblestone and paver streets.

I tip my hat in appreciation of the Milano train station. It is magnificent.

Departing Milano and trained to romantic, picturesque Venice. It is Maggie’s first visit to this special city, and I am eager to present it to her. As we emerge from the train station, the Grand Canal and the City of Venice are before us. “Maggie,” I say, “welcome to spectacular Venice!”

In my opinion, Venice is the most picturesque, romantic city on earth. St Mark’s Square in Venice is one of the most spectacular squares in the world.

Venice has streets with a perfect, human-scaled, lovable width.

For our second glorious day in Venice (and little-known Murano), the weather and the city continued to be wonderful. we meant to go to Burano, but mistakenly ended up in Murano. No regrets, as Murano is lovely.

For our last night in Venice, we dined on an excellent version of Gnocchi Salmone and Squid Ink Spaghetti. When a friend learned of this meal, she cautioned me about eating too many carbs (I’m on a low-carb, high-fat diet). I told her that when in the Food Heaven of Italy, dietary restrictions must be turned down a notch or three!

One last latte as we prepare to depart Venice for Romeo and Juliet’s Verona! Of course, once there, Maggie and I had to romantically kiss in front of the balcony.

While in Verona, I met one of my most cherished friends — Vince Greco — a man I had last seen 50 years ago in Elementary School in Penfield NY! He remains a generous, wonderful, fun guy! The 50-yr reunion was astonishing! Unforgettably enjoyable. We shared many memories. Funny how many long-term memories one is able to remember.

During our tour of Verona, catastrophe struck. Maggie joked to me that she was worried about falling and getting hurt while negotiating the very tall (3-4 foot) steps inside the Verona Arena. While she escaped these big steps unscathed, she did not escape the much smaller steps (1-2 inches) of the paver block piazza outside the Arena. There, she inexplicably and suddenly fell and BROKE HER FOOT!

When Maggie realized she could not stand on the foot, we took a taxi to an emergency room of a Verona hospital. An x-ray confirmed our fears: Maggie had a clean break in one of her feet. She was fitted for a soft cast, told she could not ride a bicycle for at least four weeks, and was instructed to self-administer daily shots of a medicine that would reduce the chances of an embolism. The episode would have cost several thousand dollars had it happened in the US. In Italy, it was free.

This most untimely injury almost completely immobilized Maggie a day before we were to start a week-long bicycling tour in The Netherlands. So to add to the extreme frustration of Maggie having to postpone the bike and barge trip in The Netherlands for two years due to COVID, she would now have to miss the entire week of bicycling during the bike and barge trip!

She ended up spending almost the entire week on the barge, and despite Internet research and asking the barge and adventure staff, we were unable to find a mobility option for her in many of the cities visited by the barge. We looked for renting a two-person scooter, or a two-wheeled cargo bike (which I tried but was completely unable to keep upright despite a lifetime of bicycle riding). We also looked for a bicycle taxi service. None of this was available. I guess this is because no one goes to such places with a broken foot.

Our trip to Padua and our second day in Verona were wonderful — even with Maggie breaking her foot. It is a town full of colonnades. St Anthony’s Basilica in Padua is overwhelming. One of the most spectacular basilicas in the world!

At the Verona airport, where we were to fly to Amsterdam, I was astonished by the extreme, costly efforts by Verona airport staff to board passengers with severe mobility restrictions. It was as if Maggie was an astronaut being loaded onto a spaceship.

After leaving Italy, we stayed in a hotel in Haarlem. A friend of mine says “skip Amsterdam and go to Haarlem.” Too bad that the “Amsterdam” name has the “coolness” factor, the “Haarlem” name has the ANTI-coolness factor for Americans, because it carries the same name as the infamous Harlem in NYC.

On my (solo) walk in Haarlem, nevertheless, I enjoyed the stroll so much that I refer to it as my “Fall-In-Love walk in Haarlem.” I realized that it would be wonderful to own a home and live on one of the many charming, quiet, human-scaled streets in Old Town Haarlem. The side streets are superb. Enchanting. And so lovable. And the Old Town is full of friendly, convivial, fun-loving cafes. Did I mention the cobblestone streets? Or the stunning architecture? Warning: the Haarlem suburbs contain some of the worst modernist architecture on earth.

The Haarlem region includes the impressive Zuid-Kennemerland National Park, which is full of sand dunes, walking trails, and bicycle paths.

During my bike ride on this day, I stopped at a Zandvoort cafe for a cappuccino. I reached for my self-stick to take a photo of my enjoying the drink which allowed me – to my horror – to notice MY BACKPACK WAS NOT ON MY BACK! The backpack had been on my back for every one of my rides during the trip, which meant that I could feel it on my back even when it was not there. I experienced the ugly panic of thinking I had lost my backpack earlier in this bicycle ride — the backpack contained my passport. Yikes. Fortunately, I found the backpack under my bed on our barge at the end of the day. HUGE relief!

Later, I bicycled to the old Cruquius steam pumping station. It is thought to be the largest steam engine – and certainly the largest steam pumping engine – ever built. It pumped Haarlem Lake dry in three years of work. Since Holland is full of water, managing water is an enormous, on-going task for this nation.

On one of my first bike rides during the bike and barge phase of our trip, I went on a glorious, very Dutch bike ride in The Netherlands. Homes are impossibly cute and surprisingly immaculate – even in Holland’s farmlands. I even stopped at a square for a cappuccino!

The next day I went on a 40-km bike ride exploring the northern areas of The Netherlands. Vreeland, Nieuwersluis, Breukelen, Maarssen, Oud-Zuilen, and Rotterdam.

There were many lovely, traditional, ornamental new-build homes along the way in this part of Holland. Modern architects in this region, in other words, are relatively well behaved. Unlike in the Haarlem suburbs, as noted above, where they seem to have world-class skill in designing the most hideous modernist buildings on earth.

I loved bicycling on the many slow-speed, human-scaled streets found in the region. They are typically one narrow lane wide, yet carry two-way car traffic. US traffic engineers think such a design leads to countless head-on collisions. They are wrong. Which explains why US roads are the most dangerous they have ever been these days.

Rotterdam’s port has the largest shipping volume in Europe. Unfortunately, Rotterdam has the most ugly, hideous, bizarre modernist buildings on the planet. One reason: the City actually will not approve a new development/building unless it is sufficiently “innovative” or “bizarre.” In other words, they reject building design submissions that are not ugly enough. Many of the ugly ducklings have nicknames: “The Pencil” and “The Swan” and (what I call) “The Tumbling Dice.” Their downtown public library is known as “The Vacuum Cleaner.”

On the following day, I enjoyed bicycling from Rotterdam to Delft.

One oddity I noticed in this region (Groot-Ammers in particular) was that many farm animals are kept in relatively high-density residential areas.

Nieuwpoort, a slight diversion from the recommended bicycle route given to us on the barge, turned out to be an exceptionally cute, captivating, charming, romantic medieval town, as was nearby Schoonhoven.

This was followed the next day by my bicycling from Rotterdam to Gouda.

Next day, I bicycled to a Dutch cheese farm to sample cheese and tour the farm. The Ruyge Weyde Cheese Farm is one of only 10 of the 16,000 cheese farms in The Netherlands, and continues to make organic, non-pasteurized, authentic Gouda cheese. How could I resist not buying some of their cheese?

Then I bicycled Gouda to Utrecht on the following day. Maggie at this time was mostly hobbling and staying on the barge. But today she was able to go without crutches after buying a stiff boot. In effect, she had a “Fatima” experience in the sense that she was able to toss away her crutches for much of her mobility efforts. Today, she was able to take a bus to see the BEAUTIFUL tulip fields (with a friend pushing her around in a wheelchair). We need to schedule an ACTIVE trip soon after she heals!

While Maggie was becoming more mobile, I was enjoying bicycling in Haarlem and in the impossibly colorful, vibrant, and surprisingly expansive tulip fields!

A first for me during today’s bicycle ride: enjoying a cappuccino from a cafe located inside a church in the town of Broek in Waterland.

Zaandam to Amsterdam was my last day of bicycling on this trip to The Netherlands. As MacArthur once said, “I came through and I shall return!”

In this region is Zaanse Schans, with its open-air museum. Next door to the museum is a large collection of cocoa industrial buildings. There was a powerful scent of delicious chocolate in the air. I’m sure the residents don’t mind this form of “air pollution.”

Following the bike and barge trip, we trained to Groningen (said by some to be the best bicycling city in the world). And Maggie gained bicycle mobility for the first time since Verona Italy more than a week ago, as we are finally able to rent a cargo bike! My initial impressions of Groningen are that I find it pleasant enough to be happy living here, but it would be awkward because I think I will never be able to correctly pronounce the city name!

Groningen – true to its reputation as a great cycling city — features free downtown underground bike parking for what seemed like millions of bikes. The parking is available 24/7, and includes moving escalators for descent to and ascent from the parking.

In the morning, we opted for a cappuccino, a latte, and breakfast at a cozy little cafe attached to a Groningen cathedral. This is another design aspect I noticed in Holland: It seems common for large churches to have retail, restaurants, and café buildings attached to the side of a church.

Our second day in Groningen featured not only great architecture, but also impressive parks/gardens. We stopped at a brewpub for a flight of Dutch biers. Double, Tripel, Quadrupel, Barley Wine, and Groningener Prael. There was a swing dance club at the place. I had a great time showing off my Western Swing skills out there. I squeezed in five fun swing dances. One of my partners was Ukrainian.

Groningen’s main train station, by the way, is exceptionally impressive.

Our last day of enjoying The Netherlands was a pleasant surprise: The unknown (at least to us!) town of Amersfoort. Noticeably quiet, romantic, charming, and bikeable. Maggie completely fell in love with this town. She had a big smile on her face all day as she hobbled around.

Our hotel (Logemont de Gaaper) and its proprietor were both lovely. The hotel fronts the main square in town and is next to the main cathedral. The main square (hof) is a former parking lot! If only they could return this space to car parking! (sarcasm). Indeed, the new square was created by people who admirably understand that a city must be designed for happy people, not happy cars. While we were in Holland, the nation celebrated “King’s Day,” a BIG thing in The Netherlands. Orange color is everywhere, as we saw in the main square in Amersfoort.

The name “Gaaper” in the hotel name relates to the English word “gape,” which is how doctors long ago assessed the health of patients. The hotel was formerly a pharmacy. Gaping heads loomed above us while we ate breakfast in the hotel lobby on our last morning.

Amersfoort still possesses impressive remnants of fortification walls – once used to protect against marauding hordes of thieves.

It is wonderful to experience so many brick, paver, and cobblestone streets in European cities. Despite conventional wisdom, studies show brick lasts longer than asphalt. I’m sure it is costly to repair them, though. Not an excuse to avoid them, however! Many cities are uncovering brick/cobblestone paved over, as it is increasingly recognized as an economic engine and is far more charming, attractive, and romantic than asphalt.

On this trip to Holland, I once again note that bicycling here is the safest bicycling in the world. Well-designed recent studies confirm there is safety in numbers (the more bicyclists on the streets, the safer it is to cycle).

While this trip was, on balance, quite enjoyable, my travels are significantly more enjoyable when I am enjoying them with someone important in my life. So my enjoyment on this trip was muted by Maggie being unable to join me for the bicycling. One of my most rewarding experiences is to take a friend or significant other to a place that I absolutely loved in the past but that person has never experienced before, and then observing their reaction.

When I travel in Europe, I make it a point to spend as much time in old, medieval town centers as I can, and as little time as possible in suburbs. As an American, I’ve seen enough suburbs for 800 lifetimes. Many say they never go to a downtown. I’m the opposite. I say I spend as little time as possible in the suburbs, and close my eyes during the brief times I am hurrying through them as fast as I can.

I must visit every European Old Towne I can, as they are utterly delightful, human-scaled, slow-speed, convivial, and friendly. So unlike the car-happy horror that US cities inflict on us.

I shot well over a thousand photos during the trip. There is a strong positive correlation between how many photos I shoot and how much I love the place I’m visiting. Fortunately, great places make it easy to shoot great photos.

One form of adventure I occasionally experience in my travels in Europe is the difficulty of needing to read words in a language I do not know. For this trip, the most amusing example of this was a day when we needed to buy a creamer for our coffee at our hotel room. At a grocery store in Holland, I opted to buy a pint carton in the milk section of the store. Without being able to read Dutch, I guessed it was cream or half and half or milk. When I later “poured” it into my coffee, it was unusually thick and settled at the bottom of my mug of coffee. Turned out to be chocolate pudding! Not one of the better things to add to coffee…

I tallied my total mileage of bicycling in The Netherlands over the past week. Total biked miles was well over 250. Almost every one of those miles took me through staggering beauty and astonishing charm. I am so grateful for the experience, and so sad that Maggie was forced to miss it. I’ve gained a much fuller appreciation for how cute and gorgeous are the towns and architecture one finds in The Netherlands. I had not fully appreciated how cute, ornamental, and charming Dutch architecture was until this trip. I’ve fallen in love with their homes.

At the conclusion of this trip, I realized that Haarlem is the city I would most enjoy living in the world. I also love Delft, Utrecht, Amersfoort, Ortigia, Lucca, and Siena. I’m surprised to realize that my top 4 places to live are now Dutch, not Italian! I suggested to Maggie that we consider renting a little apartment for three months in each of these highly desirable towns as a way to better evaluate them.

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Boulder Skyline Traverse

September 9, 2016

Today I managed to cross off my list a Boulder Bucket List item.

The famed Boulder Skyline Traverse.

The traverse consists of summiting the five peaks that flank Boulder’s western mountain ampitheatre. We started at 5:45 am on the Goat Trail in North Boulder. We summited Sanitas Mountain at 6:40 am. Followed the Red Rocks Trail to Settlers Park, Boulder Creek, and EB Fine Park. Took the Viewpoint Trail to Panorama Point Trail, which led us to Flagstaff Mountain (which we summited at 9:30 am). The GM Greenman Trail took us, by 11:40 am, to the Green Mountain summit. The Green Bear Trail took us to Bear Peak, which we summited at 2:00 pm. Our final summit was South Boulder Peak, which we topped at 2:55 pm. We then took the steeply descending Shadow Canyon Trail to the South Mesa Trailhead near the Eldorado Springs Canyon. Arrived at 5:45 pm.

In total, our hike was 12 hours of half-awake boulder scrambling, and being rewarded with dazzling views into Boulder Valley to the east and the Rocky Mountains to the west (click here for the photos I shot during this hike).

We had a formidable 6,000 feet of elevation gain. Our average gradient of 13 percent was not for the faint of heart, either.

Route for Boulder Skyline Traverse Sanitas, Flagstaff, Green, Bear, South Boulder, 16 mi, Sept 7, 2016

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The Return to Sicily, December 2019

Our travels in Sicily are my second experience here, as I have previously toured Sicily in November of 2006. For Maggie, a person with a Sicilian father, this is her first trip to Sicily. It is the land “of her people.” A return to her original roots.

