Thursday, March 8, 2018

Turning 65 on Diamond Head

Diamond Head overlooking Waikiki

I turned 65 November 2017.  It was not a joyous thought.  Turning 65 bothered me very much.  I started thinking about it and dreading it November 2016 when I turned 64.   Birthdays had not bothered me in many years.  The last birthday that I dreaded was my 30th.  I honestly thought I was getting old and was over the hill.  Thirty seemed so ancient.   After that birthday I was fine.  Turning 34 was easy.  Turning 40 never bothered.   But turning 65 was a jagged little pill to swallow.   

My daughters wanted to do something special for my birthday.  But I told them I did not want to do anything.  I was not wanting to celebrate this birthday.  I just wanted the day to pass and get it over with.  No thoughts, no party hats, just a quiet day to not thing about the dreaded 65.  Then my husband Mark asked me "What can we do to celebrate your birthday?"   I told him the same thing.  I did not want to do anything.  Maybe sit at home, turn on Turner Classic Movies and have a bottle, not glass, of wine.  But Mark knows my heart.  He knows my love of travel.   He said to me let's go somewhere.  Name the place and I will make it happen.   We talked about Italy as a possibility and a few other places.  And then Mark said "What about Hawaii."   And my eyes lit up!  There is no place either of us have enjoyed more than Hawaii.   

Ashton Waikiki Circle Hotel

So in mid November we found ourselves at the Ashton Waikiki Circle Hotel right on the beach in Waikiki.  We saw the hotel on our two previous trips to Waikiki and it had always caught our interest.  It's one of the older hotels on the strip but it's a fun hotel.  The round shape of the hotel gives the rooms an interesting shape and also great views from any angle.  Although our room was in the back we could still see the beach from an angle on our deck.   It was an affordable and interesting choice.

Shaka brah - cruising in our rented convertible 

We rented a convertible car and with the top down we enjoyed the sunshine and fresh air driving around the island.  And not once did I think about the dreaded birthday.  We drove up into the mountains, explored historic graveyards, and explored secluded beaches.  

We spent our evenings dining and drinking local Hawaiian brewed beers.  

I even got to give the one fingered salute to a certain politician who shall remain nameless on this blog.  

Where Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster embraced in waves in the movie From Here To Eternity

Two days before my birthday we explored the beaches on the north shore of Hawaii.  It's the winter season when the waves are tall so it was great fun to watch the big waves at Waimea and the other beaches.   We got to see the famous beach where Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster embraced in the surf.   I even got to take this 65 year old body for a nude dip on one of the north shore beaches.  You can thank me later  for not posting photos.

My plan was to climb Diamond Head on my birthday.  I thought it would be the perfect way to celebrate.  I had climbed Diamond Head three years earlier and knew it was a good hike.  So I did not want to wear myself out the day before and not be able to enjoy the hike on my birthday.  While we at the Maui Brewery Company, one of our favorite bars in Waikiki, the bar tender told us about Manoa Falls.  He said it was between Waikiki and Honolulu and had an easy trail and was very worth seeing.  Manoa Falls is located in Manoa Valley in the rain forest between Honolulu and Waikiki.  The falls is 150 feet high and empties into a small pool of water.  Since the area around the waterfall is considered a rain forest it is prone to heavy rainfall often raining daily.  We were told it was a beginner trail so we should not have problem.  So we decided why not?  We wanted to see the falls and it sounded like an easy hike.  So it should not interfere with out plans to hike Diamond Head the following day,

Manoa Falls - Oahu

The falls were beautiful.  And yes it does rain in that area every day.   And no the trail was not a beginners trail!  The first half of the hike was not difficult.  The trail was paved and wide for the most part.  But the second half was another story.  The trail narrowed and the tropical plants grew taller and thicker.  We ended up climbing wet slippery rock formations and sliding in muddy trails.  It was quite a journey.  It was a lot more than I had expected.  But it also was not an advanced or dangerous trail.  We were tired the next day, but we both agreed the climb up Diamond Head would happen.

Mark  and I on the trail to Manoa Falls

The next day was the big day.  And also it was our final day on Oahu.  So no matter how tired we were from our many days of walking and swimming this the day we had to climb Diamond Head.   

