Be sure to read all the latest in the 2017 SUMMER BLOG
From Our Drive North to Alaska to 2017 SUMMER BLOG – Bob’s Birthday, and a Wrap to the Season
Our Drive North to Alaska
We decided this year to bring the 5th Wheel back up from Kansas to the Park. The harsh summer sunshine in Kansas was not doing the camper any good (we had to replace the rubber roof) and we weren’t using it much. So we decided to use it as a rental in the Park.
We left Lawrence on April 12th headed north to Seattle with a stop in Scottsbluff, Neb. at Debbie and Paul’s. Then after a couple of minor break downs (2004 GMC truck!), we made it to Christine and Mark’s in Kirkland, WA. On the 18th, we crossed over into Canada and started up the Frasier River Valley to meet the ALCAN highway just north of Fort St. John, BC (British Columbia). I still think it is the prettiest and quickest way from Seattle to the ALCAN. The weather was cool and sometimes rainy, but no snow and such a beautiful drive.
By the 20th we arrived in Fort Nelson, BC and stayed at our normal campground north of town.
The next morning we woke up to 5 inches of wet snow.
The roads were clear and the forecast was good although we had to climb over the crest of the northern Rockies that day. It turned out that the sun came out, the snow melted and we had a beautiful trip over the mountains.
It is always a joy to see all the wildlife on our trip north. We soon came upon a herd of Mountain Sheep grazing along the Highway. We slowed down and crept up along the side of the two out in the highway. They were so busy licking the salt off the road (used to melt the snow), they didn’t even move out of the way. So we stopped and took their picture.
North from there before you get to Watson Lake, Yukon, we began to see Buffalo grazing along the side of the road. At first there was quite a bit of snow on the sides of the road; however, as we drove further to the west the snow had melted and soon the sun came out. That night we stayed in Watson Lake, Yukon.
The Alcan Highway from Watson Lake runs west along the southern border of the Yukon toward Whitehorse. We saw a black bear at the edge of the woods, but it went back in the woods before we could get a photo. It is a pretty drive especially along Teslin Lake and the Tlingit village of Teslin. There is an interesting Museum in the town about the Tlingit Heritage.
That evening we stayed in the town of Haynes Junction where the Alcan heads north along the St. Elias Mountains seen off in the distance. This range of mountains extends along the coast of the Gulf of Alaska all the way from Glacier Bay to the border of Alaska and the Wrangle Mountains. Mt. Logan at it’s northern end is only 619 feet lower than Denali, the tallest in North America.
The next day, April 23rd we travel north past Kluane Lake and cross the border into Alaska, just above Beaver Creek, Yukon. The roads between Beaver Creek and Tok were really bad with lots of broken surfaces and frost heaves. We stayed the night in Tok, AK, then onto Anchorage the next day. With a stop at Costco to buy our supplies for the summer, we drove on down to Kasilof RV Park the next day.
It was 4224 miles in 13 days with partial day stops in Scottsbluff, Kirkland and Anchorage.
I have to say, our trip from Avignon to Paris was interesting. We arrived at the Avignon Train Station early to catch our HIGH SPEED, 1st CLASS BULLET TRAIN to Paris. It was rather confusing as there were two trains listed going to Paris at the same time on the same platform. Our train was listed first (yes I did check the # of the train). Of course, the announcement for the train when it arrived was in French (I mean who in the world of the brilliant and sophisticated can’t speak French). We boarded the train and found our seats and the train left the station. As we were traveling along, the steward came with another couple and asked to see our tickets. Yah, you got it right, we were on the other train. So as our HIGH SPEED, 1st CLASS BULLET TRAIN to Paris went whizzing past us we took pull down seats in the area between the cars and spent our time getting to DISNEYLAND PARIS. It was only about 50 miles from where we wanted to go and there was a taxi willing to take us to the Hotel!$$$$!!! Yea, you got that right too! The only bright spot in the whole trip was that we didn’t have to lug our backpacks and extra suitcase on the underground to our Hotel.
Scenes of Paris –
I know you have seen it all before so how do I make it more interesting, more exciting, more wonderful, more beautiful (more boring!- – – -), well we took all our scenic photos from the top of a two-decker tour bus (us old grey hairs don’t like to walk so much)!
Hey, another photo of the Arc de Triomphe! Well, no this is a photo of the front window of the tour bus and the damn arch got in the way!
So I thought that I would try again, but the Church Ste. Marie Madeleine got in the way. When I looked at the photo on the camera, I asked Jan “when did we get to Athens, Greece?” It does resemble the Parthenon, doesn’t it?
So I asked her why all these old buildings kept getting in the way of my photos. She said, “Try taking them out the side of the bus”, so I did, but I didn’t get a photo of the window. I got a photo of the River Seine.
Oh well, the window wasn’t that pretty anyway and beside I got really interested in all the gold in Paris.
As we entered the Esplanade des Invalides (I think that means, ‘Way to the Castle’) there were four pillars with gold horses (with wings?) and some gal blowing a long horn. I don’t have a clue what that was supposed represent, but it sure was impressive.
Not much further on was another gold dome on the top of the Church of St. Louis (Eglise Du Dome St. Louis) and downtown was another roof covered with copper and gold statues. Boy, the French sure do like their gold! But that wouldn’t even hold a candle to what we saw the next day.
But hey, we are still on the two-decker bus and there was another scene that caught my eye out the side of the bus.
The bus driver said this place was called the Place du Trocadero (which is the Palace called ‘Palais du Chaillot’) with a view of the Eiffel Tower across the River Seine. I thought it was a pretty neat picture especially from the top deck of a tour bus!
We got of the tour bus just at the corner just below the Eiffel Tower very close to a French Restaurant where we had lunch. Rather, I should say Jan had lunch and I had a BEER! I thought I was in Germany again!
So we started our walking tour of Paris and the first stop was at the Eiffel Tower from the ground. I have to admit it was pretty impressive!
From the Eiffel Tower to the Island of Notre Dame was a good long walk, so we decided to take the Paris Underground. Now THAT WAS REALLY IMPRESSIVE and even more confusing, but us old grey hairs finally figured it out. So we toured island with probably one of the most beautiful churches in the world.
We had really wanted to take the tour through Notre Dame, but again the lines were very long. After Rome, plus our 25th day on the road, we were not in the mood for another line. They were working on the front of the church redoing the parking and plaza in front so it definitely was not picturesque.
From Notre Dame we crossed the River Seine to the Latin Quarter and walked to the Gardens of Luxembourg. It was a refreshing spot to relax after a busy day of touring.
The castle was huge with a huge basin of water in front. The front of the castle surrounded by several acres of grounds with trees, fountains and gardens which were very lush and cool in the afternoon sun. People were everywhere lounging and relaxing in the warmth and the beauty.
We joined them!
On our way back to the Hotel, we stopped at the Oldest Continually Operated Café in Paris (1660) and had a Tanqueray and Tonic (they were very hard to find in Paris and $).
Our last day in Paris – started early with a train ride to Versailles. We had our tickets to get into the Palace already so we would miss the crowds standing in line. OH, YES! THAT REALLY WORKED! I think that line was made up by the Paris Ticket Company that sold the advance tickets!
Now you talk about the Parisians loving their gold – visit Versailles! All this gold, no wonder the French revolted!
After entering the Versailles grounds and through the first gate, there is a very large parade grounds in front of the main palace. It is probably 150 feet x 150 feet of stone paved area. In the photo above, all you can see is people in front of the gate to the castle. That is because there is a line that is snaking around in the parade grounds to pass through the security to the castle. When I described as snaking, that is what it does. From the parade ground entrance, it starts toward the golden gate and then turns before it gets to the gate and goes back to the entrance of the parade ground (150 feet each direction). The line is six times up to the gate and back before you get to the security entrance.
We arrived at the entrance gate at about 9 am and there were that many people in the line ahead of us just to get through security before we could use our prepaid tickets to get into the castle. Jan and I stood in the first line for an hour and still hadn’t made it to the next line. WE LEFT!
Back in Paris, we wanted to finish our visit of the Latin Quarter and the beautiful garden that we saw on our way to the Luxembourg Palace.
At Place du Cluny there are gardens surrounding the ancient Hotel de Cluny and the Thermes De Cluny. Would you believe in the heart of Paris are the remains of a 3rd century Roman Baths? The structure above is the Hotel De Cluny built by the Abbotts of Cluny in 1334 from the remains of the Roman baths next door.
Where but in Paris would you expect to find a scene like this?
This is Hotel de Cluny from the back and the entrance to the Museum de Cluny. In 1834, Jacques d’Amboise converted the old hotel into a museum to hold the Sommerard collection of Medieval Art. There were old tapestries, icons, wooden carvings and enamels from the 1300 to 1500 time period.
They were quite remarkable because they had been so well preserved, especially the old tapestries (photos not allowed).
As we left the old hotel/museum part of the structure, we went down a stairs to the hidden entrance to the Roman baths.
The first exhibit was some of the interesting remains from the destruction caused during the revolutionary war. All the decapitated stone bodies and the desecrated heads were from the previous Kings of France. The originals were in Notre Dame. During the revolution, the people decapitated the statues and took out their frustration on the heads. I guess the French finally got tired of all the gold on the building and none in their pockets. It was quite an interesting display!
The gallery also had the statue of Adam from the interior of Notre Dame plus some of the decoration of the original Roman baths. The only visible remains of the baths were on the far end of the building.
The final visit on our last afternoon in Paris was to the Louve. Jan really wanted to see Mona Lisa so we took our prepaid tickets and headed to castle.
Triumph Arch is at the entrance to the Louvre Palace grounds containing the famous Louvre Museum. The Louvre was originally built as a fortress in the 12th century by the then French King Phillip. In 1682, Louis XIV expanded the fortress into the present Louvre Palace. After the French Revolution, the Louvre was made into a museum to house all the history of the world.
I visited the Louvre in 1973 and was very disappointed in the condition of the artifacts in the museum. At that time the Louvre had fallen into disrepair and many of the windows and skylights were broken. Pigeons and their droppings were inside the building and on many of the displays. I left totally disgusted.
The new Louvre is now worthy of all the treasures that it holds, over 35,000 objects of history. The glass pyramids in the courtyard provides a modern feel to the entrance of the museum and the underground access to the various parts of the museum handle the Enormous Crowds about as well as can be expected. Although it still can be very confusing. We spent hours wandering around the halls of the museum trying to find the Mona Lisa without too much success. We walked through the huge stone statues of the bulls of Mesopotamia, the bowls and urns of the Chinese Ming Dynasty, the mummies of the Egyptian Pharaohs and every doorway we went through had a little with card that said Mona Lisa with an arrow pointing.
Finally we walked into a hallway loaded with people and knew we must be getting close. Sure enough at the end of the hallway was a room off to the side filled with people. The walls of the room were bare except for the far wall and in the center of it was the Mona Lisa. Jan burrowed into the crowd of about 100 people to get close enough to take a photo of the painting. I stayed toward the back, but I could see the painting. The man next to me said, “What’s the big deal. That don’t look so great!” I said, “I don’t know, but I think she is pretty!”
What a wonderful area of France! We again took the train from Nice to Marseille. Much of the route was along the shore of the Mediterranean Sea through the famous cities of Antibes, Cannes and Toulon although from the train, they weren’t that glamorous. We switched trains to travel on to Arles through the delta region of the Rhone River valley. The area was beautiful, mostly produce farms and rolling green hills of vineyards providing the world famous food of Provence.
We arrived at the train station on the north side of the old town and walked the short distance to the old Roman gates and watch towers of the ancient city walls. Our hotel was just behind the gate on the right (yellow). When we checked in the hotel, the lady at the desk ask if we came for the May Day celebration the next day. We told her that we were unaware that there was a celebration. She told us about the traditional May Day parade to the Church of Notre Dame and the blessing of animals and showed us where to go to watch it.
Our room was nice size, very comfortable and looked out over the city wall and the two gate towers from our room window
We spent the rest of the day exploring the old town of Arles which was a fascinating mix of ancient, medieval, old and new. The monument building to the right at the very entrance to the streets of Arles was a fountain built in tribute to Amedee Pichot by his son in 1868. The fountain split the two main streets entering the north end of Arles.
Since the streets are very narrow (most are chariot width!), most of the streets are closed off by metal poles, others are limited to one way traffic and very few are open to vehicles.
Those that are open to traffic are not wide enough for two together as this trucker found out!
One of the streets from the Pichot fountain led to the Place Du Forum, an open plaza set up with tables and canopies for eating. Surrounding the plaza (Place) were a variety of sidewalk restaurants that serviced the open plaza.
Other single or smaller restaurants with only one or two tables could be often found as we wandered around in the old city.
The old city was a very interesting blend of old (even ancient) and new. There would be a newer building with an ancient Roman doorway, or a very old stone wall with a new gate cut into it leading to a courtyard of a newer resident. Likewise a newer dwelling or room built into an ancient structure.
Yet there was a high levee topped by a walkway built out of stone that ran along the Rhone River to separate and protect the old town from the river flooding.
And down the streets next to the ancient amphitheater was the Church and Cloister of Saint Trophime built between the 12th and 15th centuries.
MAY DAY –
We got up early (at least for us) the next morning and decided to go directly to the Church of Notre Dame for the blessing of the animals rather than trying to meet up with the parade in the narrow streets of old town. We noticed that ropes with streamers of ribbons and cloth were hung for decoration across the streets where the parade was coming.
As we walked toward the church, we noticed an older woman dressed in a beautiful gown hurrying toward the church so we followed her. Sure enough she took us directly to the Church of Notre Dame.
The plaza area in front of the church was surrounded by a chained-link fence. People were beginning to gather behind it to watch the blessing of the animals. We quickly followed suit and found a good spot where we could see everything that was happening.
Then began the parade of elders starting with the ladies dressed in their finest (style of the late-1800’s) and the men with their black suits, white shirts and black hats. Then came the young women and the young ladies club with their banner, followed by the girls. Next in line came the young boys and girls.
When they had all entered and formed by the front of the church, the parade that had wound through the streets of the town started entering the plaza. Then the mothers with their small childen and babies followed quickly. The carriages were very old, in excellent condition and on obvious display with their babies. The people and their children were all standing and waiting as a carriage pulled by two white horses entered the plaza.
There were horses lined up as far as we could see on the streets through the buildings.
Next began the entrance of the individual horses and their riders. In most cases, it was young men and young women riding side-saddle behind their male, but occasionally in would be a young boy with a young lady behind him. They all filed in one horse at a time and took their place in lines eventually forming seven lines across the plaza which included over 200 horses and their riders. All of the horses were white and were said to be of a special breed used entirely around the area of Arles. Once the plaza was full, the local priest came through each line of the horses swinging their spray bulbs of holy water blessing all the horses and then the blessing was finished. All the women on the horses were helped down and the horses were ridden back out of the plaza. All the remaining people left the plaza to spend the day in the old town.
We also spent the rest of the day wandering through the town, enjoying the scenery and occasionally meeting some of the locals like the young family shown above with young daughter and baby and the mother and daughter dressed to the nines.
That evening we celebrated May Day, thanks to Mark and Christine, enjoying dinner at a small restaurant called ‘Jadin de Arts’. It was located in the chapel of an old church.
The church had been demolished and was now a garden beside the chapel. The dinner was delicious and the warm chocolate tart with liquid chocolate fudge leaking out the side was incredible!
ANCIENT ROMAN ARLES –
The last day that we were in Arles, we concentrated on the old Roman part of the town. We started by walking around the outside of the old town to the ‘Porte D’Aguste’, the original entrance to Roman Arles. Attached to the gate.
A stone wall extended down to the south east corner of old town where another opening in the wall occurred. Note the graffiti on the wall. Almost all of Europe seems to be covered with it too. Except that Switzerland seems to either clean it off or make the artists??, do it! Maybe they are not bothered by it because the Swiss love their country so much that they don’t want to defile it!
As we walked through Arles, there was the old Church of Saint Julien which in no longer open to visitors and is in the process of being renovated. Behind it is the Priory of Malta holding the Museum Reattu. It is a very old church that looks like it at one time burned out the inside. Now it is a modern museum holding some pieces of art from Picasso and Reattu.
On around the northern side of Arles, we came upon an old ruin called, ‘Thermes De Constantin’, the baths of Constantine. The drawing on the left was done in the 1500’s while the baths were still used and the drawing on the right is what the baths originally looked like.