We start our two and a half week trip by taking a train from Roma to Napoli. In an “only in Italy” experience, our train ticket checker is a high-class woman with four-inch-long red glossy fingernails who looks like a model for a high-priced magazine.

An early stop for us on our trip is the ancient Roman town of Herculaneum, found on theHerculaneum Nov 30, 2019 (50) western Italian coast. The town was founded in the 6th Century BC. Like Pompeii, Herculaneum was destroyed by the Vesuvius eruption of 79 AD. While Herculaneum was almost entirely preserved by being caked with a shell of solidified mud (it is one of the very few ancient Roman towns preserved almost in its entirety — including much of its woodwork), Pompeii (which I visited in 2006) woodwork was consumed by fire.

Both towns are well worth your visit.

Our first full day and night find us in the very pleasant coastal town of Sorrento. Like so many charming Italian cities, Sorrento is a “Christmas Town” in December, as its lovely and romantic old streets lend themselves to be sweetly decorated with holiday lights and ribbons. So that is exactly what is done in Sorrento. Of course, it is irresistible to walk in Sorrento Italy, Dec 1, 2019 (26)Sorrento, which means that we notice a great many residents walk in this little town.

This resort town has a character much like Old Towne Key West Florida. Streets are very festive — particularly during the winter holidays. It is very much one of the charming Italian Christmas Towns.

The very picturesque town has been the home of many notable authors and musicians over the years. A delightful, romantic place to stroll.

Sorrento is a worthy place to visit along the impressive Amalfi Coastline in southwest Italy.

We always make it a point to spend all of our time in the “Old Towne” or historic center of the city, where one invariably finds the most charm, romance, lovability, and walkability that the city has to offer, and Sorrento does not disappoint in this regard. We find that Sorrento has many “walking streets” in its historic quarter, and particularly in this time of year, these streets are very enjoyably festive with happy people out and about.

Having forgotten my belt in security at the JFK airport a day earlier, we check prices and see that most street vendors are selling belts for 20 euros. But then we come upon a vendor who is selling her belts for only 5 euros. Not only is her price very low, but she is happy to quickly cut the length of the belt for me when I discover it is too long for my thinner waist due to my low-carb, high-fat diet.

The views of the Mediterranean Sea are outstanding!

Our next day is a three-for-one day, as we visit the romantic, charming, storybook Amalfi Coast towns of Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello. Each of these towns is set straddling deep coastal ravines, which adds immeasurably to their delightful, unspeakable beauty. Once again, as an indication of how beautiful the cities are to me, I cannot stop taking photos. A reliable measure: The more photos I shoot, the more I love the city. Which is a bit of a tautology…

Wikipedia has this to say about Positano, our first stop today: Positano was an essential Positano Dec 2, 2019 (23)stop for the ancient Greeks and Phoenicians on their expeditions to western areas. It is said that the coastal village was named after Poseidon, God of the Sea.

Like many other places along the beautiful Campanian coast, it was a favorite site for wealthy ancient Romans to build rich and grand villas.

Positano became a wealthy market port from the 15th to 17th century and has only continued to grow in popularity over time.

Positano was a port of the Amalfi Republic in medieval times and prospered during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Positano began to attract large numbers of tourists in the 1950s, especially after John Steinbeck published his essay about Positano in Harper’s Bazaar in May 1953: “Positano bites deep”, Steinbeck wrote. “It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.”

Amalfi is the second town we visit on our Amalfi Coast tour of towns. Amalfi is a lovely, Amalfi, Dec 2, 2019 (33)historic village. It was easy for us to see why this town has long been a place to visit and live in by many luminaries. Like other towns in the vicinity, Amalfi is set in a deep, dramatic, scenic ravine. Amalfi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Long, romantic, ancient stone stairways weave throughout the town, like other towns on the Amalfi Coast.

Of course, like almost every town I’ve visited in Italy over the years, I fall in love with this splendid, breathtaking town. We highly recommend visiting Amalfi.

These are the photos I shot while we strolled in Amalfi.

The lovely village of Ravello was founded in the 5th Century and splendid enough to draw a large number of famous artists, writers, and musicians over the years. Ravello offers a seemingly endless network of ancient, romantic stone walkways and stairways. Ravello is an easy town to fall in love with, and enjoy with a loved one.

Next, we summit the mighty Vesuvius Volcano. It is an easy, 20-minute walk on a wide, ash-filled path. The crater at the top is enormous, and steam continues to issue from it. Vesuvius, you see, remains a grumpy mountain. To celebrate our visiting the volcano, Maggie and I toast at the rim of the crater with a glass of wine.Maggie and Dom Vesuvius hike, Dec 3, 2019

According to Wikipedia, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 destroyed the Roman cities of Pompeii, Herculaneum, Oplontis, and Stabiae, as well as several other settlements. The eruption ejected a cloud of stones, ashes, and volcanic gases to a height of 21 miles, erupting molten rock and pulverized pumice at the rate of 7.8×105 cubic yards per second, ultimately releasing 100,000 times the thermal energy released by the Hiroshima-Nagasaki bombings. More than 1,000 people died in the eruption. It was one of the most catastrophic eruptions of all time.

Vesuvius has erupted many times since and is the only volcano on the European mainland to have erupted within the last hundred years. Today, it is regarded as one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world because of the population of 3,000,000 people living near enough to be affected, with 600,000 in the danger zone, making it the most densely populated volcanic region in the world, as well as its tendency towards violent, explosive eruptions.

Our plan, designed to save some time and lodging money, is to take an overnight ferry from Salerno to Catania in Sicily. Our walk to the ferry dock starts out leisurely, as we are hours ahead of the departure time for the ferry. But our little walk turns out to be a HUGE, hours-long ordeal, as it turns out that one must traverse for miles and miles in an industrial, parking-lot-choked area full of 18-wheeler tractor-trailers. With no signs informing us of which direction to take, we are obligated to ask for directions several times. Each of the first three times we ask for directions, however, leads us astray, as the Ferry Sorrento to Cantania, Dec 4, 2019directions are wrong each time. Finally, after a great deal of stress and worry, we happen upon an entry. There are no signs. Only huge trailer trucks streaming toward a hidden dock. A man in a security booth ushers us to a shuttle van after he learns we are looking for the ferry, and the van drives us through an obstacle course maze of big trucker rigs.

It turns out, in other words, that it IS impossible to walk to this ferry! Unless one is a lunatic. The area where the ferry is found is in the middle of an industrial freight container truck zone packed with hundreds of massive tractor-trailer trucks (our ferry was so huge that it must have held 2,000 18-wheeler trucks).

We discover that we seem to be the only non-truckers on the ferry. Our room, thankfully, was clean and adequate for the journey.

We arrive in Catania and soon travel to Ortigia in Siracusa, where we dine at Osteria La Gazza Ledra. After finishing our first course, I wait over 90 minutes for my second course only to learn that the reason for the very long wait was that the waitress had never taken my order! Good thing we asked, because had we not, I would STILL be waiting for my second course!

Soon after Catania, we find ourselves in the medieval neighborhood of Ortigia in Siracusa. I love Ortigia perhaps more than any other place on earth. We spend glorious Piazza del Duomo, Siracusa, Dec 4, 2019 (8)days enjoying Ortigia. On one particular day, we engage in one of our favorite activities in the medieval town centers of European cities — bicycling! In Ortigia, the food market and deli are can’t miss experiences.

As these links to the videos I shot show, one finds a lot of singing and shouting and endless food in the outdoor Italian food markets.

The castle at the south end of the Ortigia peninsula is overwhelming and seemingly impenetrable based on its many fortifications. The ancient Greek Theatre (Teatro Greco) is also quite impressive. Because it is so charming, human-scaled, and romantic, Ortigia is happy to show itself off as a “Christmas Town” by festooning its streets with festive holiday lights.

The Ortigia historic quarter is FILLED with stupendous streets that make my heart sing every time we encounter and stroll on a street here. I feel as if I can barely stand the joy. BIG smile on my face the entire time we are in Ortigia. I am like a kid in a candy store. I Siracusa, Dec 5, 2019 (9)could visit this place every month and be as happy as a clam (or live here permanently!).

In sum, I am in love with Ortigia.

Ortigia has the full package, which explains why I love it so much. It has overwhelmingly spectacular food, wine, happy and attractive people, architecture, and sightseeing. It is also a festive place.

Here, we come upon a telling quote at what is perhaps the best food market on earth in Ortigia: “I don’t envy god heaven…because I’m happy to live in Sicily.” – Frederico II di Svevia. Exactly, Frederico…

We train from Siracusa to the lovely little medieval hill town of Ragusa Ibla. So lovely that even though I had first visited it in 2006, I feel it worthy to visit again — breaking my travel rule of not visiting a place more than once. I tend to live by that rule because there is so much I want to see in the world that I don’t have time to see places more than once!

According to Wikipedia, Ragusa Ibla was founded in 2 BC. The town was devastated in the 1693 earthquake. Historically, it was conquered by the ancient Romans and the Byzantines, who fortified the city and built a large castle. Ragusa was occupied by the Ragusa Ibla, Dec 5, 2019 (11)Arabs in 848 AD, remaining under their rule until the 11th century, when the Normans conquered it.

The town is home to a wide array of Baroque architecture, including several stunning palaces and churches.

According to Wikipedia, the Cathedral of San Giorgio started in 1738 by architect Rosario Gagliardi, in place of the temple destroyed by the 1693 earthquake, and of which is the only place in the city a Catalan-Gothic style portal can still be seen. The façade contains a flight of 250 steps and massive ornate columns, as well as statues of saints and decorated portals.

On a narrow winding street connecting Ragusa Ibla with Ragusa Superiore lies the church of Santa Maria delle Scale (“Saint Mary of the Steps”, built between the fifteenth and the sixteenth centuries). This church is particularly interesting: badly damaged in the earthquake of 1693, half of this church was rebuilt in Baroque style, while the surviving half was kept in the original Gothic style (including the three Catalan-style portals in the right aisle). The last chapel of the latter has a Renaissance portal. The chapels are adorned with canvases by Sicilian painters of the 18th century.

One of our day trips from our four-day base camp of Siracusa was to visit Noto and Modica. We tour the wonderful town of Modica central area of Sicily on December 5th. Modica is known for many things, and one of the most obvious to us was their fame for Modica, Italy, Dec 5, 2019 (42)chocolate. We see it everywhere in Modica.

Another noteworthy attribute is the endless stairs one must climb in Modica.

That night, we are fortunate to serendipitously stumble upon an enoteca wine bar in a quiet little alley. The proprietors bend over backward with their generous kindness and offerings of fantastic platters of various meats and cheeses, as well as having us sample their special wines.

We have a fabulous time there.

We have a lot of fun in Ortigia Siracusa and Modica. Noto, however, does not quite meet our expectations. The town is cute-ish and has some nice architecture. But during our December visit, it was too lacking in street life and seemed too quiet. Still, in 2002, Noto and its church were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We arrive in the beautiful, wealthy resort town of Taormina on December 8th. Here, as I still recall from my visit here 14 years ago, we enjoy the many stunning views of the sea that Taormina offers.

At our first ristorante here, we sample pistachio expresso for the first time, and a Arco Rosson Enoteca in Taormina, Dec 8, 2019 (110)pistachio crème liquor (southern Italians and Sicilians are very big on pistachios, probably correctly boasting that their nut is the best in the world). We also enjoy a very nice half carafe of local Rosso wine along with two absolutely delicious plates of assorted cheeses, sun-dried tomatoes, and meats.

By this time in our trip to Italia, by the way, it seems that I have been eating crazy delicious food and drinking fabulous vino, almost continuously, morning, afternoon and night since our arrival.

On our second day in Taormina, we visit the spectacular Teatro Greco, Taormina’s ancient Greek Theatre, which is said, rightly, to be the most impressive in all of Sicily. One of the things I’ve always been impressed by at this theatre is how the designers set up the venue so that spectators would have an incredible view of the picturesque bay and the imposing Mount Etna on the horizon just above the stage.

After visiting the theatre, we ascend the nearly endless stairs to Chiesa della Rocca, a church that offers huge panoramic views of the region beyond Taormina. We then ride the cable car (Funivia) down to the charming little cove in Taormina Bay, where one finds little coves and a beautiful island (appropriately called Isola Bella).

One finds the three-legged Sicilian flag all over the island. The three-legged ancient symbol of Trinacria is the head of Medusa (a gorgon with a head of snakes) overlaying three legs conjoined at the hips and flexed in triangle and three stalks of wheat. It was first adopted in 1282 by the Sicilian Vespers.

We arrive at Mount Etna on December 10th. Our guide (“Mr Excursions”) is very Mt Etna hike, Sicily Dec 10, 2019 (7)knowledgeable about the region, and takes us on a very impressive hike on the slopes of the volcano, including ash/cinder fields, volcanic cones, volcanic craters, and a long underground volcanic tube. While hiking, we hear Etna growling loudly several times. The volcano remains actively angry and is talking to us during our hike. Even our tour guide gets nervous and wants us to pick up our pace.

The guide then takes us to one of Mount Etna’s best wineries. Gambino Winery provides us with six bottles of vino to sample their product, along with a fine selection of local meats, cheeses, tomatoes, and fish. Our winery guide provides a very thorough summary of their product. The winery, we learn by tasting, produces outstanding Rose and Rosso wines. Gambino wines, like other wineries near Mount Etna, produce wines that benefit from the rich volcanic soils they grow on.

After Taormina, we bus back to Catania. There, of course, we visit the obligatory La Pescheria. As you can see in the video I shot in this link, the place so boisterous, raucous and fun that crowds of people stand along a balcony above this world-famous fish market just to enjoy the action below them. At La Peschericia, we feast on the famous Sicilian street foods of boiled tripe and boiled beef cheek (barbacoa), and the vegetables of roasted red pepper and roasted artichoke, among other similar delicacies. We have eaten none of these street market delicacies La Pescheria fish market, Catania, Dec 11, 2019 (3)before, and enjoy them so much that we vow to prepare them when we return home.

We walk the impressive, Baroque street named Via Crocifori. From there, we stumble upon a medieval neighborhood just west of the main city train stazione. Surprisingly, the neighborhood – despite very impressive urban design “bones” – is a festering sore in the city. It is a skid row full of drug pushers and prostitutes. I wonder why it has not gentrified, and decide it must be partly due to opponents of gentrification.

In sum, we recommend visiting Catania, but we suggest not allocating more than a few hours to walk the city.

Our next base is the little hilltop medieval town of Enna. Enna has the highest perch of any of the many Italian hilltowns, which provides it with spectacular panoramic views of the central Sicily landscape. In Enna, we go to Tommy’s Wine, which gets RAVE reviews from our Enna apartment proprietor as well as many online reviewers. The reviewers were SO RIGHT! His wine is one of the best I have ever had in my entire life (a Nero d’Altura Lombardo). And Tommy’s food is out of this world. Tommy has a very tiny place (only five tables), but it is perhaps one of the world’s best examples of how one must Enna, Italy, Dec 12, 2019 (43)prioritize quality over quantity.