Field below Diamond Head as we begin our hike
We arrived at Diamond Head the next morning.  I was now officially 65 and it was time to finish the planned celebration.  The volcano seems impressive from the bottom.  But the hike is not difficult.  The hike up Diamond Head is only about 45 minutes.  It was much shorter than the  hike to Manoa Falls the previous day.  The path is wide and well paved with hand rails and  benches to stop and rest if you need them. 

Mark on the trail to the top of  Diamond Head

It's an easy climb but with heat and humidity on Oahu it is a bit tiresome.  There are wonderful views as you climb the base of the mountain.  When you get near the top there are steps you have to climb a set of steps so it best to know this in advance.  There are 74 four steps that lead to a tunnel.  

I survived the 74 steps and then made it through the tunnel

After leaving the tunnel you still are not at the peak of Diamond Head.  Once you leave the tunnel you see another set of steps.  99 steps this time.  You can hear the sighs and the voices saying "Oh no" as you leave the tunnel.  But it's really not that bad.  

The final 99 steps to reach the top of Diamond Head

Mark on top of Diamond Head with the volcano caldera behind him

And we made it. We climbed the trail, steps, and walked through the tunnel.   I turned 65 and I climbed Diamond Head.  And it was worth it.  I spent the dreaded day not thinking about the age, not   dreading the moment.  I realized once more, just as I did turning 30, that age does not define you.  It would have been a lot easier at 30 than at 65 to climb Diamond Head.  But it would not have been a major accomplishment at 30.  And I would have not appreciated the experience as much.  We are going back to Hawaii again this coming November.  I do not know if we will climb Diamond Head again or not.  I may just save that for turning 70.

Happy to be 65 on the top of Diamond Head

(Thank you Mark for making all of this happen.  You will never really understand how much I appreciated this.)

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Lost travel photos Shaken Not Stirred

Larry at Piz Gloria on the peak of Schilthorn  - Switzerland

Travel photos.   There are few things I enjoy more than travel photos.  I love taking them.  I love coming home and editing my photos.  I love posting them on the Internet and in blogs.  And I love looking at them over and over many times after my vacation ended.  Each time I view them I relive the experience of the trip all over again no matter how long ago the actual trip happened.

If you know me at all you probably know I am a huge James Bond fan.  And I have visited many James Bond movie locations in my travels.  I don't go out of my way to visit Bond sites, but if I am in the area and one is near by I do want my photo taken there.  In 2003 I got to visit one of the Holy Grail sites for Bond fans.   I was in Switzerland with my then partner.  I let him know with no question that while we were in Switzerland that I had to see Piz Gloria, Blowfeld's fortress from the movie On Her Majesty's Secret Service.  Piz Gloria is a rotating restaurant on top the peak of Schilthorn towering above the tiny Alpine community of Murren.   It's very isolated.  It is not easy to get there.  It is not one of those places where you can take a train, walk out of the station and say there it is.  You have to plan your way to get there.  There are no roads to reach Murren.  There are no cars in Murren.  We had to take a train from Bern to Interlaken Switzerland.  From Interlaken we took a train  to Lauterbrunner. Then from Lauterbrunner we had to take the narrow gauge train up the mountain to Murren.  The train station is at the north of the village.  From there we had to walk through the beautiful village of Murren to the Schilthornbahn .  This is a mountain cable car that takes you to the peak of Schilthorn  at 10,000 feet in the Alps.  There is also a stop and change in cable cars half way up at the station called Birg.  So you have to plan and prepare your journey if you are going to Piz Gloria.

Larry at the Schilthornbahn station of Birg

It was one of my favorite all time travel experiences to stand on the top of Schilthorn and see Piz Gloria. And it was such a wonderful photo opportunity. Neither my ex partner nor I had digital camera's at this time. We were still taking photo using film. And with film you can't take hundreds of photos to bring home and edit and delete the bad ones. You only have a few chances to get the right photo and then hope it turns our well when you get it developed. We ended up with a couple of good photos of he and I together at Piz Gloria and I had a couple of him alone at the location. It never dawned on me until we ended our relationship two years later that I did not have a photo of me alone at this Holy Grail of Bond fandom. I only had the photos of he and I and of him alone. So I have spent years angry at myself for never having my own individual photo taken at Piz Gloria. It was just a stupid mistake. 

