Today’s excursion was a six-hour journey described as “the most scenic train trip in the Alps” on “the slowest express train in the world.” I’m just going to use the description provided to us, because I can’t describe it better. The trip “spans dramatic aqueducts that cross plunging gorges, remarkable tunnels [including the longest railroad tunnel in the world] that bore through hillsides and some of the most inspiring alpine landscapes you are ever likely to see.” We crossed 291 bridges and went through 91 tunnels as we traveled through the Rhine Gorge, the Grand Canyon of Switzerland, and crossed the Oberalp Pass at 6,670 feet to St. Moritz and the Upper Engadine lake district. The Glacier Express was an elaborate engineering project that took decades. When it was completed in 1930, it became possible for everyday travelers (like us) to see some remote areas of the Alps. We boarded the train in Chur, had lunch onboard, and arrived at our destination–Zermatt–in time for dinner.

At the Chur train station, the train arrived from our right. People rushed to climb onboard and grab seats facing left so they could look forward as the train moved. Ted and I have a philosophy about mass transit: no matter what you pay for your seat or where you sit, everyone takes the same route to the same place. We waited in line for our turn to board and, naturally, all the left-facing seats were filled, so we took a seat that faced “backward”–just like half the passengers. When we left the station, the train reversed directions and all the people who hurried to sit facing forward ended up riding backward! Patience sometimes has its rewards.

It was a cloudy day, but there’s nothing you can do about the weather. The scenery was still beautiful. It was difficult to take good pictures through the train’s huge observation windows because there was a lot of reflection. but that’s life. Now, here come the pictures.

We’re ready to ride the Glacier Express.

The scenery was beautiful, even with the clouds–except when we traveled through the clouds.

Somewhere along the way, it was lunchtime.

Some of the tunnels were really long. Perhaps even boring for some people. Note the photographer in the window reflection.

About halfway through the trip, when we emerged from one of the tunnels, this is what we saw. Everyone on the train cheered for the sunshine.

When you have to cross a gorge, you need a pedestrian bridge–and some brave pedestrians to use it.

Our hotel in Zermatt was a short walk from the train station. When we crossed the street from the station, our guide told us to turn around. This is what we saw. Definitely an ooh-aah.

At about 1,200 feet elevation, Zürich is lower than yesterday’s 6,762-foot-high Kleine Scheidegg pass. As a result, Zürich gets some snow that covers roofs and grass, but the streets usually stay clear in the winter. We learned that Switzerland has no raw materials except salt, so everything else must be imported. Salt is available because the land was once covered by sea water. Switzerland has a very high standard of living. It is a world financial center, and most people rent their housing from a bank or from an insurance company, spending about half of their salaries on rent. It is very expensive to live in Switzerland, but salaries are high and unemployment is under three percent. Example: The Swiss franc is nearly equal in value to the U.S. dollar. Ted and I bought two beers and a hamburger to share for 49CHf (Swiss francs).

As a book lover, I endorsed our Zürich hotel lobby. This book display has a third leg that doesn’t show in the picture.
Here’s a chandelier for book lovers in the hotel restaurant.

We took a cruise on the city’s namesake lake and learned that Zürichers love water. Lake Zürich is 25 miles long, 2 miles wide, and 450 feet deep. It doesn’t freeze, and its shoreline must be shallow because it’s usually about 77 degrees in the summer–warm enough for lots of swimming. The west coast of the lake is called the “cold coast”; the east coast is called the “gold coast.” These are not economic distinctions. The gold coast receives more warm (golden) sunshine, while the cold coast falls in the shade of the mountains.

The water in Lake Zürich is very clean. Workers in Zürich often spend their lunch time at the lake, swimming or just relaxing. There are a number of swim events in the city each year. For the December Santa Claus swim, people swim across the much narrower Limmat River in Santa Claus caps. The summer swim across the lake attracted approximately 7,000 people this year. Sometimes, people swim across the lake just because it’s there. They wear yellow swim caps so they can be seen (and not hit) by boaters. No jet skis are allowed on the lake–only small motorboats and rowboats.

Dylan would love this gold coast swim raft. It reminds me of the rafts he makes in our pool by connecting our air mattresses, noodles, etc. The man on the pier and the boy in the water are scale figures that show the size of the raft. There’s another person sitting atop the yellow triangle of the raft.
The red umbrellas are on the deck of a “ladies only” spa on the Limmat River in Zürich. No men are allowed until after 7:00 p.m. There are similar men’s spas in the city. This is late morning and the club is crowded with ladies having a drink and sunbathing.

Our tour guide told us that taxis are so expensive and buses are so easy to use and so inexpensive, that no one takes a taxi in Zürich unless they are drunk. In fact, if someone takes a taxi, friends ask, “Were you drunk?” (We saw some people at our hotel getting into a taxi. Since they didn’t appear to be drunk, we assumed they were naive tourists.)

After our guided cruise and walking tour, Ted and I did some more walking on our own. We took a bus from our hotel to Zürich’s Old Town, the city’s core that was once enclosed by walls.

Zürich’s St. Peter’s Church boasts the largest church clock face in Europe. It is so large that the minute hand moves 1.5 meters when it advances and you can easily see the movement if you watch it.
There are a lot of bicycles in Zürich (left), but not nearly as many as in Amsterdam (right).
Fountains with water bottle spouts are everywhere. The water tastes wonderful! I like the style of this fountain.
Would you have guessed that the rounded holes at sidewalk level are for scraping the mud off your shoes before entering the store?
Ted and I walked through a pretty park that overlooked the river and the city.
Some men were playing giant chess in the park.

We found lots of good food while we were walking around the city.

For lunch, we stopped at a small store to purchase some buns, a package of lunch meat, and some individual-size bottles of milk. The clerk insisted on plating our purchases for us to eat at one of the sidewalk tables. Doesn’t this make your mouth water?
We had to stop here. It’s a chocolatier that sells–what else?–Swiss chocolate.
After all our walking in the warm weather, we needed a cool-down snack, so we finished our afternoon with some ice cream at this café.
The hype is true. The ice cream was delicious.