The area next to the round front (shown in the upper photo) is the hot room where the fires were built to heat the water brought in from the river. The red arch in the lower corner was the original firebox. The interior rooms of the baths are ruined; however, the short walls shown in the photo is the support for the floor. The hot water filled the area below the floor and provided the steam for the baths.
In the southeastern part of the old city just inside of the old city walls were the heart of the old Roman city and most of the ruins. The entrance to the Roman Theater was a restored wall with three openings to the theater (closed iron gates). The entire area of the theater is an archeological site and in the process of restoration. Beyond the gates was a stone walkway into the theater with stone platforms along the side, which originally held statues of the Gods. The statues have disappeared into museums.
The ‘Theater Antique’ was built by Emperor Agustus in 30 BC. It could seat 10,000 spectators. The twin columns in the foreground are the remains of the stage façade across the front of the seating area.
Arles has it’s own Collosseum; however, there they called it “The Amphitheater’ or ‘Circus’ and it was designed as a smaller version of the Collosseum of Rome seating only 20,000 people. It was completed in 90 BC and was used for entertainment by the Romans including chariot racing and Gladiator fighting. It is in much better condition than the Collosseum of Rome.
In the 5th century AD after the fall of Rome, the people of Arles used it as a shelter from the waring tribes around them and during Medieval times built over 200 houses inside the structure for protection. They added four towers to the top of the structure as fighting towers during the tribal wars. I thought that the thickness of walls of the structure was very impressive and was probably a good reason that the Amphitheater was still in such good condition. The Amphitheater is still in use today and a mock bullfight was held in it on May Day while we were there. It is now generally used for bull fights, plays and concerts.
We only had three days in Arles and were on our last leg of our trip. We could have spent a week there easily and still not have seen it all. It was so much better than Rome, fewer people, very clean and friendly. If we ever got back there I would definitely stay longer. I really enjoyed spending time looking at the old ruins that the Roman’s built.
There were two sites that we were anxious to see between Arles and Avignon. One was the medieval mountain fortress called Les Baux and the other was the ancient aqueduct built by the Romans called ‘Pont du Gard’. We took the last day of our time in Arles to make a drive north out of Arles to see both of those sites.
Les Baux –
The drive was easy and beautiful through the farms and vineyards of the Provence valley. As we neared the area of Les Baux, the area became hilly and then became several larger hills bordering on small mountains. On the largest of these, the Lords of Baux built their citadel on the rocky top of the highest peak with a bird’s eye view of their land below them. In the middle ages of the 11th century, the Lords of Baux were fierce warriors and the rulers of southern France. They (meaning their slaves) literally carved the castle out of the rock peak of the mountain.
We arrived at the base of the mountain just after the gates opened at 9 am and drove the vehicle up the one lane, switchback paved road to the base of the village. The mockup of the mountain pictured above gives an idea of the layout of the village below the peak and the castle built into the stone above.
We climbed up through the streets of village which was truly of medieval character although still inhabited villagers who’s sole income is from the tourist. All of it is still functional and livable although they no longer control the farmers and farmland below them.
At the top of village is a large plateau where once wars were fought using bows and arrows, swords and catapults (photo) to hurl stones at and over the castle walls. Originally two windmills were located there used to grind the grain that was grown on the valley floor.
The castle itself was located in and on the rock outcropping at the peak of the mountain. In the photo you can still see the outline of the castle at the top and it follows along the edge of the rock face to the location of the red flag. Along that wall is a sheer drop of over 750 feet to the valley floor.
Les Baux became part of the Provence area of France in the early 1400’s. The Lords of Les Baux did not accept the incorporation of their lands into France and struggled with the French King until the King destroyed the castle in 1483. Later the people of Les Baux became Protestants and fought against the Catholics. In 1632, Cardinal Richelieu again further demolished the castle to the condition that it is in today.
The entrance to the castle area is at the base on the left of the upper photo. The drawing at the gate indicates the original stone structure although all that is left of it is a stone shell.
Just beyond the gate was the main stone road into the castle area itself. The drawing implies what it was originally and the actual photo is what it looks like now.
This room that was cut into the solid rock was part of the structure seen in the centers of the two photos above.
Further into the castle grounds was an area that indicated the magnitude of the stone work that was involved in building the castle. The drawing of the same area indicates the typical fighting that might have occurred in that area.
Just beyond in a niche of the wall a small chapel was located and again a drawing of what it might have looked like at the time of it’s use. Significant to us was the depth into the stone that the chapel was cut and the ornate carving of the stone for the entrance and the chapel’s ceiling. The door at the back opened to stairs that were blocked off.
Near the back of the mountain was again a drawing of the main castle and a photo of the remains of it after being destroyed by the French Kings.
These photos show further destruction and the remains of the main building at the peak of the mountain. The upper castle was three stories high and the bottom floor was a huge hall with a ceiling over 20 feet high. The upper two stories were the living quarters of the Lords. It was said that the Lords were ruthless and they were known to throw people that they had captured for ransom off the top of the castle to the valley below, if the ransom wasn’t paid. These photos are from our vantage at the back of the castle from as high as we wanted to climb.
The view from the top of the mountain down the main street of the upper castle is the photo on the left and the village of the people of Les Baux in the photo to the right.
All of that and we were back to the car by 2 pm. We drove on from Les Baux to our next stop at –
Pont du Gard –
This Roman aqueduct is one of the most impressive constructions that we saw on the whole trip. It is part of an aqueduct to take water from the springs at Ezes to the city of Nimes. It was built about 50 BC and was used until the 6th century AD or about 550 years before it fell into disrepair.
The actual distance between the two sites is only 10 miles. However, the Romans aqueduct was 30 miles long taking advantage of the land to allow only a 40 foot drop in the water level over the 30 miles. The aqueduct bridge over the river Gardon, ‘Pont du Gard’ was originally ~1100 feet long and about 160 feet high (only 6 feet shorter than the Collosseum in Rome) and moved over 50 million gallons of pure spring water in 27 hours to the fountains and water system of Nimes.
The arch over the river was 80 feet wide and the widest arch ever built by the Romans. The limestone stones used in the construction were approximately 6 tons each and were cut with such precision that no masonry was used to hold the blocks together. Cement masonry was used to seal the walls and the floor of the water aqueduct. It was at the very top of the structure above the small arches.
The people on the walkway on the bridge gives you an idea of the immensity of the structure. The city off in the distance through the arch is Remouline. In the great flood of 1958, the water was flooding over top of the first tier of arches where the people are standing in the photo.
The bridge withstood the force of the water as it had withstood numerous floods in the past 2063 years! Note the triangle shaped stones at the base of the pillars that help separate the flood waters to pass through the arch openings and the thickness of the bridge walls.
The next day we were on the road again to the City of the French Popes:
I haven’t normally shown photos of the places that we have stayed on the trip, but we did think this one was quite unique. The small Hotel La Colbert was locate a couple of blocks from the train station and was another of the several excellent recommendations by Rick Steve’s travel books which we used to plan portions of our trip (the great rest was through Pat Gowen at Jade Travel).
The hotel was really fun! The bedroom was very bright with very modern pictures on the walls in a very old building. It had a small closet holding a toilet and adjoining bright colored larger closet shower and sink. It was very comfortable and clean and a fun change from many of our other accommodations. The downstairs was also bright with a colorful breakfast room filled with old antiques plus a quaint small outside patio (too windy & cool to use). The owners were very nice and accommodating.
The Palace of the Popes is one of the major attractions of Avignon and we took our time exploring it. It was a huge castle/palace of 6 different Popes (the French Popes) through the 14th century. The initial move was caused by the turmoil in Rome between warring factions and the French King moved the French Pope (Clement V) to Avignon creating the ‘Palais des Papes’.
The interior courtyard of the Palace was actually quite bare with a very large central stone paved court surrounded by the buildings shown above.
The entrance to the interior of the building was the arched doorway. We entered the rest of the palace through these doors that lead upstairs to a large empty room with vaulted ceiling.
We then realized that almost the entire palace was bare with the exception of a few wall frescoes and some sculptures.
From that part of the palace we walked into another courtyard that was covered with grass and was surrounded by other buildings. Again the rooms and the building interiors were bare although they had panels that explained the purpose of the various rooms. The also had displays holding various artifacts of the time with Popes.
As we came out on one of the room onto the upper walkways, we could look up across the courtyard to see the famous Golden Virgin Mary that stands on the pillar at the left entrance to the palace.
From there we were led down to a restored room that was a library of the palace and was now the official tourist store with the typical tourist memorabilia. From there down several flights of stairs to the exit of the palace.
Outside was the left entrance and another look of the Golden Virgin Mary. Note the touring tram at the base of the left entrance. We took that tour for a look at the rest of Palace area, the Rhone river bridge and the upper end of Avignon.
Saint Benezet Bridge was originally the only method of crossing the Rhone river except by boat. It was originally 22 arches long (3000 feet) extending from the base of the Palace of the Popes to the Tower of Philip the Fair which was the beginning of France. In 1668, it was destroyed by an ice flood except for the remaining four arches. Still standing is the original toll booth and a medieval hospital for the poor between the second and third arches.
On the tour, we also stopped by the Church of St. Pierre and it adjacent ancient ruins and gardens. It was a pleasant stop because the wind that day had been very strong and it gave us a good break out of the wind to just relax and enjoy the gardens.
On the side of one of the old buildings was some ornamentation that caught our eye.
On to Paris the next day and the last of our adventures in Europe.
The trip from Rome to Milan, then on to Genoa and the border of Italy by train turned out to be a beautiful although all day trip with several train changes. Again I must say that travel by train in Europe is the way to go. It’s clean, comfortable and much less expensive, plus you get to look at all the scenery. The trip from Genoa to the border was really beautiful as most of it was just along the coast with the sea on one side and the many towns and villages on the other. In the left photo is a mountain in the upper left that is still covered with snow not far from the French Riviera.
When we got to Nice the train station was only a few blocks from the hotel so we decided to walk. However, my directions were all screwed up and after wandering around for 10 blocks trying to find the right street, we finally took a taxi to the hotel (a 5 minute drive, but worth it). The Hotel Alba was very nice and centrally located with an easy walk to Vieux (Old) Nice. It was right on the major north-south street (Jean Medecin) of the city with a modern tramline that ran from upper Nice to the Fountain of the Sun and then northwest along Vieux Nice.
The street Jean Medecin stopped at the famous Place Massena and the semi-circle plaza with the Fountain of the Sun. The statue in the center is Apollo with other Roman and Greek Gods surrounding him.
Just beyond the fountain was the entrance to Cours Saleya and the Church called ‘St. Vrancious De Paule’. The Cours Saleya Is Nice’s famous main market place since the Middle ages. The first part of the street is the Flower Market, the largest in the Riviera followed by the Plassa dou Gouvernou, the produce market and then the famous Nice restaurant sections where we enjoyed most of our evening meals.
Two blocks beyond is the famous French Riviera with it’s long boardwalk and beautiful beach.
Next morning we took a tour bus ride to see the main highlights of Nice It’s large old 5-star Hotel called the ‘Le Negresco’ starts the promenade of casinos, hotels, jewelry and department stores all along the coast line.
One of the most unusual things we saw on the tour was this office building in the shape of a man’s head called ‘Blockhead’. The square upper part was actually offices in the block!!!
The bus tour took up through the hills and low mountains surrounding the beach part of Nice where many of the more affluent people lived. Above is the Regina Palace where Queen Victoria stayed on her visits to Nice in the late 1890’s.
The next morning was cloudy and cool and after a late morning breakfast, we again went down to the Vieux Nice to visit the Castle Hill, ‘Colline due Chateau’. The Greeks originally settled in Nice 400,000 years ago and built an Acropolis on the large hill at the east end of the Nice beach.
Later, it was occupied by the Romans and then during the middle ages a huge castle and fortification was built (shown in photo). In the early 1700’s, King Louis XIV destroyed the castle and fortifications and today all that remains are several levels of patios and walkways plus the ruins of an old church.
The climb to the top was rather questionable for two old blue hairs with over 300 steps to get to the top so we managed to locate the elevator and take the easy way!!
Our first view from the top was a look back over the famous Nice beach of the French Riviera from above. From here we could see the Bay of Angles all the way around to Antibes and Cannes, the long beach and boardwalk of Nice and the Old village of Nice below us. Because of the cloudy weather, the color of the water and building were not as brilliant as normal.
The areas below the large stone patios at the top of the hill contained a pavilion with beautiful stone sculptures such as this seahorse between the arches and the walkways were all done in stones and pebbles.
All along the walkways were beautiful stone mosaics of birds and animals.
All of the variations of color and design were done with small pieces of cut stone. The mosaics were built into a retaining wall that bordered the walkway up to the upper patios.
Partway up the path to the top of the Castle Hill were the remains of a Cathedral dedicated to the Virgin Mary which was built in the 11th Centery and is now in the process of being restored. It was part of the original castle that was built in the middle ages.
At the top of the hill a large stone patio with walls all along the edge of the hill. On the side above the Vieux Nice we could look down on the Market Place and the wonderful restaurants of Old town.
Further on toward the back of the hill was a view of the city of Nice from above and on the top of a mountain to the west was Mont Alban Fort. It was built in the mid-1500’s to protect the Ports of Nice and Villefrance.
As we walked down toward the back of the Castle Hill we found an old cemetery of Nice and a small mustard colored church at it’s end. And Jan can’t resist visiting old cemeteries. However, we had to be discreet because a Jewish burial was being conducted in part of the cemetery.
At the back of the hill we found the stairs that lead us back down into the Old town where we had dinner,
After dinner we walking back through the Place Massena to the street of Jean Medicine and saw a beautiful sunset. It was a fitting end to our day and the end of our visits to Vieux Nice as tomorrow the last day in Nice, was a tour of the middle Corniche above Villefrance-sur-Mer with a stop at the Midieval Village of Eze then a tour of Monaco.
VILLEFRANCE-sur-MER, MIDiEVAL EZE, and MONACO
Villefrance-sur-Mer according to Rick Steves is the romantic’s choice for staying on the French Riviera! We saw it from above and it was beautiful, but we were glad we stayed in Nice. The next morning, we were picked up at our motel by a young woman driving a Mercedes SUV for a tour of ‘The Three Corniches’. The cities of Nice, Villefrance-sur-Mer and Monaco are connected by three roads along the coastal route called the Low, Middle and High Corniches. The Low Corniche travels along the coastline by the port and by the sea. The Middle Corniche is part-way up the mountain through Eze-le-Village (the ‘Citi Midievale’) and had beautiful views of the costal villages and sea below and the High Corniche is 1600 feet about the sea with breathtaking views. We took the Middle Corniche with the fantastic view of Villefrance-sur-Mer below us. The village is a Port of Call for many Cruise ships and one was in the harbor that morning. On the hill at the left edge of the left photo held one of the most expensive villas of the French Riviera although we couldn’t see much of it.
As you will see by the photos, Eze-le-Village or Mideival Eze is built just below a mountain peak which originally supported a Castle built on the very top. The original castle was built 1400 feet about the sea on a shear cliff. The castle today is a ruins, but the village itself is still a viable, beautiful monument to the middle ages and still thrives as a tourist attraction and home to the villagers.
The climb to the top from a parking lot below the village is somewhat daunting, but very beautiful and well worth the effort.
As we started through the village, we continued climbing through cobble stone streets to the old ochre church called ‘L’Eglise’ (Notre Dame de Assomption) built in 1772. It is said that the church can be seen form the see for miles and miles on a clear sunny day.
The alter inside the church contains an Egyptian Cross indicating it’s ancient past. The ceiling of the church was very beautiful and lit by both outside light from the upper windows and lighting.
Outside the church on the large patio was the cemetery cut into the mountain side and well above it was the remains of the original castle. There was a winding rock stairs cut into the sides of the rock cliff up to the castle ruins. It was very steep and long and we didn’t have time to climb it even if we had been willing.
We spent the rest of our tour time visiting the medieval village. The streets were very narrow with stone or cobble-stone paving.
Several times the path upward entered through an opening with a tunnel to another part of the village.
One of the first things that caught our attention was the variety of doorways to the various residents. Not only were they very unique in design, we all of a sudden realized that almost all the doorways were not much more than 5 feet tall! It was an indication that most medieval people were much smaller than we are today. It would have been interesting to see what the heights of the ceilings were inside the homes.