Every time some one chats about Piz Gloria in one of the Bond fan groups I get angry all over again because I don't have of photo of myself to share with the group proving I had been there. And as each year passed I realized more and more that I would probably never have that opportunity to return there and take my photo. Last year my husband Mark and I went to Switzerland. It was my first time back since the trip with my ex back in 2003. I really wanted to return to Piz Gloria and take that long lost photo. But it was just too difficult. We were no where near Bern or Murren on this trip. And it would have been really out of our way to try and get there at this time. Although that was a disappointed I was still thrilled to be back in Switzerland and share this wonderful country with Mark. We visited my favorite cit y of Zurich. We went to several other mountain peak restaurants much like Piz Gloria. And I made sure to have solo photos taken as well as photos with Mark this time.

Mark and I at Uetilberg overlooking Zurich

Since the beginning of this new year it's been a very cold winter. I have spent a lot of time inside my house. I decided to take the time and organize some of my junk that I have need to sort through for a long time. Right now I am working on my home office. It's a bit of a disaster. I have a closet full of old scrapbook papers and supplies that I have not used in over ten years. I am taking them all to Goodwill. Hopefully some one will find good use for them. I also found several boxes of old photos. A lot of these were very old family photos. So I decided to scan them and share them with my daughters. Also in the box was several envelopes full of photos that I realized had been taken by my ex. I remember when we broke up almost 13 years ago now that I had gone through all of our photos and divided them up. We had duplicates made of all of our photos together so I took half of mine and left them with him and then took half of his duplicates and brought them with me. I really had no desire to look at old photos of him and I at the time so I just put them all in a box and packed them away when I moved. I had never really looked that close at his photos before as I was usually more interested in the one that I had taken. I was really surprised at some of the photos and have scanned them to save. And then suddenly there it is. A photo of me at Piz Gloria. I did not even remember him taking the photo. All these years being angry at myself for being so stupid about not having a photo taken and now here it is. The photo at the top of this blog is me at Piz Gloria from this collection of photos. The one above of me at Birg is also from this collection. I was really happy to see them. And seeing the Alpine peaks of Schilthorn seems kind of appropriate with all of the cold weather and ice outside. Below is one last photo of me at Piz Gloria. I will be using this in conversations in James Bond facebook groups and posting it to my Flickr account also very soon.

Larry at Piz Gloria
There is one last photo of me sitting inside the rotating restaurant having lunch. I will post it below. There is only one problem. I am not holding my James Bond martini in the photo. Can you believe that. I am so mad. No martini photo shaken not stirred. How stupid could I be. I will just have to find a way to get back to Schilthorn and Piz Gloria again. I guess some people are just never satisfied. Hey Mark can you book those tickets for Murren?

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

2017 - It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

Here I am on my 65th birthday at the top of Diamond Head.  

Happy New Year.  Looking back at 2017 is difficult at times.  In many ways it was the worst of times.    I am starting out the new year still hating that Donald Trump is our President but thankful Mike Pence is not the President.   So it could always be worse.   But I am not going to focus on the tragedy in Washington right now.  There were too many good things to celebrate about 2017.  I turned sixty five in November.  That's a land mark of sorts.   Starting in November 2016 I started dreading the next birthday.   Turning sixty five was really bothering me.  I honestly was depressed about it the entire year.  But looking back at the highlights of 2017 it's hard to believe I was depressed over my age. 

Trivia Team L & B in our ugly Christmas Sweaters 

One of the best things about 2017 was making new friends.   Mark and I joined a trivia team.   Team L and B.   We drove each week to Port Deposit, Md to eat mediocre food, play trivia, and laugh with some good friends.   Clare Pippin and Bonnie Campes and Johnathon Beltz became three of our best friends this year along with Todd and Laurie Starkey who joined us on many nights.   Also on our team was one of my dearest friends Barbara Snyder.  Barbara and I have a long history and this past year seeing her each week at trivia made our "old" friendship feel new and fresh all over again.  We laughed, we bashed Trump, and we all bonded.  Thank you Charm City Trivia for helping create this group.