It is cold and rainy while we are in the clouds of Enna, but I manage to squeeze in a morning town perimeter walk. Enna is worth a few hours of your time to walk it. Shockingly, we are awoken this moring at 5:30 am by an outdoor marching band! What marching band performs at that ungodly hour? We are informed that it was likely part of the annual celebration of one of the many Catholic saints.

A day trip from Enna brings us to nearby Piazza Armenia, where we encounter fabulous building architecture and wonderful streets.

The Duomo itself is worth the price of admission.

While in Piazza Armenia, we take a taxi to the overwhelming Villa Romana del Casala. This Roman palace is immense in size and nearly all of its floor space is covered with highly impressive mosaics that tell stories about hunting and other aspects of Roman life at that time. According to Wikipedia, excavations have revealed one of the richest, largest, and varied collections of Roman mosaics in the world, for which the site has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The villa and artwork contained within date to the early 4th century AD.

The mosaic and opus sectile floors cover some 3,500 square meters and are almost unique in their excellent state of preservation due to the landslide and floods that covered and therefore preserved the remains.

For me, the most memorable and astonishing aspects of the palace is a mosaic of women of Ancient Rome wearing what appears to be an ancient version of a bikini. The Villa Romana del Casale, Piazza Armerina (75)inscription at the palace informs us, however, that this is a depiction of female athletes wearing athletic attire.

We recommend allocating at least two hours to the palace.

After the palace, we are fortunate to visit Siciliartegusto, a fun enoteca run by a father and son. We arrive too early for their hours, so we opt for the palace visit and promise to return after the palace. Our taxi driver actually knows the enoteca owner, so when he drops us off in Piazza Armenia after the palace visit, he calls the owner to inform him that we are waiting for his shop to open again. We are greatly amused when, while we walk to the enoteca, the owner passes us in his car and shouts out the window that his shop is open again after the Dom Maggie at Sicilartegusto Enoteca, Piazza Armerina w proprietors, Dec 12 2019afternoon siesta!

Probably because it is the off-season, the enoteca father and son bend over backward to offer us generous kindness at their shop. They insist we sample their best wines and their many fresh foods.

That night, our nightcap is at the very good PaccaMora wine bar in Enna, which has been recommended to us by our apartment proprietor.

For our first night and day in Palermo, on the northern Sicilian coastline, we experience a drenching rain. We walk the polished limestone streets regardless of their being slippery rivers under these conditions.

Palermo is quite a monumental city – comparable to Rome in that regard. I find the architecture here to be similar to what is found in Barcelona.

We dine our first night at the highly-rated Palazzo Sambuca, and now know why it is rated so well. They are known for their fish and seafood – particularly their swordfish. We sample their grilled calamari, and it is the best calamari we have ever eaten in our entire lives. After that remarkable antipasti, I opt for their homemade gnocchi, which is combined with swordfish. Superb. For secondi, it is squid stew, which I thoroughly enjoy, as it is highly flavorful – a taste for big flavors and spices I have learned earlier in the trip by one of our hosts is something the Calabrese (like me) are known for.

After dinner, we encounter — in this video I shot — street music in a piazza.

Tragically, too many of the ancient polished limestone streets in Palermo have been covered with dull, crappy, crumbling asphalt. Now, instead of the timeless, durable, beautiful charm of the original limestone, these routes are now ugly, litter-strewn alleys no one loves or cares about. And again, the new asphalt is much more of a maintenance headache and cost than the limestone. Who needs enemies when we have ourselves to degrade our streets?

The next day, under sunny and warmer skies, after peeking into a few overwhelmingly Church of St Catherine of Alexandria, Palermo, Dec 14, 2019 (3)ornate Palermo churches (St Catherine of Alexandria is particularly mind-blowing), we visit the Monreale Cathedral, said to be one of the most important sights in all of Sicily.

Earlier in the day, we have lunch at Mercato del Capo, one of three fine outdoor food markets in Palermo (all of which are well-known for their outstanding street food). Mercato del Capo turns out to offer many fantastically delicious street foods, which are both highly flavorful and extremely affordable. I opt for a tray chock full of several different fresh seafoods sprinkled with lime juice (squid, octopus, clams, etc.). Large enough for two, it costs me a mere 5 euros. In combination with other accessory items we buy, it is my most wonderful lunch ever.

One of our favorite treats when we visit an Italian town is to encounter the much-loved evening community stroll. The ritual is known as “la passeggiata,” Each evening, between the hours of 5 pm and 8 pm, Italians take to the streets, to walk and socialize. Sociologists label la passeggiata a cultural performance, and on Saturdays and Sundays entire families participate, this frequently being the main social event of the day. Afterward, everyone heads home together for the evening meal.

The passeggiata in Palermo mostly occurs on their main walking street (Via Maqueda), and it is an unforgettable, inspiring sight to see. This link is a video I shot as we joined the stroll.

Via Maqueda is a large street, yet like our recent experience in Bologna, la passeggiata so fills the large street that it is a Passeggiata in Palermo, Dec 14, 2019 (2)gridlock of pedestrian congestion that one normally only sees with a road clogged with cars.

But in contrast to car congestion, when everyone is angry with everyone else on the road, pedestrian congestion adds to the sociable joy of being on common ground with other people. As Dan Burden once said, cars are happiest when there are no other cars around. People are happiest when there are other people around.

One of many things that makes me proud to be an Italian is the Italian tradition of la passeggiata.

As I understand it, the size and popularity of la passeggiata on Via Maqueda has been growing over the years (it became a walking street in June 2018). I believe that is because such an event benefits from being a self-perpetuating virtuous cycle. That is, because humans are a social species and our world tends to isolate us from each other, something that draws people to sociably be with others is so enjoyable and such a “people-watching treat” that others in the city start learning about the enjoyable event and join in. And this growing number of participants induces even more to join as word about it is spread (or people encounter it on their own). And so on and so on.

La passeggiata is, in the words of urban designers, a “social condenser” that most humans seek out to enjoy.

In my view, all cities, to be healthy, should have a nightly passeggiata.

We bus to a suburb of Palermo, which contains the extensive and utterly fascinating Catabombe dei Cappuccini. Highly morbid, but extremely interesting. DO NOT MISS THIS!Catacombs dei Cappuccini, Palermo, Dec 15, 2019 (5)

For lunch, we first stroll through Ballaro Market in Palermo and then return to the culinary delights of Mercato del Capo. Our wine for lunch was simply stupendous! And again, highly affordable. This is a video I shot as we walked through Ballaro.

Tonight we visit an enoteca on the Via Maqueda walking street (we can’t resist!)

All in all, Palermo is highly enjoyable – particularly on the Via Maqueda walking street. Such a delightful city that we are anxious to return again, despite my “rule” about not visiting a place more than once.

We enjoy a delicious meal of typical Sicilian dishes in Piazza Armerina, topped with a superb Sicilian Nero D’Avola wine at a remarkable wine shop in Piazza Armerina. We spent the day wandering the streets and visiting Villa Romana del Casale and popped in here to warm up and have a glass of local wine. The hospitality Giusseppe and his father show us is unmatched. The food and wine are superb but their generosity is beyond our expectation.

We notice a number of times in our travels on the Amalfi Coast and in Sicily that many ancient buildings have a great deal of plaster flaking off the exterior walls. We see this happening on so many buildings that I wonder if it is being flaked off deliberately. After all, the medieval stone under the plaster looks much more impressive and interesting and ancient than the plaster. In addition, the underlying stone surely requires less maintenance than the plaster. Here is to more flaking!

Our newly-discovered loves from this Italy trip include Frappato wine, Nero D’Avola wine, grilled tripe and grilled barbacoa (beef cheek), and fried chick pea flour.

Our trip to the Amalfi Coast and Sicily highlighted tradeoffs for off-season travel that our December trip exemplified. On the one hand, prices are lower, and crowds are smaller. On the other hand, some retailers and restaurants and services are closed for the season, proprietors starved for customers bend over backward to serve you, and the smaller crowds make the cities less festive.


Categories: 2011-Present, Beyond North America, Miscellaneous | Leave a comment

Five-Country Bike-and-Barge trip in Europe, August 2019

By Dom Nozzi

Tuesday, August 13 and 14. We arrive at Paris airport and high-speed train to Strasbourg at the border of France and Germany. In Strasbourg, we tour the Notre Dame Cathedral, which I find to be gray and dreary inside. Remarkably tall ceilings, and a massive Notre Dame Cathedral Strasbourg France, Aug 13, 2019 (31)amount of stained glass windows. We visit the once-daily Astronomical Clock inside the Cathedral. Enormous crowd assembles to see it. I manage to squeeze my way into an area that gives me an unobstructed view of the Clock, only to realize that by doing so, my view of a video screen is blocked by an enormous masonry pillar, which means I miss a detailed 40-minute video describing the history of the Clock. The animation itself is highly disappointing, as a mechanical crow flaps its wings a few times and a few mechanical human figures rotate a few times. After 50 minutes of waiting, that is what 3,000 people have assembled to see?

We climb the 330 steps to the top of the Cathedral spire, which offers a superb view of the terra-cotta-roofed city. We also enjoy a 90-minute boat tour on the River Ill.

We are fortunate to have an opportunity to rent and ride bikes while in Strasbourg because in 2017, Strasbourg was rated the 4th best city to bicycle in the world.

Strasbourg is a party-till-late-at-night city, which means that bedtime for many does not start until 5 am and places do not open until 9 or 10 in the morning (including Starbucks).

I would give our Bed and Breakfast in Strasbourg a negative five rating (on a scale of one to ten). No soap. No shampoo. No waste can in the bathroom. No spare keys. No closet space or fridge space (because it is jammed with his clothes and food). The water heater closet is stuffed with fire hazard clothes and towels. And because the proprietor does not provide a user name, and has chosen an impossibly long password with handwritten letters making it impossible to know if the letters are uppercase or lowercase, it is impossible to log into WiFi.

Strasbourg is mostly a city containing one prominent feature: A charming shopping street main street. Even as a one-important-street city, the city is lovely and contains an outstanding walking street full of pedestrians.

The fabulous historic main train station for Strasbourg, very sadly, is now criminally fronted by a Modernist glass blob. A disgraceful design blunder.

According to Wikipedia, Strasbourg is the official seat of the European Parliament. In 2016, the city proper had 279,284 inhabitants and both the Eurométropole de Strasbourg (Greater Strasbourg) and the Arrondissement of Strasbourg had 491,409 inhabitants. Strasbourg’s metropolitan area had a population of 785,839 in 2015 (not counting the section across the border in Germany). Strasbourg’s historic city center, the Grande Île (Grand Island), was classified a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988, the first time such an honor was placed on an entire city center.

The Roman camp of Argentoratum was first mentioned in 12 BC; the city of Strasbourg which grew from it celebrated its 2,000th anniversary in 1988. The fertile area in the Upper Rhine Plain between the rivers Ill and Rhine had already been populated since the Middle Paleolithic.

Thursday and Friday, August 15 and 16. Our initial plan is to drive our Eurocar rental car to Mannheim for a visit. Fortunately, during our drive, we opt instead to visit the charming medieval village of Heidelberg.

According to Wikipedia, in the 2016 census, the population of Heidelberg was 159,914, of which roughly a quarter consisted of students.

Between 600,000 and 200,000 years ago, “Heidelberg Man” died at nearby Mauer. His jaw bone was discovered in 1907. Scientific dating determined his remains as the earliest evidence of human life in Europe. In the 5th century BC, a Celtic fortress of refuge and place of worship were built on the Heiligenberg, or “Mountain of Saints”. Both places can still be identified. In 40 AD, a fort was built and occupied by the 24th Roman cohort and the 2nd Cyrenaican cohort (CCG XXIIII and CCH II CYR). The early Byzantine/late Roman Emperor Valentinian I, in 369 AD, built new and maintained older castra (permanent camps) and a signal tower on the bank of the Neckar. They built a wooden bridge based on stone pillars across it. The camp protected the first civilian settlements that developed. The Romans remained until 260 AD, when the camp was conquered by Germanic tribes.

Heidelberg has what looks like many newer buildings that mimic historical and ornamental style. My hat is off to the city and its architects for at least making an effort to design lovable buildings rather than unlovable Modernist buildings. But lacking the patina of age, the buildings looked too new. And therefore a bit sterile. The many newer buildings is a sure sign that many historic buildings were lost during World War II.

After Strasbourg and Heidelberg, we tour Nuremberg Germany – mostly on rented bikes. A great many historic buildings have been replaced with awful mid-century Modernist buildings. Again, a sure sign of the many buildings tragically lost during World War II. The Modernism severely detracts from the former charm of the city streets.

According to Wikipedia, Nuremberg has a total population of 787,976 (2016), while the larger Nuremberg Metropolitan Region has approximately 3.5 million inhabitants. Nuremberg was the site of major Nazi rallies during WWII.

We have dinner on a town center island at the Restaurant Trodelstuben, which served me absolutely delicious, authentic German food. I opt for “pig knuckles,” which is a very fatty, buttery meat (when served boiled). I also enjoy knockwurst Barbarossa, which consists of three types of knockwurst in three different types of sauerkraut beds – a total of nine knockwurst. To top off the meal, I enjoy a delicious glass of smoked dark bier and an unfiltered bier.

There are a good number of walking streets in town center Nuremberg. But nearly all of them are too wide and are degraded by too many Modernist buildings of recent decades.

Saint Sebastian Church in Nuremberg is stunning, as I learn upon entering. In a design I had not seen previously, the main alter of the Church is set far back from the parishioner seating.

We enjoy a wonderful museum in the Nuremberg Castle, and we cross “Hangman’s Bridge” to reach a café where I opt for “Gunpowder” tea.

We then visit the still-functioning Nuremberg courtroom where the famous Nuremberg trials were held for Nazi war criminals at the end of World War II. It is a very moving Nuremberg Trials Courtroom 600 Nuremberg, Aug 16, 2019 (79)experience to be in that courtroom – a courtroom that tried. Hans Frank, Wilhelm Frick, Julius Streicher, Alfred Rosenberg, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Fritz Sauckel, Alfred Jodl, Wilhelm Keitel, and Arthur Seyss-Inquart were all hanged after being convicted. Albert Speer and Rudolf Hess were tried. And Hermann Göring committed suicide before he could be executed following the trial.

We have lunch at the Behringer Bratwursthausle (the original, serving traditional German food). I opt for Nuremberg bratwurst, and delicious dish of cured tongue and smoked sausage.

Saturday and Sunday, August 17 and 18. We visit Regensberg Germany. Dom Saint Peter’s Cathedral contains amazing stained glass. And Saint Emmersam’s Abbey (Benedictan) contains ornamentation that is so busy that it makes one dizzy. We try somewhat St. Emmeram's Abbey Regensberg Aug 17, 2019 (60)unsuccessfully to avoid disturbing a wedding ceremony while there.

Regensberg contains a gratifying number of great human-scaled streets. And the city is attractive in part due to the playful pastel colors used to paint many buildings.

According to Wikipedia, Regensberg was founded as a hilltop fortified settlement about 1245 by Baron Lüthold of Regensberg.

