A Cruise on the Danube!

On this rainy-windy-the-hurricane-is-blowing-through-us-day, I have decided to take a break from all my deadlines and write! Peter and I took another Viking River Cruise two weeks ago and enjoyed it very much! Despite the river being low and the fact that we had to change ships midway through, it was a lovely vacation. I’d like to share some pictures with you; some random ones. I do not take many cathedral or famous buildings shots because I know when I get home that I will not look at them. I like to take pictures of quirky things, that I found interesting or amusing.

We sailed from Budapest to Nuremberg, adding some new countries to our list. Budapest was really beautiful and we did not get to see as much of it as we would have liked. Both Budapest and Vienna had wonderful tile roofs that looked suspiciously like quilt patterns.

We had lunch in Budapest and I spied this charming stained glass window! How funny that we have the drinking dogs in the US and they have drinking roosters in Hungary.

In Vienna we took a carriage ride around the famous Ringstrasse. It was cold, rainy and windy but it was a memorable ride. Our carriage was pulled by Lipizzaner horses that must have failed in the Spanish Riding School. Aren’t they gorgeous?

We had lunch at a cafe before our ride. I found this sign in the ladies’ room, just in case I wasn’t sure of what to do…..

Cruising on the Danube one afternoon, we saw so many amazing castles, churches and ruins.

This is what the hall looks like when everyone on the ship is switching ships on the same day! Organized chaos, but Viking handled all the details with ease.

I didn’t mean to go on so long and I do have a few more fun shots to share, so I will stop now. To be continued….

 

 

A Cruise on the Rhine: Signs & Shop WIndows

After years of watching the ads for Viking River Cruises that precede Masterpiece Theatre, I finally went on one! Our friends invited us to join them more than a year ago and we had a lovely time. My plan was to write a blog every few days as we moved along on our voyage. Ha! Best laid plans…..

Though the Internet connection on the river was somewhat better than an ocean cruise, it was still iffy. One moment I would think I was online and sometime later I’d get a note that I was offline. The pictures I took on my phone never really downloaded onto my iPad, which I was using for the blog. And still, after all these years, I find the WordPress app to be unreliable and difficult to use. Thus, I am at home, wanting to share the trip with you and wondering how to do it. {My father delighted in very long slide shows after trips with my mother, complete with a sunset photo at the end! I will endeavor not to do that.} My plan is to group interesting topics together and hope you enjoy!

As you probably know from the adverts, Viking has free tours at almost every port. We always chose the morning ones for orientation and then Peter and I wandered around and amused ourselves. The local guides were for the most part, outstanding, and always gave great advice for lunches and shopping and further sight-seeing.

It’s so much fun to window shop in a foreign country and see how they display things or what interests them! This was my favorite store – hard to decide what it sold from this intriguing window display, but we discovered buttons and ribbons and threads and zippers. (What we used to call notions in the olden days.) The woman did not or chose not to speak English and my high school French does not include sewing and ribbon and notion-type vocabulary, so I ooohed and ahhhed and she smiled a lot. I would love to have asked her about some of the projects in the window display.

There were storefronts with garlands over the doorways. This entrancing one was above a bakery…

…and this one topped a butcher store. Don’t you love the hams hanging amidst the rose bower?

Many, many years ago, the stores and businesses advertised themselves with these sort of signs.

Peter spotted this sign high atop a building. Looks like it was a shoe shop long ago.

We were on a tour in Cologne Germany and did not have time to have a drink in this brewery. Peter was quite disappointed!

And here is the last one, advertising something unknown to me…

You certainly can get a stiff neck looking at everything and trying not to stumble on the cobblestones or be run over by the hundreds of bikes whizzing by…

 

 

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A Wedding in Vermont

Peter and I are on the road, driving home from Vermont. Our dear friends’ youngest was married and we couldn’t miss the big event. Now that Peter is retired, planning such a trip is not a big deal. Just get the cats to the boarding place and we’re off.

It’s a looong trip to Vermont and I decided that we’d have a long day of driving and spend a whole day in Washington DC. When we lived in central Pennsylvania, we went there often, but it’s been forever. There’s so much to do and see! We don’t often do selfies, but could not resist this one…

Washington at night is magical, with all the wonderful buildings and monuments lit up.

Our first museum stop the next day was the Renwick. It is my favorite since it is devoted to contemporary crafts. I have a few delightful pieces to share. Isn’t this a wonderful quilt made by Sabrina Gschwandtner?

Now take a closer look – what do you see? The quilt is made of 16 mm film! It is called Fibers and Civilization (1959).

An old favorite from the permanent collection is Portal Gate by Albert Paley. I did not realize this, but he was making jewelry when he entered the contest to design a gate! Getting that commission was certainly a life changer for him.