The other thing that got our attention were all the plants, flowers and trees growing out of the rock. The entire village was cut out of the rock and made out of rock. There wasn’t one building in the entire village made out of wood and all the roofs were ceramic tile.
I would assume that it was necessary due to the hazard of fire. Even the final home at the very top of the village was covered with vines and flowers.
We both would have enjoyed more time in the village, but we still had another stop to make.
A trip to Monaco is a must do when you are visiting the French Riviera. However, it sure wasn’t a highlight of the trip as far as I was concerned. It was surprising how much you can put in a small amount of area. The principality Is 2.7 x 2.5 miles (0.78 square miles) containing 36,371 people and most of the area is taken by the castle hill above. We arrived at the base of the castle hill where the Jacque Cousteau museum is located with his first deep sea submersible located out front. I was glad I didn’t have to dive in it!!!
We arrived in time for the changing of the guard at the castle which is the big event of the day. We hurried up the hill to the castle and found ourselves at the back of a very large mob. We were able to see the new guards coming out of one side house and march through the crowd into the castle and then got to see a close up of one of the guards in his little cubical.
My impression of the whole proceedings was similar to the seagull on top of the statue at the edge of the castle (notice the white color of the statues shoulders!). We didn’t get to see Princess Grace or Prince Rainer or any of their children.
Actually the castle was an unusual combination of modern (ochre) and old (greg partially visible).
We then took a vehicle tour through the city to the famous casino and the adjoining Café de Paris. The casino didn’t open until 4 pm so we didn’t get to go inside which was a disappointment.
After a brief stop at the Café de Paris, we took a drive around the rest of Monaco to see the harbor of Monaco with all the fancy yachts and boats plus the location of the Grandprix of Monaco (as seen looking down from the hill above).
We drove down onto the track where it started and then through some of it before heading back to Nice and the end of our tour.
It was actually a very fun and interesting day and especially nice have our own tour guide. The highlight to us was the Medieval Village of Ese
Next on our visit was to the French region of Provence, the gastronomical base of lower France. It is located along the Rhone River where we stayed in Arles a few wonderful days to celebrate May Day, a visit to the medieval castle of Les Baux, the magnificent Roman aqueduct of Pont du Gard, then a visit to Avignon and the French Popes Palace.
Sorry that it has taken so long to tell you about the next part of our trip to Europe. However, Alaska called and our summer was full. We had another good summer, but that will have to wait for a while. After spending a wonderful and very busy ten days with Debbie, Jordan and Kristina in Germany, Switzerland and Venice, Jan and I were ready for a break and some relaxation.
The area of the Mediterranean Sea in the northwest portion of Italy is called the Ligurian Sea. Mountains form most of it’s shoreline. Located between these mountains are canyons cut by the rivers from the land to the sea. In these canyons are five (cinque) small fishing villages (terre, meaning land) called the Liqurian Riveria. These five villages are about as picturesque as any place on earth.
Monterosso al Mare – village #5, April 18th through April 23rd.
It turned out that Cinque Terre was the perfect spot for our break! It was late April and the summer sun worshipers had not yet arrived so we were able to rent a beautiful room above the beach in Monterosso al Mare for five days. We arrived by train on Friday afternoon of Easter weekend. The next day was cloudy with a little rain so we just relaxed for a day, occasionally walking around the village.
The village is separated into two parts, the northern beach area is called Fegina, the new town and has a long semi-circle beach. Our beautiful room was on the third floor of the third building past the aqua building with the red roof.
This picture is the view to our north with the boardwalk and beach below us.
Jan is standing on our deck on the third floor. The right is the view to the south down the beach to the Medieval Tower called Aurora.
It was originally built to protect the Old Town from the pirates and invaders during the dark ages. During the war, it was used to protect against invasion. Note the pillbox below the tower just above the water level.
Just beyond the Aurora Tower is the ‘Old Town’ of Monterosso al Mare. The coastal railroad runs all along the Italian western coastline from Rome to Genoa and to the border with France. You can see the trestle of the tracks separating the beach from the buildings of the town. In the background, the sides of the mountains are terraced for grape vines and olive trees. There is very little land for farming and most of the livelihood of the locals come from fishing and tourism.
Just inside the railroad trestleis the old church, San Giovanni Battista.
It was beautiful inside mostly in white and black marble; however, we were not allowed to take flash photos and it was too dark.
The village was built into the sides of the mountains, thus the homes and businesses were stair stepped up the sides of the canyon walls.
The businesses and restaurants occupied the bottom floors of the buildings along the main walkways up the canyon away from the ocean.
Most of the buildings were 3 or 4 stories high with the family dwellings on the upper levels. There were stairs between some of the building off the side of the main streets leading up to the upper levels of dwellings, churches and official buildings.
Autos were not allowed down from the upper end of the streets; however, they could travel down from the mountain roads running through the area to parking areas at the ends of the streets. Most of the supplies came by truck from the larger towns in the area or from the boats at the beach.
The exception to allowing auto and truck traffic to the beach was made in the new town of Fegina where the roads from above came down to the boardwalk and there was a parking area just above the beach to the north of our building.
The food was great with lots of seafood as would be expected.
We found a great restaurant called ‘Miky’ just down the boardwalk from our room and enjoyed a wonderful meal of calamari, both deep fried and grilled.
And of course we had to sample the local wine! Good!
Easter Sunday – April 20th
We awoke to the sun shinning brightly through our patio windows. We couldn’t help but to go out of the deck. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it was deep blue, the ocean below us that clear aqua-blue green that was sparkling clear. It seemed that you could see all the way to France. It was a great day to go exploring the other four villages of the Cinque Terra. We had our good morning coffee and some local pastries and headed for the train station for the short hop to the first village of the group.
Oops, so did a lot of other tourists decide to take the train sightseeing. Although the crowd looks big, there was a lot of room on the train so there was no problem finding a seat. The trains in Europe are great. In Cinque Terre, there were local trains that went between the five villages, Levanto the city to the north and La Spezia to the south. We bought two daily tickets for 3 euros ($4.20) and could ride the local trains as many times as we wanted. The local trains were the only trains in Europe that don’t run on schedule!
Riomaggorie – village #1, morning April 20th.
The village of Riomaggiore was very beautiful from the sea. Like Monterosso al Mare, it was nestled in two adjoining canyons; however, the coastline here was rocky cliffs down to the sea. Riomaggorie has no beaches. There were two ways to get from the north side to the south side by foot. One was a tunnel along the railroad tracks from the station (note the trestle on the left) to the mid-village on the right. Or the second, along a walkway located between the villages about half way up the side of the cliffs separating the two. Similar to all five villages, they were built in the canyons carved by the rivers flowing out of the local mountains. Therefore, all of the buildings are stair-stepped up the sides of the canyon walls. Also unique to the costal area, the building are painted with a variety of bright pastel colors giving the coastline a beautiful picturesque scene.
In Riomaggiore, we were greeted with a colorful scene of the village people accomplishing their everyday labors as we walked along the railroad tracks to the southern part of the village.
Due to the steep canyon walls of these villages, the buildings seemed very close or almost jammed together, but very pretty with their vibrant pastel colors. We walked down to the sea by the main street of the village where the break-water rocks provided access for the many small fishing boats to reach the sea.
There was no beach at all, just the sea coming directly up to the concrete ramp where the fishing boats are launched. All along the main street were the many businesses and restaurants of the village.
Following Rick Steves’ tour, we climbed up the stairs to the upper left at the level of the local church, Saint Giovanni Batista built in 1340 (named after the church in Monterosso al Mare).
From the church, we entered the walkway from the south village to the north village of Riomaggorie.
It was a very scenic walkway along the edge of the cliff overlooking the sea and the buildings of both villages. As we were walking along, we could see the train station below us with a train waiting for people to load. The cove below was very beautiful with small ocean wave crashing against the rocks and shore line.
The north part of Riomaggiore was not as large as the south part andwe took our time walking on down into the village. After touring through the shops and stores along the main street, we made our way down to the railroad station to catch the next train to Manarola, the next stop of the five villages.
The train took a long time to come and there was quite a crowd waiting for it arrival. Then we all heard a trumpet playing some Italian songs above us on the walkway where we had looked down at the station. While he was playing, the crowd got very quiet and then as the train pulled into the station, everyone gave a cheer and started clapping a thank you to the trumpeter.
Manarola – village #2, April 20th afternoon.
Manarola, like Riomaggiore has no beach and is part of the same rocky, cliff like most of the southern villages of the Cinque Terre. It does have a deep water swimming area and a boat launch for the local fishermen. Set high on the cliff side of the canyon, it is one of the most scenic of the five villages. We arrived by train just after lunch in the center of the village and again followed Rick Steve’s suggested tour.
In this case it turned out to be following the red brick road to the top of the village. After the first stairway up along a section of old rock wall from a very old structure, the red brick road led us up through the narrow walkways between the residents.
Note the crosswalks above us along the way. These were actually narrow walkways perpendicular to the path we were climbing that led to residents along the side of the canyon wall. As we walked along the last section of the red brick path, the edge dropped
In this case it turned out to be following the red brick road to the top of the village. After the first stairway up along a section of old rock wall from a very old structure, the red brick road led us up through the narrow walkways between the residents. Note the crosswalks above us along the way. These were actually narrow walkways perpendicular to the path we were climbing that led to residents along the side of the canyon wall.
As we walked along the last section of the red brick path, the edge dropped steeply down to other buildings and residents below us. At the top of the path, it opened to a wide piazza with an overlook of the village below and street leading down to the waterfront.
At the waterfront, there is steep drop into sea. The boats are brought up to the storage areas when not in use.
To the right was the swimming area where young people were diving off the rocks into the sea. The last photo of the series is of the right hand side of the waterfront. There is a pathway around the side of the hill next to the village that leads up to the village cemetery.
It was interesting so we walked up to the top of the hill where there was a typical European burial area consisting of crypts surrounding a central mausoleum.
The outside crypts were built into the surrounding walls and could be for either casket burial or cremated remains. The mausoleum had facilities for cremated remains only. As in Switzerland, it looked like the burials were only for a limited period of time (25 years?) for the family to honor the departed and then the remains were moved into a common crypt site. Most of the crypts had ceramic photos of the deceased, the birth and death dates, and an area for flowers. There were no ground burial sites in the area and the grounds were well kept with flowers and bushes.
Leaving the cemetery, we walked on around the point of the cemetery hill and down the path back to the village. Along the way was the beautiful view of the village and waterfront below us. Note also the tour boat that was docked at the base of the cliff along the breakwater rocks. On our last day in Cinque Terre, Jan and I would spend the day touring the Cinque Terre and the beautiful town of Pontovenere at the end of the peninsula (more about that later).
Corniglia – village #3, April 21st.
Corniglia is an ancient Roman village and is the only one of the five villages that doesn’t have direct access to the sea. It is over 330 feet (100 meters) above the sea. There are 377 steps up a stairs from the railroad station to the village. We chose to climb the switchback-paved road from the station to the top of the village.
The walk up was supposed to be good for us, but later we paid the bus driver to take us back down!!! Never-the-less, the walk up was interesting because the mountainside was terraced with all kinds of olives, grapes, flowers and vegetables and the small old village was fascinating.
At the very top of the village was the old church built in 1334. From the outside, it was not impressive at all, but inside was a wonder to behold.
The inside of the church was incredible. The ceilings and the side naves were beautiful with paintings and artifacts that would later rival those we would see in St. Peter’s Basicilia and the Sisteen Chapel in Rome although obviously they were not painted by Michelangelo.
There also was a baptismal basin that was from the 1100’s! Who would have thought that this little old and common-looking church on top of the mountain would be so beautiful inside.
The village itself was not spectacular. It did have direct access to the highways above in the mountains so there were cars on the streets and buses which took you up and down the road to the railroad station. At the end of the road in the village was a parking area and a nice restaurant although we didn’t eat there as it was too late for lunch and too early for dinner.
The area below and above the village was terraced for gardens, vineyards, olive orchards and flowers. They obviously grew lots of produce and eventually sold it to other villages in the area because the parking lot was large and at the outter edge was a loading dock for a tram that carried produce down from the town to the small dock area at the sea (and probably brought some essentials back up).
Although it was very small, the village was very picturesque and the village church was very impressive. We took this photo as we were traveling back on our boat trip back to Monterosso al Mare.
Vernazza – village #4, April 21st
Vernazza is considered the most beautiful village in Italy. I would agree, but there is a lot of competition in the Cinque Terre. The village was settled in 1000 AD for fishing due to its direct access to the Ligurian Sea from the end of the main street.
Harbor square was built higher to provide a place to store the many boats of the village during the rough seas of the winter months and to provide an ample seating for the local restaurants during the summer tourist season. The church of Saint Margherita di Antiochia was built in 1318 on a huge rock that was anchored at the edge of the harbor. There is a local legend that after a storm a wooden box floated onto the huge rock containing the bones of Saint Margaret. A church was built in the village in honor of her and her bones were placed inside. Later another storm destroyed the church and most of the village. Years later the box of bones again washed up on the rock at the edge of the harbor and the new church was built on the rock in which her bones still reside.
In most of the villages of the Cinque Terre, the original rivers cut out the canyons where the villages are now located. The early village buildings were built on each side of the river up the canyon walls. As the villages grew, they covered the river with rock sides and a roof to create a channel and a street to connect each side of the village.
Above Vernazza, a terrible downpour occurred in the mountains in the fall of 2011 causing a flash flood that overwhelmed the channel and destroyed most of the businesses on the main street. It also cut a tunnel through the mountainside to the bay. You can see the tunnel just beyond Jan in the photo on the left and the opening into the bay on the right photo.
Again we used Rick Steve’s guide to explore the village of Vernazza. We were surprised that the village also used the red brick path to show the way to some of the more interesting features.
In this case it led to an ancient stone wall and gate very near the top of the canyon.
On the other side of the gate were another piazza overlooking the village below and the base for the ancient stone church ruins. It was interesting that the tower of the church had not been destroyed or had been rebuilt and the clock mounted on the outside still worked with the correct time.
Below on the opposite canyon wall was a castle tower and the stonework ramps and stairs leading up to it. The castle was still in use as a hotel and restaurant. Further down the canyon is the Belforte castle built on the top of the cliff above the bay with the main village buildings and the harbor below. It was built above the harbor as a tower fort to repel the many pirates that frequented the Ligurian Sea during the 1500’s.
Portovenere – Italy’s hidden gem! – April 22nd
We took a day boat ride from Monterosso al Mare to Portovenere stopping at each of the villages of the Cinque Terre along the way. Many of the previous photos from the sea were taken from the boat. We had originally planned to continue around the islands below Portovenere as part of the trip, but when we saw the church on the toe of St. Peter’s (the name of the peninsula at the entrance to Portovenere) and the castle above it we got off the boat to explore.
We were totally unaware of the beauty of Portovenere until we approached from the sea. Rick Steve’s had hardly mentioned it other that to say it was interesting. As we came down the coastline, the first thing we could see was the outline of the castle-fort and the church on the point at the entrance to the Portovenere bay. It looked interesting and as we got closer it became very interesting.
As we entered the bay it was obvious that we had a lot of things to see while we were there and quickly decided to leave the boat while it toured around the other islands and then pick it up again for the return trip to Monterosso al Mare. Below the church on the point was the remains of another fort with holes for gun ports to cover the entrance to the bay.
Further along was the start of another village with the multi-colored pastel buildings characteristic to the Cinque Terre area and most of Italy’s sea-coast towns.
We were later to find that church on the point was called Saint Peter’s. (The point of land that it sat upon was called ‘Saint Peter’s Toe”!) The original village of Portovenere (then called Portus Veneris, was an ancient Roman village started in the 1st century BC. Above the homes and businesses in the old village of Portovenere was the castle on top of the hill and the gate to the castle at the end of the village with the enclosed stairs up to the castle. The castle was started by the Doria family in 1139 and named ‘Andrea Doria’. It was rebuilt in 1169 by the province of Genoa and then modernized into a fort in the 15th and 16th centuries. The church above the center of town is called the ‘Parrocchia dei SS. Pietro Lorenzo and was build 1204. It was a beautiful old church along the pathway below the castle.
Above and behind the village buildings was a stone walkway out to the end of Saint Peter’s Toe. There stood the church of Saint Peter that was built in 1198. Below it was the ruins of the fortifications with the gun ports and the platforms for the cannons that protected the entrance to the bay. In front and to the side of the church are the ruins of the barracks and buildings that held the soldiers who protected the bay, the castle and the village.