Later, we arrive in Munich, where we again rent bikes and later dine at Haxnbauer Restaurant in Old Town Munich. This restaurant is said to serve the most loved and popular veal and pork knuckle in town.

According to Wikipedia, Munich is the capital and most populous city of Bavaria, the second most populous German federal state. With a population of around 1.5 million, it is the third-largest city in Germany, after Berlin and Hamburg. The name of the city is derived from the Old/Middle High German term Munichen, meaning “by the monks”. It derives from the monks of the Benedictine order, who ran a monastery at the place that was later to become the Old Town of Munich; hence the monk depicted on the city’s coat of arms. Munich was first mentioned in 1158. Catholic Munich strongly resisted the Reformation and was a political point of divergence during the resulting Thirty Years’ War, but remained physically untouched despite an occupation by the Protestant Swedes.

The first attempt of the Nazi movement to take over the German government in 1923 with the Beer Hall Putsch was stopped by the Bavarian police in Munich with gunfire. After the Nazis’ rise to power, Munich was declared their “Capital of the Movement”. During World War II, Munich was heavily bombed and more than 50% of the entire city and up to 90% of the historic center were destroyed. After the end of postwar American occupation in 1949, there was a great increase in population and economic power during the years of Wirtschaftswunder, or “economic miracle”. Unlike many other German cities that were heavily bombed, Munich restored most of its traditional cityscape and hosted the 1972 Summer Olympics.

Marienplatz in Munich is MONUMENTAL!

Unfortunately, our hotel is situated in a town center Munich location that seems to be a Middle Eastern skid row.

Also unfortunate for Munich is that there appears to be regular competitions held in which architects compete with each other to see who can design the most hideous, ugly building. It is agonizing that there have been many winners of this “contest.”

Munich, for me, turns out to be the most disappointing of the German cities we visit on this trip. The streets (now roads) are too wide – including the walking streets. There is too many Modernist buildings. And too many parts of the town center are run down.

The English Garden Park in Munich is extremely interesting. We come upon a grassy field packed with Woodstock-like sunbathers. Streams flowing through the part have such a strong current that several swimmers float down the streams without using tubes or life preservers. The park also contains a wave park, where several SURFERS took turns surfing the waves. Who knew you could surf in Munich?

Dom w 1-liter dark Bavarian beer Hofbrauhaus, Munich Aug 18, 2019 (3)For dinner, we are at the Hofbrauhaus, where I opt for boiled pig knuckle and a ONE-LITER glass of dark Bavarian bier. It is the largest glass of bier I have ever been served.

Monday and Tuesday, August 19 and 20. We arrive in Passau Germany, our gateway city for the bike and barge trip we are to embark on. Our first bicycling day after barging down the river a bit starts in Engelhartszell. Here we climb stairs after passing by the lock system along a pathway that crosses the Donau River. We find nice, flat, paved trails for our 30-mile ride this day.

Along the way, we cycle through vineyards, cornfields, plum and apple orchards, and forest.

According to Wikipedia, Passau is also known as the Dreiflüssestadt (“City of Three Rivers”) because the Danube is joined there by the Inn from the south and the Ilz from the north.

Passau’s population is 50,000, of whom about 12,000 are students at the University of Passau.

In the 2nd century BC, many of the Boii tribe were pushed north across the Alps out of northern Italy by the Romans. They established a new capital called Boiodurum by the Romans (from Gaulish Boioduron), now within the Innstadt district of Passau.

Passau was an ancient Roman colony of ancient Noricum called Batavis, Latin for “for the Batavi.” The Batavi were an ancient Germanic tribe often mentioned by classical authors, and they were regularly associated with the Suebian marauders, the Heruli.5-country tour

During the Renaissance and early modern period, Passau was one of the most prolific centers of sword and bladed weapon manufacture in Germany (after Solingen). Passau smiths stamped their blades with the Passau wolf, usually a rather simplified rendering of the wolf on the city’s coat-of-arms. Superstitious warriors believed that the Passau wolf conferred invulnerability on the blade’s bearer, and thus Passau swords acquired a great premium. According to the Donau-Zeitung, aside from the wolf, some cabalistic signs and inscriptions were added. As a result, the whole practice of placing magical charms on swords to protect the wearers came to be known for a time as “Passau art”. (See Eduard Wagner, Cut and Thrust Weapons, 1969.) Other cities’ smiths, including those of Solingen, recognized the marketing value of the Passau wolf and adopted it for themselves. By the 17th century, Solingen was producing more wolf-stamped blades than Passau was.

In 1662, a devastating fire consumed most of the city. Passau was subsequently rebuilt in the Baroque style.

At Niederranna we and our bikes are ferried across the Donau. Upon finishing our bike ride, we rejoin our barge at Brandstatt.

Wednesday, August 21. We enjoy a self-guided walking tour of Bratislava. Here we find very nice ornamental architecture and smooth paved stone streets and sidewalks.

For lunch, we dine at the Bratislavska flagship restaurant. I select Klastorny Leziak Tmavy – a half liter of tasty, dark Monastic bier. We also sample one of Slovakia’s trademarks: Currant wine – which to me tastes a little like a light, sweet cough syrup. For food, I select Pecena Klobasas Oblohou (a roasted homemade sausage).

Biking Old Town Bratislava is a treat. We start with a diversion that takes us to the location of the former Soviet-block wall that the Soviets told the world was needed toBunker at Slovakia border Bratsilava Slovakia Aug 21, 2019 (13) “protect the peaceful Communist nations from the decadent capitalist aggressors.” Only tiny remnants of tall, barbed wire fencing remains at the Slovakia border, along with a number of grim, heavily fortified concrete bunkers. We also find time to visit the Bratislave Castle.

Overall, a very good day.

According to Wikipedia, the first known permanent settlement of the area that includes Bratislava began with the Linear Pottery Culture, around 5000 BC in the Neolithic era. About 200 BC, the Celtic Boii tribe founded the first significant settlement, a fortified town known as an oppidum. They also established a mint, producing silver coins known as biatecs.

The area fell under Roman influence from the 1st to the 4th century AD and was made part of the Danubian Limes, a border defense system. The Romans introduced grape growing to the area and began a tradition of winemaking, which survives to the present.

In 1968, after the unsuccessful Czechoslovak attempt to liberalize the Communist regime, the city was occupied by Warsaw Pact troops. Shortly thereafter, it became capital of the Slovak Socialist Republic, one of the two states of the federalized Czechoslovakia.

Bratislava’s dissidents anticipated the fall of Communism with the Bratislava candle demonstration in 1988, and the city became one of the foremost centers of the anti-Communist Velvet Revolution in 1989.

Thursday, August 22. We are in Budapest Hungary.

According to Wikipedia, Budapest is the capital and the most populous city of Hungary, and the tenth-largest city in the European Union by population within city limits. The city has an estimated population of 1,752,286.

The central area of the city along the Danube River is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has several notable monuments, including the Hungarian Parliament, Buda Castle, Fisherman’s Bastion, Gresham Palace, Széchenyi Chain Bridge, Matthias Church and the Liberty Statue. Other famous landmarks include Andrássy Avenue, St. Stephen’s Basilica, Heroes’ Square, the Great Market Hall, the Nyugati Railway Station built by the Eiffel Company of Paris in 1877 and the second-oldest metro line in the world, the Millennium Underground Railway. The city also has around 80 geothermal springs, the largest thermal water cave system, second largest synagogue, and third largest Parliament building in the world. Budapest attracts 4.4 million international tourists per year, making it a popular destination in Europe. The first settlement on the territory of Budapest was built by Celts before 1 AD. It was later occupied by the Romans.

On a guided bicycle tour. Our guide has a very heavy French accent, which made her extremely difficult for we Americans to understand. In addition, despite her soft voice, she used no voice amplification, nor did she do well in keeping the cycling group together. To top it off, she offered very little information about what we were seeing on the tour. Overall, the tour was so disappointing to us that we successfully got a refund from our barge tour operator afterward.

Bizarrely, at the start of our bicycle tour, a German tour leader was trying to stop vehicles so that cyclists could cross the street and start the tour. One car fails to stop, which infuriates the guide so much that he angrily tries to slap the car with his hand to show his unhappiness. But his slap turns into vandalism, as his hand actually knocks a sideview mirror off the car! Immediately, the two in the car slam the brakes on the car, open the doors, and – red-faced – angrily storm toward the guide to confront him with their understandable rage. The guide gets in their faces and SCREAMS at them for not stopping. It is an ugly scene of fury.

Known as the “City of Baths,” Budapest sits on a fault line, and its thermal baths are naturally fed by 120 hot springs. The city is home to an impressive selection of thermal baths, many of which date to the 16th century.  I convince my companions that an obligatory part of any visit to Budapest is to visit the Széchenyi Thermal Baths.Budapest Aug 22, 2019 (23)

Budapest always provides delights. Everywhere one looks, there is a statue or monument that is over-the-top in splendor. The same is true with the stupendous buildings in the city.

Friday, August 23. Our 60-kilometer bike ride today takes us through the very pleasantly charming little villages of Visegrad, Vac, Veroce, Nagymaros, Zebegeny, Szob, and Esztergom. Esztergom, we are surprised to learn, contains a spectacular Cathedral that is the fourth largest in Europe.

Saturday, August 24. We are in Vienna. Immediately we can see we are in a monumental, world-class city with spectacular architecture. The city is also a very good place to cycle, although as is the case with many large cities in the world, car infrastructure has gone too far – particularly with the monster roadway widths and oversizing of intersections.

Saint Stephen Cathedral and Hofburg Palace are remarkable.

On a guided bike tour, we visit an artistic smokestack, the Gaudi-like Hundertwasser painted apartments, Saint Charles Church, the Vienna Opera House, the Hofburg Palace, City Hall (WAY more spectacular than city halls in America), and Saint Stephen’s City Hall Vienna Aug 24, 2019 (86)Cathedral.. But we miss the famous Narchaet Food Market.

For lunch, we opt for the delicacy that Vienna is world-famous for originating: Strudel. We sample both apple and plum strudel. So good that one has not eaten strudel until it is eaten in Vienna.

According to Wikipedia, Vienna is the federal capital, largest city and one of nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria’s primate city, with a population of about 1.9 million (2.6 million within the metropolitan area, nearly one-third of the country’s population), and its cultural, economic, and political center. It is the 7th-largest city by population within city limits in the European Union. Until the beginning of the 20th century, it was the largest German-speaking city in the world, and before the splitting of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I, the city had 2 million inhabitants. Today it is the second-largest German-speaking city after Berlin. In 2001, the city center was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In July 2017 it was moved to the list of World Heritage in Danger. Apart from being regarded as the City of Music because of its musical legacy, Vienna is also said to be “The City of Dreams” because it was home to the world’s first psychoanalyst – Sigmund Freud.

Vienna is known for its high quality of life. In a 2005 study of 127 world cities, the Economist Intelligence Unit ranked the city first (in a tie with Vancouver and San Francisco) for the world’s most liveable cities. Between 2011 and 2015, Vienna was ranked second, behind Melbourne. In 2018, it replaced Melbourne as the number one spot. For ten consecutive years (2009–2019), the human-resource-consulting firm Mercer ranked Vienna first in its annual “Quality of Living” survey of hundreds of cities around the world.

The UN-Habitat classified Vienna as the most prosperous city in the world in 2012/2013. The city was ranked 1st globally for its culture of innovation in 2007 and 2008, and sixth globally (out of 256 cities) in the 2014 Innovation Cities Index, which analyzed 162 indicators in covering three areas: culture, infrastructure, and markets. Vienna regularly hosts urban planning conferences and is often used as a case study by urban planners.

Between 2005 and 2010, Vienna was the world’s number-one destination for international congresses and conventions. It attracts over 6.8 million tourists a year.

Evidence has been found of continuous habitation in the Vienna area since 500 BC, when Celts settled the site on the Danube River. In 15 BC the Romans fortified the frontier city they called Vindobona to guard the empire against Germanic tribes to the north.

Sunday, August 25. We bicycle from Wachau to Pöchlarn, Austria. We bicycle through the very sweet little villages of Mautern, Forthof, Durstein (which has an exceptionally charming main street – so charming that we wished we had a day or so to enjoy it), Spitz, and Melk. Our day ends with a pleasant Austrian wine tasting near our barge in Pöchlarn.

Monday, August 26. We drive our rental car from Passau to Frankfurt. On the way, we stop in Erlangen to stretch our legs and enjoy this German college town. Frankfurt has the unfortunate distinction of having an enormous number of glass and steel skyscrapers.

Town center Frankfurt turns out to be very quiet at night. I was not awoken by sirens or scooters.

Random, general observations about this trip…

The older the city we were in, the more lovable it was. The more recent the cities and the more recent the buildings, the more awful those cities and buildings were. This has been true in my travels throughout the world, but most strikingly in Europe, where one finds extremely ancient settlements.
Many German cities have been ravaged and degraded by Modernist buildings that are destroying the lovable charm that once graced these cities for several centuries.
Nearly all of the cities we visited on this trip had outstanding bicycle path and bicycle lane infrastructure.
We found that many larger German cities contain a large Middle Eastern and Muslim population. We were surprised by the overwhelming number of burka-wearing Muslim women we saw in German and Austrian cities.
German cities, in general, tend to be late-night party cites, where vast numbers of citizens seem to drink and dance and laugh into the wee hours of the morning. And not just on weekends.
We found ourselves driving at speeds at or above 140 kilometers per hour on the German Autobahn (about 89 mph). And yet we were regularly passed by motorists driving 200 kph, which made it seem like we are standing still.
Our barge traveled through countless locks on the Donau (Danube) River – some changing our river height by 60 meters.
The Donau River is very wide, and is milky green in color – a sign of eutrophication caused by agricultural fertilizers.
For many of the eight days of our cycling and barging, we experienced very warm, muggy, humid weather.
Interestingly, the Hungarian language contains many words that are extremely long and mostly use seemingly random letters that make for a daunting effort to try to pronounce. Hungarian, our barge guide told us, was about the most incomprehensible language in all of Europe. Amusingly, our guide informed us that the Hungarian word for “kiss” is “puszi,” which is pronounced “pussy.”

An Unfitting, Agonizing End to an Otherwise Remarkable Trip

Two big, crushing lessons learned on this trip from severe brain damage and stress associated with not learning this lesson previously. First, I must never again go on a trip to Europe where travel from city to city is by rental car. With our rental car, we experienced agonizing levels of stress and rage from one-way streets, lack of parking, a rental car company that sought to force us to pay for damage we did not cause, and the stress associated with driving in both congestion and crazy high speeds on highways.

Second, I must never again fly with Air France or through Charles de Gaulle airport. For our flight back to the US from this airport and with Air France, I experienced the most enraging, stressful, unpleasant airport debacle I have ever suffered in my large number of airport experiences.

Unbeknownst to us, Air France now has a punitively low maximum limit for luggage weight. At 12 kilograms and FOUR trips through a baggage weighing line, I was compelled to THROW AWAY three-quarters of my belongings in order to get under 12 kilograms and be allowed to proceed to security (shirts, sandals, pants, food, underwear, socks, etc).