A visit to Washington would not be complete for me without checking out the First Ladies section of the The National Museum of American History. I won’t bore you too much, but this is astounding to me – here is Martha Washington’s silk taffeta gown from the early 1780’s! It is hand painted….

Mamie Eisenhower is the first First Lady that I remember. Look at her ball gown from 1957. Such a yummy red and weren’t her feet so small?

And last but not least, all the amazing flying machines at The Air and Space museum…

Gingerbread House Fun!

Finding a Christmas Tree by Julie Bauman

Finding a Christmas Tree by Julie Bauman

 

Year of the Rooster by Gail Oliver

Year of the Rooster by Gail Oliver

 

Poinsettiaville by Glenda Tant

Poinsettiaville by Glenda Tant

These fun gingerbread constructions are the prize winners in The National Gingerbread House Competition at the Grove Park Inn, located in Asheville, NC. The Inn is the perfect place to visit in December and was bustling with guests and those of us who came for dinner and to see the houses. Below is the grand prize winner! Beatris is from Ontario Canada and I have been wondering ever since, how she got her lovely creation to North Carolina!

Dream House by Beatriz Muller

Dream House by Beatriz Muller

Aren’t they great?

Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley!

Peter and I are big Harry Potter fans (honestly, isn’t everyone?) so we decided on this Florida trip to make sure to get to Universal Studios to see The Wizarding World. Turns out that Universal has two parks and there is a Harry area in each, so we had to decide where to go since we did not purchase a two park ticket. We polled the young wait staff at our Disney World hotel and they all recommended Diagon Alley as the best “experience” and we certainly enjoyed it! Here is the interior of the store where the Hogwarts kids buy their pets (familiars?). The cat was twitching her tail and looking annoyed.

Pet store

While drinking a butter beer, we enjoyed all the advertising on the walls of the buildings and

Diagon Alley ad

remembered all the hilarious  tricks and toys and magical gags that the Weasley twins came up with at school and then for their store. This is the wonderful store front for Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes.

Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes

There is so much to look at in Diagon Alley! The (what do you call the people who come up with theme park designs?) theme park designers really outdid themselves. The feel and texture of it was very evocative of the books.

Diagon Alley

We did not run into any of the human characters from the book, but were properly intimidated by the clerk at Gringotts!

Gringott's clerk

And Peter very much enjoyed the (escape) ride through Gringott’s bank. I get sick with very little provocation, so I sat that one out.

I hope I haven’t spoiled it for you. There’s lots to see and do (particularly if you buy a wand) and who knows what fun is to be had in the other side?!? Has anyone been there?

 

A Savannah Getaway

We just got back from a long weekend in Savannah. It had been some time since we’d both been there and we had a lovely time wandering around and eating and drinking too much. We stayed at the East Bay Inn, which was a gorgeous place! The building started out as a cotton warehouse and the ceilings in our room were 20 feet high and the original brick walls were exposed.

East Bay Inn

This amazing thing was in the lobby area. I have no idea what it was for – I thought it might be a vase but the inside of the bowl is intricately painted. I loved it! The decor of the hotel was very Southern with a lot of chinoiserie, and dramatic yellow and red walls.

Chinoserie thing!

One of the most amazing things about the design of Savannah, which was a planned city, are the series of squares. They are well used and any time of day or night there are people sitting in them enjoying the shade and breezes, or perhaps a plastic cup of beer or wine or a margarita! The huge tress in them have been so well-kept. Look at this lovely canopy.

Savannah trees

The air was scented with the smell of jasmine, which was growing everywhere.

Jasmine arch

 

The old buildings by the river are a mish-mash of stones and bricks and shells. I wonder if they were repaired or constructed that way and the paint wore away. The peeling paint on the door was some shade of pink, but who knows what it may have originally been.

Old buildings

I did not take a lot of pictures of buildings, but the old Cotton Exchange is spectacular! It is down the street from the one above. They all look over River Street where lots of commerce used to take place. Now the street is filled with restaurants and bars and shops. Savannah is still a major container port and it is quite surprising to see a gigantic container ship sail down the river.

The Cotton Exchange

And here’s a place to put on your list of where-to-eat in Savannah! Leopold’s is known for its ice cream and the line is very long each night. Located across the street from one of the many Savannah College of Art & Design buildings, it’s worth the wait. Peter suggests Peanut Butter Chippy and I recommend Caramel Swirl…

Leopold's

…and Bali as well

When we lived in Asia, one of the first vacations we took was to Bali. As soon as we got off the airplane, I fell in love; Bali sings to me! For this part of the trip we decided to combine something new with our old favorite resort. So first we set out to the town of Ubud, in the center of the island. All of Bali is very arty but Ubud is touted as the center of it all. We would always go there for a day trip and enjoy all the crafts. This time we stayed in a small hotel right off of Monkey Forest Road. Komaneka has several small resorts in the area and each one is quite different. What an amazing place! We had our own little area, with an outdoor sitting area, pool and then a building with our bedroom and bath. It was heavenly…

Komenaka Monkey Forest Rd

The hotel provided us with two young Balinese guides and we took a hike in the countryside one day, enjoying the rice padis. The guides were as curious about us as we were about them and we had such a nice time chatting. And their English was quite impressive!

