Friday, September 30, 2005

Hello everyone,
We are back now after an exhausting journey home on Wednesday. An overloaded plane caused us to leave Rome late plus the head winds from Rita made our trip extra long and so we missed our connecting flight to South Bend. We couldn't get on the last one out of Detroit so we flew to Fort Wayne where Matt Coleman was waiting for us--any excuse for a road trip!
Monday was spent at the Vatican--all day. It was stupendous--from St. Peter's Basilica to the underground tombs of the popes to the arduous trek through the Vatican Museum to see the Sistine Chapel. I never thought I'd get to see any of those places and they were all as marvelous as I imagined.
Tuesday we hiked all over the ancient ruins of the Forum, the Coloseum and the Palatine Hill. Unbelievable to think how long those places have existed and yet they still can inspire dreams of greatness.
Chip was in his glory in Rome, reliving those college days of thirty years ago. We found the place where he lived and we followed many of the paths around town that he remembered. But, where can we find gelati in South Bend?
Thanks to Melissa Fox of SJCPL for suggested and helping set up the blog and to all our co-workers for picking up the slack while we were gone. Thanks to all of you friends and family who found it and read our daily messages and sometimes even commented. We will try to add the last week of pictures sometime soon.
Arrivederci and A Bientot !
from Trish and Chip and Kathy and Bill

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Made it to Roma! Sorry, no pictures for now, since we're in an internet cafe on the Piazza Barberini. Florence was great, but crowded. We found ourselves among masses of tourists, who should have all gone back to work.

Yesterday, we went to mass in Il Duomo at 5:00pm, which happened to be an English speaking mass. On the way there, we observed a wine festival parade, celebrating the start of the grape harvest. Pictures to follow. Best deal of the weekend for us: We got in free to the Uffizi Gallery and the Pitti Palace/Boboli Gardens due to a special two day Art Festival. Times up, must upload.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Thursday was our lost day. We spent most of the day on two trains, first from Nice to Milano, then Milano to Firenze. The scenery was beautiful and the ride uneventful except the change in Milano. We didn't know exactly which train or track to switch onto, and the language difference reared its ugly head. However, we bluffed our way through this, and ended up on the right train, in the right car, and even in our correct seats. It's late, and we'll blog again tomorrow, but the sneak preview of Florence is: Lots of people, lots of lines and lots of stairs. Buona Notte.


The Nice Train Station: Leaving for Italy.

















Our Nice Hotel...packing the car.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Wednesday

After a quick breakfast, we piled into the car, and headed for Nice. The trip was great, and they say Chip did a good job driving. Kathy thinks he was born to race cars, judging by the acceleration out of the toll booths. Average speed to Nice was 140 km/hour, and this wasn’t even the autobahn.

We arrived in Nice at midday, found our hotel, turned in our car and headed for the Marc Chagall Museum. What a great collection of (primarily) biblical works…the largest in the world. One example follows:

Our intention was to head for the beach afterward, but on the way back, it started to rain. Our first rain day! We sat in a café, drinking wine, and people-watched for over an hour, hoping it would stop. It didn’t, so we headed back to the room to wait for dinnertime. This seems to be our pattern…eat and drink, walk and talk, sleep, then do it again. BTW, Trish’s ankle is healing well and she can almost walk normally again. Kudos to Bill for speaking our way through France; Chip would have had everyone thinking we were dead after every meal, instead of being “finished”. Such language nuances! Tomorrow, we have seven hours on a train before arriving in Firenze (Florence). Arrivederci France!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Tuesday

Arles is medieval walled city with narrow streets and Roman ruins. There is a reason why all the European cars are small…the typical corridor in a US high school is wider than most streets in Arles. Being mobile, we drove to Cassis on the southern shore of France along the Mediterranean Sea. We had a brief side trip to Fos sur la Mer when our navigation system went astray. All ended well, however, as the town was quaint, and had one interesting ruin which we visited.



Kathy at Saint Saveur a Fos sur la Mer
Cassis was a great seaside town, largely unspoiled by tourism. We ate the US equivalent of lunch, then walked along the beach side quay. Chip and Bill offered to help the ladies who appeared to have misplaced parts of their bathing attire. Trish and Kathy didn’t notice anyone who needed our help. Tant pis.