Because airport staff could not speak English, and because they were utterly incompetent, I spent almost two hours being sent on an almost infinitely-looping wild goose chase. I circled between baggage weighing and passport clearance FOUR times. During that entire time, I had no idea what I was supposed to do, nor was the airport staff able to provide correct, consistent information. I repeatedly lost my temper with the incompetent, power-drunk, bureaucratic staff. In fact, the staff threatened to call the police to have me arrested, to which I responded that I would be grateful to be confronted by the police as maybe they would allow me to proceed to the security gate.

It was miraculous that I did not miss my flight, and was only able to catch the flight because my girlfriend heroically called Delta Airlines (the sister of Air France) to have a staff person guide me through the impossible, Kafkaesque infinitely looping quagmire that I was trapped in. It became obvious that the prime qualification that Charles de Gaulle airport looks for when hiring employees is that they must be utterly incompetent. And they must love exerting their paltry, lower-level power whenever they can as a way to punish air travelers. A useful tip for Air France: Please inform your passengers BEFORE THEY REACH THE AIRPORT that there is a draconian weight limit so passengers have a chance to retain possessions at home before being forced to dispose of them as a way to board your plane. Of the hundreds of flights I’ve taken in my life, I have never had to weigh my luggage at the airport, which means this is a very rare requirement.

News flash to Air France: the rarity of this sort of policy should make it obligatory that you notify passengers of this far in advance.

Categories: Beyond North America, Miscellaneous | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Whitewater Rafting and Kayaking in Colorado, Summer 2019

By Dom Nozzi

The snowfall for the 2018/2019 ski season in Colorado was so epic that it left a snowpack that was 529 percent of normal. And as several media sources and whitewater vendors trumpeted several times in the spring, that epic, enormous snowpack means there would be a epic season for whitewater rafting and kayaking as well.

And that gave me a golden opportunity to sample some of the wild-eyed whitewater that rages in Colorado!

On June 7, 2019, Maggie and I rode the 12-mile Mishawaka Falls section of the Upper Poudre River with Wanderlust Adventures. The river that day was relatively high (and therefore barrels of churning, chaotic, hair-raising fun, at about 1500 cfs.

The Poudre is the only designated National Wild and Scenic River in Colorado, and flows through a beautiful canyon. We were fortunate to spot a group of longhorn sheep along the way.

The big surprise was that I was flung out of the raft at a notorious rapid called “Guide Hole,” where the raft guide often falls out (just a short distance downstream there is another demanding rapid called “Customer Hole,” which is where you would think I would have fallen out).

I blame Maggie for not grabbing my arm to keep me in the raft. :^)Maggie and Dom Poudre River whitewater June 2019 (1)

In any event, it was the first time I was the only one in the raft to fall out. I’ve fallen out a number of times in the past on whitewater trips, but only when the entire boat flipped. Others in the boat had to rescue me by pulling me back in. Because falling out in a big rapid is so exhilarating, that one event made my entire ride worthwhile, although the overall trip was a lot of fun. In fact, Maggie was surprised by how much she enjoyed it, after initially thinking that Dom was going to once again lead her into something too scary and way over her head.

Sadly, the photographer — who had shot many photos of our day on the raging Poudre — learned when he got back to the shop that all of his photos and videos were corrupted, so we didn’t get any pictures or video. It was the first time that had happened to him in his 3 years of being the company photographer.

Our next Living-on-the-Edge ride was battling Browns Canyon on the Arkansas River in Central Colorado. It was a warm-up for taking on the roaring, churning, angry Clear Creek whitewater in a few days. Browns Canyon was at a very high water level (3720 cfs), but we avoided casualties and no one went swimming. This short video shot with my helmet-mounted camera shows us early on at Browns.

For our next whitewater sample a few days later, Maggie and I rafted the “Advanced Express” run on Clear Creek just west of Denver with the Clear Creek Rafting Co. The Creek, which is quite demanding at high water levels due to the large boulders and narrow channel, was running at a relatively high level of 700 cfs. We conquered the following rapids: Upper Beaver Falls, Lower Beaver Falls, The Nixon Rapids. We then paddled hard as we dropped into Guide Ejector, Double Knife (particularly nasty), Hells Corner and Terminator.

I shot this video with a chest-mounted camera. And here is a photo montage I assembled with photos shot by the Rafting Company during our wild-eyed ride.

Then, before we even had a chance to catch our breath, we stormed down the rampaging Boulder Creek, which was running at about 235 cfs. It was the maiden voyage for the 2-person Inex inflatable raft we had recently purchased.

It took us a while to get our whitewater skills honed, as Maggie had never whitewater kayaked, and my whitewater kayaking skills were very much at the beginner stage, as my 25 years of kayaking experience included 20 years of flatwater kayaking in Florida (which is nothing like whitewater kayaking), and a few very short and very tame whitewater kayaking forays in Colorado in recent years.Dom and Maggie kayaking Bldr Ck, June 27, 2019

It was truly a trial by fire experience.

Adding to the difficulty was that Maggie sitting in front of me meant that most of my view of approaching rapids was obscured by her back. In addition, at 235 cfs, Boulder Creek is rather swift, and as a very narrow creek, there is very little margin for error. In ski difficulty terms, it was running as a single black diamond.

The Inex, fortunately, behaved well for us in the swift wave trains and drops on Boulder Creek. It’s upturned head and tail made the kayak ride over and through each of the rapids we encountered. I shot this video of our kayaking starting at the kayak playpark just upstream from Ebon Fine Park to the Justice Center.

This video shows us kayaking from the Justice Center to the Library:

The swift, narrow creek finally caught up with us near the end of our ride. As you will hear in this video my chest-mounted camera recorded, I was boasting to Maggie about my superior kayaking navigational skills and how the most fun to be had was when the boat flipped in the rapids. Maggie had never been in a flipped boat and did not believe me. Sure enough, soon after my well-timed comments, we approached a drop which was creating a powerful rapid and I was unable to keep the nose pointed downstream. Instead, I committed the cardinal sin at a hydraulic by entering it with our kayak sideways. As you will see in the video, our kayak quickly and somewhat unexpectedly flipped, sending us into a “swim” mode. I come up under and inside the upside down kayak, and Maggie is alarmingly floating downstream out of the kayak.

Overall, though, we had enough fun that we plan to saddle up again for another kayaking ride down Boulder Creek in a few days. We had planned to kayak again on July 1st, but the cfs was at 565 (!!), which is the highest, fastest water level all year.

Insane, death-zone conditions on the Creek



Categories: 2011-Present, Colorado, Paddling | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Whitewater Rafting the Upper Poudre

Maggie and I took a wild-eyed whitewater rafting ride on the Mishawaka Falls section of the Upper Poudre River. The Poudre is the only designated National Wild and Scenic River in Colorado, and flows through a beautiful canyon. We were fortunate to spot a group of longhorn sheep along the way.

The water level was a relatively high 1500 cfs, which made the river particularly hair-raising.

The big surprise was that I was flung out of the raft at a notorious rapid called “Guide Hole,” where the raft guide often falls out (just a short distance downstream there is another demanding rapid called “Customer Hole,” which is where you would think I would have fallen out). I blame Maggie for not grabbing my arm to keep me in the raft. 

In any event, it was the first time I was the only one in the raft to fall out (I’ve fallen out a number of times in the past on whitewater trips, but only when the entire boat flipped). Others in the boat had to rescue me by pulling me back in. Because falling out in a big rapid is so exhilarating, that one event made my entire ride worthwhile, although the overall trip was a lot of fun. In fact, Maggie was surprised by how much she enjoyed it, after initially thinking that Dom was going to once again lead her into something too scary and way over her head.Maggie and Dom Poudre River whitewater June 2019 (1)

Sadly, the photographer — who had shot many photos of our day on the raging Poudre — learned when he got back to the shop that all of his photos and videos were corrupted, so we didn’t get any pictures or video. It was the first time that had happened to him in his 3 years of being the company photographer. 

As I pointed out to my rafting group yesterday after we defeated the Upper Poudre River, the most dangerous part of even a big water rafting trip is the drive to and from the river (and our driving in general), not the trip on the river.

Categories: 2011-Present, Colorado, Paddling | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Pleasurable Puglia, Italy. March 2019

By Dom Nozzi

Our plans originally point us to western Tuscany for our 2019 Italy trip, but I serendipitously learn on the Internet about the Puglia region in Italy. Having not heard of Puglia previously, I am stunned by the charming, romantic photos of the towns in that region. Our plans quickly change.

We depart Denver at 5:30 am on a Monday. We revel in a fantastic view of the snow-peaked Italian Alps outside our plane window. They are golden in the morning sun. We arrive in Bari, Italy about mid-day on Tuesday.

With four to five hours of time to burn in Rome before our train departs for Bari, we opt to have fun and shoot selfies in Ancient Rome. Trevi Fountains, the Pantheon, Piazza Dom and Maggie, Pantheon in Rome, Feb 26,2019Navona (the best piazza in all of Rome), Campe di Fiori. While strolling, we buy delicious Sangiovese vino, prosciutto, and three cheeses for the train to Bari.

Our airbnb in Bari is embedded in a neighborhood with astonishing medieval charm. For dinner that night in Bari, we visit La Locanda di Frederico Ristorante, where we enjoy very rustic bread, authentic and big flavor olive oil. For the first time in my life, I try horsemeat (“Brascioladi Savallo al Ragu con Pezzetti”). In a red sauce. Stringy. Tastes just like chicken…

Two of the more interesting things I learned about Bari is that it was first settled in about the 7th Century BC. It was also the only European city in World War II that suffered from chemical warfare.

We enjoy a day of enjoyable bicycling in the ancient quarter of Trani (first settled in about the 9th Century) and Bisceglie (inhabited since prehistoric times). We would have loved to spend more time exploring the fantastically narrow and shiny surface Bisceglie Italy, Feb 27, 2019 (12)cobblestone streets in Trani and Bisceglie, but we need to rush to catch our train (trenitalia) back to Bari. Unfortunately, we do not rush fast enough (the ticket machine refused to accept Maggie’s credit cards), so we miss the train. Fortunately, the trains are frequent enough that we do not need to wait long.

Back in Bari, we find ourselves at Opus Pistorum, a bohemian, quirky, incense-burning wine bar. It is here that we first learn that Puglia produces an enormous amount of wine. We see it sold everywhere. It is reliably delicious.

After the wine bar, we opt for La Tana Del Polpo (octopus) Ristorante for dinner. La Octopus is so world-renowned that reservations must be made days in advance. Since we did not wish to miss it, we opt to be seated at a table in a tiny side room that serves as a supply room and credit card cashing place for the wait staff. It was like being in a broom closet, but the ristorante is so divine that we thoroughly enjoy our “broom closet” experience. Don’t forget to bring your dustpan to La Octopus when you visit Bari!  And yes, there is a giant polpo hanging from the ceiling…The place is lively and impressive. The homemade black ink spaghetti with seafood is out of this world, as is the homemade spaghetti with red sauce and a huge fresh fish in the middle of it (Puglia is also a very big producer of seafoods). We top off the meal with a large carafe of a yummy house rosso vino (for 4 euros!).

The next day is a fiasco. I forget my backpack on the train (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). This huge blunder ruins our day. I am infuriated with myself. What a disaster. But we still find a few snippets of joy. The ancient quarter of Putignano is lovely, the tiny, and the gnome-like “trilli” homes in Alberobello (“beautiful tree”) are very cute.

Our dinner at Paglionico ristorante to end the day is scrumptious. Highly authentic and noticeably local: no menu, very fresh seafood served with homemade pasta, excellent antipasta, and wine served with a ceramic pitcher poured into tumblers rather than wine glasses simply oozed authentic and homey. I have a HUGE fresh octopus as part of my meal.

Maggie was absolutely heroic and went way beyond the call of duty when I realized I forgot my backpack. She completely took charge while I was so stunned and enraged at myself for forgetting the pack that I did almost nothing to help recover it. If it were me, I would have just written off the pack as a loss. What are the chances of recovering a pack on a departed train? Even in the US the chances are nearly zero. But here we also have to contend with the fact that we had a HUGE language barrier. Maggie engages in dizzying four-way cell phone conversations with a train rep, a local policeman who speaks not a word of English, and our hotel proprietor. After a few hours of extremely difficult effort, I miraculously get my pack back.

But it means our day of planned bicycling in the beautiful Puglia landscape is severely truncated. In any event, I am enormously appreciative of how much Maggie did to recover my pack. She is probably the world’s best problem solver. I cannot begin to tell her how grateful I am for her sacrifices to do everything she could to help. I am SO FORTUNATE to be with her!

The next day, after we enjoy a walk in Bari, we train to our next base city: Ostuni. Ostuni is known as the “white city,” as nearly every surface in the city is painted white. The city has been inhabited since the Stone Age.

Here are the photos I shot while in Ostuni.

For dinner, our choice is a ristorante that is so famous – so outrageously good for food and ambiance – that it is perhaps by itself a place that makes Ostuni great. Osteria Tempo del Peso Ristorante. DO NOT MISS THIS PLACE WHEN YOU VISIT PUGLIA!! The ambiance is stunning. The ristorante is inside a cave with ceilings and walls of stone and stone blocks. My meal – slow-cooked ribs – are easily the best ribs I have ever eaten. As is the Primitivo house rosso vino we have. This wine is so good that I immediately realize that Primitivo is now my favorite wine grape. It is that good. This turns out to make sense. I have always thoroughly enjoyed Old Vine Zinfandel. Genetically, the Zinfandel and Primitivo grapes are extremely similar—it took some DNA fingerprinting to figure it out—but Primitivo and Zinfandel are actually both clones of a Croatian grape called Crljenak.

The next morning, we walk to the adjacent “new town” section of Ostuni to enjoy the very lively, festive Saturday outdoor vegetable, meat, and fruit market. Here, there are Ostuni Saturday Market, Mar 2, 2019 (3)countless stalls of food. At several, very loud hawkers are shouting for customers to sample their wares.

After the market, we somehow miss TWO van runs to the train station (oddly, the Ostuni train stazione is not within walking distance of town, which makes it highly inconvenient for those without a car). We therefore get a very late start to Polignano a Mare and Monopoli.

We arrive in Polignano a Mare, and it is spectacular as advertised. The coastline is incredibly picturesque, particularly the famous cove one finds near the porta to Old Towne. After going down to the beach in the cove, we stroll Old Towne (first settled in prehistoric times), where we find the streets to be delightfully charming and romantic. Even more so for our stroll in Monopoli Old Towne (first settled in 500 BC).

Here are the photos I shot while in Polignano a Mare and Monopoli.

As an aside, one of the statements that is regularly seen on shop and ristorante signs is something we have not seen elsewhere in Italy, or in Europe for that matter. A great many places will seek to lure you to be a customer by assuring you that their food or vino or product is “tipica” (or “typical”). The Puglianese seem to realize that a great many tourists are seeking AUTHENTICITY. They want to sample what is common (or “typical”) for the region. Not something that can be found anywhere.