Our destination today was the Alps in CH. Where??? I wondered why CH is the abbreviation for Switzerland. Thankfully (sarcasm here), Google had the answer. When it was part of the Roman Empire, “Helvetia” was the name of the region now known as Switzerland. The area was divided into canons, three of which united to form a confederation in 1291. Confoederation Helvetica is the Latin form of Swiss Confederation, thus the country’s abbreviation is CH. Now that we’ve answered that question, we can move on to our activities in CH today.

It was a cloudy, drizzly day, but Ted and I were on a schedule, because we’d already paid to take a train ride called “Highlights of the Alps,” so that’s what we did. The day’s journey began with a bus ride from Basel to Interlaken. One review of Interlaken mentions that it’s worth visiting for a day, and that you can easily stroll the entire city within an hour. Interlaken used to be advertised as a spa town to cure ailments; today, it lures hikers who want to climb to the nearby mountain summits. I think it would have been prettier on a sunny day.

There were a lot of paragliders in Interlaken. They literally jump off a nearby mountain and drift down to this flat open space.
The buildings around the open space were very palatial and the landmark Victoria Jungfrau Hotel was possibly the most opulent. We got lucky. The clouds cleared just enough to see (most of) the profile of Jungfrau.
There was a pretty park across the street from the paraglider landing area.
Interlaken is set between Lake Brienz and Lake Thun (thus, the city’s name). I think this is Lake Brienz.

We got back on the bus and headed for Grindelwald, where we boarded a cogwheel train that took us to Kleine Scheidegg, described as a “breathtaking mountain pass with stunning mountain views.” The pass is 6,762 feet high. The views, however, were less than stunning because, as the train climbed higher, we moved into the clouds.

We saw many huts like this along the train route. We think they were for hikers and/or skiers.
We also saw many huge woodpiles–some bigger than this one, and some enclosed by three-walled, roofed buildings. Switzerland is heated mostly by oil, so again, this wood is probably for hikers or skiers.
This was our “stunning mountain view” from the pass.

We had a traditional, delicious Swiss lunch at the pass. As our guide was describing what we’d be doing and seeing while we paused at the pass, he nicely segued into an unplanned event. A young man in our group went down on his knee and proposed. She said “yes.”

We took the cogwheel train back down to Grindelwald, got back on the bus, and headed for Brienz, a small town known for its woodworking.

After enjoying some time in Brienz, we boarded the bus one more time and went to Zürich, our final destination of the day.

On our way to Heidelberg, we passed Mannheim. It looked like an industrial, not an artistic, city but the Mannheim School of classical music composers had a far-reaching effect. One of the things the school did was establish the number of musicians and the number of each type of instrument in an orchestra. These numbers are now used around the world as standard. The Mannheim School also introduced grace notes to musical composition and a three-note sequence (da-da-DUP’) referred to as the Mannheim roller. A dramatic effect introduced by the Mannheim School is the Grand Pause, where playing stops for a moment, resulting in total silence, only to restart vigorously.

And then it was on to Heidelberg. Before I insert pictures of Heidelberg, see if you agree that our tour guide brings Mary Poppins to mind.

Mary Poppins had no accent at all, and her English and diction were so good that I asked where she learned English. I wasn’t surprised when she said “Canada.”
Heidelberg is set on the Neckar River. It’s a very picturesque city and definitely has a university feel to it. Heidelberg University is the oldest university in Europe. (circa 1615?) Trivia fact: Robert Bunsen, inventor of the Bunsen burner, attended Heidelberg University.
Heidelberg Castle dominates the city. This castle is the most popular ruin to visit in Europe.
This is one of the castle towers.
The ruins allow visitors to see the layers of construction in the castle walls. Using various sizes of rock in the walls added to the stability of the structure.
I’ve learned to recognize the holes in these stones. They were formed when the builders raised the stones with pincers.
Grass now grows in what used to be the castle moat. On another modern note, concerts are now held in the large castle courtyard.
This wine cask is in the castle cellar. It’s empty now, but has the capacity to hold 55,000 gallons of wine.
Walking near the university campus, we saw this store. Our guide explained that a Schmuckatelier is a jeweler. Then she added, “Not that we don’t have schmucks in Germany.” (Mary Poppins has a sense of humor.)
We had time to walk around Heidelberg on our own. I spotted a sporting goods store and bought a new pedometer to replace the one we wore out in Paris.

Another trivia fact: Dueling is still allowed in Germany, but combatants must be 18 years of age and are required to wear face and neck protection. It’s not like the old days.

Our first port of call today was Worms, Germany, the city in which Martin Luther was declared a heretic for his religious beliefs. Luther was given the opportunity to recant his theses. His response was that some of his theses had been adopted by the Church, therefore it made no sense to recant them. Other theses were his questions and opinions, which he had the right to voice, so there was no reason to recant those. The remaining theses questioned the Church, and Luther expressed a willingness to recant them if the Church proved him to be Biblically in error. He was convicted and excommunicated–except in Saxony, where he lived. Scholars believe this was a political deal made between the Church and the government. After his trial, Luther married a runaway nun. They had six children and adopted four more, and he continued to teach at Wittenberg University.

There are lots of city fountains in the places we’re visiting. They all have spouts with drinking water, so it’s easy to keep our water bottles filled.
This is the entrance to Lutherplatz, a park in Worms dedicated to Martin Luther.
The figures in this monument to Martin Luther are arranged in the shape of a castle to commemorate Luther’s most famous hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”
A miniature of the monument stands beside it. Its purpose is to allow blind visitors to “see” what the large monument looks like.
This sculpture represents Luther’s shoes–large shoes to fill.
Luther never entered the Worms Cathedral. He was tried and convicted of heresy in Worms and was excommunicated from the church. Note the lower statue on the far right of the door. Then look at the next picture.
The sculpted woman is beautiful from the front, but there are frogs and other creatures crawling over her back side. The beauty is her salvation; the creatures are her sinful nature.
The ornate altar decorations in these old cathedrals are amazing.
Can you imagine sculptures like these in our modern churches?
The third window in the second row depicts Martin Luther. This is the only Catholic church in the world that publicly recognizes Martin Luther.

