Vienna, Austria Part 1

28 May 2011 - Today was an early start for the airport at 7am. I flew from Paris to Vienna which was only 1-1/2 hours so it was not so bad. Upon arrival I was met by a Uniworld representative and after waiting for a few more people off we went to the ship.

We arrived at lunchtime so they had a nice buffet arranged and since I was starving by now was happy to finally have a snack.

The cabin is quite nice, I have the best category on board so I am on the top deck with a sliding glass door and a French balcony which is great. The bed is very confortable and has a feather duvet and feather pillows.

I walked along the river a bit but basically used the rest of the day to unpack and setup all my stuff for the next 12 days. I took a nice nap in the late afternoon and then got ready for dinner.

I met a cute lil old man from Chicago and he is a hoot, always has a joke or a one-liner, he is fun. I also met a great many Canadians surprising enough. Two couples from Vancouver, 2 from Nova Scotia and some from Ontario. I was pleasantly surprised.

Dinner was marvelous they had veal cutlets which is the traditional dish of Vienna, was delicious. They had pastries of every kind as well which was a no-no but what the heck, I am on vacation.

Had a quick drink in the bar and then went back to the cabin to make it an early night since tommorrow is an early start with the city tour.

Paris, France Part 5

27 May 2011 - What a day I had today! I got up early and decided to take the bus instead of the metro since you can see more than way. I headed out towards Montmarte and it was so scenic driving by all the fancy apartments and upscale stores like Louis Vuitton and Cartier.

It was a great 25 minute ride on a clear day with lots of sunshine but luckily a bit cooler since it had been so hot the last couple of days. All the Parisians has sweaters and coats on while I had a short sleeved blouse and loving

Montmartre is the most charming area in all of Paris, it is an eyeful of quaintness brimming over with small old houses with flower boxes and cafes on every corner. They have a great cute stores with all kinds of pastries and cheeses and people are so colorful. You see old ladies walking with their small dogs, old men sitting at cafes arguing with their friends over an expresso. Lovers walk hand in hand up the many narrow cobbled-stoned streets. I just loved it. 

After walking a bit I made my way to the funiculaire that takes you up the hill to the magnificent Sacre Coeur cathedral. When you finally set eyes on this incredible structure all white against the blue sky it truly takes your breath away. The inside is glorious with intricate stained glass  windows hundreds of years old. It's an awesome sight to see the high ceilings with painted frescoes glowing in the lights of the thousands of candles lit by the faithful in offerings to their favorite saint. The silence is calming and you can't help but feel blessed to be alive in this serene place where millions have gone before you for hundreds of years. I bought a small but beautiful crucifix for my apartment as well as a tiny trifold icon. As I was leaving the church I saw a priest and asked him if he could bless my small treasures as well as the cross I was wearing and he smilingly oblidged and after he said, "Go in peace my child", a serene moment to be sure.

When I had walked around some more through small alleys with nooks and crannies I saw a small tram in the shape of a mini train and he was taking people down the hill back to the metro and busses. I thought this would be great fun and hopped on. This turned out to be fantastic as it took 40 minutes and was like a private sightseeing tour in itself, I loved it. While we drove around in this cute little train through the streets the driver played French music and it was wonderful to hear Edith Piaf singing while we took in the sights of Montmartre.

It was ironic to hear her sing as my next stop was to the famous "Pere Lachaise" cemetary to visit her grave. Everyone goes there to visit the grave of Jim Morrison from The Doors but my main reason was to go see the resting place of one of my favorite singers of all time.

I took a metro this time to the cemetary and was awestruck by the enormous tombstones of the families buried here. We are not talking just marble slabs here but huge mausoleum style structures for each person! I have never seem such a magnificent cemetary. You would think it would be gruesome to visit a cemetary but in this case it was like being in a medieval movie. It was now thew end of the day and the sky was covered over and it gave the area a pale grey look and with the crows flying everywhere it was mind-numbing. I found it to be so peaceful and calming, it was extremely quiet and the only sound of the wind blowing in the trees and the odd call from a crow.....incredible feeling.

