28 August 2006

New Rules for French Train Travel

I recently made a reservation for train travel here and was so surprised to see that new rules apply to the French train system. I received the following message from SNCF...the French rail company. I suppose it is in response to recent events in the world today.

Confirmation of your order
Hello madam FAIGLE

You have placed an order on our
voyages-sncf.com site the 28/08/2006 at 09h49 and we thank you. You are reminded of the details below:
We would remind you that your luggage should have labels giving your name, first name and address.

To ensure departures TGV under the best conditions, it from now on is requested from the whole of travellers TGV to reach the train at the latest 2 minutes before the time of departure indicated on their transport document.

22 August 2006

Summer Road Trip 2006 - Italy

Treviso, Venice and Parma...Oh how I love Italy. Even the outrageous summer crowds cannot hide Italy's beautiful spirit. And the crowds were really overwhelming in Venice. What were we thinking going to Venice in mid-August??? In spite of it all, Mike, Nathan and Celia enjoyed a quick glance at one of my favorite cities in Europe. We all swore to return in the Fall when the crowds have left.

Before we stopped for lunch in Venice, we went window shopping through the narrow winding alleys. Celia loved the romantic masks of the Carnival...Nathan was fascinated by the models of the medieval soldiers...Mike and Mary were entranced by the Murano glass and the incredible chandeliers. We had lunch in a quiet and very tasty restaurant on a teeny alley near Piazzo San Marco. After lunch, the previously somewhat quiet side streets were packed to the brim. When we finally made our way to the Piazza, we discovered that at least two-thirds of it was covered in water due to the high tides. All of the masses of people were squeezed into the tiny areas left. The church was closed to tourists due to the almost four inches of water lapping at the stairs. This turned a bearable crowd into complete chaos bordering on hysteria...God forbid they get their feet wet! We quickly agreed to skeedaddle out of there to return in a more calm time period! Even the vapretto ride was markedly more chaotic than the mornings water taxi in. We all breathed a sigh of relief when we hit the autostrada out of there!

Summer Road Trip 2006 - Vienna Continued

Vienna was definitely a cultural experience. Museums, churches and concerts everywhere. The museum above was the Sissi museum...one wing was completely full of incredible handpainted, gilded, silvered, mirrored pieces of you name it...chamber pots, table decor, serving pieces...such incredible wealth some barely used at all. No wonder the monarchy lost its popularity!

We attended a night concert of Mozart pieces. The musicians were dressed and arranged as they might have been in the 1800s and the pieces were presented in the type and arrangement as was popular then in Vienna. It was very beautiful. You didn't need much imagination to picture Vienna as it was.

Summer Raod Trip 2006 - Vienna

Vienna was such an approachable city much to my surprise. It really helped to have our friends as our wondeful tour guides. We really enjoyed staying with them in their beautiful home just a short ride outside of the city center by the underground train. It makes it a different stay to not be in a hotel in a city. The pictures are of the Hofburg palace...designed after Versailles...and the Vienna zoo in the beautiful gardens of the palace.

21 August 2006

Summer Road Trip 2006 - Melk Austria

As a side trip on our way from Salzburg to Vienna, we stopped for a visit to the incredible abbey in Melk, Austria and lunch.

Celia and I were amazed by the awesome library...floor to ceiling shelves overflowing with volumes of hand printed books with beautiful illustrations. The book shown here is a book on plants and nature.

The church itself was so beautiful. I long ago stopped keeping track of my favorite churches in Europe as they all astound me with their opulence and beauty. A short mass was taking place at noon as we came into the church. Even though the language was completely foreign, the beautiful sounds of the prayers echoing through the heights of the building and making their way up into the heavens gave me shivers. I am not sure I could ever get tired of looking at the beautiful chapels and paintings and sculptures in the churches in Europe.

19 August 2006

Summer Road Trip 2006 - Salzburg

These are photos from the surprisingly compact city of Salzburg. Petite, yet so complex in its culture and music. It was definitely the year of Mozart! We went to this marionette theatre and saw a performance of Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail or The Abduction from the Seraglio. It was the first time any of us had seen an opera and with the help of the subtitles, it was very interesting. The marionettes were incredible...about 3 feet tall and as impeccably costumed as a real opera might be. We heard a rehearsal of the nightly organ recital in the cathedral and took a tour of the Mozart home.

Summer Road Trip 2006 - Germany Continued

The steel ball in the sculpture piece is my only proof of existence on this trip. Mike claims I wasn't there and I used this photo to prove him wrong!! The tall trees are the same type of redwoods found in California. We felt very connected to our former home while gazing at their splendor.

Mainau Island is home to a beautiful castle as well as incredible gardens. It is in the Bodensee or Lake Constance on the German/Swiss Border near Hedi and Manfred's house. We spent a grey, but mostly dry day wandering through the butterfly house, the park and the formal gardens and having a wonderful lunch on the terrace.

Summer Road Trip 2006 - Germany

We started our summer road trip with three days spent with our favorite German Aunt Hedi! Again we were spoiled with wonderful food and hospitality. We took day trips to Fussen...we failed to join a tour of Mad King Ludwig's castle (Sleeping Beauty's Castle at Disneyland is styled after it) due to the HUGE August crowds. What did we expect really?? In spite of this, we really enjoyed this quaint town. Hedi and Manfred said we were typical American tourists with our incessant need to drive long distances.