Question: What do these two men have in common? Answer: They both made printing history. But first, a look at Mainz, Germany.

Our guide began by telling us that Germans are taught to be punctual. In fact, there’s a saying they use for guidance: Early is on time; on time is late; late is left. These guidelines are then fine-tuned. For example, ten minutes early is perfect; thirty minutes early is too much. There’s nothing productive you or the people you’re meeting can do with an extra thirty minutes, so it’s time wasted. Our guide was time-precise as well. She announced that we would walk for twelve minutes and then she would speak for four-and-a-half minutes. As one man near me remarked, “The French trains are faster, but the German trains run on time.” And so, we promptly set off on our city tour.

This is the Mainz Cathedral, famous for its spires.
It’s unbelievable how huge these old cathedrals are. I wonder how people sitting in the back could see the officiant or hear the service.
It was market day and there was a lot of food on display. Vendors selling the same items (e.g., strawberries) all charge the same price, so comparison shopping becomes a matter of who your favorite vendor is, not which vendor has the lowest price. What a great way to encourage outstanding customer service!
The city square has beautiful flower gardens.
This looks like a boring picture, but you can see two cannonballs shot by Napoleon’s troops still embedded in the front of the building.

After touring the Old City, we went to the Gutenberg Museum, which was founded in 1900, five hundred years after Gutenberg’s birth. As we all know, Johannes Gutenberg invented movable type, making mechanized book printing possible. He also invented a way to print designs in color to enhance the pages of black print. We toured the museum and were admitted to the room in which three copies of the Gutenberg Bible were on display. (No photos allowed in that room.) Naturally, the docent came in exactly fifteen minutes after we entered and suggested that our guide move on, since the next group was ready to view the display.

We also visited a room in which there was a replica of Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press. The guide explained how it worked and then asked Ted to assist her.

The guide is showing Ted what he needs to do to print a page of the Gutenberg Bible. He had to pull that long handle in the right center to spread the ink on the page. Luckily, he didn’t have to set the type before pulling the handle.
When the cover was lifted, it was possible to remove the printed sheet. The guide gave the printed sheet to Ted as a souvenir. Similar pages are sold in the gift shop, but ours is more personal because it was actually printed by Ted.
This is the page Ted printed. It’s written in Latin, and I think the large letter begins the first verse of John 1. It’s very pretty, and we’re going to frame it.

Our guide was good at finding shady places for us to stop while she told us about Mainz, but the high temperature this afternoon was 103 degrees, so it felt good to return to the air-conditioned ship.

Tonight’s lounge game was music trivia. We thought we had a good team put together, with several of us feeling very strong about recognizing songs and artists from a variety of decades. Unfortunately, the questions weren’t that simple. We had to know more detailed things. What does ABBA stand for? What was Freddy Mercury’s real name? Where was CCR from? How many Village People were there? How many actual von Trapp children were there? Teams received extra points if team members danced to the music played for each question, so lots of people danced–including Ted and me. I think I can say with assurance that a good time was had by all.

The Middle Rhine gorge is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with historic villages, castles, and vineyards set in spectacular scenery.

In his wars on Germany, Louis XIV destroyed most of the castles along the Rhine River. Only the Marksburg castle was left intact.
The villages along the Middle Rhine are very picturesque, and each his its ancient protective castle sitting on a hilltop, overlooking the village.
This castle is privately owned, and it’s possible to stay here. You should know in advance that it has no electricity.
This castle has been modernized with new windows but, again, there’s no electricity. As we passed it, one of the ship’s staff members mentioned that this is his summer home, but he works too much to spend time here.
With feudal castles along the Rhine, goods needed to be moved from one village to another. The landowners charged a tax for ships to pass by their villages. Robber barons also built castles without local or national permission and illegally collected taxes from passing ships. This is a legal tax collection office, built on an island in the middle of the river.
This is the Lorelei Rock–about 450 feet high. The most dangerous currents on the Rhine flow past this rock/island. It is said that the beautiful Lorelei sat on the rock and sang a song so irresistible that no one could resist its pull. No sailor who tried to reach Lorelei ever returned.

When we cruised the Middle Rhine in 2015, it was a cool, cloudy day. We sat on the upper deck of the ship wearing jeans and jackets, with deck blankets over our legs. Today, it was so hot that no one (not a single person) sat on the outside decks. We all enjoyed the scenery from behind the large windows in the ship’s air conditioned lounge.

We had an interesting three-hour walk around the city of Koblenz this morning.

Here, where the Moselle and Rhine rivers meet, Koblenz juts into the water like the prow of a ship.
In addition to flags for each of the 16 republics of Germany at the river confluence, there is also a U.S. flag. It was placed here after 9/11 as a sign of the solidarity and support offered by Germany and the European Union to their ally, the United States.
This popular statue of Emperor Wilhelm I stands at the confluence of the Moselle and Rhine rivers.
This clock is dedicated to a man who was accused of a crime. Although he insisted he was innocent, he was convicted of the crime and beheaded. Over 200 years later, researchers proved the charges were fake news and the man was innocent. The man’s eyes roll with each tick of the clock and he sticks out his tongue on the hour–still proclaiming his innocence. (You can see his tongue sticking out–it’s red.)
This is the Schangelbrunnen fountain, usually referred to as the “spitting boy” fountain. During the French occupation of Germany from 1794-1814, many illegitimate children were born to French soldiers and German women. The children were disparagingly referred to as jeangles, which means an unattended child who is mischievous. The word evolved to the German Schangel–street urchins known for their mischievous pranks. The base of the fountain shows little boys engaged in pranks and the boy in the center intermittently spits water at passersby. Koblenzers are proud to be known as fun-loving, quick, and clever.
The Schangel can also be found on the city’s manhole covers.