Debbie  Harry in her save the bee's head dress
I got to meet some celebrities this year.  I always enjoy meeting celebrities.   I got to see Debbie Harry in concert in Atlanta.   My daughter Danielle and her wife Andrea invited me down to visit them and to go see Debbie in concert.   Opening the show was another favorite of mine.  Shirley Manson and Garbage.

Shirley Manson singing through a down pour

Shirley Manson had to stop her performance due to a thunderstorm that poured rain down on all of us.  But it didn't stop our fun.  We just danced in the rain and got soaked. 

I also go to meet a Bond girl this year.  Each year I go the the Mid Atlantic Nostalgia Convention to meet a new Bond girl.   This year I got to meet Maryam Dabo who starred in The Living Daylights.  She also wrote the huge coffee table book Bond Girls Are Forever.  I have a copy that I take to the convention each year to collect Bond girl autographs.  Maryam was honestly honored that I had her book and she sat down with me to look at the other autographs I had collected in the book.  Such a nice lady.
Maryam Dabo and me 

Meeting Cindy Williams.

I also got to meet Cindy Williams.  I have been a fan of hers since the 1970's   She was also very nice and seemed to enjoy meeting her fans.

2017 was also a good travel year for me.  I go to travel to Atlanta in August to visit Danielle and Andrea and also to Nashville with Katie.

Danielle at Chastain Park before the down pour on Shirley Manson

In October my daughter Katie invited me to travel with her to Nashville.  I had never been to Nashville so this was great fun.  It was an early birthday gift to me.  So turning 65 might not have been bad after all.   We had a wonderful time. We do not always get a lot of alone time together so this was very special.   

Katie and I at our favorite honky tonk in Nashville - The George Jones Museum and Bar
In May Mark and I traveled to Germany and my beloved Switzerland.  We were on this trip with our extended family member Gillian Hobson.  Gillian is our favorite traveling partner and we always have a great time with her.   We also got to see many of our old Virtual Tourist friends again after not seeing them for several  years.

Mark and I at Lake Zurich in Switzerland
Mark and I in Ulm Germany.

Few places make me happier than Zurich Switzerland.

Few places make me happier than Zurich Switzerland.  If I could chose a place to live out my retirement years Zurich would be near the top of my list.  Only one other place makes me happier.

Dreading the birthday in November I told my family I did not want a big party or celebration.  I just wanted to get the day over with and move on into my next year.  And most of all I wanted no surprise parties.  That would have been the worse.  But Mark told me he really wanted to do something for my birthday.  He said to me where would you like to go to.  I will make it happen.  That's a special offer I could not turn down.  So we flew back to Hawaii for our third time in five years.  For years Switzerland was my favorite place of all.  I mentioned above it would be near the top of where I would like to live out my retirement years.  That is because the island of Oahu would be at the top of that list.  Mark and I spent my birthday week walking along the isolated beaches of Oahu's north shore, climbing mountains to find water falls near Honolulu and then finally climbing Diamond Head on the day I turned 65.  That's is not a bad way to turn 65.

So what does the new year hold?   More Trump bashing I am sure.  Fun with the trivia team.   One or hopefully two travel adventures with Gillian.  And lots of home time with Mark doing household projects.   I do best watching and taking photos!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Traveling with the perfect cocktail

I love a Manhattan.  To me it's the perfect cocktail.  It has three ingredients.  It's has a history.  And it tastes delicious.  If I am out for a special evening a Manhattan is the perfect way to compliment my night.  It's not for the light weight drinker.  It's boozy. But if you sip it slowly it will not harm you so don't be afraid of it.

  Basically I would describe it as a whiskey martini.  But that is not giving it justice.  It is made with three ingredients.  Whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters.  It is garnished with a Maraschino cheery at most bars.  If you are at a higher class bar you will get a brandied cherry instead of the waxy chemically colored Maraschino.  Some bartenders use a lemon peel for the garnish but I honestly think the classic brandied cherry is the best.  However I will not turn up my nose or judge the bartender for the lemon peel.  And I usually have to accept the Maraschino cherry from most bars and I don't complain. 