The next day was a “T” day! Today we Trek Thru The Traffic and The Trullis via our Twizy To Tre Towns! (Cisternino, Locorotondo, Martina Franca). A “trilli” is a very cute, ancient little round stone hut that is found throughout the Alberobello region of Italy. Gnomes or elves or Hansel and Gretle apparently live in them. A “Twizy” is a tiny little rentable electric car. So tiny that the passenger must sit directly behind the driver. This compact car is about a quarter of the size of a standard American car.

We have a lot of fun zipping through small medieval Italian towns and the Puglia countryside with the very adorable ForPlay “Twizy” rental electric car, and it is so Dom and Maggie with their Twizy near our Ostuni hotel room, Mar 3, 2019notably cute that everyone we passed stopped in their tracks to look at it. So much fun that it is no coincidence that the company name is “ForPlay.” We originally planned to rent electric bikes to visit three towns in the countryside, but then learned that the bikes would cost TWICE AS MUCH as the Twizy! Also, Maggie went on an obsessed mission to drive the Twizy after seeing it parked around Ostuni.

Locorotondo has a population of about 14,000. The city is known for its wines and for its circular structure which is now a historical center, from which derives its name, which means “Round place.”

Here are the photos I shot while in Alberobello, Cisternino, Locorotondo, and Martina Franca.

Today we will rent it again and cruise along the dunes and beaches of the Adriatic Sea near Ostuni.

One amazing thing about the easy-to-drive Twizy is that it is very narrow (one person wide, so that the passenger must sit behind the driver). That means the Twizy can squeeze through the tightest spaces — like medieval Italian cobblestone streets (see photo below). A noticeable delight compared to driving the typical space-hogging American car.

By the way, Italian drivers have no patience for slow pokes. I typically would drive at 75 kph on these Puglia country roads with a 50 kph speed limit, and pretty much every driver passed me as if I was standing still.

We arrive in Lecce and tour Old Towne by bike. I cannot stop taking photos. The Baroque architecture is overwhelmingly richly detailed. A spectacular place to bicycle or walk. Because of the rich Baroque architectural monuments found in the city, Lecce is Lecce, Mar 5, 2019 (27)commonly nicknamed “The Florence of the South.” The city was settled at least as far back as the 3rd century BC.

Here are the photos I shot while in Lecce.

Our first dinner in Lecce is at Tormaresca Ristorante. The meal is a wonderful 3-course meal paired with 3 wines made by our Tormaresca ristorante here in Lecce. Homemade pastas, ricotta, fresh cheeses, anchovies, fresh greens. Our BnB is literally next door to the ristorante.

I have never eaten or drank so well over the course of our several days so far on this trip as on any European trip I’ve ever gone on.

Our plan to daytrip by train to Francavilla Fontana and Taranto is, to some extent, a disappointment. Francavilla has had far too much of its medieval architecture lost and replaced by utterly unlovable mid-century modernism. The Internet reviews of Taranto are so hideously awful that we decide it is not even worth a visit, so we backtrack by train back to where we came from. Instead, we visit Mesagne and Brindisi. Both towns have medieval quarters that are reasonably pleasant but not in the “wow” category.

Brindisi was an Ancient Greek settlement predating the Roman expansion.

Brindisi played a role in the slave wars of the Roman Empire. Spartacus, the slave who led the slave army, had intended to march his army out of Italy and into Gaul (now Belgium, Switzerland and France) or maybe even to Hispania to join the rebellion of Quintus Sertorius. But he changed his mind and turned back south, under pressure from his followers, for they wanted more plunder. Although it is not known for certain why they turned back when they were on the brink of escaping into Gaul, it is regarded as their greatest mistake. Perhaps their many victories made them overconfident, or perhaps they believed that they would escape to Sicily as planned, and could plunder more in the meantime. There are theories that some of the non-fighting followers (some 10,000 or so) did, in fact, cross the Alps and return to their homelands. The rest marched back south, and defeated two more legions under Marcus Licinius Crassus, who at that time was the wealthiest man in Rome. At the end of 72 BC, Spartacus was encamped in Reggio Calabria, near the Strait of Messina (the “toe of the Italian boot”). Spartacus’ deal with Cilician pirates to get them to Sicily fell through. In the beginning of 71 BC, eight legions of Crassus isolated Spartacus’s army in Calabria. With the assassination of Quintus Sertorius, the Roman Senate also recalled Pompey from Hispania; and Lucullus from northern Anatolia where he was campaigning against Rome’s most obstinate enemy Mithridates VI of Pontus. Spartacus managed to break through Crassus’s lines, and escaped towards Brindisi, but Crassus’s forces intercepted them in Lucania, and the slaves were routed in a subsequent battle at the river Silarus. After the battle, legionaries found and rescued 3,000 unharmed Roman prisoners in their camp. 6,600 of Spartacus’s followers were crucified along the via Appia (or the Appian Way) from Brindisi to Rome. Crassus never gave orders for the bodies to be taken down, thus travelers were forced to see the bodies for years, perhaps decades, after the final battle.

In the 1960 blockbuster movie Spartacus, starring Kirk Douglas, the slave army attempted to escape Italy and return to their homelands via the sea, and Brindisi was their chosen port of escape. Spartacus arrives in Brindisi with the fifty million sesterces to be delivered to Tigrane Levantino, leader of the Cilician pirate naval army that ruled the sea at the time. However, when Levantino reaches the slave camp at Brindisi, he claims that Crassus has paid the pirates more than Spartacus has offered. The higher Crassus offer convinces the pirates to abandon their earlier agreement to bring ships to Brindisi to allow the slave army to escape.

Here are the photos I shot while in Francavilla Fontana, Mesagna, and Brindisi.

The next day finds us taking two very slow trains from Lecce to Otranto (also known as “OH! Tranto). The trains are so slow, I call them “snail” trains. They are the opposite of the bullet trains found in Italy.

Part of the history of Otranto is grim. In 1480, Mehmet the Conqueror sent an Ottoman fleet to invade Rome under the command of Gedik Ahmed Pasha. This force reached the shores of Apulia on 28 July 1480 and the city was captured in two weeks on 11 August 1480. Some 800 citizens, known as the “Martyrs of Otranto,” were beheaded after refusing to convert to Islam.

Nevertheless, despite our slowness, our snail speed gives us time to better enjoy the pleasant, interesting views one finds along the way in the rural, southern Italian countryside.

Otranto Italy, Mar 7, 2019 (5)Otranto turns out to be a cute little place. In this city we are at the eastern most point of Italy. Otranto has an adorable little medieval old towne and a large castelle. We are on the waterfront of the Adriatic Sea. The water is crystal clear.

Here are the photos I shot while in Otranto.

We also learn, during our travels in Puglia, that Puglia is a place where a little tubular round cookie known as a “tarralini” is found in pretty much every stop and ristorante.

Our last dinner in Lecce is at “00” Ristorante. Very tasty eggplant paragiana and sausage in a very friendly ambiance.

We train to Bari from Lecce. We train from Bari Centrale to Bari airport. We bus 1.5 hours from the airport to the UNESCO heritage site of Matera, Italy – home to the sassi cave dwellings.

It is the final destination for our Italy trip. Matera is extraordinary. Every little cobblestone street and medieval building is divine. The views are breathtaking. Maggie and I would call this one of the most important cities to visit in Italy. Our bnb is amazing and the location puts our front door across the piazza from the duomo. Our view of the ancient town from our balcony must be seen to be believed!

A worthy conclusion to an unforgettable trip.

For dinner, we dine at the highly recommended La Lopa Ristorante. We enjoy superbly delicious homemade fettucine with sausage and Italian mushrooms, pumpkin soup, and pumpkin parmigiana. The cave ambiance is, of course, spectacular. A very popular place that filled up quickly after we arrived. We probably set Italy records by arriving at the ristorante at the unheard of early time — 7:45 pm — and leaving at the unheard of “brief” length of stay — “only” 90 min.

Thought to be one of the world’s oldest towns, Matera dates back as far as the Paleolithic times. There is evidence that people were living here as early as the year 7000 BC. Matera Italy, Mar 8, 2019 (2)Fodor’s notes that Matera is the only place in the world where people can boast to be still living in the same houses of their ancestors of 9,000 years ago.

In the 1950s, the government of Italy forcefully relocated most of the population of the Sassi to areas of the developing modern city. Beset by extreme poverty and riddled with malaria, the unhealthy living conditions were considered inhuman and an affront to the modern new Italian Republic of Alcide De Gasperi. However, people continued to live in the Sassi.

On Saturday, we walk the extraordinary medieval Old Towne Matera. We enter a number of homes and churches that are large holes dug into the limestone rock within the city walls. Very damp and cool inside. We stroll quite a large number of highly photogenic, charming cobblestone stairways.

For dinner, at the very local and authentic Taverna La Focagna, we enjoy a spectacularly delicious cutting board of veggies, Bufala cheese, and olive oil, as well as homemade pasta with sausage and sun-dried tomatoes and mushrooms. Their Primitivo house vino is superb!

The stroll to and from the ristorante was heart-warming, as we were delighted to find ourselves embedded in the wonderful Italian tradition of a “passeggiata,” where huge numbers of citizens in the community walk together along city streets. Such a thing gives Passeggiata, Matera, Mar 9, 2019 (2)me hope for the future of humanity. Tragically, Americans are a nation of loners that utterly lack such an experience.

The next morning, we check out the four wall tiles on a street next to the Duomo showing representations of rebellious citizens attacking and killing their ruler, a count who they had grown to despise. We then opt for a guided walking tour, which turns out to be impressively informative and enjoyable. The tour ends with a Primitivo tasting at a town shop. We then ride a van to Belvedere on the other side of the canyon next to Matera, where Mel Gibson had filmed the crucifixion scene in his The Passion of Christ movie. We hike along rocky cliffs and sandy paths to inspect several cave dwellings formerly lived in by monks.

That night, we dine at La Gattabuia Ristorante. We eat their utterly superb Beef Tartare, their supremely delicious homemade pastas, and their Aglianico wine – which is a big, bold, hearty red wine said to be like Nebbiolo. Again, on the way to our ristorante, we find ourselves with the wonderful community passeggiata!

After dinner, my entire body was smiling.

Here are the photos I shot while in Matera.

For our two weeks, we are very fortunate to enjoy sunny weather in the 60s. More challenging is the ristorante hours, as on several occasions, we learn that our target ristorante is closed – particularly on Sundays, when hours tend to be very limited or the place is simply closed that day.

In sum, do not miss Puglia in your travels to Italy. Much splendor and joy are to be found there.




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Jackson Hole Skiing, January 2019

By Dom Nozzi

I ski this resort with Maggie in January 2019. It was my first ever visit. We find Jackson Hole to have a very steep pitch, which made for very difficult blue, black, and glade runs. Not well suited for Maggie or I. Particularly due to the lack of fresh powder. I could see myself enjoying this mountain much more if there was a fresh layer of “hero” powder.

The tram ride to the summit is memorable. Each car packs in what seemed like about a hundred skiers. Near the top, a resort employee cautions skiers that there is no non-expert trail down. If any skiers are uncomfortable with that, they are welcome to ride the tram back down. After we shoot some scenic photos of ourselves at the summit, dom and maggie jackson hole, jan 14, 2019 (9)Maggie opts to ride the tram down.

I, on the other hand, choose to do battle with the steep mogul runs, which means slow-going and many falls. At one traverse, I notice an uphill climb in BOTH directions. Wondering what to do, notice that if I skied under a lift nearby, I could ride the lift to a place that would allow me to continue skiing down to the base area.

These days, glades are nearly all the skiing I do, but with the very steep pitch at Jackson Hole, I can only tolerate a minute or two in the trees before needing to bail. I end up spending a fair amount of time on a glade slalom course set up for kiddies.

Our last day at Jackson Hole Ski Resort is excellent. But very unusual weather. While the skies are clear again, we have a severe temperature inversion. At the base, the temperature is a brutal -3 degrees Fahrenheit. At precisely the same time, 4,000 feet jackson hole, jan 12 2019 (6)HIGHER at the highest elevation at Jackson Hole, the temperature is a broiling hot 28 degrees!

After each day of skiing, I soak in an outdoor jacuzzi in icy cold nighttime temperatures at our Snow King lodging.

During our drive to and from Jackson Hole, we notice a huge number of highway signs in Wyoming pertain to passing zones, how far it is to the next passing zone, and warnings about passing. I guess there have been a lot of highway deaths in Wyoming due to impatient motorists passing on highways.

Major industries in state appear to be highways, energy, and ranching.

In addition, on Wyoming highways we see lots of concern (via highway signs regarding wildlife crossings of roads). In addition, we see lots of wildlife statues near the roadway. We also see significant concern expressed by the fact that there are several substantially over-designed and over-priced wildlife bridge crossings. I must say, though, that these bridges are much more attractive than the hideous, modernist bridges we are used to seeing all over the US.

We learn that Jackson WY has a VERY high cost of living, as exemplified by the very expensive restaurants. And the very expensive apartments and homes.

Sinclair gas stations apparently have a WY monopoly for gas stations. We hardly saw any other station.

It seems that every time we drive highways in WY there is a huge backup of cars. Fortunately, on this trip, we did not experience a highway debacle.

On our drive back home, we opt for the scenic route through the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park. We spot large herds of elk and bison, as well as a bald eagle perched in a tree next to the highway.

Jackson Hole characteristics:

With 2,500 acres of raw, sometimes terrifying lines, Jackson belittles flatlanders and challenges even the toughest locals with 55-degree chutes, wind-scoured bowls, and 5,000 acres of resort-accessed backcountry bordering Grand Teton National Park. (ranked #4 by Outside Magazine in 10/08 for snow and terrain)

  • Terrain: 2 mountains, Apres Vous and Rendezvous
  • 2,500 acres of in-bounds terrain
  • Vertical drop of 4,139 feet (greatest continuous rise in U.S.)
  • Base elevation: 6,311 feet
  • Summit elevation:10,450 feet
  • Uphill capacity:12,096 skiers per hour
  • Open backcountry gate system accesses over 3000+ acres

111 Named Trails on the map

The most (in)famous trail is Corbet’s Couloir. Many who gaze over the precipice simply lose their nerve, as the first move you face is a two-story drop onto a 55-degree slope. If you don’t carve the right turn quickly enough, you come face-to-face with a rock wall.

It is said that the backcountry that most makes Jackson Hole shine. Some say Granite Canyon in the backcountry is one of the most beautiful places they have ever skied. You need to take avalanche gear, and you need to know how to use it. Once you’re beyond the gate, there are dozens of chutes you can take. You need to know where you’re going, as its serious stuff; some of the chutes end in death cliffs.

Here are the photos I shot during our ski weekend at Jackson Hole:



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Spain is Splendid Again, Nov and Dec 2017

By Dom Nozzi

We arrive at the Denver International Airport. Surprised that our bus to the airport was full, as it was Thanksgiving Day. Who travels on this holiday?