There is also a story in Koblenz about the Peppermint Lady, but my picture of her statue didn’t turn out. It was well known that she liked her schnapps; however, she couldn’t always afford to pay for both her schnapps and her rent, so she started selling peppermint in the bars. Men would stop at the bars for a beer after work, then buy the Peppermint Lady’s candies to cover the smell of beer on their breath before going home. This made it possible for the Peppermint Lady to pay her rent and to also keep buying her schnapps.

The pink building in this picture is Medieval and is protected so, even though it is leaning, it cannot be structurally changed. To work around that problem and save the building, the yellow building was built beside the pink one and attached to it to hold the pink building up. The pink building may not have air conditioning or elevators, but those things are OK in the yellow building, so the residents enter through the cool, yellow building and use its elevators to access the upper floors in the pink building. Problem solved.
The main street in downtown Koblenz used to be the moat of the city’s castle. The street has images of ducks to remind people that this area used to be under water.

Follow the meandering Moselle River past small villages, steep vineyards, sun-kissed slopes and lovely vistas. . . . The landscapes along the river and (the) picturesque (village of) Beilstein invite you to unwind and soak up the natural beauty of the region.

Who could resist that? Ted and I signed up for the bike ride. It was a happy surprise to learn that we’d be riding e-bikes, because we’ve been wanting to try them. It was a three-hour bike ride and it was fun and beautiful all the way.

As our group gathered, we were all looking at the local castle when one guy blurted out, “Now that’s a serious castle!”
The two group leaders fit each of us with an appropriately-sized bike and helmet. We’re ready to go.
We stopped in one of the villages along the bike trail to take a break and have a snack. The leader warned us not to order a glass of wine or a beer because it’s illegal in Germany to consume alcohol while bicycling.
We had time to walk around the town a little bit. Here’s a pretty alley Ted and I found.
You can tell that Europeans walk instead of driving everywhere. There are steps here to climb to the buildings on the higher street.
After the break, it was time to put our helmets back on and hit the trail again.

This was one of the most enjoyable days of our vacation. We weren’t sure we’d like e-bikes because we like to bike for the exercise and we didn’t want the bike to do all the work. Now we know that if you don’t pedal, the e-bike doesn’t move; it simply assists you when you go uphill, and you have the option to select how much assistance you want. We still had plenty of exercise during the three-hour ride. Seventy percent of bicycle sales in Germany are e-bikes. After this adventure, Ted and I knew what we want to do when we get home: shop for e-bikes. They were so much fun!

In the evening, we went to the lounge on the ship and joined the crowd to play “Majority Rules.” In this game, the leader asks questions and each team submits an answer. The most frequent response is the winner and all those who gave that response get a point. The team with the most points wins. Ted and I were a team of two for awhile and didn’t care if we won or not, so we submitted silly answers. (That changed when several latecomers joined our group and were more serious about their answers.) When the question was “Who is the sexiest woman in the world?” Ted and I wrote “Queen Elizabeth II.” Best actress? We said Miss Piggy. Most visited city? How about Pigeon Forge, TN, home of Dollywood? Surprisingly, President Trump and Jesus tied as the most famous person in the world. The game was fun and put everyone in a happy mood for the dancing that followed.

There are a lot of vineyards along the Moselle River in Germany, and most of them are planted in vertical rows. This allows cool air to flow downward, protecting the grapes from early frosts. Another reason for the vertical rows is to make it easier to move harvesting equipment up the steep hills to the tops of the vineyards. Over eighty percent of the vineyards along the river are harvested by hand.

These are the grapes that make the best Riesling wines. Check it out: buy a bottle of Riesling wine that was produced in Germany.
There are also a lot of locks on the Rhine. We’re going down. You can see the water line just above Ted’s arm.
The boat builders know exactly how wide the locks are. You can see the tiny strip of glistening water between the white of our veranda deck and the dark color of the lock wall.
Swans are everywhere in Europe. We saw only a few ducks and no geese, but where there’s water, there are swans.

This was the longest day of travel for the cruise. After a long bus ride from Paris to Trier, Germany, we had a full dinner onboard the ship. Unfortunately, the after-dinner entertainment featured a father-son duo on violin and piano. They were very skilled musicians, but it would have been a challenge for anyone to entertain a group of 100+ tired people who just finished a big meal. The two men played very slow songs, and not even Strauss’s “Blue Danube” made us want to sway in our seats. I counted eight people near me sleeping through the music. Zzzzzzzzzzz. . . .

Since July 14, we’ve had some really warm weather in Europe.  Before that, London and Paris were 85-90 degrees, but it keeps getting warmer.  In the past three days, our high temperatures in Luxembourg and Germany have been 100, 102, and 103 degrees.  In contrast, on our previous visit to Germany during the first week of August 2015, it was much cooler.  We wore jeans and jackets, and put deck blankets over our legs when we sat outside on the cruise ship.

We should have packed more shorts.

Here we are, cruising the Rhine River with Cheryl and Dave in 2015. It was cooler that year. (Cheryl and I hung our blankets over the chair arms for the picture.)

Until Ted and I saw the option to visit the American Cemetery near Luxembourg City, we didn’t know it was there. Well, we learned that no matter what others might say, Luxembourgers are grateful to the United States and have only good things to say about our country and its people. Our tour guide repeatedly told us the United States saved Luxembourg during World War II. She might be a stronger American patriot than many U.S. citizens.

Here are the cemetery gates.
More than 5,000 U.S. soldiers are buried here. Many of them gave their lives during the Battle of the Bulge in the winter of 1945. American soldiers also retrieved the bodies of German soldiers and buried them.
Personally, I’ve never been certain why it was called the Battle of the Bulge, but when the guide showed us this map, the red “bulge” showing the German advance into Luxembourg is very clear. This was the bloodiest battle ever fought in Europe.
This is a cross marking the grave of an unknown soldier.
When possible, the crosses provide more detailed information about the buried soldiers. The lettering on the marker is gold if the soldier was awarded the Medal of Honor.
The graves of Jewish soldiers are marked with a Star of David. Every grave marker is made of top quality Italian marble.
The grave of Gen. George S. Patton is in a prominent location near the monuments to the U.S. soldiers. The burial plot is large, landscaped, and fenced. Patton declared he would rather be fighting with his boys than safe with the generals. He is revered in Luxembourg, and our guide said she will dispute anyone who dares to say a bad word about Patton.