Now the question is what kind of whiskey.  Most recipes call for a Kentucky bourbon or Canadian Whiskey.   And these days Rye whiskey is making a big come back in Manhattans.  This is the classic choice and the one I prefer.  Please don't offer me Crown Royale in my Manhattan. I am a bit of snob that way.

When  I travel I like to sample a Manhattan in the area I am visiting.  And it's fun to see how the different bartenders treat the three simple ingredients.  One of my favorite Manhattans came from a bar in Charleston, South Carolina named High Cotton.  If you have a Manhattan at High Cotton you will be transported back to the 1920's and think you are in a speakeasy.  Their recipe is simple and classic.  They don't experiment or try to wow you with new age additions.  The High Cotton Manhattan is made with bourbon  ,  Carpano Antica vermouth, a splash of bitters and brandy soaked cherries.  I would travel back to Charleston tomorrow just to have one of their Manhattans.  We frequently travel with out friend Gillian Hobson from Manchester, England.  We took her to Charleston four years ago and one of our first stops was to introduce her to the High Cotton Manhattan.  She left High Cotton with a very big smile on her face and a bounce to her step.

Larry and Mark having Manhattan's in Manhattan

Mark and I love New York.  And I love cocktails in New York.  Years ago when Sex and the City was popular I wanted to go to New York for a Cosmo just like Carrie Bradshaw.  It was fun.  But a few years later in New York I wanted the classic experience.  I wanted a Manhattan in Manhattan.  And I have to admit there is no comparison.  If your in New York you really owe yourself a Manhattan in Manhattan.  Historically it is suggested that the Manhattan originated at the Manhattan Club in New York.  The story goes it was invented by Dr. Iain Marshall in the early 1870's for a banquet hosted by  Jennie Jerome.  She is better known as Lady Randolph Churchill, mother of Wintson Churchill. The event was in honor of the Presidential candidate Samuel J. Tilden.  The event was such a success the drink became highly fashionable.    But don't let anyone fool you with this story. Lady Randolph Churchill was in France during this time and was very pregnant.  So the story is likely false.  Another story tell us it was invented in the 1860's at a bar on Broadway near Houston Street by a bartender named Black.  So no one really knows the origin of the cocktail but it does have a long history. 

Larry having a Manhattan in Manhattan February 2016

Mark and I were once again with our friend Gillian this time in New York.  We spent the day sight seeing.  This was Gillian's first trip to New York so we wanted to show her all of the sights.  At the end of a busy day we ended up in a bar not far from Wall Street where once again I had a Manhattan in Manhattan.  I must have had a couple of drinks because here I am afterwords grabbing the Wall Street bull by the balls. No explanations no apologies.  Go to New York.  Have a Manhattan in Manhattan and then share your story with me.

My next rule for Manhattans.  Watch your bartender.  A Manhattan is a simple drink.  Any good bartender can make one.  But if you have doubts about your bartender I suggest skipping the Manhattan and just order a glass of wine.  Why waste the experience on a bad drink.  My daughter Katie and I were in Nashville earlier this year.  We had spent the day walking and exploring the city.  At the end of our evening we wanted to relax and have a cocktail before returning to our hotel.  We found a beautiful cocktail bar called The Henley at the Aertson Hotel in Nashville.  The bar was decorated with photos of Bette Davis's eyes.  So this made me happy.  I noticed the bartender was young.  She was probably in her early 20's.  So I asked her politely if she knew how to make a Manhattan.  She looked at me and smiled and said "Oh, of course."  So I ordered a Manhattan.  Then I watched her closely.  She did not go to pick up the bourbon, or the vermouth or the bitters.  She went to pick up her cocktail bible.  She had no idea how to make a Manhattan.  I knew then it was not going to be a good experience.  And she did make it wrong.  And she did forget the cherry until I reminded her. 

Bette Davis's eyes were not smiling at the Manhattan

My main rule about Manhattans is to not mess with it.  Don't experiment with it.  Don't try to update the recipe or put your own personal touch on it.  It's a classic.  It does not need embellishments.  However for every rule there is an exception.  And if some one offers to make you a Smoked Manhattan go for it.  Placing your cocktail glass over some smoked hickory chips before filling it with the Manhattan is a surprising delight.