Weather forecast for the coming week in Boulder will be unusually warm for this time of year. I am hoping that we will return to a lot of snow and good ski conditions, however.

We started the trip by walking Brooklyn and Manhattan. Bad idea on BLACK FRIDAY.


Friday, Nov 24: Our flight from Toronto to Barcelona took off at 9 pm on a Friday. By 8 pm the next day, after 11 continuous hours of travel by plane and bus, we finally arrived at our first Spain hotel in Valencia.

I have previously traveled in Spain (eight years ago). Maggie has never been. She is in for a treat…

Oddly, I have been in Spain twice and both times I had a train trip be cancelled. This has never happened to me for any other trip I have taken in the world. First cancellation in Spain had us be transferred to fly from Madrid to Barcelona. This time, it was a bus from Barcelona to Valencia. Turns out that rail workers were on strike in Barcelona.


Saturday and Sunday, Nov 25-26: Old Town Valencia at night is lovely. We have a very charming, romantic, festive first night in Valencia. The streets are surprisingly vibrant even during a non-tourist time of year. Our tapas bar serves fantastic food at a place full of happy customers.From our hotel, Valencia, Nov 25, 2017 (1)

We start with a very tasty breakfast at a place called BBVA. Boisterous, loud Sunday morning crowd. I have the smoked trout omelet and Maggie has the salmon bruschetta. We then rent bicycles and have a very enjoyable ride along the Valencia greenway, where we pass athletic fields containing soccer games, rugby (who knew Spaniards played rugby?) and baseball. We bike to the beach. Valencia, of course, has many street trees that are orange trees. Valencia oranges. I opt for a FANTASTIC Imperial Brown Ale at Tyris Craft Beer.

At the end of our greenway bike ride, we spot several surfers surfing at the beach of the Baltic Sea. In late November! Who knew that Spaniards surfed?

The architecture in Valencia Old Town is mind-blowing. Ornamentation is stunning.

Our last night in Valencia is spent on a shiny marble piazza surrounded by fantastic medieval architecture. We dine on very tasty paella and a glass of house red wine. The view from our Valencia lodging is above. The photos I shot while in Valencia are here.


Monday, Nov 27:

Old Town Sevilla is a delight to stroll through DESPITE very narrow sidewalks (much of it less than 10 in. wide). The streets are so crooked and cranky that we got disoriented and lost several times. Which, of course, adds to the delight. Nearly all of streets are medieval cobblestone.

The modernists have added “tripe architecture” to Old Town Sevilla. A blight on the charming ambiance of the neighborhood, but a handy landmark for finding our apartment.

The Sevilla churches are noteworthy for containing an overwhelming amount of intricate gold. They can’t seem to get enough of it, to the point where it makes the observer dizzy.

Alcazar, Sevilla, Spain, Nov 27, 2017 (33)Alcazar boasts Islamic (Moorish), Christian, and Renaissance architecture all blended together by successive kings over the centuries. An incredible place to visit (again, for me).

Great, fun, tasty tapas are to be found in Sevilla. Our first stop for tapas is at a bar that opened a few years ago (1670, to be exact). They serve us excellent red wine and delicious tapas. A quirk is the bartender slicing thin strips of meat from a leg of a pig. And writing our check total on the bar with chalk.

So far, our biggest mutual problem on this trip is our inability to get enough sleep. We are both sleep deprived.

Nearly all of the street trees and courtyard trees and plaza trees in Seville are orange trees which are loaded with oranges. Valencia oranges are EVERYWHERE! Are the oranges harvested from street trees, or left to drop and rot?

On Tuesday, Nov. 28, Maggie is too sleep deprived to get out of bed in time for our planned day trip to Malaga. Unfortunate, since Tuesday is the window of fair weather for the next few days in that southern coastal town. She sleeps until noon, which gives us a relatively late start on our second day in Sevilla.

But I am happy to have her sleep late, as today is her birthday. On her birthday she will enjoy a full day in Sevilla. For her birthday last year, we were in Rome.

Lucky girl.

Since loss of sleep was due, at least in part, to the noisy cobblestone street traffic outside of our apartment, and because our washing machine was in disrepair, we are happy to learn that we can move to a nearby apartment with quiet conditions and a working washing machine.

First stop is the incomparable Cathedral of Sevilla. Like eight years ago when I was first humbled by what is the largest gothic cathedral in the world, the Cathedral is stunning. Built to such a crazy huge and ornamental size, according to Rick Steves, that the builders would be considered “madmen.” So huge that one feels like an ant inside the colossus – surely the intent of the Catholic designers who seek to make mere humans Barrio Santa Cruz Sevilla, Spain, Nov 28, 2017 (30)seem puny in the house of their infinite god.

Again, the Cathedral is full of altars and sanctuaries that feature overwhelming gold flake. The support columns inside are too tall and wide to believe. Somehow, we are again not converted to Catholicism despite the dizzying splendor.

We depart Ground Zero Catholicism in Spain for a walk in the nearby Santa Cruz neighborhood, which is a delight. The dimensions are too cute. A lot of very narrow, Venice-like, cobblestone “kissing” streets (so narrow that people on balconies of buildings facing each other can kiss). Indeed, some of the streets in the neighborhood are so narrow that we are able to touch building walls on both sides of the street at the same time. Delightful! Romantic! Charming! And utterly inconceivable in America, where 100-foot wide roads are considered Nirvana. And the only way to prevent babies from dying in burning buildings.

After our stroll, we reach a place to rent bikes. Biking in Sevilla is relatively pleasant and safe with its okay supply of grade-separated green-painted bike paths flanking many streets. We enjoy a delightful ride through an enormous park with flat clay pathways and a lush forest, where trees there today had been planted in the 19th Century. The park contains extremely impressive military and university building towers that are linked by a crescent-shaped building system.

Over-the-top palaces seem to pop up around every corner in Sevilla. In its history, the city has seen the construction of both palaces and parks and cathedrals fit for kings.

We drop off the bikes and walk back to the Cathedral, where we are disappointed to see that only a small handful of horse-drawn carriages are waiting. Earlier in the day, we had been descended upon by an endless gauntlet of carriage drivers begging us to be their passengers. It is, after all, the “shoulder season,” when tourist customers are relatively scarce, so the begging is particularly fierce.

Now, at 7 pm, only 3 carriages are in the Cathedral plaza, and we are unable to find a driver who speaks more than a few words of English. And it is also starting to rain. This is our only opportunity for a romantic carriage ride in Sevilla, so we board a carriage with these less-than-optimal conditions. Happily, it turns out to be a pleasant ride.

The photos I shot while in Sevilla are here.

Day Trip to Malaga

Wednesday, Nov 29th: Our day starts out in an unfortunate way. After only 15 minutes of travel on our train to Malaga — a coastal town on Spain’s southern coast — we passengers must deboard the train and board an “autobus” (a bus). It is the second time we have been transferred from a train to a bus in this Spain trip. This time due to a huge flood in Southern Spain.

Why, when we bought our train tickets 15 minutes earlier, did they sell us the tickets and not tell us that there was massive flooding ahead of us in Southern Spain? Had we known, we would probably stayed in Sevilla and not boarded the train to Malaga.

This would have been a mistake, as we are to eventually learn. Malaga is a delightful place. Even in monsoon rains.

Our bus finally arrives in Malaga three full hours after we would have arrived had our train not been stopped by the biblical floods.

I am immediately struck by the large size of the city. I had thought we would be arriving in a small coastal village, but Malaga is a large metropolis.

We stroll along a festive walking and shopping street festooned with holiday lighting. The surface is a polished marble not unlike the main street in Dubrovnik. Skinny, fun, smaller shopping streets branch off in odd directions from the main shopping street. We stop at a restaurante with outdoor seating facing the amazing Malaga Cathedral and order a fish and seafood paella that is both very filling and very delicious. Rioja house wine is our beverage. An excellent choice.

The Cathedral is simply stunning. We walk inside with our faces looking straight up at the splendor looming above and around us for about an hour.

Alcazaba, Malaga, Spain. Nov 29, 2017 (66)We then explore nearby Alcazaba, a medieval labyrinth with brick passageways, small Moorish doorways, and brick steps leading in all directions. Several times we find ourselves with a very nice view of Malaga and the seaport. A delight. In its heyday, this was surely a romantic place for a walk with a loved one. To top off the Alcazaba, we stumble upon Teatro Romano, a medieval theatre that surely was the venue for many a play or performance. The photos I shot while in Malaga are here.

In the end, we find ourselves on a higher speed train than the one we were bumped off of in the morning. We are heading back to Sevilla, wishing we had more time for surprisingly pleasant Malaga. The train upgrade is a compensation from the train company for our morning inconvenience.

Day Trip to Cordoba

Thursday, Nov 30th: We awake to clear skies after the Wednesday deluge of rain and clouds. We hop on the 8 am bus from Sevilla to Cordoba.

Our first stop in Old Town Cordoba is the incomparable Mezquita. A massive former Mosque that since the 16th Century has a Christian Chapel built in the very center of it. An astonishing place. One of the Wonders of the World. Indeed, I ask Maggie how it was possible that neither of us had ever heard of the place until now. Over 800 arches areMezquita, Cordoba, Spain. Nov 30, 2017 (17) inside. The contrast between the Muslim and Catholic symbolism is striking. We spend hours wandering around in wonder.

After Mezquita, we have lunch at a small, quiet, out-of-the-way restaurant (Casa Mazal) in the Jewish Quarter. The food was DELICIOUS. Maybe the best lunch I had ever eaten.

After lunch, we stroll the lovely, romantic little cobblestone streets that move in all manner of crooked, confusing, delightful directions. The sun in the clear skies is so brilliant that it hurts our eyes.

Unfortunately, our time is rushed, as our train leaves for Sevilla in the afternoon.

Back in Sevilla, we stop at a very nice tapas bar/restaurant and dine on very good food. We nailed two consecutive tasty meals in a row today! After dinner, we walk down an impressively busy, bustling, lovely shopping street (Teutan?). So full of happy strollers that it seems like a “paseo” (an evening community stroll). I could not stop taking photos of the beautiful lighted streets and people.

From dinner, we walk across Old Town to a house now converted to a Flamenco singing and dancing venue (Tablao Alvarez Quintero). The acoustic guitar based performance is riveting. I have never before seen live Flamenco singing and dancing, and am quite impressed. The dancer and singer display pride and anger in their movements and facial expressions. Very, very good.

On the way home, we pass several bars that are overflowing with huge numbers of chatty beer and wine drinkers. We stop in one of them for a beer. The beer and wine, we notice, is in the one to two euro price range. Sevilla late at night is a party town containing what seems like the Spanish version of German beer halls.

The photos I shot while in Cordoba are here.


Friday, Dec 1: We train from Sevilla to Madrid on a crystal clear day late in the morning. Our first destination is the infamous Plaza Mayor, historic site of much mischief in the name of the Catholic god by the immensely cruel Spanish Inquisition. At this Plaza, countless “heretics” were executed or tortured. Today the Plaza is filled with silly amusements for tourists. A stark contrast.

After failing to find a tour guide-recommended restaurant, we opt for a random place on the outer walls of Plaza Mayor based on the charming medieval arches and walls within. It turns out to be a stroke of luck, as the food and wine are stupendous.

Dinner is followed by our walking at a brisk pace (it is now icy cold and very windy in Madrid) toward the Prado Museum. Unfortunately, the line is several blocks long. Forget that! We continue down the street to the Reina Sofia Museo to visit the stunning, larger-than-life Guernica masterpiece by Picasso.

On the way back from the Museo, we cross the heart of Madrid: Puerto del Sol – an Madrid, Spain. Dec 1, 2017 (42)immense and always festive piazza. Tonight Puerto del Sol is jammed with happy people – tens of thousands crowd the piazza and nearby walking streets. We stumble upon what appears to be an annual event where a massive crush of people are squeezed into three or five street blocks to watch an animated Christmas holiday show being performed on a building façade by little mechanical elves and snowmen.

Throughout our walk in Madrid, we are stunned by the stellar, ornamental, monumental buildings and architecture. Truly a MONUMENTAL, world class city. Madrid shows off much of its architecture by lighting up the building facades at night with brightly colored lights. If only American cities had a decent collection of such lovable buildings to flaunt at night with lights!

We don’t.


Saturday, Dec 2: Our apartment sits on a vibrant walking street in Madrid. Despite my fears, we are not awoken overnight by the 24/7 party atmosphere just outside our 2nd story balcony. But our earlier plans to enjoy bicycling in Madrid today are put on hold. It is chilly and in the 30s this morning! Spain is unseasonably cold for our trip.

“Breakfast” is at the world famous Chocolatería San Ginés, said to be the best chocolatier in all of Madrid, and a place that has had a long list of famous customers in its over 100 years of existence (including Audrey Hepburn, Penélope Cruz, Tina Turner, Stevie Wonder, Sophia Loren, Tony Curtis and Naomi Campbell). All seats were filled when we were there, and EVERYONE was enjoying dipping their churros into chocolate sauce.

We walk to the Royal Palace (Palacio Real), which is only a short walk from our Madrid accommodations. The sumptuous splendor of the rooms (there are 2,800 of them in the palace!) is mind-blowing. When one looks up “over the top” in the dictionary, there is a drawing of this palace.

Upon departing, the sun is out and it is warm enough to bike, so we rent a couple of “Donkey Rental Bikes” to sample bicycling in Madrid. We discover that the large park behind the palace is off limits to bicycling, as are the gardens in front of the Edifico Espana palace that we stumble upon. The superb Gran Via shopping street in Madrid, we also learn, is not very bikeable at all (the occasional “sharrow” is dangerously out nearPlaza de Cibeles, Madrid, Spain. Dec 1, 2017 (20) the middle of the heavy traffic street). So we walk the Gran Via.  We enjoy the Puente de Cibeles city hall (?), which is impressively ornamental inside and out. We then enjoy bicycling in the very large Parque de El Retiro flanking Madrid Old Town.

Overall, I’d give Madrid a 2 or 3 on a scale of 10 for bicycling quality.

After bicycling, we visit the Mercado San Miguel. As it always seems to be, the place is PACKED with happy, festive customers hungrily jostling for more and more tapas to gobble down (and washing it down with great Spanish wine). We enjoy a delicious salmon tapa, sardine tapa, octopus tapa, cod fish tapa, tuna tapa, squid ink and seafood paellas tapa, and raspberry tapa. Along with a few glasses of tinto (red) Spanish wine.

We walk to La Gayalos restaurant – reputed to serve outstanding paella. Along the way, the streets of downtown Madrid are utterly JAMMED with people out walking. It is as if New Year’s Eve at Times Square is occurring on every street in downtown Madrid. I have never seen so many walking people packed onto streets before. And these were not tiny streets. Utterly astonishing.

At La Gayalos, we have black rice paella with shrimp and squid. Superb. The chef comes out to serve our paella onto our plates from the pan, and at the end of the meal brings out a Spanish brandy: Spanish Grappas. Very tasty end to an excellent meal.