Above the church was the castle and the stairs climbing past the barracks to the base of the castle/fort.
From this point the stairs became narrow stone paths with stone walls on each side and began a winding pattern to climb up to the base of the castle. It was obvious that the paths were built to make it difficult for raiders to attack the fort from the sea. From this point of view, the castle was quite massive and a formable fortress.
Just below the castle face above the sea was the cemetery. It was almost cut out of the cliff side to provide terraces for the crypts and burials. It was actually a quite beautiful resting place.
This pathway ran all along the base of the castle with the church below it.It wound down through the village as you got beyond the church with interesting stone niches.
A typical example was this marble measuring container with the date of 1606 carved into the side. It was used to measure liquids or grains by placing a stopper in the hole, pouring the basin full and then removing the stopper to let the liquid pour into a bucket.
We would have liked to have more time to visit the castle and its ground and to look through the old church. Unfortunately, the tour boat was due to leave shortly and it was the last one of the day to return us to Monterossa al Mare.
This was our last look at St. Peter’s Toe, the Church and the fort as we left Portovenere.
HEADING BACK TO CINQUE TERRE
where we spent 5 wonderful days! It was a restful time, yet a very busy time with so many things to see and do. We truly enjoyed it!
Village #1 – RIOMAGGIORE
Goodbye to Cinque Terre until next time!
ROME IS NEXT!
ROME – April 23rd to 26th
We were asked: “Do you mean you are only staying two full days in Rome, the most beautiful ancient city of the world?”
Our answer after two days in Rome: “YES! It is too crowded, too busy, too many cars and too dirty!”
I guess that response is a little bit too much, but it was all of those things. Part of our problem was that we were there between Easter Sunday and the Canonization of two previous Popes and there were too many people to really enjoy all of the things that Rome had to offer. Besides, we had just come off five days on the Cinque Terre and everything and everyone in Rome overwhelmed us. And the other thing is that Rome is for the glorification of the Catholic religion and if you are a Catholic, that is great! But we are not.
SAINT PETER’S BASILICA
Our first morning there we decided to get up early and go to the Vatican and see Saint Peter’s Basilica. We took the underground rail transportation for the first time in Rome and it was an experience. It took awhile to figure out the Italian names and routes, but we finally got to the Vatican just after 8 am.
We entered St. Peter’s square through one of the colonnades. Surprisingly, the lines were still short and we were able to get into St. Peter’s In about 15 minutes.
Saint Peter’s Basilica was huge! It is 500 feet wide by 750 feet long and 452 feet high. The main dome’s diameter is 137.7 feet. It was finished in 1626.
The Pope’s window and deck is in the upper center of the building where he waves and addresses the people in the square. The three openings in the center of the building are the entrance doors to the interior of the Basilica. The three domes of the Basilica are not apparent in the photo, but the main one is in the center near the rear and the two smaller ones are on the left and right sides near the front. The large arched entry to the right is the back entrance to the Sistine Chapel (as we were to find out later much to our dismay).
Had we known that the large arched doorway on the right side of the basilica was the back entrance to the Sistine Chapel, we could have saved ourselves a very, very long wait and what wound up to be a frustrating peek at the Sistine Chapel the next morning. Oh well, sometimes even Rick Steves doesn’t know all the answers.
Entering the central door on the front brings you directly into the walk to St. Peter’s altar in the back of the Basilica. The walk is roped off and has red velvet side curtains to keep the public away. At the end of the walk is the huge 98 foot tall bronze pavilion called a Baldachin. It is the largest bronze art work in the world. Below it in the center is the altar of St. Peter. Legend states that his bones are buried beneath the altar. In the apse behind it the chair in bronze that St. Peter used when he was the first Pope.
Above the bronze Baldachin is the large dome of the Basilica in hues of blue, white and gold. The walls and ceilings were painted frescos and works of art. The entire interior without considering all of the magnificent sculptures, works of art and treasures was magnificent. It seemed that every square inch of the interior was dedicated to something religious and gold was everywhere.
The smaller left dome and smaller right dome on each side at the upper front was a typical example of how gold was used to highlight areas of the structure. All of the naves along each side were also richly done with gold and painted panels highlighting the particular altar, sculpture, painting or treasure.
I decided not to show any particular sculpture, painting or treasure in the blog. We took over 75 photos of the various art works including the enormous 4 saints sculpted in marble that were at least 30 feet high or Michelangelo’s ‘Pieta’ (Mother Mary holding the crucified Jesus) or one of the remains of the Pope’s in their golden coffins with glass sides. How do you choose between them? You have to see them in person to truly appreciate them.
By 10 am, the basilica was full of people and it was becoming difficult to get close enough to the sites of interest to even see them. We had stayed inside St. Peter’s for over two hours. As we left the interior of the cathedral there were two of the Swiss Guard in their colorful uniforms standing guard.
When we walked out into St. Peter’s square, the line had grown. It was now 5 to 6 people wide where had started when we arrived earlier and it extended all around St. Peter’s square and down the street several blocks. I seriously doubt that all those people managed to make it into the basilica by the end of the afternoon.
Saint Peter’s Square
The square was very large and you can see the people standing in line. In the center is the Egyptian Obelisk, called ‘The Witness’. It stands 130 feet high and is made of red granite. The Obelisk stood in the city of Heliopolis, Egypt during the reign of the Fifth Dynasty of Egypt (2300 BC). There are also two large fountains on each side of the obelisk built in the 1600’s.
During the middle ages there was a gilt ball at the top of the Obelisk with the Christian Cross above it. It was believed to containe the ashes of Julius Caesar. Fontana later removed the ancient ball that stood at the top of the Obelisk and opened it and found nothing but dust! (??? What ever happened to ‘from ashes to ashes and dust to dust’?)
There is literally a church on every corner in the heart of Rome. I don’t know where they find enough people to support them all, but I suppose that the Catholic religion supports them all. The nice thing about having a church on every corner is that the art work and the sculptures are magnificent such as these on the other corner of the previous photo. However, I have no clue who the created the sculptures of who and what they are of and I was unable to find them on the internet. It was probably in the inscription along the top, but I can’t read Latin.
One thing that really turned us off was that the sidewalks and street gutters were coated with cigarette butts. They sure don’t add to the beauty of the city or improve the smell! Plus Rome is very expensive, the rooms, food and especially the Vatican tours.
So we decided to just walk around the city during the afternoon and finally caught the double-deck touring bus to cover the city’s famous areas.
Rome wasn’t all ancient ruins and Catholic churches. This was the Monumennto Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuelell II, who was the first King of Italy in 1861. The monument is 260 feet wide by 390 feet tall and was built on Capitone Hill replacing ancient Roman ruins and medieval churches.
Of course there were things that were of interest to us like this shop of figurines, sculptures, roman heads and other miscellaneous to decorate your tomb or crypt when you die. This small shop was in an open alleyway off one of the main streets.
There were beautiful ruins that had been kept and somewhat restored such as the Basilica Saint Mary of the Angels and the Martrys very near the railroad station. It was originally Roman baths converted to the Basilica in 1564 by Michelangelo.
The Castel Sant’Angelo (Castle of the Holy Angel) was originally built by Emperor Hadrian for his burial mausoleum.
His ashes were placed in the mausoleum in 139 AD and were later destroyed by the Goths. It became part of the Catholic Church due to it’s proximity to the Vatican. In the 14th century, Pope Nicholas III converted it to a prison and remained a prison until 1901, when it was renamed Castel Sant’Angelo.
Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel
Since we had such good luck with the crowds at St. Peter’s Basilica, we decided to get up early again and try the crowds at the Vatican Museum to see the Sistine Chapel. We were not so lucky this time. By our arrival at 8 am, the crowd was already three blocks long; however, it was moving forward. Thirty minutes later the street filled up with tours and they went to the head of the lines. The lines slowed to almost a standstill. The street hackers kept trying to sell us tickets to move to the front of the line for $30 each, but we found out that the tickets did not include the museum entrance price. And like St. Peter’s, the original attraction ticket we purchased when we arrived does not include anything at the Vatican!
We declined the front of the line tickets out of disgust and pig-headedness and stayed in the line! Three hours later we finally reach the front of the museum. Upon entering the lobby, we found we had to pay another $30 each to be herded through the museum.
Herded was a very apt description! Growing up on a farm, I remember pushing a herd of cattle through narrow walkways to get them cull, separate or load them in trucks. That was exactly like it was in the museum and the chapel. There were people as far as you could see in front of you and behind you. There were long halls with lighted ceilings, slightly larger rooms with exhibits that you couldn’t stop to see if you wanted to because you were being rushed along with the crowd. It seemed like the lighted ceiling hallways went on forever and up and down stairs through lots of doors.
Finally we entered a large room with a 6 foot metal fence with a gate in the middle of it. It was stuffed with people and they were slowly moving through the iron gate in the middle and on toward another door in the corner. By opening up the view screen and holding up the camera above my head, I was taking pictures with the camera of the paintings on the ceiling as we were being shuffled along. When we got to the doorway, I asked Jan when we were going to get to the Sistine Chapel and she said, “That was it!”
Actually I did get some good pictures of the ceiling of the chapel which is so famous for Michelangelo’s paintings.
Some statistics about the Sistine Chapel for you to get a feeling of it’s size. It is 134 feet long, 44 feet wide and 68 feet high. When we were in the room, their had to be at least 1500 people milling around in it, most trying to get through the iron gate and out the far door!
Between 1502 and 1512 Michelangelo painting the ceiling with the scenes out of Genesis. The center painting of the ceiling is God giving Adam the spark of life. I am sorry it isn’t more in focus, but it’s hard to get a clear picture above your head being pushed along.
Noah and the Ark in the flood. Boy, the painters during that time sure like to paint nudes (?), now it would be called Porn!
Once out the door, we walked down some stairs and through a short hall with a ticket booth, then out a door on the landing of a stairs. It was not quite 12:30. We had just been herded through 54 galleries of the Vatican Museum in an hour and a half seeing very little but the ceilings. On the bottom of the stairs was a stone paved area between the museum and St. Peter’s Basilica. At the end of the area was the arched door at the front of St. Peter’s Basilica that we had seen yesterday morning when we came out of the basilica. Had we known at the time, we could have walked through the arched door and up the stairs, paid the entrance fee and walked into the Sistine chapel from the back door!
The Ruins of Rome
Our last afternoon in Rome, we took the underground out to the Colosseum and the ruins of ancient Rome.
The Arch of Constantine is a triumphal arch situated between the Colosseum and Palatine Hill. It was built by the Roman Senate to commemorate the victory of Emperor Constantine over Maxentis in 312. It is 69 feet high, 85 feet wide and 24 feet thick and has three arches. During the 1960 Olympics held in Rome, it was the end of the marathon. It is currently being renovated and cleaned thus has metal platforms for cleaning over half of it.
The Colosseum was huge and parts were well preserved, restored and renovated. As you can see from this photo, the unrestored, original exterior back wall was three stories high. The original blocks of stone are well defined and holes in between the stones indicate how the exterior finish was attached although the attachments have decayed allowing the exterior façade to crumble off. Most of this area toward the back of the Colosseum is blocked off although people from the tours inside are allowed out to the exterior.
The original blocks of rock are exposed at the top of the wall in the photo on the left including the unusual pattern of interlocking various sizes of rocks to tie the structure together.
Where as the photo on the right shows the more finished wall with the brick facing covering on the rocks. In addition, it indicates where the original different levels of the bleachers or viewing platforms were located. It isn’t obvious whether the openings allowing ventilation inside the structure or were providing views of the surrounding area from the inside.
Looking though one of the arched openings we could see a large tour on the inside of the structure, several different levels of structures for seating or balconies, the break in the colosseum floor and the catacombs below the floor where the contestants and animals were kept.
Walking around the front side of the Colosseum, an earlier renovation had taken place on the left side and note that the structure is four stories high on this side. As we looked further around this side, they were continuing to renovate it with the metal framing to work on it and part of it had been completely restored. Note also the large crowd at the base of the building. This was the crowd waiting to use their passes to see the interior. The line continued around the base in the left photo under the trees. Although we would have liked to use our passes to see the interior, we decided we didn’t want to wait in that line especially after this morning.
A parting shot at the commercialization of Rome were the Roman Gladiators standing around at the base of the Colosseum waiting to get their picture taken with the tourists.
It was obvious that there are still many, many ruins of the old Roman city nestled between new buildings and houses in the current city. This photo is an example of the many ruins that Italy is still in the process of studying, restoring or rebuilding. Below the trees in the photo are buildings and equipment used to work in the old ruins and the restored tower in the lower part of the photo is part of the restoration.
We were to see many, many more Roman ruins as we travel on the rest of our trip to the southern coast of France and the beautiful cities of Arles and Avignon, and the Pont du Gard, but that is for another blog coming after our Alaskan Summer.
A year ago Debbie started talking about a visit to Jordan in Ukraine. Jordan was teaching English with the Peace Corp there. Debbie’s daughter-in-law, Kristina had been to Europe and wanted to go with her. It interested Jan and I also, so we decided to go with her. However, they could only stay for 10 days and we decided that we wanted to spend more in Europe because it would probably be our last opportunity to go.
We began to develop our plans which included a few days in Ukraine, travel to Switzerland to visit the Andregg relatives, then a few days in Venice, then Debbie, Jordan and Kristina would go on to Paris. Jan and I decided to spend more time in Italy and then in France before flying back home from Paris.
Our plans were changed when Russia invaded Ukraine! The Peace Corp brought Jordan back to the US early and US travel was not recommended in February so the Ukraine part of the trip was canceled. We already had tickets and reservations to go. Debbie got Jordan a ticket to go back to Europe with us, so on the 10th of April we met in DC and flew to Munich for the first leg of our trip.
Jan and my trip lasted 27 days with additional stays on the Italian Riviera (Cinque Terre), Rome, Nice, Arles, Avignon and Paris. A truly wonderful trip with many, many things to see and do that resulted in lots of photos (almost 4550 from two cameras and iPhones including some of Debbie and Jordan) and two really exhausted old grey hairs! So as to not bore you, we have been spending our time reducing the photos to the minimum and the best to share the story with you. We are breaking up the blog into sections to feed you a little at a time so you won’t get totally bored, plus we have to deal with all these photos!
April 10-12 Munich
We really hadn’t planned to stop in Munich other than to change planes to fly to Lviv, Ukraine. When our plans had to change, we decided to stop in Munich and take a train to Switzerland. That layover allowed us to spend an afternoon enjoying the Old Town area of Munich.
You enter the Old Town area through this beautiful gate called the Karistor in the heart of the city. The gate is a replica of the gothic gate of the medieval fortification. The very broad promenade called the Karlsplatz leads through businesses and shops along with very old buildings, churches and cathedrals.
Just inside the gates was Saint Michael’s Cathedral, which was originally built in the mid-1200’s. It is not clear what happened to it during WWII as much of Munich was destroyed by Allied bombs; however, the interior was very beautiful.
A few blocks on down the promenade at the Marienplatz was the old Rathaus building built in the late 1800’s with its famous Glockenspiel. The Glockenspiel was built to honor the marriage of Duke Wilhelm V of Bavaria. It played that day at 12 pm and shows two knights jousting on the carousel with the Duke and his bride watching above.
We watched from below at the outdoor café in the plaza eating lunch and enjoying a Bavarian beer!
After lunch, we walked on to the end of the promenade where the old town hall is now a Toy Museum, then we walked around the corner to the market platz.
There were about 10 to 15 permanent booths with about every kind of cheese, olives, breads, fruits, vegetables, meats, wines, sodas, flowers and plants plus a couple of crafts and nick-nack tourist booths. It was obvious that the locals and tourists in the know came here to eat lunch or snack. I had wished we had known about it earlier!
By that time, we were beginning to run out of steam as we had been on the airplane from DC from 5pm the previous evening and arrived in Munich at about 9 am that morning. Our excitement was beginning to give way to tired, but we had one place that was a must to visit to complete our afternoon in Munich.
The original Hofbrauhaus and brewery was built in 1859 by Duke Wilhelm V, the Bavarian Duke and obviously, he did enjoy his home brewed beer! And you just can’t visit the Hofbrauhaus without sampling one of their famous brews. Even for a died-in-the-wool Pale Ale fan, you just can’t help but enjoy a full mug of fresh Bavarian beer light or dark!