Do you know anyone who’s been to Luxembourg? If not, you do now because Ted and I have been there. Luxembourg City, the capital, is described as “one of Europe’s most intimate and compact cities.” (Translation: small town.)

We didn’t stay in the city very long, but we had time for a quick lunch (McDonald’s!) and a nice walk around the downtown area.
Look, look! It’s Schroeder Joailliers in Luxembourg City! The sign says they’ve been here since 1877, not too long before Ted’s great-grandparents emigrated to the U.S. Did the family leave a branch of their jewelry business behind in Luxembourg?
We saw this American Vintage store in Luxembourg City. I didn’t recognize any of the styles from my personal wardrobe history.
Along the pedestrian promenade, the view of the fortress ramparts and the river canyon has been called “Europe’s most beautiful balcony.”

This is our last night in Paris. Tomorrow, we’ll be taking a bus to Trier, Germany, where we’ll begin the river cruise portion of our trip with a stop in Luxembourg City on the way.

We arrived at our hotel a few minutes before midnight following the cabaret show. The Eiffel Tower grounds border the hotel grounds and, at midnight, the Eiffel Tower was lit with twinkling lights from top to bottom for three minutes. It looked magical, and it was a beautiful way to say good-night and au revoir to Paris.

Tonight’s entertainment was dinner and a show at Paradis Latin, a Paris cabaret. As Ted said, if you’re going to a cabaret, you might as well do it where it started–in Paris. Paradis Latin is the oldest cabaret in Paris (older than the Moulin Rouge) and is in the same neighborhood as Le Protrope, our anniversary dinner restaurant–the oldest restaurant in Paris. Paradis Latin burned down and was rebuilt by Gustave Eiffel during the same period in which he was building his famous tower.

The dinner was a delicious three courses, and there was a show during the dinner. We were allowed to take pictures during the dinner show, but not during the after-dinner show.

This woman had a powerful voice.

The after-dinner show was amazing (and “unbridled,” according to the playbill), but what happens at the cabaret, stays at the cabaret. Yes, they performed the “showstopping” (also in the playbill) French cancan. And that’s all we have to say about that (cf Forrest Gump). Except for our new code words: “Ok?” “Ok.”

Today, Ted and I went to Versailles, another place near Paris we didn’t have time to see on our 2016 visit to the city. Versailles started as a small hunting lodge for the king. It was enlarged by each of its three resident kings–most famously Louis XIV, the “Sun King”–and its opulence became the model for future European palaces. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Simply arriving at Versailles is impressive. The bright shine of gold is everywhere–on the buildings, on the fences, on the gates–anything that could be gilded is gilded. Note that there is even a large painting on the front of the main part of the palace.
We arrived early for our scheduled tour time, so we toured the gardens first. This is only a small part of the gardens on one side of the palace.
The back of the palace overlooks this garden and some lakes.
As with all the palaces we’ve seen in Europe, there are beautiful tapestries everywhere.
Another common feature of European palaces is beautiful artwork on the ceilings.
Of course, the highlight of Versailles is the famous Hall of Mirrors. The huge mirrors on the left and the crystal chandeliers reflect the light from the huge windows on the right to make this a bright, glittering, and very impressive corridor. The Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I was signed in the Hall of Mirrors.

Our guide shared two very human stories about Versailles’ history. First, Louis XIV, France’s longest reigning monarch (72 years) waged many wars. By the time he died, the country was tired of war (and broke). If a king isn’t waging war, he has time to make babies so, not surprisingly, Louis XV had 10 children–he made love, not war. Unfortunately, only one of his children survived.

The second story was about Marie Antoinette, and portrays her in a sympathetic way. She was only 14 when she married 15-year-old Louis XVI, and she was only 19 when she became queen. As a result, she was more naive than heartless when she reportedly said that if there was no bread for the people, “let them eat cake.” She and Louis XVI did not have children for a number of years. In fact, pundits were asking “Can the king do it?” Eventually, they had four children, although one infant died. Marie Antoinette was a very good mother, and cared deeply about her children. The portrait pictured below shows her with her three living children and an empty cradle to symbolize the child who died.

It was good to get back to our air-conditioned hotel, but the opportunity to see Versaille was worth the time. Tonight, it’s party time!

We began our visit to Paris at the Cambon Hotel because we stayed there last time and liked it so much, we decided on that visit to come back for our 50th anniversary.  The Cambon is across the street from the Tuileries, a few blocks from the Champs Élysées, less than a mile from the Louvre, and just a little farther to Notre Dame.  In other words, very convenient for places we wanted to visit.  Our pre-cruise extension, however, began today at a hotel right beside the Eiffel Tower, several miles from the Cambon, so we transferred to that hotel this morning.  That put us exactly where we needed to be to visit some other Paris sights and to be handy for the bus pick-ups for our cruise-organized activities in Paris.

It wasn’t hard to find a place for lunch. In downtown London and Paris, there are cafés everywhere–even entire blocks of cafés like this one.
We didn’t get to the Arc de Triomphe on our last visit, so we walked about two miles to check that off our list.
From the Arc de Triomphe, you can see all the way down the Champs Élysées to the Louvre.
We didn’t go up the Eiffel Tower this time, but it was fun to have it right outside our hotel door.

Today, Ted and I had lunch at a Parisian café we enjoyed on our last visit.  The waitress said we looked so “cute,” that she should take our picture.  Cute?  Not an adjective I’d use to describe us, but the result was quite nice.

As usual, we spent our afternoon walking—but not as far as yesterday—maybe only nine miles.  We found the Moulin Rouge (translation, “red mill) behind road construction fences.

To the right of the Moulin Rouge, we saw a lovely promenade, so we walked a mile or more on the promenade, then sat down on a park bench and had a short conversation with a Parisian man who was also relaxing in the shade.