I saw the grave of Chopin, Oscar Wilde and Rossini and finally I arrived at my main attraction, Edith Piaf. I gave a little prayer to her and reflected there a few minutes on the incredible talent that was no more. I finally bid her adieu and slowly strolled away misty-eyed as I hummed "La Vie En Rose" to myself walking down the hill.

I took the bus back home and picked up a few items for dinner as well as the best apple tart I had ever tasted. I took a short nap after all the walking I had done, with plans to go to the Arc de Triompe after dark to take some night shots of it.

It stays light until 10pm so I headed out on the bus around 10:30pm, so nice to see Paris by night. The lights seem to give out a pinkish glow. After 25 minutes through a scenic route I arrived at the Arc in all it's lit glory. I took the "money shot" as it's called and was quite happy so I headed back towards the apartment to reflect on my time here.

Once at the apartment it was already midnight and sadly it was time to pack up. When I was all done I sat on my balcony and stared at the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower for the last time. It was a great 5 days filled with history, great food, incredible sights and memories of cherished experiences. Paris I will miss you but I have a riverboat to go revoir until next time.    

Paris, France Part 4

26 May 2011 - Today I decided to take the bus instead of walking for miles in the metro. It was so easy to just walk across the street, hop on and begin my journey to the Louvre all the while having a scenic tour of Paris. We sailed passed Cartier and all the big designer houses, great fun. After 25 minutes I finally was at the Louvre. The last time I was here I did not spend half the time I wanted too, so today I indulged and went to find my favorites.

Good thing I had already bought a museum pass ahead of time as I could walk right in instead of standing in line behind the 400 people lined up to get in. This alone is worth the cost of the pass.

When you first walk in you are under the glass pyramid and conveniently close to the souvrnir shops. There you can buy a millions different items with a photo of the Mona Lisa on it ..... I managed to resist any purchase except a Louvre guide.

I wandered through the many corridors and marveled at all the wondrous priceless paintings and sculptures and couldn't help but ponder on the fact that most of these artists died penniless.

Finally I just had to go peek at the star attraction "La Joconde" ...the Mona Lisa. Besides now being protected behind glass she has not changed in the past 30 years since I last saw her. With all the stress she has gone through over the years such as being stolen, had acid throw on her and slashed by a crazy person, she is no worse for wear. The mysterious smile is still intact and her image is open to a variety of interpretations, even to this day, as to who she really was and why the strange smile.

I took pictures of all the paintings I loved most (no flash please) another freedom which was not tolerated 30 years ago.

After many hours of bliss I decided to venture out to visit the Place de La Concorde, a pivotal area during the French revolution as well as the plot where the guillotine was set up so many years ago. It is a vast area with monument buildings and beautiful fountains (was kinda neat to see my screensaver image in real life). I wandered around and took some great photos and then fell victim to a souvenir that had the greatest large size coffee/soup mugs with scenes of Paris all over it...just had to have one.

By this time I had been walking for over 6 hours and felt it was time to make my way back to my lil home. I had some wine and a baguette with some ham and once full had a short nap.....ahhhhh this is the life :o)

Time to hit the sheets now.....tomorrow it's time for Montmartre and Versailles!

Paris, France Part 3

25 May 2011 - What a day I had today! I spent 9 hours walking around the city, getting in and out of metros, walking up hundreds of stairs and after visiting La Conciererie and Notre Dame cathedral, with a newly formed blister under my foot I collasped back at the apartment.

My first stop was La Conciergerie which was the prison where Marie Antoinette was housed prior to her execution. Entering the building was quite an experience seeing the vaulted ceilings which for me represented history which centuries ago it represented for so many the gruesome holding unit until execution by the guillotine. You can see the rooms were the guards were and several cells. Even then there was a class system for the cells. If you were poor you got a cell with straw on the floor to sleep on. If you had a bit more money you got a small cot which wasn't much but at least you were off the floor. Then if you were wealthy you got a bigger cell with a regular bed and a small writing desk.

Here many prisoners were tortured to death. Under Louis XIV the held witch trials and the unfortunate ones who were accused of conspiring with the devil met their fate here.