April 12-16 Zurich – Bern, Switzerland
A good nights sleep (much needed by all) and then a fun and beautiful train ride from Munich to Zurich, Switzerland.
We arrived in Zurich in the afternoon and met our first member of the Andregg family, Freddie Pressig at the Zurich train station. He helped us get oriented and rent a car for our trip through Switzerland. He had been part of the family that had come to Hoxie, Kansas to meet their Andregg cousins.
One of our reasons to travel through Switzerland beside just enjoying the wonderful scenery and people was to meet Jan, Debbie and Jordan’s relatives that still lived in Switzerland.
That evening at our hotel in Zurich, Freddie’s cousin, Elisabeth Gressbach met us for dinner and they had a great time talking about the cousins and Switzerland. We all had dinner together and had a great time talking about relations and past meetings, plus Elisabeth gave us all a lot of information about Switzerland, where to go and what to see.
The next morning, Elisabeth led us to the Evangelical Church in Flawil, Switzerland where Debbies’ great-great grandfather and grandmother were married in 1878. The church was originally built in 1257 as a catholic church and remained that way until 1771 when it was changed to an Evangelical church. The church was rebuilt again in the late 1980’s.
We were there on Palm Sunday and were able to attend the service. The sermon was given by a young woman pastor (in black next to Elizabeth and Jordan) who spoke in Swiss-German. The church was very plain on the inside with hand-built wooden pews although the ceiling was painted with ornate designs and the chandeliers were beautiful. The cemetery behind the church was small with beautiful flowers on all the graves. The tradition there is to cremate the remains and place them in the plots for 25 years for the families. Then the remains are removed and placed in a common crept in the cemetery.
After church, we drove back to Zurich to Elisabeth’s home and met her daughter, Christina and granddaughters. We all went to lunch at a local Pizza place then took a ride to the nearby Troggenburg area and the gondola at Mt. Gamplut where you can ride the Trotti bikes down a paved path to the small village in the valley below.
Trotti bikes have no seat, but have a platform to stand upon. They also have no gears or peddles, they are a scooter. The beginning of the path is shown in the photo. In the background across the valley is the Churfirsten range of the Alps with the highest mountains reaching 2200 meters (7200+ feet).
Our group picture was taken below Mt. Schafberg where a younger Elisabeth and her late husband used to climb in the winter and ski down! Elisabeth is in the yellow coat, her daughter, Christina in the green coat, then Jon, Jan, Debbie and Jordan. Kristina was taking the photo.
The youngsters insisted that they had to ride the modified (fat wheel) Trotti bikes down the path to the base of the gondola while us old grey hairs decided to travel the old fashioned way, walking!
The trip down the mountain (about a mile and a half) was beautiful. It was paved most of the way and also provided a single lane road for supplies to the building at the top of the gondola plus some cabins and cattle barns along the way.
The mountainside was alternating open grassy areas among the trees with low stone fences to separate the cattle pasture areas. As the spring and summer progress, the cattle are moved up the mountain where the grass is fresh.
All three were squealing down the mountain on their Trotti bikes (the brakes squealed loudly with all the terror of flying down the slopes). Jordan and Kristina zoomed on ahead and had already reached the bottom. They were anxiously waiting for her. I don’t think there are chiggers in Switzerland!
When the old grey hairs reached the bottom, we all headed back to Elisabeth’s house in Zurich where we enjoyed a wonderful light dinner of Swiss cheeses, meats and breads and washed it down with some good Swiss beer!
Thank you Elisabeth for a wonderful experience and a beautiful day in Switzerland. It was a joy to meet your daughter and granddaughters.
The next day was a travel day to Bern to see Elisabeth’s sister, Heidi and her other daughter, Regula plus Freddie’s cousin, Margaret Wegman and her family. We took the long, winding Switzerland mountain route through beautiful Lucerne and Interlaken to Bern.
Lucerne like most of Switzerland, is a land of bicycles and motorcycles. There was a row of motorcycles two blocks long on another side street. All of these were at the railroad station.
The highlight of Lucerne was the age old covered bridge in the center of town, called the Chapel Bridge, it was built in 1333 to straddle Reuss River which feeds Lake Lucerne. Off in the distance on the left photo are Mt. Pilatus and Rigi in the Swiss Alps. The tower in the photo on the right was also built in the 14th century to fortify the entrance to Lucerne from the lake.
On down the road through the mountains was the small town of Interlaken nestled in the Swiss Alps between Lake Brienz and Lake Thun. In it’s position as a gateway into the Swiss Alps, it’s considered one of Switzerland’s most beautiful resorts. The photos are of the river Aar which flows through the town from one lake to the other. We stopped for a while taking photos and touring the town. While Debbie and the kids looked at the sights, Jan and I sat in one of the open restaurants and enjoyed a cold beer. The afternoon was warm and beautiful.
Later that afternoon we arrived in the heart of Bern near the railroad station where we would catch the train to our next destination, Venice. But first we would spend a wonderful day with Elisabeth’s sister, Heidi for a wonderful day at a cheese factory, a medieval village and a chocolate factory.
Another really fun day in Switzerland! We met Heidi, Regula and her daughter, Celine the next morning for a ride out to a cheese factory.
It was the famous La Gruyere cheese factory and we watched them with their morning ritual of making the cheese from a viewing room above the factory floor. The milk from the previous milking was stored in large vats in a sterilized room. The milk was heated and stirred with the necessary ingredients (we were not told what ingredients because they were secret!) until the milk began to curdle. At the time that the head man on the floor decided when the time was right, the milk was pumped out of the vat into the circular compression cylinders on the right in the photo and the whey was pressed out of the curds. The resultant wheel of cheese was then market with the date and sent to a drying rack where 7000 wheels of cheese are aged up to 15 months for future sale.
That wasn’t the end of our tour of the cheese factory as the group then went into the Le Gruyere restaurant and had a delicious Le Gruyere cheese fondue lunch. Seated on the left are Celine, Heidi, Regula and Jon, on the right, Jan, Jordan, Kristina and Debbie.
With full tummies we all travelled up the side of the mountain to the original Chateau of the La_Masion du Gruyeres. The Chateau or Castle sets on a prominent outcropping overlooking the valley floor. It was built in the 13th century by the Duke of the region and included a medieval village attached to the castle. We parked at the base of the mount and walked up into the medieval village that had been preserved for tourists to the cheese and chocolate factories.
Debbie, Jan and I stopped at the fountain in the center of the village to have our photo taken. At the other end of the street sits the Chateau La_Masion du Gruyeres with a small Catholic church aside it’s entrance.
We walked along the street looking at all the old buildings and shops all keeping to the period of the time and came upon this stone wall with various size bowls cut into it. As we looked around the other side it became obvious that it was an ancient measuring device for grains or dry goods. The big hole was about the size of our bushel and the smallest would hold about a quart. On the back side of the hole was a pouring spout from each hole. If you were selling grain for example, you would plug the hole of the pouring spout and fill the bowl with the grain. Then the merchant buying the grain would back his cart under the hole and unplug it. The grain would fall into the cart or container and that would be one measure.
As we walked up along the right side of the small church there were several curio shops built into a wall and a ramp up to a large wooden gate opening set between buildings of rooms for guests and entertaining. The rooms are now used for museums. Further up the path was a smaller wall and gate that opened into the castle grounds. The path continued to the side of the castle where another wooden entrance gate was located. However, this gate was closed and now the tourists entered from a stone gate located on the right side of the castle.
After you entered the stone portal, there was a patio that was located along the wall and tourist entrance to the castle. From the patio at the entrance to the castle, you could view the mountains off in the distance, the medieval village below and the valley beyond. The patio and it’s gate was a later addition for the tourists.
Below the castle tower is the rear guard tower and extended back wall in grey stone. Note that the slope leading up to the castle is very steep making it very difficult to attack the castle from any direction except the medieval village.
On the left side of the castle is another rampart and tower protected the castle from attack.
The inside of wall and tower was accessible from an opening in the middle of the medieval village and provided platforms for archers and knight to repel attackers. The archers could stand on the walkways inside the walls and shoot arrows down at the attackers on the ground.
The view from the castle of the valley below and the mountains off in the distance was truly spectacular.
The next stop was Callier’s, the chocolate factory (a subsidary of Hershey!!). Unfortunately it was later in the afternoon and the place was jammed with people and kids. We were going to wait for almost an hour to take the tour so we just decided to tour the discount shop and buy some chocolates (yummy)!
There was still part of the family that Jan, Debbie and Jordan hadn’t been able to meet so the Andregg cousins decided that we had to go to dinner with them. Margaret Wegman, the elder cousin of the family (she is 93) had been in the hospital, but was now home and wanted to come meet us. Jan had met her when she was in Hoxie back in the 80’s and got to sit with her during the dinner.
In addition to Heidi, Regula and Celine attended the dinner.
There was Margaret’s daughter, Claudia, and her children daughter Nicole, daughter-in-law Nicole and son, Thomas. It was a wonderful dinner in a local brewery and everyone had a great time. As we all left, we had to take a photo of the entire group.
As we all left, we had to take a photo of the entire group.
To end our evening and our last night in Bern and Switzerland, we decided to have a final nightcap in a bar that Nicole had told Debbie about. The Kornhauskeller turned out to be a wonder! It was located in a cellar under one of the large buildings on the main street of Bern. As you walked downstairs to a landing, the restaurant below came into view. The ceilings were highly decorated. On the level of the landing, a bar area was located along the outer walls. We sat down at one of the tables and had our nightcaps using the last of our Swiss Francs!
April 16-18 Venice
We left Bern early the next morning via the train again. We were looking forward to the scenery as we toured through the Alps and were not disappointed except with trying to take photos out of a train window. It’s strange that when you are traveling 60+ miles per hour, most of the photos are green tree blur, reflections and poles! But the trip was beautiful! I have to comment that we all thought Switzerland was beautiful. It was so obvious that the Swiss take great pride and care of their land. Their buildings were all painted and clean. Even the mountain meadows looked like they had been trimmed. I fully expected to catch some Swiss out there with scythes and weed eaters keeping the grass mowed and yodeling. Switzerland was truly a wonderful and fun experience for us.
We stopped in Brig and changed to an Italian train, then headed for Milan, Italy. My initial impression of Italy was OLD, old buildings, huge ancient cathedrals, narrow-crowded streets and the remains of the past glories.
Venice was exactly like that. We arrived in a high-speed train into a modern railroad station, walked out the front to where a canal separated the new from the old. Across the canal was a very old domed cathedral and old multi-story homes jammed together and on top of each other. The streets were all very narrow, no cars allowed, only water ways and canals for transportation beside walking. We rode in a water taxi with 35 other passengers crowded together for about a quarter of a mile and worked our way through people (not easy with back packs and luggage) to get off at our dock area.
A short walk and we entered a narrow alley with the sign of our 800 year old hotel, the Pensione Guerrato. We went upstairs to the landing where the hotel lobby was located. It was obviously very old with all kinds of memorabilia collected through the years. The owners were very helpful and wonderful to all of us. The rooms were large which surprised us and the bathroom was modern. They had kept the old furniture (except for the bed) which was nice. We did have to smile though as the room was advertized with a view of the canal. The room had two windows and if you opened the window and pushed the shutters back as far as they would go, then leaned out of the window as far as you could without falling out, then looked to the left you could just barely see where the canal was supposed to be through the narrow opening between the buildings. It didn’t matter as we were not there to look out the windows anyway.
As soon as we were settled we left to go sight-seeing. Our first stop was at the Rialto Bridge, the famous bridge across the Grand Canal. It gave us a grand view of the Grand Canal and we did and would enjoy it even more, especially later that evening.
There are many side canals off of the Grand Canal that wander between the housing and shopping areas. Only gondolas or small boats can go through these canals and there were small bridges connecting the streets from one side to the other.
Note the leaning church tower along the canal (no this is not Piza!). This one was wide enough for some cafes along the side although the cross street bridges were very low and could only be negotiated by very low boats and the gondoliers had to duck under them.
Our destination was to St. Mark’s square through the maze of streets. When we arrived we began to realize what crowds really were. The square was full of people and any of the buildings that were of interest to explore had lines that were way to long to wait. It was frustrating; but we were to find that it was a common problem in Italy because there were way too many people for the sights of interest.
We got away from the crowds and Jan and Jordan just sat down in a beautiful place to relax and enjoy the scenery.
I on the other hand had to exercise my camera and found a beautiful picture of the Church of S. Giorgio Maggiore across the canal from us with a gondolier in his gondola in the foreground.
It was getting along toward evening by that time and we decided to walk back to our hotel. We passed a small pizza restaurant as were walking along the narrow streets and found they had a patio in the back for dinner. We all ordered pizza and a bottle of wine for dinner. The Italian pizza is a little different from the Pizza Hut. These pizzas were basic tomato sauce, some cheese and a few sprinkles of prosciutto ham on top.
The wine was good!
Debbie decided it would be fun to do a wine tour while we were in Venice. Of course, we didn’t have any objection to doing that, so she set it all up for the 5 of us. It turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip. We were picked up at 8 am by a young woman named Miriam Diecavia (photo later) in her own car, large enough to hold all six of us.
She took us up north of Venice into the Prosecco region near the town of Coneglinano to the Toffilo winery.
We went out in the vineyards where they explained the grape growing process, a tour through the
processing of the grapes into wine including a climb up on their storage tanks with a view across the grape growing region.
That was followed by a visit to their tasting room and a taste of their wonderful wines.
Next Miriam took us to the old grist mill of Refrontolo called ‘Molinetto della Croda’ (the Windless Croda). What a beautiful place located next to a waterfall and the mill at the far end of it.
The mill called ‘Windlass Croda’ was built in the seventeenth century to grind flour for the existing community.
The grinding wheel and mechanism seemed small compared to others we have seen; however it was intersting to see the entire process of the gearing, the wheels and the grinding stones.
By this time it was getting on toward lunch time and Miriam took us to a castle in the local mountains. It was called ‘Castello Brandolini Colombari’. The method of getting to it was quite unique. From the parking lot below the castle you enter a tunnel through these two round buildings and up a slight incline with stores on each side to a tram entrance which climbed up the side of the mountain to the castle.
The outside base of the castle was an area of gardens, fountains, statues and beautiful flowers and shrubs.
Our view down below was more towers and ramparts and below the valley floor which had a fairly large village located there. We went into the castle restaurant and had a delicous lunch before heading back down the tram to the valley floor and our next winery.
We had a great and very interesting day with Miriam and we would highly recommend her wine tour to anyone vacationing in Venice. You can find her tour at www.ventotours.com/wine tour and ask for Miriam.
When we got back to Venice, we had dinner in a small restaurant among the many shops located in the small streets. Evening on the canal was very beautiful with lots of lights, gaily decorated and lit eateries along the quays.
We decided to take a gondola ride for our last night in Venice so the five of us found a gondolier who would take us through the back canals of Venice in the dark. It was lots of fun and a fitting end to our time with Debbie, Jordan and Kristina. Tomorrow we catch the train for Cinque Terre, ‘the Italian Riveria’ for a nice relaxing five days. I will update that part of the blog when I have more time.
Jan and I both caught our limit of three sockeye salmon (Reds) in the Kasilof River today the 16th of June. The next two weeks will be busy fishing, cleaning and processing salmon for the coming winter. I will get back to the Europe blog when we have time.
Hope you enjoyed the first installment. Stay tuned for the rest of Italy, Cinque Terre and Rome.
After Chris and Mark picked us up in Vancouver, we drove back down toward Seattle. We decided to take a trip around Whidbey Island in the Puget Sound west of Burlington. It is a beautiful Island with lots of inlets and bays. We toured Deception Pass State Park and stopped at Rosario Bay, a small bay pointing at the sound and originally home of the Samish Indians. There is a small day park there with picnic facilities.
Mark, Chris and I are in front of the Maiden of the sea. The Samish story is about a beautiful young maiden who saw a young man come up out of the ocean one day and she immediately fell in love with him. He wanted her to go back down in the sea and live with him, but her parents wouldn’t let her. Then the sea would no longer provide food for the Indians of the Bay. Finally, her parents relented and she married the young man of the sea then went with him.The sea again became bountiful for the tribe.
Each year she would come back to visit her parents, but eventually she became more and more like the sea and finally never returned; however, the sea never again held back it’s bounty to the Indians of the bay.