We needed to get back to our hotel early because this was the night of our anniversary dinner in Paris.  About a month ago, our travel agent contacted the hotel concierge for restaurant suggestions.  We checked out his suggestions online and selected Le Procope, the oldest restaurant in Paris.  The concierge made reservations in advance for us for this evening. 

The restaurant was founded in 1686 in the St. Germain district of Paris.  It was very charming and the food, of course, was delicious.  We’re convinced there is no such thing as bad food in Paris.

To honor its history, the restaurant has several menu items that are made from its original recipes.  We chose the ancient lemon meringue pie for our dessert.  It looks like marshmallows on top, but that’s the meringue.  It was baked to the crispness of a melt-in-your-mouth schaum torte meringue with a lemon filling and a very flaky crust.

When we returned to our hotel, there was a surprise for us in our room.  Our travel agent mentioned to the concierge that we were celebrating our 50th anniversary at Le Procope.  Given this information, the front desk staff chose to help us celebrate by placing a bottle of wine, a corkscrew, two glasses, and a lovely note in our room.  The language barrier might have been the reason for subtracting ten years, but it didn’t change the thought. 

We had a lovely anniversary celebration in Paris, our favorite city.

But maybe not.  Today, Ted and I set a record for walking:  18.25 miles.  After that, my pedometer broke.  Really.

We started the day with an omelette (French food in France) for lunch and then headed for Notre Dame.  On the way, we passed some green box-like things along the sidewalk and thought they were dumpsters for nearby apartments.  We were so-o-o-o wrong!

Top left: The boxes had legs that allowed them to fit over the concrete abutment along the sidewalk. Top right: From the front, they looked like dumpsters, but the front edge and top were constructed to be lifted to form . . . voilà! . . . (lower center) little sidewalk shops.

Because of the recent fire at Notre Dame, visitors cannot enter the cathedral, but there was still a crowd all the way around it on the sidewalks.  It was a sad sight, and the crowd was more somber than exuberant.

Here’s the classic view of the front of Notre Dame. The cathedral is located on an island in the Seine River.
The two rear towers and most of the roof were completely destroyed by the fire.

Our next stop was the Pantheon.  It must be one of the highest points in Paris, because we walked uphill all the way from Notre Dame.  There were pretty views of the Eiffel Tower and of Notre Dame from the Pantheon. 

The Pantheon was built in 1744 because King Louis XV wanted to dedicate a prestigious building to Geneviève, the patron saint of Paris. In 1791, the monument was turned into the national Pantheon. Its crypt enshrines great men and women of France, including Victor Hugo, Voltaire, Émile Zola, Jean Moulin, and Marie Curie.

The Pantheon is in the Latin Quarter of Paris, so we walked around the neighborhood for a little while.  Since it was still early, we headed downhill and across the Seine to the Bastille.  We found the site, in spite of extensive road construction in the area, and were surprised to see that not even a remnant of the Bastille exists.  It felt like the Fourth of July without the Liberty Bell to visit.  The Bastille prison was pretty much destroyed after the French Revolution (no one felt warm and fuzzy about preserving it), and the site is now the home of an opera house.

The ultramodern building in the center is the opera house on the site of the former Bastille. There is no Bastille to be seen, although many streets and buildings in the neighborhood have “Bastille” in their names.

Time was passing, and our feet were getting tired, so we headed back to the hotel.  The sky became increasingly overcast and looked more and more like rain.  It took us a long time to cover the distance (or maybe it just seemed like a long time because we’d walked for so long), but we made it to about 30 feet from the hotel door before it started to sprinkle.  The shower didn’t last long, so we rested our legs and feet and went out later to feast on beouf bourguignon for dinner.  Yummy! (“Beef stew” sounds so much better in French.)

Again:  18.25 miles of walking in one afternoon!  Whew!

Note:  We’ve ordered vanilla ice cream twice in France.  Although it was called “vanilla,” it was French vanilla both times.  But of course, n’cest pas? 

This morning, Ted and I took the Eurostar from London to Paris.  We did that in 2016 and the high-speed train was a great experience.  We had first-class tickets, so we were served a lovely French lunch—with wine, of course.  We enjoyed the relaxing two-and-a-half hour ride through the French countryside.

Unfortunately, getting onto the train was far less enjoyable.  The London train station was crazy busy.  Maybe all those tennis and cricket fans were leaving town today.  The signage was terrible and, although we remembered the process from last time, it was difficult to find where “over there” was in such a big station with so many people crammed together.  When we got to the check-in line, we were told there were too many people waiting on the platform, so check-in would be delayed for the later trains.  First, we were delayed for ten minutes, then ten more, then ten more, . . . Finally, we were allowed to get in line.  Surprise!  One ID/passport check wasn’t sufficient; everyone had to do that part twice. 

It was a relief to find ourselves next in line to go through the gate that would allow us to take the escalators to the platform, but the relief was short-lived.  The electronic gate didn’t recognize Ted’s ticket and wouldn’t let him through.  A helpful attendant took him around the gate, and we proceeded to our train.  It took more than 90 minutes to get checked in and to arrive on the platform, and we had only ten minutes to spare before our train left.  Whew! Just breathe. . . .

The transfer from the Paris depot to our hotel went smoothly.  We unpacked a few things in our room and went immediately to the Tuilleries across the street to enjoy the park and to relax.

Thankfully, Ted and I had five hours of sleep on the plane, because London was hectic when we arrived. It was the last day of the Wimbledon championships and also the final match of the World Cup cricket championship between England and New Zealand, neither of which has ever won before. Traffic was horrible, and the sidewalks were packed. London won the cricket championship, so there was a lot of yelling and cheering in the streets all evening.

When we got hungry for dinner, the concierge told us there were restaurants on the street alongside the hotel. We turned the corner and guess what the first two restaurants were: McDonald’s and Five Guys! The others were local, and we chose one of those.