Smoked hickory chips for your Manhattan glass

I was in Waikiki this past November.  Once again I had been walking all day and ready for a relaxing evening with a cocktail.  I had many Maitai's in Waikiki during my stay.  But this day I was ready to just relax and enjoy a Manhattan.  And what do I see on the menu but a smoked Manhattan.  I was ready to break my rule and try this new idea.  Something about the smoke and the rye whiskey just sounded perfect to me.  I was in the bar at the Outrigger Hotel.  I could see Diamond Head in the distance from the beach hotel's windows.  It was the perfect location for this perfect drink.  Now much like Charleston, South Carolina, I would return here to Waikiki tomorrow just to have another one of these drinks.

One of my favorite movies is Honky Tonk Freeway.  You've probably never heard of it.  It is considered one of the biggest box office flops of all time.  But I saw it and loved it.  In the movie Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy play a senior couple who are traveling to Florida.  Hume thinks his wife has a drinking problem.  She tends to order five old fashions with her lunch each day.  Finally he tells her that he thinks she has a drinking problem.

Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy in Honky Tonk Freeway

Jessica responds that she is not an alcoholic.  She says your sister always sucks her fruit when she is finished with her drinks.  Now she is an alcoholic.  I never suck my fruit. 

Here I am after a very good Manhattan, not traveling, but here at home at Jerry D's, one of my local favorite restaurants.

Yes Jessica Tandy.  I sucked the fruit.  And it was good!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Bad Ass Beer at Tootsie's Orchid Lounge

My daughter Katie had to travel to Nashville in October 2017 for a work conference.  As part of my 65th birthday celebration year she invited me to travel with her to Nashville for the week.  I had never been to Nashville before so I was glad to be invited.  She would be busy all day at her conference which allowed me lots of time to explore the Music City and see what kind of trouble I could get into.  

Most of what I knew about Nashville I learned watching Ralph Emery on Nashville Now which was on the CMT channel in the 1980's.  I worked night work back in those days.  When I would get home at midnight I would turn on Nashville Now and my daughters Katie and Danielle would crawl out of their beds and come out to join me watching the show. So it was very appropriate that Katie and I got to share this trip now that she is an adult.    When we arrived I knew I wanted to go find Tootsie's Orchid Lounge on Broadway in Nashville.  All of the stars on Nashville Now used to talk to Ralph Emery about sneaking out of the back door of The Ryman Auditorium and go into the back door of Tootsie's for a quick drink between shows of The Grand Ole Opry.  So after my tour of The Ryman Auditorium I knew I would want to go out that back door and head over to the back door of Tootsie's. You can see the brick wall of the back of the Ryman on the left in the photo and the back  door of Tootsie's on the left.   

Tootsie's is a tourist trap.  No question about that.  It opens at 10:00 in the morning and the crowds are waiting for the doors to open.  There are bars with music on all three levels of the building including a roof top deck with music also.  I arrived at 10:30 that morning.  The bar was already crowded.  When I went in the back door I followed the sound of the music and found the front bar on the first floor.  There was a band playing and everyone in the bar was singing along with the band.  The woman who was lead singer of the band was standing on top of the bar singing Patsy Cline songs.  She was singing Walking After Midnight at 10:30 in the morning.   It was all that I could have hoped for.   

It was early morning but after all I was in Nashville so I had to have a beer.   I stood at the end of the bar and asked for a beer menu.   It did not take me long to decide.  I saw the name Badass Beer.  What could be more perfect than to have a Badass Beer at Tootsie's my first day in Nashville.  And it gives a good travel story to share.  I can tell everyone I had a Badass beer in  Nashville.   

I finished my beer, walked to the front door, left a tip in the bucket for the band, and then found  my way back out to Broadway.   As I left there was still a small line of people waiting to get inside Tootsie's.  They should have watched Ralph Emery in the 1980's or at least read a guide book.  Use the back door folks.  There is no line!

Katie's conference ended two days later.   I took her into downtown Nashville to show her all that I had discovered while she was working.  So I course I had to show her Tootsie's Orchid Lounge.  We walked down Broadway and when we arrived the lines were twice as long at Tootsie's as they were in the morning of my visit.  She looked at the line and said "Dad we will never get in there tonight but it looks like a fun place."   I told her follow me.  I know a secret.  I took her to the alley behind the Ryman Auditorium and showed her the back entrance to Tootsie's.   There was no line.  We were able to get inside, fight the crowds and get up to the rooftop deck.  It was too crowded to bother trying to get a beer at the bar.  But she was able to experience Tootsie's the way the stars did back in the day.  Through the back door in the alley. 