On the backside of the park, there is an inlet to the Skagit Bay, a beautiful area overlooking the coast line of Washington. The clouds began to roll in from the sea shrouding the tops of the trees in fog.
CODY’S FAMILY, MORGAN HILL, CALIFORNIA
We stopped for several days in Morgan Hill to visit Cody, Margaret and the grandsons, Jimmy and Nelson. Jimmy had to show us how they played water baseball by filling water balloons, then having Margaret pitch them to him. It was a wet game on a warm afternoon. Cody took us to Jim’s school in Seaside, California and we got to tour through the school and his classrooms. He had to show off their pet snake for us. We also got to visit Nelson’s High School on the trip although we didn’t tour the classrooms. School was over for the day and Nelson was practicing baseball with one of his team mates.
On Sunday, Nelson was playing baseball with his team at Monterey. He plays first base and pitches for his team. It was a double-header and we got to watch a lot of baseball. After the game, we went down to Cannery Row where the shops and restaurants were located.
After the boys posed with one of the locals, we all went to Bubba’s Shrimp House for dinner. As always, we had a wonderful visit and a fun time with Cody’s family.
NAPA VALLEY WINE TOUR
We met Jan’s daughter, Kyra and her husband Craig and Craig’s father, Bus and his stepmother, Carol at the Del Dotto Winery on friday afternoon after their trip from Kansas City. We toured the winery caves where they aged the vineyards wines sampling lots of good reds and purchased a few for home.
We had stayed the previous night In Calistoga in our 5th Wheel, but were planning on staying with the group at the rental house for the weekend. The house was well off the highway through a very narrow, tree covered lane. It was close getting the camper in beside the house and gave us some concern about backing it out, but that was for later.
After a wonderful dinner at the Ristorante Allegro that evening, we managed to get around the next morning in time to tour the Mumms Napa winery and partake of their delicious champagne. It was an interesting tour through their facility and then another tour of the various varieties of the champagne that they produce. Jan and I were a tangle of arms, but we didn’t spill a drop!
After a stop at the Culinary Institute of America for lunch, we drove to the top of Spring mountain between Napa and Sonoma valleys where Pride Mountain winery is located. Their vineyards were on the peak and the sides of the mountain allowing for cooler summer growing temperatures.
Hanna Winery in upper Sonoma valley was one of the highlights of our tour. The area was beautiful with vineyards covering the hillsides and their wines were very good. Of course many bottles were taken home with us.
The Rombauer winery was also a delight. It was located on the side of the hills in the center of Napa valley. Their white wines were excellent and their hillside gardens were beautiful.
Our last stop for the extended weekend was at the Chimney Rock winery in the Stag’s Leap District of Napa. The red wines were great, but what made the stop a special treat was meeting the owners son and the two wine makers.
Oh yes, and the problem with backing the 5th Wheel out of the narrow lane to the rental house! Well with the aid of everyone guiding me on all sides and stopping the traffic on the highway, I did manage to back it all the way without running off the road or hitting a tree. We quickly backed out on the highway, bid everyone goodbye and were on our way to Yosemite National Park.
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK
We arrived in Yosemite in the rain after a difficult drive on Highway 120 from Manteca to the Park. We had been told that Highway 140 was limited to vehicle lengths of 45 feet plus we would have to drive further south to reach Merced. On 120 there is a five mile climb up the side of a mountain with very sharp hairpin curves that is no fun to drive especially pulling a 5th Wheel! Once reaching the top, it was still 60 miles on a narrow two lane road in the rain. We were very happy to reach our campground in El Portal.
It had been 45 years since I had been in the Park and it was the first time for Jan, so we were excited. The next morning was sunny and bright as we entered the Park. Our first sight was of El Capitan, bright and beautiful above the trees.
We decided to drive to the park Visitors Center and leave the truck while we took a tour of the park on their shuttle buses. This way we could get a feel for the park and decide which areas we wanted to spend more time. At the Visitors Center, we picked up maps of the Park, looked at their displays and toured the village.
Our first stop on the bus was across from Yosemite Falls. It is so tall (vertical drop of 2425 feet) that you have to be on the other side of the valley floor to see all of it. The upper falls is a drop of 1430 feet. In early October, the snows from last winter were mostly melted in the high country above Yosemite and the summer had been dry.
Yesterdays rain was the first of the year, so the amount of water over the falls was not significant, but yet it was spectacular.
The sunny, clear skies didn’t last too long and by the time we were able to see Half Dome, the clouds had begun to move it. Even in the greyness, the mountain is a beautiful sight. It was sliced in half by a glacier that carved out the whole valley.
The Merced river flows through the valley floor fed by the many cascading falls draining the Sierra Mountain which surround the valley. The Merced is a sparkling, crystal clear stream with trout lurking in the shadows behind the rocks. The National Park Service has done a great job making the many scenic vistas available by walking and biking trails through the valley floor.
Here a wooden walking bridge crosses the river and in the background Sentinel Rocks rise above the valley floor making a picturesque scene.
A short walk up the trail from the wooden bridge is this wonderful view of Cathedral Rock across the grassy meadow and low pines. Yosemite provides so many great scenic areas that your mind almost becomes saturated with the wonder of it all. However as the darker clouds in the background behind Cathedral Rock began to show, it wasn’t long before clouds and rain began reduce the photo opportunities.
We drove up to the vista of Bridalveil Falls as the rain began. It had obviously started raining in the high country above the falls prior to our arrival as much more water was falling than we had previously seen earlier in the day. The falling rain in this photo gave an unusual quality to the falls and the trees in the foreground. The wind was also producing a mist of the water cascading down reminding us of how the falls had been named ‘Bridalveil’.
As the rain became heavier, we drove out of the valley back toward our campground in El Portal. Our last look at the valley was spectacular in an unusual way. The rain had begun to hide the scenic mountains in its mist. Cathedral Rock and Bridalveil Falls could still be seen on the right and El Capitan on the left, but Half Dome had disappeared in the rain. It was definitely a beautiful way to end a wonderful day in one of the most scenic National Parks.
Our trip out of Yosemite was on Highway 14o south to Merced. The highway was limited to vehicles 45 feet and we were pushing that limit with our 5th Wheel and truck. But after the difficult trip driving up 120, we decided we would spend the extra time and distance on 140. It turned out that the length restriction was based on the ability to turn onto a detoured bridge where the highway had been damaged by a rockslide. We had no difficulty turning onto the bridge in the confined area and the trip down to Merced was easy compared to the trip up 120. Our only difficulty driving to Lake Tahoe was another blow-out on the trailer. That was the second one this trip and hopefully the last one for awhile as the blow-out was on the last of the lousy Goodyear 2 ply trailer tires on the camper. All the five tires are now 8 and 10 ply truck tires which will hopefully carry the weight of the camper.
We arrived at the Lake Tahoe Valley RV Resort in South Lake Tahoe the evening of October 7th. The resort was a very large campground located in a grove of huge Ponderosa pine trees although it was late in the summer season and there were very few campers. The next morning we decided to drive around Lake Tahoe in the truck. Heading west from the park, we climbed up to the top of a mountain above Emerald Lake, thank goodness we didn’t put the 5th Wheel as some of the hairpin curves on the climb would have had us running over the back of the camper, they were so tight. The view from the top was spectacular with the bay below us and Lake Tahoe in the distance.
The only island in Lake Tahoe is in Emerald Bay. It is called Fannette and has rock tea house built on the very peak. In the photo, a tour boat has come down the bay around the Island to the rock castle at the end and then cruised back out of the bay.
We drove on up the western side of the lake past several of the large ski areas including Hollywood, Alpine and Squaw Valley (home of the 1960 Winter Olympics).
Up around the north end of the lake past Incline Village and down the eastern side, we stopped for lunch at Zephur Cove and strolled the beach. The lake was beautiful blue. On south we passed the numerous Casinos at Stateline and under the slopes of Heavenly Valley ski area. Soon we were back to park where the 5th Wheel was waiting for the next leg of our trip home.
MOAB, UTAH & the NATIONAL PARKS
CANYON LANDS NATIONAL PARK
We left Lake Tahoe on Highway 50 through Carson City then east and north to reach Interstate 80. We stopped overnight in Elko, Nevada and then again in Green River, Utah before driving into Moab in the morning of October 11th. We decided that we wanted to see all the National Parks in the area so we drove back north to the entrance of Canyonlands.
Canyonlands National Park is approximately 35.6 miles north to south, 22.5 miles east to west and extends over 500 square miles of untamed and untraveled canyons. Canyonlands was formed by the erosion of the native sandstone by the Colorado and Green rivers where they come together to form the mighty Colorado river which made the Grand Canyon.
The park is separated into two areas, northern is called ‘Isle in the Sky’ and is up on the plateau above the canyons formed by the Colorado and Green rivers. Therefore all of the vistas from the park paved roads look down. The first overlook is just past the Visitor Center looking down toward Moab as the Colorado river cuts through the sandstone bluffs into the park. The canyon has incredible colors of rust reds, creams, lime greens and far off blues and purples.
Along the road, the rocks form unusual shapes that remind you of other things such as the arch along the right which looks like a mouse head touching the bluff face. Up here the rocks are a lighter tan sandstone with stripes of darker tan to redish and even grey to black.
Juniper trees grow in the crevasses of the rocks on the tops of the bluffs. The winter snows and winds twist them into unusual shapes.
It is a wonder that they can survive in these harsh climates of summer heat and dryness and winter cold, snow and winds.
Further down the plateau, we found another pullout to the overlook of Buck Canyon. Here the cuts by the Colorado river have left deep secondary canyons in the lower plateau. It was interesting to see the many 4 x 4 roads and trails left over for years on the lower plateau. Canyonlands National Park has hundreds of miles of unpaved roads and trails that explore the canyon bottoms. These roads lead to Indian Cliff dwellings, Indian petroglyphs, natural arches and unlimited beauty.
As we turned to the west on the upper plateau, the canyons are formed by the Green River coming down north from Utah and Wyoming’s Flaming Gorge and Teton mountains. The Green river had cut into the sedimentary layers and sandstone rocks to create cliffs and canyons every bit as deep and beautiful as the Colorado.
Typical of the vistas along the drive was the Steamboat butte and Steeple Rock, a pinnacle of hard sandstone left as the water washed away the softer layers of sediment and stone.
We drove south onto the top of a bluff overlooking the Green river canyon. The National Park Service had built viewing platforms on the rock surfaces at the edge of the cliffs with stone abutments and wooden railings for safety.
They were needed as the drop from the edge of stone abutments was 250 feet straight down to the floor of the canyon.
In the background, the cream sandstone buttes were rounded and sliced off by a glacier that once covered this area. Note that Canyonlands also has a half dome.
On the way back to the Colorado side of the Isle of the Sky, these cliffs of orange sandstone formed the break between the Green and Colorado rivers. In the distance at the left edge of the photo, the Green river flows into the Colorado adding it’s strength to carve the Grand Canyon. Beyond this point, the Glen Canyon and Lake Powell starts.
That was where we would head the next day to visit the lower half of Canyonlands called the ‘Needles’.
We left ‘Isle of the Sky’ in mid-afternoon and decided to visit the many petroglyph sites along the Colorado river before it enters the National Park. The rock cliffs along the river are a prime area for finding petroglyphs, Indian drawings carved into the rock surfaces. The cliff faces have been coated by dark ‘desert varnish’ caused by rain water leaching out the minerals above the faces creating a dark layer on the surface. The Indians, in this case the Ute Indians then used other rocks to chip or scrape the surface through the coating of varnish allowing the lighter rock to show through to create a drawing. Petroglyph drawings have been found all over the western states depicting the Indians in their native costumes, symbols of water holes or direction to locations and of many animals including mountain sheep, buffalo, horses, dogs and in the above case a bear. This bear is unusual because of it’s size. It is approximately six feet long and three feet wide. Also visible are mountain sheep, symbols and even a hunter with bow and arrow at the nose of the bear.
Further along the river was an unusual arch called ‘Jug Handle Arch’. Note the three climbers on the face of the handle.
Below the handle in an area where the rock was coated with ‘desert varnish’ were another series of petroglyphs. Note again the Indian with the bow and arrow obviously shooting at the deer, also the two figures of Indians in costume.
As we were leaving the area for the drive back to Moab, the sun was going down in the west and shed it’s orange glow on the chalk bluffs on the opposite side of the river. It was obvious that the Ute Indians inhabited this region extensively in the past. Both sides of the river had areas where the rock walls were protected adequately to retain the desert varnish coating and most of these area were covered with petroglyphs. It would have been an ideal location with plenty of water, game and fish.
The next day we drove south from Moab to visit the lower half of Canyonlands National Park called ‘the Needles’. On the way we passed a beautiful arch along the side of the road. The sun was shinning on the back side and illuminating the opening. We reached the turnoff to the park several miles south of the arch and proceeded west toward the Needles.
As we reached a winding river area, there was a parking area for Newspaper Rock which turned out to be a large outcropping of sandstone, the lower portion darkened with desert varnish and covered with
Indian petroglyphs. This rock had a huge number of drawings of about every type that I have seen, thus the name ‘Newspaper Rock’! There are horses with Indians riding and shooting, buffalo, sheep, deer, dogs, figures and lots of symbols. The petroglyphs were in excellent conditions due to the care the Park had given them by blocking off any intrusion by vandals.
The Isle in the Sky was on the the top of the canyon and we were looking down on the bluffs and cut canyons. The Needles is down on the floor of the canyon and now we were driving on the floor of those canyons looking up at the bluff.
As we drove into the canyon floor, we began to see the spires rising into the air. The floor level where we were driving was a dry grass meadow with a small river running it’s length toward the Colorado river. The red bluff rose a couple hundred feet to the next level where these two spires had eroded to needle shapes. Both needles were only a mile or so apart.
Red Butte was the end of a rock outcropping that extended several miles along the park road.
Further into the park the rock color began to change to more tans and browns. Wooden Shoe arch was unique in that it looked sculpted out of the softer tan sandstone, but it was huge and sat on top of a long bluff over looking the valley floor.
Beyond Wooden Shoe we entered Mushroom Park where water had eroded the softer sandstone away from under slightly hard stone domes.
Typical of this area was the Kissing Arch with two of these domes just touching each other is if in a kiss.
And the funny looking pinnacle among a stand of rock mushrooms that looked like the head of a bird. The valley floor in this area was covered with these eroded pinnacles in all kinds of shapes. The paved road through the Needles Park was a very small part of the National Park, but it was impossible to travel into the other areas without a 4 wheel drive vehicle. Also you were not allowed to drive off the paved roads without obtaining a permit from the National Park Service at the Visitors Center. This was primarily to assure that campers and hikers were not lost in this vast primitive area. A vehicle break down or getting stuck in the loose sand of a river bed could be very dangerous.
The Needles was a long bluff of pinnacles that had been eroded over the millennial along the southern horizon. Unfortunately the paved road didn’t lead to there.
NATURAL BRIDGES NATIONAL MONUMENT
After leaving The Needles of Canyonlands National Park, we drove south toward four corners on Highway 191 with the idea of then taking Highway 95 west and north to the second of the National Parks in the Moab area, Capitol Reef. However, on the way up 95, we took a side road over to the National Monument called ‘Natural Bridges’. It was an interesting and beautiful side trip.
The distinction between an arch and a natural bridge seems to be that a river or stream carves out a bridge and
continues to run through it whereas an arch is carved by wind and water, but a stream or river does not run through it. I am not sure what constitutes a National Park verses a National Monument; however, to us Natural Bridges was every bit as beautiful as a National Park.
Although the stream was not named under Sipapu and Kachina Bridges, they were cut by the water flowing down White Canyon. Note that Sipapu is considered a young bridge in the sense that there is still a great deal of rock surrounding the opening thus it will take a great deal more erosion before the bridge is broken.
Just down White canyon from Sipapu Bridge is the remains of a Puebloan cliff dwelling called ‘Horse Collar Ruins’. Approximately 900 years ago, Mesa Verde cliff dwellers populated this region building their homes in the cliff crevasses near water. As the region became more arid, the people moved further south.
Closeup views of the ruins show a group of rock building ruins with a door outline. The right photo shows a covered rock area behind the large rocks in front and two round rooms in fairly good condition still standing. This was the only ruins visible in the area as far as we were told.
Upstream views of Kachina Natural Bridge were difficult to obtain without walking quite a distance so we decided to photograph Kachina from the downstream side. Actually Kachina was very similar to Sipapu although it was narrower and taller. Also this bridge is more fragile as the bridge above the opening is much thinner. This was a beautiful bridge though with expansive shelves of rock along sides below our viewing position. There were trails which led down to the stream.