Cassis Harbor
On the way out of town, we stopped by a local vineyard. We found a suitable white and bought two bottles plus one rose. Next stop: Aix en Provence. Only, we didn’t stop. The city was so crowded and the traffic so horrendous we all decided to continue back to Arles for dinner. Side note: In Europe, breakfast is usually between 8 and 10; lunch is later in the afternoon, as most place close between noon and 2. Dinner is not served until 8 in the evening until 10 or 11.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Sunday, our last day in Paris, started with mass at St. Augustin. We went to the children’s mass in the “Basse” or basement. Very French…didn’t understand much, but always knew where we were in the service. Mass was followed by brunch at the Café Roussillot where Kathy and Chip had some of the best pasta (ravioli) in cream sauce ever. That afternoon, we tried to see the Tuilerie Gardens, the Louvre (from the outside) and the Musee D’Orsay. We spent most of our day at the Orsay, admiring the impressionist art and mix of architecture. Our favorite painting was a Van Gogh that none of us had seen before. Sorry, no picture of it. A quick pick-me-up at the Café L’Alma (the official bar of the Bulgarian Embassy) preceded our most “touristy” thing yet: A sunset cruise on the Seine in a Bateau-Mouche. Dinner was déjà vu for Kathy when, while looking for a sports bar called Thoumieux, we happened on Le Petit Nicois, a delightful Parisian restaurant where Kathy and her parents (that’s Wayne Harsh for you library types) ate during their 1998 European tour. Chip had the mussels and the wine was a gold medal award winner from the Paris festival of 2003. We enjoyed an outstanding meal in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower which was surpassed only by the remarkable spontaneous return to Le Petit Nicois. Late night packing kept us from completing this blog entry in preparation for early Monday check out and the TGV trip to Avignon.

Imagine the fastest train you’ve ever been on in the USA. Now triple or quadruple that speed, and you might approach the speed of the TGV. It’s France’s answer to the Japanese Bullet Train, and it does a maximum of 220mph. We traveled from Paris to Avignon in 2 hours and 45 minutes…a 500+ mile trip. We had a rental car waiting, and toured the city after picking up a VW Passat. All six bags fit the trunk without a problem. All four of us comfortably in the car. We walked the hilly fortress streets of the old city. One by one, we each tripped and (nearly) fell on the ancient cobblestones…all except Trish. (This is called foreshadowing, for you literary types.) We toured the Musee du Petite Palais, which had an incredible collection of paintings from 1300 to 1500, including one original Sandro Botticelli. Most were religious themes from churches and chapels of the period.

The car trip to Arles was exciting but relatively uneventful. The French are definitely interested in fast driving. With Bill as the navigator, Chip driving, we successfully negotiated many roundabouts. However, nothing prepared us for the hills of Arles or the location of our hotel on the narrowest, busiest street in the city. Unloading the luggage was miraculous; parking was a nightmare. Once settled in, we made our plans for the evening, with Trish flitting from room to room. (Jonas’s are separated from us by three steps and a landing.) One thing about this hotel: They have timed lights that go off automatically. This renders the space between our rooms nearly lightless. OK, here’s the part where Trish slips and falls, spraining her ankle. So much for the dinner plans and possibly some of the touring tomorrow! We ate in: Cheese, wine, beer, quiche, and bread…and caught up on our blogging. Adieu!

Sunday, September 18, 2005


So much to say...so much was seen today. We began with coffee and hot chocolate at a local cafe...Metro ride to the Ile de Cite...lunch in the Cafe de Soleil d'Or...tour of Notre Dame de Paris. Visited the new memorial to the victims of the Nazi deportation during WWII...very simple architecture with a powerful message. Walked along the Seine and tasted regional foods and wines from a group of vendors from southwest France. Found Sainte Chappelle closed for two days (not sure why). Rushed to the Picasso Museum to find it closed for "security reasons". Someone had taped up a written response, critical of the closure...others added there own comments. We weren't the only ones disappointed by this. Back to the hotel for a brief respite, then dinner (very good, small restaurant, great desserts) then the Eiffel Tower at night. See for yourself.