One day we ate dinner in an historic restaurant about two blocks from our hotel. It was called “Byron,” and the manager told us the entire building is “protected” and cannot be changed. The huge (18″ x 18″) ceiling beams, the stamped metal ceiling, the marble wall panels, the huge mirrors, and the mosaic floor are all more than 240 years old. It’s amazing how late Europeans eat. The restaurants are still packed at 10:30 p.m. and going strong with no sign of closing any time soon.

Note: On the menus, salads are described as “assorted leaves.”

This little shop was on the street with the restaurants. It was about the size of two kiosks at the mall.
As usual, we did a lot of walking. It’s unusually warm in London (low 80s), and we wanted ice cream one day, so we stopped at a gelato shop that featured “rose” ice cream cones in your choice of flavors. We chose vanilla and strawberry.
We walked to Buckingham Palace to see how far it was (about a mile) so we’d be in time for the changing of the guard in the morning. Here are some of the Palace gardens. Ted thought he saw the Queen deadheading flowers so they’d look nice tomorrow.
When we returned to the hotel after dinner, we saw that the hallway and stairway were lined with candles. Very pretty, and romantic too.

The changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace occurs at 10:45 every morning. What a disappointment! We arrived about 15 minutes early and found a place to stand right in front. And there we stood, watching police on horses and bicycles riding back and forth to make sure no spectators breached the barriers. Around 11:00, a marching band of guards arrived from our left and got through one song (not Sousa, and not “Stars and Stripes Forever”) before entering the palace gates and disappearing from sight. About 15 minutes later, another band came from our right and did the same thing. Another 15 minutes later, a troop of eight guards arrived, stepping smartly, so we thought they must be the “new” guys. They also disappeared inside the fence. Finally, another 15 minutes later, both bands came marching out and went to our left and to our right. That was it! The show was apparently all about watching the police riding in circles.

Here’s the band coming from our left.
This is Buckingham Palace, and it’s what we saw for most of the 75 minutes we were there for the changing of the guard. You can see other people lined up around the open space, and the police in the neon yellow vests.
The next day, we walked to the London Tower Bridge. It was more fun than the changing of the guard.
On our way back to the hotel, we stopped at the Tate Modern Museum. It was interesting to see the modern art, even though we don’t want any of it in our house. This is a tower built of antique radios and speakers and titled “Babel.” I looked for a radio like I had in my bedroom when I was growing up, but didn’t see one.
On our last evening in London, we walked along the Thames and saw this bike counter beside the bike lane. It displayed the number of bicycles that went by each day and also the total for the year. We were there around 10:00 p.m. and it indicated 6,653 bikes had passed in the past 22 hours. The annual number was in the hundreds of thousands.

One evening, as we walked along the Thames on the Queen’s Walkway, we were passed by some bicycles. We knew they were behind us because they rang their bells and because their headlights projected “BIKE” in green letters on the path ahead of us. Cool!

We were surprised at how many shopkeepers spoke English as a second language in London–and at only an intermediate level. In non-English countries, we’ve often had a clerk call an English-speaking person to help us, but England is the home of English, so we expected at least store managers to speak fluent English. It’s definitely a one-world society these days.

Our last stop before returning to our hotel was a pretty view of lighted buildings and the London Eye (the Ferris wheel) across the Thames. It was so peaceful, we just sat on a park bench for awhile and enjoyed our last evening in London.

Ted and I flew to London at dinner time, with our arrival in London scheduled for just before lunch the next day. While we were waiting to board our flight, I had a little blast from the past when I saw one of my ESL teachers and his wife. We had a nice chat and learned they are going on from London to Budapest.

Last year, Ted and I decided that, for our next long flight, we’d spring for business class. As a result, we flew upscale to Europe today. Not only did that put us into Zone 1 boarding, but since we regularly fly in the main cabin, we felt like little kids opening Christmas gifts when we took our seats.

First, I stowed my back pack in my own overhead storage bin. Then I had to make room to sit, because my seat held a full set of bedding: mattress pad, quilted blanket, and pillow. There was even a pair of slippers in case I needed to get up during my sleep time.
There was a chilled bottle of water at each seat, and we were immediately offered a choice of beverages. I chose orange juice. Then we were given dinner and breakfast menus to make our meal choices. We also selected a wake-up time.
There were lots of comfort adjustments (4 separate menus), including a seat massage.
The complimentary toiletries bag included a toothbrush, toothpaste, sleep mask, ear plugs, a glass-cleaning cloth, soap, and even a pair of socks.
Dinner was served as soon as we reached a safe altitude. Note that dinner included a tray-sized white tablecloth. This was the first course . . .
. . . and here’s the main course. Everything was delicious! My choice of beverage was (free) wine. The breakfast was equally attractive and good. No disposable dishes or plastic wrap in sight!

With the nice blanket and the comfortable pillow in hand, I dropped my seat to the completely flat position, adjusted the mattress firmness, and actually slept soundly from the time I finished dinner until my breakfast wake-up call five hours later. Of course, it was a full breakfast, so Ted and I weren’t hungry when we arrived in London.

Wow! If flying were always like this (like it used to be years ago, with comfortable seating space, reasonably good meals at no additional cost, and free checked luggage), there would be far fewer grumpy passengers. The only downside was that it was lonely. Business class is, by definition, designed for people who want to work with minimal distractions while they fly. Although Ted and I had adjoining seats, we were physically too far apart to talk to each other during the flight. Still, we’re actually looking forward to our nine-hour overseas flight home instead of dreading the discomfort of the main cabin for that long.

Note: Not everyone in business class has class. The guy across the aisle from me took off his pants and slept in his boxers. I couldn’t believe it when I saw him do that.

When I was a junior in high school, I was selected to represent the local American Legion Auxiliary post at Badger Girls State, a week-long experience of faux government at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. (A concurrent Badger Boys State met in Ripon, WI.)

At Girls State, we learned how government works and we ran for state offices, including nominations, campaigning, and mock elections. I enjoyed the experience, from living in the dorm to participating in the activities, and the week went by too quickly. Except for one thing.