Marie Antoinette's cell was larger and outfitted with a desk and chairs and a separate room housed her two guards. Her trial opened on the 15th. of October 1793, on the morning of the 16th. she was sentenced to death. At 11 am she was led to the guillotine, and at 12:15 was executed on the plaza known today as Place de La Concorde.

Next I sat at the Cafe de Notre Dame and had the greatest "chicken club" which is in fact a baguette filled with fresh chicken topped lettuce and mayo, really delicious. I ordered a diet Coke which is called CocaCola Light here but at 5.6 Euros I am not indulging my addiction! Even at the stores each small bottle is 2.9 Euros!

My next adventure took me to Notre Dame Cathedral. What a magnificent church this is! The stained glass and the chandeliers all sparkle under the glow of the thousands of candles lit by visitors from all over the world. I lit one and also bought a glassed candle to take home. I also spoiled myself and bought the most beautiful crystal rosary beads. While walking thru the church I came across a priest and I asked him to bless the cross I was wearing and my rosary and he eagerly obliged.....very special to me.

Then I was off the take photos of the famous gargoyles atop Notre Dame, this was great. I then walked across the bridge to Isle St. Louis and landed at Berthillon which is reputed to be the best ice cream parlor in Paris....well I had a 2 scoop cone for 4Euros, one coconut and one banana....unfortunately I found it quite mediocre, too crystalized instead of creamy like back much for that reputation.

I then walked along the Seine and watched the bateau-mouches boats sail buy until I reached a great vantage point to tak pictures of the back of Notre Dame.
There is a bridge there where there are thousands of small locks attached to the wiring. It is the custom for lovers to write their names on a lock, attach it to the fence and then throw the key in the river in order to have lasting love.....ahhhh only the Parisians could think of that one  :o)

I made the obligatory stop at some souvenir stalls and of course picked up a few items like prints and a Paris tote, kitchy but fun.

I finally made my way back home exausted from the heat and the endless walking in the metros, I think I might hop on the bus tomorrow.

It 's now my bed time so until next time......bonne nuit!

Paris, France Part 2

24 May 2011 - Last night for the first time in many years I slept for 8 hours straight! The room was cool and totally dark and I was snug as a bug. This morning I had breakfast on the balcony and although it was a cliche I had croissants and coffee.....yummy.

I was then off in search of adventure. Once you are on the metro it's so easy to get around. There were some great metro performers playing classical music on violins and they were so amazing, you would swear you were in a great concert hall.

There were about 8 people and I could have listened to them for hours they were that good.

I found some fun shops along the way and bought a great tote bag with images of Paris all over it and a cute charm bracelet with several charms of the icons of Paris. (Typical tourist, I know :)

After a quick soft drink at a sidewalk cafe, I was off to the tourist office to pick up my museum pass. These are a great value since it allows entrance to all the major museums and attractions including the top of the Arch de Triomphe and the top of Notre Dame. You also go thru a special entrance at each venue so you don't have to wait in line which is worth the cost of the pass in itself as the lines can be very long.

I then wandered the streets and finally made my way to the Trocadero and the Jardins De Chaillot on the way to the Eiffel Tower.  I had my picture taken with a mime, that was really great. 

Once I had been walking for several hours I stopped and had an ice-cream from a roadside cart, man 4 Euros! Thank goodness it was

By late afternoon it was time to head back since I am still putting in a few hours of work every day, not too hard though working while overlooking Paris and the pretty rooftops.

As I exited at my metro stop I saw a small street market and decided to do some investigating. I found a tempting stall selling "Rocher Coco which are mounds of coconut macaroons....UNREAL THEY ARE SO GOOODDDDD. hahaha.

Once back to my apartment I had a salmon caserole, some Camenbert cheese and some wine and of course my coconut macaroon find. I thought I would miss my Starbuks coffee but I bought some great Guatemalan coffee which is rich and tasty.

After a bit of work I had another glass of wine as the Eiffel Tower was starting to light up......ahhhhhh c'est la vie!

Well it's now 2:15 and my bed is calling me. Tomorrow I head off to the Louvre, I can't wait!

