Sunday, November 27, 2011

Dream Come True

In Venice, you must take a gondola ride.  It is a little touristy, true, (those red flowers are plastic), but once on board you succumb to the city's beauty and charm. 

Our group decided to go together one evening after dinner, so we rented four gondolas and even pooled to hire musicians to ride with us; two guitarists who sang.  In the dim light, passing the darkened buildings at water level was stirring;  I felt more connected to the city and at the same time more conscious of its fragility.

But once the singers started up, all somber thoughts fled.  They were enthusiastic, they were loud, and they were charming with their limited English.  The group sang and cheered them on, requesting all the songs we thought they might know.  Gondolas passed us, and everyone seemed delighted to participate in the spectacle, a boisterous party on the canal.

- Linda

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ponte de L'Accademia

I was surprised by how beautiful Venice was.  I know, I know... everyone says how wonderful it is and it's supposed to be sooo romantic.  But I had been reading a lot of Donna Leon mystery novels--with her cynical Venetian hero, Inspector Brunetti--and I had this image of a sinking, decaying ruin overrun by mobs of tourists. 

Instead, I was enchanted by Venice; a fairy tale city on a human scale created for the appreciation of beauty by some real optimists (who builds a city in a lagoon??).   And once you get away from St. Mark's square,  the tourists thin.  As we wandered the impossibly narrow twisting streets, every turn brought new views of the canals and worn buildings with flowers tumbling from window boxes.

In the evening we dined at a restaurant with tables at the edge of the Grand Canal, overlooking passing gondoloas and vaporetti.  The light was soft and golden, and the palaces opposite were all warm shades of yellow, ochre and bone.  To our left was the market area where the Venetians shop daily, which that morning had been filled with fruit, vegetables, meat, and fish.  But in the evening the stalls were empty and, fortunately, the smell of fish was gone.

- Linda

Click here to purchase a giclee print of this watercolor.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Beer or Coffee

If you like beer, Munich's beer halls are your kind of place.  If you like coffee, like me, you'll be happy to discover is that Munich is addicted to coffee as much as the rest of northern Europe.  They had some very cute, hip coffee shops that serve great java and encourage lingering.  Of course, Starbucks does have a presence; notice the green awnings on the right?

Our last day in Munich was overcast as we boarded the bus to head toward Venice.  But as we got over the mountain pass it became sunny and warm.  The scenery was stunning; we passed green hills dotted with tidy alpine houses, with the majestic alps towering in the distance.

On the winding road we stopped at a McDonald's perched on the side.  Of course in Europe we try to avoid the American chains if at all possible.  But this one was beautifully designed, served good coffee, and, through a sweeping wall of windows in the back offered hands-down the best view I've ever seen from Micky D's--across the hills to snow covered peaks. 

- Linda

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Mountain High

Back to Switzerland for a minute... These are our friends Kiel and Amanda from Wisconsin, who were taking their first trip to Europe with our tour.  I loved this image it because it captured the exhilaration and wonder of that day hiking in the Alps, where each view was more amazing than the last.

- Linda

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