However, the trails were steep and it was a long distance to the stream below. Further along the road we saw an outcropping of rock from the side of the bluff thatlooked like an Indian Head even to the long nose and high cheekbones.
Owachomo Natural Bridge was formed by the streams coming down Armstrong and Tuma canyons; however, over time the streams have either dried up or diverted to a different area leaving the bridge dry. The bridge is considered old as the upper rock bridge is very thin and may someday break down. Looking closely at the photograph you can see several major cracks across the span of the bridge.
Although the Monument is small, it is a beautiful place and well worth the trip to spend time there. It would be interesting to walk the trails to the canyon floor to see the bridges up close and to look at the cliff dwellings.
Capitol Reef National Park
After leaving the Natural Bridges, we drove across Glen Canyon at the head waters of Lake Powell heading north on 95 towards Hanksville and the cutoff to Capitol Reef. By this time is was getting late in the afternoon so we drove across the park stopping occasionally to take photos and hoping to reach the Visitor Center before it closed, but we didn’t make it. Again the paved road allows a very limited view of the park, but we enjoyed the drive through the park.
Although the two photos above seem very dissimilar in terms of the rock formations, the photo of the mountain on the right is extension an extension of the Castle Mountain on the left. That seemed to be the rule in Capitol Reef with significantly different colored and kinds of stone in the reefs.
Back down the road from the Visitor Center is the original school house for the children of the area. There were several farming communities in the park area and just outside of the park boundaries. None of these still use this school. There is a small stream that the road follows through the park area and again located on the walls of the rock cliffs are petroglyphs from the original Indian inhabitants.
There were many buttes along the drive such as Organ Pipe with it’s variety of colored rock from the reds, oranges, creams and blacks. The shear face of the mountain was evidence of the streams force in eroding the wall or evidence of a glacier that carved the face.
Again on the other side of the stream is a shearing of the face of the rock butte. This is also a reef area where the shearing of the rock faces can also occur
by one side of the reef grinding against the other and as the rock is pushed upward, the shaved faces become visible.
Along the stream, the rock faces provide beautiful shapes and colors to enjoy on our drive. The setting sun added to the colors and the shadows. Again along these walls were Indian Petroglyphs. There were large numbers of them, but the weather and rain had eroded them to the point that many were barely visible.
Partway through the Park was this old cabin where the Behunin family lived and farmed. Here is there story:
In 1882 Elijah Behunin and his family built this cabin, and Behunin was one of the first settlers in the area.
A family of ten lived here. Braided rugs covered the dirt floor. Ends of dress materials became curtains. There was a fireplace to cook in, and a water supply near the door. The family probably ate outside.
Father, mother and the two smallest children slept in the cabin. The post bed almost filled one side of the room. By widening a dugout in the cliff, the older boys had a place to sleep. The girls made a bed in an old wagon. They only lived here a few years before storms and floods had destroyed their gardens and fields forcing them to move on to higher ground.
The early pioneers obviously were very hardy individuals! As we left the park, the sun was setting. We drove back to I-70, then to Highway 191 on our way back to Moab and our camper. We had driven over 500 miles on the tour and seen two National Parks and a National Monument.
ARCHES NATIONAL PARK
We had visited ‘Isle of the Sky’ above the canyon floor, but at the same elevation of Moab. Then we visited the canyon floor at ‘The Needles’ and ‘Capitol Reef’. Now we climbed up over 1000 feet to the Arches National Park. Our first view of the beautiful buttes, pinnacles,spires and arches of dark red sandstone were called ‘Park Avenue’. We stopped for a photograph then drove around the buttes where the high elevation (4800 feet) valley led us off to the arches.
On our left as we drove along the park road was a group of pinnacles that had been named ‘Three Gossips’.
On the right was a butte called ‘Courthouse Towers’ which rose out of the valley floor over 250 feet.
The road climbed up into the Windows Section of the Park. Just before the turnoff to the
Garden of Eden were a group of pinnacles with the center one called ‘Balanced Rock’. It certainly wouldn’t take much of a shake for it to be unbalanced! Driving up through the Garden of Eden we saw the butte with the North and South Windows.
The Park Service has built a parking area and gravel walking paths up to each of the arches and off to the right side where the Turret Arch was located in another butte.
Although he is difficult to see, the tiny black figure at the black bottom of the arch is a man. It gives you a reference to the height of the arch. There were walking paths to the base of the arch and then you could climb up through the rocks at the base.
The arches are beautiful with their bright red-orange stone and carved shapes. We walked under the South arch, then around to the back side of both Window arches. The trail around the back was not as well developed, but it was fun seeing the arches from both sides.
From the Garden of Eden, we drove out to the Wolfe Ranch. Although we didn’t walk to the top of the bluff (a three mile hike up 500 feet in elevation). Us old blue-hairs just took a photo from the lower viewing area.
Wolfe Ranch was interesting with it’s log cabin soddy (although now covered with tar paper), a semi-cellar and post-rail corral. There was also a rock outcropping near the ranch with Indian petroglyphs carved into it.
We took the left photo from the road and then drove through the Devil’s Garden campground to the back side of the bluff. I climbed up a sand dune to the back side of Skyline Arch. The sun shinning through the arch was interesting.
An unusual arch was hidden in between these rocks on the left. It was almost as if these pointed rocks were pushed up out of the earth with gaps between them. We walked through the gaps to reach the Sand dune arch. The arch was actually the color shown in the photo on the right. The yellow-orange rock which formed the touching arch was backed by of one of the pinkish-red pointed rocks. The Sand Dune arch rock was lit by the sun, causing the sand and rock to glow. There were eight more arches in the Devil’s Garden on a seven mile trail. The parking lot was crowded and cars were parked illegally along the side of the road. Neither of us felt up to a 7 mile walk in the middle of the afternoon. It was sunny and warm and we decided that we had seen enough arches for one trip. We will leave them for the next time.
I saved this one arch from the Garden of Eden area for the final photo from Arches National Park. It is called ‘Double Arch’ and in our eyes was the most beautiful and interesting arch in the Park.
From Moab we drove back to Kansas with a short stop in Castle Rock, Colorado to meet some of Jan’s friends that she knew when she and Kyle lived there. We arrived home on the 16th of October a week ahead of a snow storm that dumped on the Colorado mountains and closed I-70. We were happy to be home and plan to stay for the winter.
Jan and I had wanted to take a cruise down the Inside Passage for several years. We had heard such great stories about the scenery and the trip that we decided to do it this fall. It started with us driving our 5th Wheel to Seattle and leaving it with Chris and Mark while we spent the summer at the Kasilof RV Park. Our plan was to take the cruise back to Vancouver, have Chris and Mark pick us up, then drive down to California to visit Cody’s family and meet Jan’s daughter and husband and his parents for a tour of the wine country. We would then take our time traveling home visiting some of the National Parks that Jan had never seen. So follows a brief description of our trip with photos.
On September 11th, we finished closing down the park for the winter then drove to Anchorage to leave the pickup for the winter. On the 12th, we took the Alaskan Railroad Cruise train from Anchorage to Seward. I had wanted to take the trip for years as I had heard the scenery was spectacular. I wasn’t disappointed. The cruise train provides viewing cars with huge windows to enjoy the scenery. It travels south from Anchorage at the edge of the Turnagain Arm and we saw whales chasing the salmon. Then we crossed the grassland bogs at the upper end of the Arm and climbed into the Chugach mountains past several glaciers. The trip to Seward was truly a treat and should definitely be the mode of travel for those meeting the cruise ships in Seward.
What a pleasure to arrive in the beautiful port city of Seward. The cruise train pulled right out on the boarding dock at the edge of the Statendam, Holland-America’s ship for our trip down the Inside Passage. Our luggage was taken aboard by the porters and we joined others from the train to obtain our boarding passes in the cruise dock building. Even though there were over a hundred people boarding at the same time, the process was efficient. We quickly boarded and were shown to our stateroom, very nice. The one and only problem with taking the cruise train was it’s arrival time. After the five hour trip from Anchorage, we were too late to enjoy the afternoon boarding and information parties on the ship.
We left port in Seward at 8 pm that evening while we were having our first wonderful dinner in the main dining room of the ship. It was a five course meal with several choices including Prime Rib, Alaska King Crab, Alaskan Salmon bake, plus others – the food was delicious! By the time we got out in the Resurrection Bay, it was dark and from there to Whittier we traveled at night. We missed College Ford due to a heavy fog as well as the trip through Prince William Sound. However, as we passed through the straits at Cape Hinchinbrook and into the Gulf of Alaska, the skies began to clear and we had beautiful crusing through the rest of the afternoon.
Another night traveling along the Glacier Coast between Cape St. Elias and Cape Spencer, so we missed most of the huge glaciers coming out of the St. Elias mountain range although we were well off shore and barely in sight of land. By early morning we had passed Cape Spencer and entered Glacier Bay. We had been given a free lunch at the Pinnacle Grill as part of our ticket purchase and we chose to take advantage of the it during our cruise up Glacier Bay. As good as the food was in the dining room, the Pinnacle Grill was even better plus we had a beautiful view of the Fjord from our window. When Glacier Bay was first discovered by the George Vancouver in the early 1700’s, the bay was covered in a glacier out into the Icy Strait. Now it has receded over 80 miles into the mountains with five major Inlets containing tidewater glaciers.
We proceeded into the John Hopkins Inlet to view the glacier. It is one of the most active glaciers in the bay, calving regularly. The Glacier Bay National Park Ranger that gave us a lecture about the bay and glaciers indicated that we were really lucky to have sunny weather for our trip. Normally it is cloudy and rainy and they had only 12 days all summer with sunny weather. We cruised to within a quarter mile of the face of the glacier and stayed for almost an hour. The Captain moved the boat with the back side thrusters giving each side of the boat ample opportunity to view the glacier. There were a huge number of harbor seals resting on the ice banks in front of the glacier and often we could hear the glacier cracking and popping. Occasionally it would calve a huge of chunk of ice into the inlet.
As we were leaving, Holland-America’s ship, the Osterdam cruised into the inlet to view the glacier. We got a good perspective of the height of the glacier when we could view the Osterdam in front of it. Since it was the same size as the Statendam, it became apparent how high the glacier face actually was.
We traveled again at night and woke dockside at Haines. Haines is different from the other cruise ship stops on the Inside Passage. It is a small town with only one cruise ship dock. The streets are not lined with curio and jewelery shops, just ordinary grocery, clothing and hardware stores. We had decided to take our only prearranged tour here and were happy that we did.
It was a Nature and Wildlife Tour up the Chilcoot river and lake. We were in an old bus with ten couples from the ship and two women guides. The older woman, ex-school teacher, drove the bus and took us on a walking tour through the rain forest above Chilcoot Lake.
The younger one was the narrator for the tour and spotted this brown bear sow and her cub fishing the waters of the Chilcoot river for pink salmon. Soon the sow found a dead one and began eating it. She was a big bear and seemingly unafraid of the numerous people watching her from the other side of the river.
The young woman said that the sows often bring their young cubs to the river where there are always people along the road. They have learned that the large males, which will kill the young cubs, don’t like to be around people and stay away from the river. The sow feeding in the river below the people on the road had two small cubs hidden in the bushes on the bank.
She had a collar around her neck for tracking purposes by the Fish and Game and has returned t0 fish in the river with her cubs for several years. The river was full of pink salmon swimming up to their spawning grounds and the many dead carcasses that had spawned already were thick in the bushes and rocks. She also took us through a tour of Fort William H. Seward which had been decommissioned after World War II and now is a National Historic Site.
When we got back to the Statendam, I got Jan to pose for a photo of it in port at Haines.
It was a beautiful afternoon when we got back to the ship so we decided to sit in the sun on the upper deck. There was no wind, the scenery was beautiful and the company was great.
That evening as we were enjoying an afternoon Tangueray and Tonic in the Crows Nest on the top front of the Statendam, the Norwegian Star cruise ship came cruising down from Skagway on their way north to Glacier Bay. We would see her sister ship a few days later in Ketchikan.
It was a beautiful scene with the mountains in the background. We left Haines around dusk and sailed down to Juneau for the next day.
We were disappointed in Juneau. Gold was discovered in 1880 above the current town area, however, the initial easy to find gold was quickly gone and hard rock mining became the only way to obtain it. Soon the high grade ore was gone and massive stamp mills had to be used to extract the gold. These mills produced vast amounts of tailings (20 tons of ore for 1 ounce of gold). The tailings dumped along the shoreline provided the flat land for the town. The gold brought the territorial government and then the state government to reside in Juneau after the gold ran out. Beside the state government there is a new gold rush in the town brought by the multitude of cruise ships that stop there every week during the spring, summer and fall. The streets are lined by shop after shop of curio junk occasionally separated by a jewelery store. We had found Skagway to be similar in 2008 when we visited, but at least Skagway had some character. After the stop in beautiful Haines, Juneau was a disappointment.
Again we left after dark and cruised down the Inside Passage during the night. However this time, we were still cruising when we woke in the morning. We passed this pretty light house called ‘Three Island Lighthouse’ out in the bay. Actually there are three islands although the other two are just a few rocks sticking out of the water in line with the light house. There are a lot of lighthouses on the Inside Passage and I enjoy photographing them; however, it is difficult to see them in the middle of the night when you are cruising.
We arrived at the Ketchikan dock around 11 am. Notice that there is a parking place between the first ship, the Celebrity, and the second, the Norwegian Pearl, the Star’s sister ship. The third ship was the Osterdam that we had seen in Glacier Bay.
We were all fascinated to see how the Captain was going to park our ship between the front two. It was fascinating as the Captain slowly pulled the nose of the ship in behind the front ship, then use the rear outside thruster to slowly push the ship sideways into the dock. Of course the entire upper deck of our ship was lined with passengers to watch a lesson in parallel parking a cruise ship.
Ketchikan was a lot more fun than Juneau. Although the boardwalk had it’s share of curio and jewelery shops for the cruise ship passengers, the town was more quaint and interesting. We took a tour bus out to the Totem Museum and the salmon hatchery on the upper creek. Ketchikan was known in the late 1800’s as the Salmon Fishing and Totem Pole Capital of Alaska. Creek Street was the red light district of Ketchikan and the creek itself was a major salmon spawning river for the island. During the early days lumbering and fishing were the primary sources of work and income in the area. Creek street became known as the only place in Alaska where the fish and fishermen both came to spawn. Now Creek Street bordellos cater to the cruise ship passengers selling them curios and clothing, but it was fun.
Again we left Ketchikan at night, there was approximately 650 miles left in the trip. We cruised all night and woke to the ship traveling through Hecate Strait between Queen Charlotte Islands and British Columbia. As we got further into the Queen Charlotte Sound the land became distant in the east and the rain clouds filled the skies, the first time on the trip. That evening, the last of the cruise, we dressed up to celebrate Jan’s 71st birthday with dinner in the Pinnacle Grill. We had another wonderful dinner of gourmet food with good wine.
We arrived in Vancouver the next morning early and our group were told to depart the ship at 8:15 am. The departure procedure was very quick and efficient. We left the convention center at 9:30 and found Mark and Chris waiting for us in our truck.
It was a beautiful trip on a great ship. The food was excellent and anything you could want. The scenery was fabulous although I would prefer to have spent more time cruising through the Inside Passage during the day and less time in the towns, but I realize that the ports need to make their living of the cruise passengers. I would definitely recommend the cruise to anyone interested.
The weather cleared as we left Maine and drove down to Boston for a couple of days to see it’s historical area. We were unable to find a campground close into town, but we did find an Elks Club that had camping privileges at Concord, MA. We drove down to the metro and took it into town rather than trying to drive. We managed to figure out how to get off very near the famous Faneuil Hall. The second floor of the hall (which wasn’t open to the public) was the meeting site for the Sons of Liberty and was considered the ‘Cradle of Liberty’ protesting the Stamp Act and the Sugar Act which led to the ‘Boston Tea Party’. The part open to the public was originally a farmers market. Now is a glorified gift shop for tourists.