As we stood in line for meals in the dorm cafeteria (especially for dinner), someone in the line inevitably started singing “Kumbaya,” and then everyone else joined in. Long before the week and the impromptu songfests were over, I knew I never wanted to hear or sing “Kumbaya” again. When I saw this cartoon in the newspaper, it took me right back to Girls State.

I bought a shirt a few days ago, and noticed that the manufacturer has a clear mission statement on its tags.

Dylan will be 14 on July 13. Because Ted and I are leaving for our European trip that day, we celebrated early with Dylan. I can’t believe how quickly our grandchildren are growing up, but I love watching them do it.

P.S. Unlike Kathy and me, Dylan blew out all 14 candles on his first try.

Following our anniversary weekend with our family, Ted brought me a beautiful bouquet of a dozen roses. He said it was a thank you for all the work I did to coordinate the weekend activities and venues–restaurants, caterer, Innsbrook houses, photographer, etc. The bouquet is beautiful and his appreciation made all the work worthwhile.

This and so many other reasons are why I still love this man after 50 years of marriage to him.

Ted’s and my wish came true: for our 50th anniversary celebration the last weekend of June, our entire family–children, spouses, and grandchildren–was together at the same time! It was an enjoyable, event-filled weekend.

This memory candle was a wedding gift from our florist and used to be much taller. We have burned it every year on our anniversary, as directed in the florist’s message (below). I’ve moved the flowers downward several times over the years.
Just as the card says, the candle was present at our silver and golden anniversary parties. No great-grandchildren were present, but might be on the way in the foreseeable future. While we were together, Alex, our first grandchild, officially told the family of his engagement. He and Kaitlyn will be married in August.
We started the celebration Thursday evening with a family dinner at Maggiano’s. Here we are, ready to start the party.
Clockwise around the table, beginning front center: Zaque, Julian, Alex, Ted, me, Katie, Sefton, Thom, Kathy, Jeff.
Clockwise around the table, beginning left center: Kyra, La, Kari, Dean, Sky, Teddy, Dylan, Annette.
This is how modern two-year-olds amuse themselves when they’re finished eating.

Friday morning, we had an appointment at a photography studio for a family portrait and for a portrait of Ted and me. We’ve selected the ones we like, and the photographer is in the process of putting the digital files into the final portrait form.

After the professional photos, we had lunch and then went to a nearby park for more group pictures. Here we are with our four children. Left > right: Jeff, Kathy, me, Ted, Kari, Thom. Thom and Katie also took pictures with a “real” (not cell phone) camera, and are going to make some nice enlargements for Ted and me.
And here we are with our grandchildren. Left > right: Zaque, Alex, Kyra, Ted, me, Sky, Teddy, Dylan, Julian, Sefton. Sefton apparently thought he was finished after the morning photo shoot.
After the park photos, we headed to Innsbrook, a nearby resort, where Ted and I rented two houses for the weekend. This is the “big” house (sleeps 14).
This is the “little” house, called a “treehouse” by the owners. It sleeps 6.
It’s obvious we’ve all been trained to remove our shoes at the door. I counted 17 pairs in this pile.
Unfortunately, Julian’s weekend activities were somewhat limited by his broken collarbone. Check out his sling. He was riding his bike in the bike lane when a car made a right turn without checking the bike lane and hit him.
The big house offered lots of open space on the main floor, as well as a large game / media room on the lower level. It had two decks (one above the other), a screened porch accessible from the living room and from the master bedroom, and a dock on a small lake. This house was our gathering area. I opted for all meals to be catered. They were delivered warm, and all we had to do was come to this area for lunch and dinner.
The small A-frame house was charming with its wooded setting and its cozy living space. It was a nice place to have some quiet time away from the crowd.
Friday night turned out to be exciting when a severe thunderstorm passed through the area. Katie was delighted to hear loud thunder (the Seattle area doesn’t get much of that) and filmed the heavy rain and lightning. (That’s her at the sliding doorway.) One especially loud clap of thunder startled all of us into shouts, and Katie was thrilled that the shouts were on her recording. Conditions became more exciting when the power went out a little while after I took this picture. We scrambled for candles and cell phone flashlights.
Saturday morning was sunny and warm. No more rain! Kari and I took a canoe out on the lake at the big house.
Alex and Zaque chose the paddleboat. By this time, Kari and I were in the upper right of the picture with our canoe.
Next in line for the paddleboat were Kyra, La, Katie, and Sefton. Thom and Jeff steadied the boat while they climbed onboard.
The little house had two kayaks on another lake. Ted and I made use of them later in the day.
In the afternoon, we decided to head for the resort pool, which included a lazy river for young children (i.e., Sefton). Members of our group are tossing a ball around in the center of the pool.
Here are Katie and Sefton after a trip to the lazy river.
The little house had a golf cart that we found handy for going between our two houses (0.5 miles apart) and for getting around the resort. The golf cart was the hit of the weekend and everyone wanted to drive and / or ride in it. Here are Teddy and Dylan taking a turn in the back seat of the cart on our way home from the resort pool.
The dock was quiet on Sunday morning and I had a chance to do some reading in the sunshine.
The lake was Sunday-morning-calm and a restful place to relax.
We checked out of the resort on Sunday and went back to our own house. I put our wedding photo album and our wedding scrapbook album on the coffee table for everyone to look at.
Of course there was pool time in the afternoon.
Ted and I unpacked our Apple IIe for old times’ sake. The boys couldn’t get all the games to work, but managed to play a few rounds of Dig Dug.
On a less intellectual level, La threw popcorn kernels and Kyra tried to catch them in her mouth. The arrow points to the popcorn kernel and it looks like Kyra’s going to catch this one.
After everyone left, I went around the house to strip the beds and couldn’t help noticing that Julian’s camping skills were evident. All of his bedding, including the queen-size air mattress, was neatly arranged in small bundles almost suitable for a hiker’s backpack.
Ted and I went out in the evening after the kids left. When we returned to our car, a brief shower had just ended and we saw a full-arch rainbow. It was the perfect closure for our celebration weekend.