Later that night below our 2nd story apartment balcony on a Madrid walking street, an acoustic guitar player and opera singer performed. An unexpected treat.

The photos I shot while in Madrid are here.

We will be sorry to be leaving Madrid.

Day Trip to Toledo

Sunday, Dec 3:  We learn at the Madrid train station that we need to be at the OTHER Madrid station to get the direct train to Salamanca, our planned day trip today. So we opt to instead go to our other day trip option: Toledo. Salamanca will be tomorrow.

Alcazar and Tagus River, Toledo, Dec 3, 2017 (3)Toledo is spectacular medieval charm, as always. The entire city, after all, is designated as a world heritage site.

We enjoy walking (and getting lost several times) on the crooked, often nameless streets. Fortunately for us, many of our church and museum destinations are free on Sunday, including the military history museum, which we very much enjoy.

The Cathedral of Toledo knocks our socks off with its splendor, as it does to everyone else who visits.

The photos I shot while in Toledo are here.

One thing we have noticed in our Spain travels overall, by the way, is that the trains are impressively spotless in cleanliness. Or as they might say, the trains in Spain are mainly without stain!


Monday, Dec 4: We board a metro subway train at Puerta del Sol to get to a Madrid train station. That station will take us directly to Salamanca, a charming, medieval college town in the remote northwest of Spain. The college there was established in the 13th Century and is the oldest in Spain.

It is a very chilly day in Salamanca, so we skip our plans to rent bikes. Too bad, since Salamanca has a very nice bike route system that circles the old town.

The city turns out to be far more impressive than I had anticipated. The medieval streets and buildings are wonderful – particularly the main cathedral.Plaza Mayor, Salamanca, Spain, Dec 4, 2017 (16)

For lunch, we have a very, very good tapas meal overlooking Plaza Mayor in Salamanca. It is a bustling place. We order several tapas overflowing with delicious seafood. Along with two glasses of nice red wine, our final bill is $13. Surely there is a mistake. Is there a zero missing in our bill??

We have a bit of a SNAFU on our return train trips. First, we struggle to exit as our train cards are not opening the gates to let us out. Then we get on a train going the wrong direction for our destination. But we figure things out, and end up at the Mercado San Miguel again for another round of sumptuous tapas for dinner.

The photos I shot while in Salamanca are here.


Tuesday, Dec 5: We hop on a luxurious bullet train to be whisked from Madrid to Barcelona. The countryside shows of mountains and a very arid landscape. Looks a lot like the American southwest – albeit with olive trees here in Spain.

The trip is only 2.5 hours due to the speed of the train. We are served a large and tasty breakfast as part of our train ticket.

In Barcelona, we immediately have smiles on our faces. This is a great, fun city. After checking in at our apartment up the street from Las Ramblas, our first errand is to rent a few Donkey bikes. The weather is sunny and warm. Much more pleasant than the frigid Barcelona, Dec 5, 2017 (1)cold we experienced while in Madrid. The bicycling is fun and impressively safe in this big city. We bike down Catalunya, walk through the incomparable Las Ramblas, and get on the bikes again for a ride along the marina and waterfront (near the Christopher Columbus statue/tower). We also have great fun riding in the wonderful, historic, kissing street neighborhood of the Barri Gotic (getting lost over and over again, happily).

I would give Barcelona a 6 or 7 regarding bicycling system quality. On the downside for transportation, Barcelona is afflicted with a large number of enormous, hostile streets. Many are 4- and 6-lane one-way roads that have very high car speeds. Even when on a bike lane or protected bike lane, I found bicycling unnerving at times.

Barcelona has many sex shops. Seemingly more than even Amsterdam. We visit the Cathedral of Barcelona for another WOW experience. Outside the Cathedral, we enter a market of vendors selling a dizzying number of Christmas manger figurines. Bizarrely, I notice that on top of one of the vendor carts, there are two male figures squatting to poop. The next morning, I very coincidentally see a posting from a Facebook friend who reports on this strange Catalonian tradition. She reports that “…[f]or at least the past two centuries, the traditional nativity scene in Catalonia has included a character called a caganer. In polite terms, the best translation is ‘the defecator.’ When residents were asked what the tradition is about, they seemed confused and came up with varying answers: ‘It’s typical of Catalonia. Each house buys one for Christmas, I don’t know why (we do it), it’s just a tradition.’ or ‘There was the legend that if a countryside man did not put a caganer in the nativity scene, he would have a very bad year collecting vegetables,’ he said, claiming that the figurine is a symbol of fertility and good fortune.”

Later, after a surprisingly long search, we opt for a restaurant on Plaza Reial (considered by some to be Barcelona’s best-loved porticoed square) after comparison shopping the many restaurant options on the square. Delicious black ink seafood paella and tinto wine.


Wednesday, Dec 6: Our day starts with our stumbling upon a very large demonstration by Barcelonians marching to oppose the separatist efforts by the Catalonians.

We visit three of the most famous Gaudi creations in Barcelona. Today is Bizzaro World, Barcelona, Dec 5, 2017 (29)so we visit Casa Batllo, Casa Milla, and Sagrada Familia. Next, we spend a lot of time bicycling in the Barri Gotic neighborhood (see photo at left). Big smiles on our faces while we ride in this stupendously enjoyable place. Every street beckons us with its charm. I could visit Barcelona, spend weeks doing nothing but walking or bicycling in the Barri Gotic neighborhood, and have the time of my life.

We serendipitously stumble upon ancient, unearthed stone ruins and view them for an hour or so.

Next we enter Santa Maria del Mar Cathedral, which is quite impressive (as are so many European cathedrals).

We walk through an absolutely crushing number of Barcelonians browsing a vendor outdoor sale of a dizzying number of Christmas manger and manger figurines. What is it with the Spanish and mangers (and manger figurines)? We have seen so many of them sold in Spanish towns on our trip. Included was a large set of “pooping boys.” We areBarcelona, Dec 5, 2017 (35) VERY tempted to buy a set today. Especially when we saw a vendor selling pooping famous figures, like Obama, Bob Marley, Trump, etc. They are surely a collectors item. Big crowd of people gathered around this evening to snap photos of them. What an ODD tradition!

Dinner is at the very homey and locals popular Petra restaurant. I have a delicious meal of cod mixed with purple potato gnocchi, pumpkin sauce, and vegetables.

 Day Trip Montserrat

Thursday, Dec 7: We hop on a bus for a guided group tour of the highly popular Montserrat, a “serrated” mountain with an extremely important history – it was instrumental in bringing Christianity to Barcelona.

We see (and learn) much about Barcelona on our bus ride. Montserrat is unusually shrouded in a cloud, which gives it a spooky appearance. At Montserrat, we hike to the San Miguel cross high up on a ridgeline about the town, Impressive views.

Dom and Maggie, Montserrat, Spain. Dec 7, 2017 (33)I then opt to wait in a line for over a half hour to see the highly beloved “Black Madonna” in the Basilica, which was found in the 9th Century and spurred the creation of the Christian community in Montserrat.

After that, Maggie and I enjoy a Tuscan soup, and FOUR (!) complimentary shot glasses of four versions of a very tasty liquor.

The photos I shot while in Montserrat are here.

Back in Barcelona, we happily get on our bicycles for another fun ride experience in the city. Maggie spots a craft beer place, so I insist we stop so I can sample their wares. I try an Espiga (Blackcelona) Imperial Stout. It is extremely tasty. The way an Imperial Stout should taste.

We visit a much-talked-about neighborhood transportation experiment being conducted in Barcelona: The “Superblock.” The Superblock is intended to improve quality of life and reduce air pollution, noise pollution, and safety problems by reducing the amount of car traffic within connected city blocks.

According to a 2017 book I am now reading, Barcelona was substantially failing to meet European Union air quality standards, and car emissions were an important reason. The City learned that 85 percent of its public space in a typical city neighborhood was being consumed by cars. In response, a pilot program has been started to address these problems. Started in 2016, nine city blocks are aggregated into a “superblock.” Within the superblock, car access is strongly limited but not completely prohibited. Car traffic declined within the superblock by 40 percent, which noticeably improved air quality and freeing up a lot of new space for people, cafes and playgrounds.

The Superblock we visited was very interesting. A few of the very large intersections have been retrofitted to include a kiddie playground. Trees in large planters are used to close off street lanes. Single lanes in the Superblock are “sharrows” (lanes where cars and bicycles share the lane safely). It appears that only neighborhood vehicles (how doSuperblock near Sagrada Familia, Barcelona. Dec 7, 2017 (63) they regulate that?) and service vehicles are allowed within the Superblock. The Superblock we saw seemed to be relatively “permeable,” which was a fear I had when I first heard of the idea – that a Superblock might be inwardly turning by putting its back to the outside world and creating what amounts to an urban gated community. But the Superblock we saw does allow car, bicycle and walking traffic to pass through.

The Superblock was quiet and seemed very safe for bicycling and walking. But it seemed rather dead and lifeless. Many blank walls and other blank building designs deaden the streets, as do the overly wide streets, overly wide sidewalks, many vacant lots, and overly generous building setbacks. We also did not see any “activating” buildings on the street, such as cafes, bars, restaurants, or retail. No “third places,” in other words. In sum, it appears that the Superblock idea might have some potential over time, but the example we saw in Barcelona seems a long way off of being a great place. For starters, the Superblock needs to have skinny, human-scaled streets and intersections.

We are in search of churros with chocolate sauce, but the THREE places we stop at in the Barri Gotic neighborhood all have very long lines of hungry customers (each place has no seating due to their capacity crowds). We have now seen these long churro lines several times in more than one Spanish city. The Spanish seem to LOVE churros and chocolate!


Friday, Dec 8: We get a very early start because the day before, our Montserrat guide had given us the handy tip that entry to Park Guell – a Gaudi creation – has free entry just before their official morning opening time. Unfortunately for us, the park opens at 8:30 am, not the 8:00 am we were told about. The second misfortune for us this morning is that unbeknownst to us, very steep hill climbing on our bikes will be required to ascend to the park. A tiring way to wake up!

Park Güell, Barcelona. Dec 8, 2017 (41)Curving tile formations are everywhere, as are stone pillars and caverns and caves for this hilltop park. Park Guell is a place where Dr. Suess meets Fred Flinstone. In sum, his Park Guell was very interesting, and in many ways admirable and appropriate.

Gaudi’s building designs in the city outside of the park are certainly remarkable. His design of buildings is worth seeing to check out Bizarre World. It is like being on LSD without taking the drug.

I strongly dislike the modernist (ie, innovation is the imperative) design that Gaudi was a pioneer of. Modernism is a failed paradigm, and in my opinion, Gaudi is a failed architect. We know that because successful design is replicated over and over again (indeed, replication is the biggest compliment that can be paid to a design). When touring Gaudi’s buildings, it is strikingly obvious that almost NONE of his ideas have been replicated. He threw timeless design that has been loved for most of human history out one of his weirdo windows and replaced it with things that are so impractical and unloved that none of it has been replicated.

Gaudi should have stuck to designing parks and leaving buildings alone.

We bicycle back to our apartment along a very nice, tree-lined boulevard. Little did we know that the “Fiasco of the Day” was awaiting us.

After preparing at the apartment for the remainder of our last full day in Spain, we depart for lunch. European door locks have always befuddled me, and this strongly contributed to what is about to happen.

I make it a habit to ALWAYS keep my keys in my pants pocket. But today, I opt to follow Maggie’s habit over the past few days to leave our apartment keys in the keyhole of the backside (inside) of the door. When we move through the first door of our apartment (there are, oddly, two separate lockable doors), I forget to pull the key out of the keyhole to take with us. At the instant our first door shuts behind us, a horrifying thought explodes in my head: OUR KEYS ARE INSIDE THE APARTMENT DOOR!!!!!

There are two huge problems with that. One, our apartment door automatically locks without a key when it shuts behind us. Two, we had been in the habit of locking the outer second door when retiring in the apartment each night. What that meant is that we now had the crushing, slightly panicky realization that we are trapped inside this tiny 2 ft by 3 ft vestibule with locked doors on either side of us! And no keys. Yikes.

Maggie retains her reasoning skills enough to call the hotel proprietor to inform him what has happened.

The first solution tried is to send the cleaning lady to unlock our door. We wait over a half hour for her to arrive. While waiting, I contemplate what we would have done if we had to spend days inside that vestibule prison. Try to break down the door like in those TV detective shows? Resort to cannibalism?

When the cleaning lady arrives, the next awful event occurs. Her key will not open the inner door, since our keys on the other side of the lock are preventing her key from unlocking the door!

We call the proprietor again to report the latest debacle. He informs Maggie we will need to pay for a locksmith, and the locksmith will be both difficult to find due to the holiday this day, and very expensive (due to the holiday). Maggie admirably and firmly points out to him that since we were given no clear instructions about locking the doors, we are not liable for what Dom had stupidly done (forget the keys). Fortunately, the proprietor learns that he will be covered by his insurance.

The locksmith, we are told is 90 minutes away. So we opt to find lunch in the meantime. Unfortunately, we are unable to find an acceptable place before we must return to meet the locksmith. The locksmith arrives, and in a flash he opens the locked door.

For lunch, we visit a highly popular tapas restaurant in the Barri Gotic quarter. The night before, we passed by and I noted with extreme envy that the place was PACKED with happy, hungry tapas costumers. As the Beastie Boys would say, you would have to fight for your right to TAAAAAPAAAAASSSSSSS. Just the way I prefer it! (could anything be more enjoyable?) But this afternoon, the place is nearly empty. We go in anyway and enjoy great tapas.

Happily for us, these lost hours are not a crushing blow, as we had time to burn before starting our last Barcelona experience: the Magic Fountains.

We arrive by the easy-to-use Barcelona metro subway at the Montjuic. Before the show, we marvel at the immensity of the Olympic facilities near the fountain, as well as the splendid and enormous palace that is today a museum. Impressive to what extent the city had put so much time and money and effort into their selection as the 1992 host city for the Olympics. Besides the Olympic facilities, the city actually re-located a number of large industrial operations out of the city.

It probably paid off, as Barcelona, ever since those Olympics and accompanying world exposure, has been a huge draw for millions of tourists throughout the world.

The Magic Fountain show is, as it was when I first saw it eight years ago, quite…well… magical. A masonry wall rings the fountain pool. Unfortunately, while this arrangement accommodated hundreds of Barcelonians as they joined hands and danced to the Dom and Maggie at Magic Fountain, Barcelona. Dec 8, 2017 (12)choreographed colored lights, water, and music, the wall is now roped off, so we did not see much dancing.

On Saturday morning, as we prepare to depart Barcelona and Spain, we find a restaurant in downtown Barcelona that serves us a wonderful breakfast. A fitting farewell to Spain.

The photos I shot while in Barcelona are here.

All in all, we enjoy Spain enough to want to return.

And no, we did not return to a lot of snow in Colorado, as we (actually, just Dom) had hoped. Not a flake of snow has fallen in Boulder for over a month.


Categories: 2011-Present, Adventure by Location, Adventure Chronologically, Beyond North America, By Type of Adventure, Miscellaneous | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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