We started from Faneuil Hall on a trolley tour of the Freedom Trail which was supposed to cover all of the major historical sites in Boston. However we found that the Silver Trolley line tours on the outside of all those sites and you have to walk to them by yourself (one of those things you don’t find out about until you have purchased a ticket!) After a several block walk and getting lost a couple of times in side streets we finally found the Old North Church where Paul Revere hung the lantern to tell the Bostonians whether the English were coming by land or by sea (the church charged to get inside). We then walked to Paul Revere’s home which charged to get into the grounds and then again to see the inside of the house! We walked back to wait on the trolley.
The trolley took us around the waterfront and over to the dock where the Old Ironsides is moored where you have to pay to see it. Then it did take us down the street where the Old State House is located and around Boston Commons. We departed the trolley at this point and walked to what we thought was the highlight of Boston, the ‘Bull and Finch Bar’ or as we saw it ‘Cheers’. Actually only the entrance to the basement bar was used in the sitcom that we enjoyed so much. Surprising to us was the very small size of the bar and the multitude of people that were jammed into it. Obviously the sitcom gave the bar a thriving business. Norm was there (in a life-sized cardboard cutout) and I had a beer with him. I also remembered his theory of intelligence. “A heard of buffalo only travels as fast as the slowest and weakest buffalo. When the herd is hunted, the slowest and weakest were killed first. Natural selection was good for the herd allowing it to move much faster. The same way with the human brain, it can only operate as fast as the slowest and weakest brain cells. Now as you know, excessive intake of alcohol kills brain cells. But naturally, it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first. Therefore, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells making the brain a faster more efficient machine. That’s why you feel smarter after a few beers.” It seems reasonable to me!
So much for Boston! Like so much of the east coast cities; too many people, too busy, too crowded, too much in a hurry! Too much for an old Kansas boy.
On to Washington, DC, my old stomping ground. Again there are no camping facilities within the DC limits; therefore, we had to stay in the Cherry Hill campground in College Park, MD. I used to store our motor home at the campground so was familiar with it. It is also close to the end of the Metro Green Line which we used to get into the city. It was definitely quicker and easier to get around on the city metro than driving. Sunday morning we took the metro into the Smithsonian Mall. I had to show Jan a couple of the airplanes that I used for flight research while working for NASA. We spent a couple of hours at the Air and Space Museum then went to the new American Indian Museum.
It was built after I had retired from NASA and left Washington. It is unusual in that all the outside walls and most of the inside walls do not have straight lines. Indian ideology states that there are no straight lines in nature. The outside walls are native limestone in constant curves. The inside has sweeping curved walks, stairs and ramps leading up four floors of exhibits. I was a little disappointed as I had seen all the wonderful displays and exhibits of American Indian artifacts in the Natural History Museum previously and am aware of all the artifacts that the Smithsonian has available. Some of these were stuffed into drawers and some in very limited display cases. Very few of the original collection were in the museum. Most of the museum was the American Indian now and in the future. We did have a good lunch in the museum. They have foods from various American Indian cultures that were interesting.
We both had fun in the National Art Museum. Since we are both amateur painters (very amateur!), we really enjoyed looking at all the past masters and commenting on them to each other. We spent most of the afternoon wandering through the maze of galleries in second floor of the museum studying all of the French, Spanish, Dutch, English, etc. masters and what we amateurs considered not so masters. Oh well, it’s a matter of opinion. We had fun pointing out what we liked and disliked and how we might of done it different if we could have!
It turned out to be a long day with a lot of walking so we left early for the ride back to the campground, our camper and a wonderful lobster dinner with our bounty from Maine.
The next morning we waited for the early morning rush (Monday) to pass before we taking the metro to town. We spent most of the morning in the Holocaust Museum. It was very well done, but very depressing. I can’t imagine people treating other people like that! We weren’t allowed to take photos inside. We left the museum and walked to the Washington Monument then on to the World War II Memorial. It was nice that they finally built the Memorial, but I was very disappointed in the design of it. There were really no indications of the significant battles that occurred in Europe and the Pacific.
Not so for the Vietnam Memorial. It is memorable because of it’s simplicity and significance with the names of our soldiers lost inscribed on the stones. I realize that they couldn’t have listed the names of those lost in WWII do to the numbers. It was well past lunch so we caught a taxi to Union Station so Jan could see how beautiful it had been restored. We had lunch there before walking through Capitol Hill to C Street where Lindy and I used to live. The house still looked good although the neighborhood was changing with new condos and town houses replacing some of the beautiful old homes in the area. We walked on down to Eastern Market to find that it had closed and many of the older businesses had been replaced with Starbucks, McDonalds, etc. (bah)! Going back home just isn’t the same!
Jan and I were getting tired of walking, but we still had a couple of hours before we would meet Nancy and Bud MacLennon at Ebbets Grill for dinner (Nancy used to work with me at NASA). So we decided to rest for awhile in the Botanical Gardens below the Capitol. It’s always nice to sit among the flowers and trees and rest the tired feet. We caught a taxi to Ebbets Grill, had a great dinner and conversation with Nancy and Bud, then they took us back to the truck in College Park.
Next day we drove on down to Williamsburg and spent the afternoon walking around the Colonial portion of the town. It was interesting touring through the old Burton Church with it’s old cemetery, There were a lot of locals dressed up as part of the daily tour that made it more realistic.
There was the Cane Weaver hurrying to give a demonstration of the craft and an old carriage giving rides to the tourists
At the end of the street is the House of Burgess which was used as the seat of the Virginia government prior to the revolution. We didn’t have time that afternoon to take the tour through all of the buildings so we put it off until the next morning. We did notice that like most cities (like Washington, DC) where politicians gathered to make decisions there are lots of taverns. We counted 6 taverns in the several blocks that is considered Colonial Williamsburg.
Although I have to admit that the taverns provided lodging and food as well as a bar.
We were going to Penny and Bill Cazier’s home for dinner that evening so we left early to drive the Colonial Parkway through Yorktown and down the peninsula toward Hampton. We toured the Yorktown battlefield which was the deciding victory of the Revolutionary War with England.
We went by the cave where the English General Cornwallis surrendered to General Washington after the battle. Then we toured the old town with it’s sixteenth century homes.
Lindy and I lived near a small village called Seaford below Yorktown and I wanted to show Jan the area. I managed to show her more of the area than I anticipated after getting lost several times trying to find our old house. The area has really been built up since the late 1980’s and I didn’t recognize most of the roads and businesses anymore. We did finally find Rebecca Drive and the house still looked the same. Then it was another experience to find Penny and Bill’s house. Finally Penny’s phone directions got us there. We had a wonderful evening with them.
On to Atlanta. We were running late to meet Cary and Darcy on the weekend in Atlanta when they were both off work so we decided to forgo the tour through Williamsburg and head for Atlanta. I used to stay on the street outside Cary and Darcy’s home with the camper; however, with the 5th Wheel, it’s too big for the street especially since the street is on a steep hill! We opted to stay in a campground and visit them in town.
Atlanta is like all large cities, most campgrounds are on the outskirts of downtown, We decided to stay in Stone Mountain Campground which proved to be a very good choice. Stone Mountain is a huge granite dome with a carving of Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis in the face of it. They have turned it into a recreational area with an amusement park, walking trails, golf courses and an old antebellum home which had an Indian Pow-Wow going on the grounds. We toured the grounds with the car and found a covered bridge and a grist mill too!
We celebrated Darcy’s birthday on Saturday evening then stayed all night at their house rather than drive back to the campground (not that we had drank too much, Ha!) Sunday was a trip to the Farmer’s Market, breakfast and watching Atlanta Falcons slaughter my old team, the Washington Redskins.
Monday found us on the road again heading home. The fall colors were still beautiful in Georgia and Tennessee. We made it to Lynchburg in the late afternoon just in time to visit Uncle Jack and go on the final tour of the day. It was interesting to see how he made his famous brew, but no samples.
Uncle Jack was a little cold, but he did allow us to get some Old #7 and his Single Barrel. We had a nice tour and then went to downtown Lynchburg which was quite exciting with a Hardware store and a filling station.
But it was getting late and there was only one campground in town. Low and behold there was another covered bridge at the entrance to the campground. They just seemed to follow us around on this trip. That made the tally 124, a whole lot of covered bridges!
We left Lynchburg early the next morning and started for Branson, MO. We were meeting Jan’s granddaughter and her husband for dinner the next night. We decided to drive all the way to Branson the first night and it was mistake. I don’t like to drive after dark that much and the roads leading to Branson were the worst curvy roads that I had ever driven. The campground host called them worse than a snake, but that wasn’t bad enough. They were up and down hills with sharp 45 degree curves at the bottom. No fun at all pulling a 5th Wheel!
We did a quick tour of Branson the next day then had dinner with Nicole and Tyler, Then on to Kansas with a quick stop at Lindy’s grave and visited her aunt in Madison, KS. We had lunch at the Chicken House in Olpe with Vivian and Lloyd Luthi. We were home in Hoxie the next day just in time for a snow storm to hit the area. It was November after all.
As I said to start, it was a busy year for Jan and I. We are settled in for the winter now and don’t expect to start traveling until May of next year. See you on the blog then.
I forgot to give credit to the couple that wrote the book that we used to find the covered bridges of New Hampshire in the Fall Colors of New England -2 blog.
‘New England’s Covered Bridges’, by Benjamin and June Evans, copyright 2004, University Press of New England
‘Covered Bridges of Vermont’, by Ed Barna, copyright 1996, The Country Man Press
‘The Field Guide to Lighthouses of the New England Coast’, by Elinor De Wire, copyright 2008, Voyageur Press
We arrived in Maine on the 23rd of October driving to Acadia National Park. One of the major campground resorts at the park was offering a last two night special rate for a campsite on the beach so we decided to stay there. One of the men in the park suggested that we drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain to watch the sunset. It was beautiful. You could see along the coast of Maine both east and southwest. The sunset was beautiful also, but the photos were rather poor (I guess I need lessons in photographing sunsets).
We woke up the next morning to a raging northeaster with a pounding rain on the camper (so much for our campsite on the beach). We braved the rain to visit the Visitors Center at the Acadia Park, but it was the last day that the park was open so we didn’t get a chance to really enjoy it. I guess we left something for the future. On the way back to the camper we saw a sign for; Live Lobster $4.49 each We bought ten and took them back to the camper to boil and clean. It was difficult stuffing a live lobster in a small pot of boiling water on top of the stove, but we persisted! Of course we had to have lobster that night for dinner and IT WAS GOOD!
We moved down the coast the next day looking for lighthouses. There were very few campgrounds open and we couldn’t find any that were convenient to the coast line. However, we did find a Elks Club that had camping facilities so we parked there for three days while we explored the coast and looked for lighthouses. Out in the bay at Rockland was the Breakwater Lighthouse. When the granite breakwater was constructed in 1889 a wooden light was built at the end. It was replaced by a 25 foot brick lighthouse in 1902.
We drove north the next morning to start our search for more lighthouses. Our first stop was at Camden Harbor. It was interesting to see the big sailboats that had been stored for winter with a covering of shrink-wrap plastic over the deck and cabin area. We were looking for the Curtis Lighthouse which is on an Island just outside the Camden harbor. However, we were unable to see the lighthouse from land.
At the end of the harbor was a cascade from the Megunticook River. It was somehow piped under the streets and businesses of downtown Camden then released to cascade down the rocks into the bay. I don’t know what they do when the river floods???
As we drove north, we drove out to Cape Jellison and the Fort Point State Park where the Fort Point lighthouse is located. The lighthouse was originally built in 1836 to guide vessels into the Penobscot River for trade. The station was rebuilt in 1857 and a pyramidal tower was added in 1890 to house the fogbell.
North along the coast we stopped to view the Penobscot Narrows bridge which was unusual in that the bridge roadways went on each side of the two main pillars and were held up by central cables. This bridge design was also seen later in the city of Boston.
Just beyond the bridge is Fort Knox which was an interesting visit of a imposing stone fort. It was built in 1844 after the British had invaded Bangor during the War of 1812. It was to protect the interior of Maine from future British invasion. It was garrisoned with soldiers during 1863 to 1866 and again during the Spanish American War, but the fort never saw military action.
Across the Penobscot river from the Fort is the town of Buckport. Nestled in among the fall trees is a beautiful white church. Bucksport was a major port trading products from the interior of Maine for foreign imports.
We quickly found that looking for lighthouses took a lot more driving than looking for covered bridges. Often the results were disappointing because they were too far away to be seen or were hidden behind inaccessible hills. Many of the lighthouses can only been seen by boat. The other problem is that lighthouses are usually at the end of a peninsula of land which is separated from the next peninsula by water (duh! It took a rocket scientist to figure that one out). In Maine, the peninsulas extend a long way out of the mainland thus creating a lot of coastline and long drives to reach the end where the lighthouses are generally located. However, often the drives were rewarded with other interesting or beautiful sights. It took us awhile to figure out what these bushes were that covered several hills on our drive to the Dice Lighthouse. Finally at the edge of one of the fields there was a large building that had BLUEBERRY PACKING PLANT painted on the side of it (duh x 2).
The fields were really pretty though and I still don’t know how they picked them. Noticing how bare the hills of blueberries were, we both wondered where you could find a spot to have a thrill (on Blueberry Hill)!
Also we managed to find this mill along the drive to Dice Lighthouse. I even braved the harrowing traffic zooming by on this narrow bridge as I took the photo just so you could see it.
Fortunately the Dice Head Lighthouse was worth the trip to find it. It was originally built of rough rubble stone in 1838 to guide the way into the Penobscot river. In 1858, it was encased in wood and a passage way was added from the house to the lighthouse. In the 1870’s the wooden sheath was removed and the lighthouse remains that way today. There were several more lighthouses further down on the main peninsula, but all were on islands too far away to be photographed.
At the very end of South Thomaston peninsula is a small fishing village called Port Clyde. On the tip is the Marshall Point Lighthouse. The original stone light was built in 1832. In 1857 the lighthouse was upgraded to a 31 foot brick tower light. In 1897 a bell was added to give fog warnings.
One of the more beautiful lighthouses we saw was the Pemiquid Point Lighthouse near the town of Bristol. It was built in 1827 to mark the entrance to Muscongus Bay and John Bay. It was thought that salt water was used to bind the stone in the original lighthouse and the mortar quickly decayed. A new 35 foot stone lighthouse replaced the original in 1835. A park has been established at the point and the house has been opened as a Fishermen’s Museum.
In the Boothbay Harbor area there are four more lighthouses located at various points around the peninsula.
Ram Island Lighthouse is located on Ram Island just a short way off Ocean Point. It guided fishermen through the Fishermen Island Passage into Linekin Bay and Boothbay harbors. The ocean drive around Ocean Point to view the lighthouse was quite a drive. Ocean Drive has the largest number of beautiful summer resident homes that we had seen. Burnt Island Lighthouse was on an Island off the east side of Southport peninsula Boothbay and was only visible from the Ocean Point Drive. Thus it was too far to be seen clearly. Hendricks Head Lighthouse was privately owned and had no public access. It originally provided guidance into the Sheepscot river. Cuckholds Lighthouse was on an Island named after an English gentleman that had his wife run away (!). It was a ways off Cape Newagen and was on a very low Island. In 1933, it was almost destroyed by a bad storm. There were several more lighthouses between Boothbay Harbor and the southern border of Maine particularly around Portland, but we were running out of time and needed to head south. We left Rockland and drove down near Portsmouth to stay overnight at a nephew of Paul and Debbie’s. Their nephew was on duty with the Coast Guard, but we had a nice evening with his housemate and fellow Coast Guardsmen, Gordon.
It was pouring rain most of the afternoon. We managed to get the 5th Wheel set up and then decided to drive up to the Cape Neddick and the Lighthouse which was supposed to be one of the Nation’s most photographs sentinels. We didn’t hold out much hope that it could even be seen through all the rain, let alone photograph it.
As it turned out, photographing the Cape Neddick Lighthouse in a storm was actually a benefit as the waves were pounding off the rocks creating fountains of spray. Built in 1879 to mark the entrance to the York river, the lighthouse was electrified in 1938 and automated in 1987. In 1977, a digitized image of the lighthouse was chosen for inclusion in a time capsule aboard the Voyager II space probe. Along with other earth artifacts, it is intended to convey the nature of our world to other civilizations that may exist in the universe.
So ends out trip to Maine and fun searching for the lighthouses along the coast. We wished we had more time to explore the entire coastline.
See you again as we travel to Boston, Washington DC, Williamsburg and Atlanta; not forgetting a stop on the way home at our favorite distillery, Jack Daniels.