Stay tuned............

Paris, France Part 1

23 May 2011 - Well I am finally in Paris beginning the first leg of my journey! The flight was really great, beautiful plane and great service. I was lucky I was in a window seat and no one booked beside me. They offered free champagne and drinks on the plane and I took full advantage of that little perk I'll tell "Do I want champagne?" (Is the Pope Catholic?  hahaha) And keep it coming Sparky!

Arrived in Paris at 8:30am and my driver was promtly waiting for me with a card with my name on it, actually spelled right also. Off we went to beautiful Paree.

Beautiful Paree came after a traffic jam however in a tunnel and for the first 35 minutes of highway driving, the surroundings looked like I could have been in any big North American city. Finally 45 minutes later the vestiges of the city started to come to light. I was driving through tree-lined streets filled with Haussman style architecture, high wooden doors with large brass handles separating the commoners from the sublime apartments of la rue Montaigne. Flowers filled the window boxes and green was everywhere in the 75 degree weather.

We whipped pass Place de La Concorde where the guillotine once stood. I couldn't help but reflect upon the contrast that in one century a villager was being beheaded here for stealing a loaf of bread, and in another, here was a Canadian tourist on her way to her apartment longing to go buy some. I was just glad to be in the RIGHT century!  

Finally I arrived to my home for the next 5 nights. I took my bags up to the 9th floor, walked down a small hallway and there it was, what I had so long waited for, my little home in Paris. I opened the door and was surprised to see a woman there til I saw it was the maid just finishing up. 

Then I walked in and my jaw dropped to see the magnificent sight I had been so anxious to see since we first met 35 years ago.....La Tour Eiffel in all it's splendour basking in the sun. No world icon is as famous as this stately structure and I couldn't stop staring at her while the smell of flowers surrounded the balcony. The photo here was taken from my balcony.

This would be fun, I loved the place and plus it has pink toilet paper! lol

I was very tired after not sleeping on the flight so I took a nap for a few hours (big mistake since it's now 4:00am and I am

When I got up I went to get provisions and it was fun going to the Monoprix a 5 minute walk from the apartment. They sell clothes and pharmaceuticals, jewelry and everything else imaginable and the lower level is their food mart. Off I went to get my loot. I bought some amazing Duck pate and some amazing looking crusty bread. I couldn't resist buying a mini quiche lorraine as well as some chocolate croissants for breakfast. Added some great looking Camenbert cheese and some sliced ham and 44Euros later I was done.

By the time I came back to the apartment it was 8:30pm so I opened up my gift bottle of French red wine, heated up my quiche, sliced some bread and took some slices of camenbert out to the balcony for an open-air feast....ahhhh c'est la vie!

Had to get some work done and made a few calls but overall I wanted to relax and get my body to appreciate the Paris timeclock (considering my body hasn't appreciated anything in the past 20 years that was a feat in

Tomorrow is a sightseeing day for photo taking.....look out Paris, "kid kodak" is on the prowl.

Well it is now 4:45am and the birds are starting to funny because my lil canary usually wakes me up in the morning, I love that and thought I would miss it and here they are singing away.....unreal....I feel very blessed.

I will watch the sunrise and then go to sleep for a few hours......check in tomorrow!

Europe Preparations - Almost there!

There are only 4 days left before I head out on my great Eastern Explorer adventure! I have been planning this for two years and now it is almost time to head out. I am still learning how to use my new camera that I bought for this trip over 7 months ago, being the ultimate procrastinator I am now scrambling to learn a 500 page manual in 4 days. Oh well I know the basics but I have to read up on taking those perfect shots. I love phtography and this will be one of my favorite things to do on this trip.

The places I will be visiting are all vast cornucopias of varied architecture and I am sure to go crazy capturing it all.

My first stop will be Paris! I have rented a cosy studio apartment there with a balcony offering a view of the Eiffel Tower. I can't wait to be sipping wine overlooking the Paris rooftops a la "Ratatouille"... hahaha.

Check back here every night because I will write my daily adventures here, hope you enjoy it!