Rice padi near Ubud

It was so nice to wander around in the country without the crush of tourists and motorcycles and noise. We encountered this darling Balinese native. We could hear the bells of several of her relatives as we walked.

Balinese cow!

The Balinese have many gods and I do not know the name of this one, but I always enjoy seeing him. Carved wood and stone work is all over the island and so beautifully done.

Balinese god

Every day and sometimes twice a day, the Balinese leave offerings to the gods. Usually it’s a small basket with flower bits in it and sometimes a food treat, but this was an impressive display!

Offering in Bali

The really big change we discovered about Bali was the food. When we went to Ubud many, many years ago, we were always a bit apprehensive about the food and drink. Now just about everything we ate was carefully prepared and so appetizing-looking. Look at this great presentation of beef rending! Even most places served safe, cool bottled water. Mealtime was really a pleasure. ;-D

Beef rendang

What I really missed in the shopping we did were the beautiful Balinese batiks and ikats. I do not need one more piece of any fabric, but I was looking forward to looking. We wondered if maybe the cotton shortage some years ago, which affected the quilting market in a big way, may have had something to do with it. Or that people don’t know what to do with batik sarongs, even though they are beautiful. One store which sold some textiles had this loom set up, but it was very dusty!

Irate weaving

The second place we went to in Bali was the Nusa Dua beach area. We always stayed at the Grand Hyatt. Back in the day, it was so amazing and so Balinese. Now I must say, it’s more Hyatt than Bali, but the large grounds are still delightful. One of the things we like to do when we visit there is to see Balinese dancing. The hotel has a night market where you can enjoy an astounding array of food and then enjoy the show. I took a short little video so you can see how magical it is. And by the way, dance is an important part of the religion, and though it is done for tourists, it is a part of their ceremonies as well.

This is the end of the travelogue. If you have never been to Asia, I would put Singapore and Bali on your list. They are very delightful places!

{I tried to do a fancy collage at Picmonkey so there would not be a long string of pictures, but everytime I tried to make one, my computer froze! Probably user error…}

A Trip Down Memory Lane – to Singapore

Peter and I lived in various parts of Asia (Singapore, Shanghai and Tokyo) in the 1990’s and had the best time doing so! It was a very sad day for me when we returned to the US and became normal people again. Being an Expat was an exciting experience and I loved the adventures I had when living Overseas. I had not been back to Asia since our move in 1999 and we finally decided to get back there and revisit our old haunts. We went while I was not blogging and I thought I would share a few pictures with you.

Singapore was in the throes of the annual Fall smoke. It happened when we lived there as well and it’s pretty unpleasant. Malaysia and Indonesia burn (accidentally or on purpose, one never knows) fields and forests and the smoke blows and covers Singapore with an eerie haze. Here is the view from our 13th floor hotel room on Orchard Road.

Foggy Singapore

On our first day we wandered all around and at lunchtime we found ourselves in Boat Quay by the Singapore River. We had yummy Indian food while admiring the majestic government buildings and the grey, smokey skies overhead. Same same there!

Boat Quay

What has happened to Singapore since we left – plenty! On the main shopping street, Orchard Road, there are a group of preserved shophousese; buildings that have shops on the bottom and homes on the top. Look who moved into this bunch! I couldn’t believe how many American business are there now.  Singapore is really all grown up with huge numbers of high rises, an unbelievable number of restaurants and very high-end stores as well as two casinos and an amusement park.

Singapore C&B shophouse

This is a whole new area of the island. They were busy filling in this area of shoreline when we lived there and we saw trucks with soil arriving from Malaysia daily. This is the botanic garden area. I thought the trees in the background looked an awful lot like the trees in Avatar! We were walking through the gardens to get to the new location of the Satay Club.

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Satay is a classic Singaporean dish with a delicious peanut sauce. We got an assortment of chicken and lamb and beef with a refreshing glass of lime juice.

Satay

Little India looks festive no matter what the season! It also seemed as we remembered; lots of restaurants, amazing jewelry stores and (often) ladies still dressed in lovely saris.

Little India, Singapore

And of course Singapore is always mindful of your safety! They don’t want any accidents when you are visiting…

Squatter toilet