Katie  on the crowded rooftop of Tootsie's Orchid Lounge

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Train travel in Euorpe - Traveling from Munich to Zurich May 20, 2017

I love riding the trains in Europe.  They are clean, efficient, relaxing and fun.  Our trip to German and Switzerland included many train rides this year and each one was pleasant.  Our first train ride of the vacation was from Munich to Zurich.   We fly direct from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Munich.  We spent two days there before going to Zurich to meet up with some travel friends we have know for many years that we met on the former Virtual Tourist web site.  Although the web site no longer exists the friendships made there continue

1.       We started our leaving Munich the early afternoon of May 20 to head to Zurich.   We bought our tickets the day before but it wasn’t necessary as we could have bought them the day of the trip and still have no problems.

Italian restaurant in the Munich train station

1.       I took some photos in the station when we arrived.  We were early enough for an early lunch at the station.   Luckily there were some good choices for food and not just fast food.   We found a nice Italian restaurant where march ordered a salad plate which was huge.  I asked about the size of the pizza.  The waiter told me it was good for one.   When it arrived it was good for one full table.  So Mark helped me finish it.

1.       Our jet lag had gotten better after two days in Munich so we were not zombies and could enjoy the ride. And also our cell phones.

1.  The train took us Munich, down into Austria, and then back to German in the city of Lindau where we changed tracks.   We never had to change trains.  Our train just changed directions.  

1.       Near Lindau the motion of the train got the best of Mark and he fell asleep.  I was too curious to give into the rocking motion and stayed awake to take photos along the way.

1.          We saw many  small towns and interesting stations like this small one with men sitting at a train station in Turkheim.

1.       We also got to see  Lake Constance (also called Bodensee) in Bavaria.  The lake is a  63km-long central European lake that borders Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Fed by the Rhine River, it’s composed of 2 connected parts, the Untersee (lower lake) and the larger Obersee (upper lake).  

Finally we got to see the beautiful and majestic Alps.   I love the Alps and have been fascinating with them since the first time I saw them in 2003.   As the train moved the mountains seem to change with each curve of the tracks.

There were many small towns along the route.  I enjoyed watching them roll past.   They were all picturesque.  I particularly like the many small churches I got to see in the distance.

Our good friend Sonja

1.       Finally we arrive in Zurich.  We were not expecting a welcoming committee but our friend Sonja, who lives in Zurich, was at the station to meet us.  I was walking down the platform looking at the station and trying to get myself acclimated when I heard a familiar voice and found someone running up to me and hugging me.  What a nice welcome to Zurich.  Like I said earlier.  The Virtual Tourist web site may no longer exist but the beautiful friendships we made there are a bond that will never be broken.

1.       Entering the train station I once again saw the Guardian Angel to those visiting Zurich suspended from the ceiling of the station.  I first saw this in 2003 on my first visit to Zurich.  So it was a great pleasure to see it was still there all these years later.  The guardian angel was designed in the style of the colorful, voluminous “nana” figures for which the artist was world famous. They stand for joyful, liberated, self-confident women. Initially ridiculed by fellow artists, Niki de Saint Phalle's works are now one of the most popular works of contemporary art. .    The Guardian Angel was even mentioned by Ric Steves in his PBS travel series.   I liked her 2003 and even more now.

 Sonja helped us find our hotel and then left us to rest and plan the rest of our night.  Our hotel with the Ibis Zurich West.  It was not city center but was in the Technopark area.  It was a very short tram ride Zurich's city center.

After resting we ventured our for our first tram ride in Zurich.  We went down the city center and found a wonderful Italian restaurant which was both affordable to Zurich standards, which are high, and very comfortable.  

Then I was finished.  The pasta and dessert had gotten the best of me and I was tired after a very long and enjoyable day.  I stretched back in my chair in the restaurant and took a moment to close my eyes before heading back the tram and our hotel.