7-28-19 The International Pinot Noir Celebration

Over the last 20 years, we have traveled to the wine country of the Willamette Valley almost every year.  These trips have certainly given us a good appreciation of the area as well as the opportunity to see it change over the years.  Our early visits included introductions to some great winemakers and we have been able to stay in touch with these folks over the years.  As a result of all of this interaction with folks, we learned about the International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC), which is held each year the last weekend of July.  Over the years we have been able to attend this event a number of times.

Coupled with the IPNC are a number of special events that occur around the weekend.  One we were excited to attend was the release party for the History Wines. 

Melissa Burr with a bottle of her History Wine.

This wine series is a new partnership between Stoller Family Estate and the Director of Winemaking, Melissa Burr.  Melissa’s family purchased a property in Washington that had a very early planting of Cabernet Sauvignon and she had wanted to make wine from it for sometime.  This resulted in her development of the History Wine program that seeks to source fruit from some of the oldest vineyards in the Pacific Northwest to make limited quantities of ultra-premium wines.  The release party was held July 20th at the Stoller estate and featured several wines produced from some of the oldest plantings in the area.  Wonderful way to start off our visit to the area.

The following Thursday, we joined with our friends from Pasadena ,Jessie and Phil for a lovely Pre-IPNC dinner held at Résonance Winery. 

Phil and Jessie at the Résonance dinner.

Résonance is a brand new facility started by a French producer, Maison Louis Jadot, and the tasting room was just completed about a month prior to the evening’s event.  Dinner, great wines and conversations with the Pierre-Henry Gagey, President of Maison Louis Jadot and his son, Thibault Gagey Director of Operations provided a wonderful insight into their feelings about starting an operation in Oregon and their commitment to the project.  I found my conversation with the winemaker, Guillaume Large very enjoyable. 

Janeen and winemaker Guillaume Large at Résonance

He has been active in the decisions on how new vineyards are to be planted and what varietals are used.  Unlike most (read that 99%) of the vineyards in Oregon they are planting a number of different varietals as a “field blend” not as specific blocks or areas.  The field blend they feel gives them a better representation of the terroir.

The next day started the actual IPNC experience. 

Each year, my sister makes us name badges for this event. We make a few for friends a special wine makers.

Held on the campus of Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon, this was the 33rd annual gathering of Pinot Noir lovers from around the world.  The Celebration is both educational, featuring a Grand Seminar and courses as part of the University of Pinot combined with an abundance of great Pinot Noir paired with the delicious bounty of Oregon prepared by the Pacific Northwest’s most talented chefs .  Voila ,you have a great food and wine event.

Over the course of three days of tastings, seminars, vineyard tours and gourmet dining there is the opportunity to taste Pinot Noir wines from over 70 carefully vetted wineries from several continents. 

All the winemakers at the event get to introduce themselves and of course have their picture taken.

This year’s Master of Ceremonies and Grand Seminar moderator was Steven Spurrier who guided an in-depth discussion of the wines of the Côte Chalonnaise, “The 3rd Côte.”

Aaron Bell, Assistant winemaker at Domaine Drouhin Oregon where we are Wine Club Members #1.

The Grand Seminar had a panel of French Wine Producers and their wines.  It was a lively discussion along with some very tasty wines.

Grand Seminar is held in the gym on campus.
Tasting of Burgundy wines at the Grand Seminar.
The Panel at the Grand Seminar

After a fantastic lunch served outdoors in the Oak Grove, I went off to a seminar with Steven Spurrier while Janeen headed to a discussion of Pinot Noir and Riesling and changing terroir. 

David Millman and Seven Spurrier at the discussion panel
Steven Spurrier

My seminar was a small group of people where Spurrier was asked questions by David Millman and covered the historic 1976 blind tasting between wines from California and France, the Judgment of Paris that forever changed the world’s view of New World wines and his lengthy history in the wine environment.

After our small group programs we went back to our room and regrouped for the afternoon and evening events.  We decided to pass on the walk around tasting – where some 40 or so wines are presented and just hung out at our apartment.  Dinner, a grand affair, held on the Intramural Field featured a wonderful meal along with more great wines.

The Afternoon lunch under the Oaks
The food prep tent for the Grand Dinner on Friday evening.

Saturday had us board a bus and head out to a winery.  The actual location is unknown until we were on our way and we discovered we were going to Ponzi Vineyard.  Ponzi is one of the pioneer vineyards in the valley having been established in the late 60’s by Dick and Nancy Ponzi.  The vineyards are now owned and run by their daughters, Anna Maria Ponzi and Winemaker Luisa Ponzi the second generation.

Janeen with Anna Maria Ponzi and Winemaker Luisa Ponzi

At the winery there was a panel discussion with 5 winemakers – 4 from Oregon and 1 from California with a discussion about winemaking procedures, methods sources of fruit and other quite interesting topics. 

The panel discussion at Ponzi Winery
Janeen getting ready to ask the panel a question.

It is always interesting when winemakers have to taste their wines blind – most of the time they are unable to pick out their wines from the selections available and this was no different from prior panels we have been to over the years.  All and it was a great afternoon and I would admit  that the Arneis

If you find this wine, buy it and enjoy!

they served at lunch was so good I ordered some!

Janeen and winemaker Alex Sokol Blosser

The afternoon, after getting back to the campus, had another walk around tasting with an additional 40 or so producers that we also missed.  The evening had the traditional Salmon Bake – a large area under the oak trees is set up for cooking salmon, pouring wines, dancing and the eating of great food.

Salmon is baked over open flame – boy is it good.
The “meat” table at Salmon Bake
Did I mention the Dessert table at Salmon Bake?
More Desserts then you can sample

Sunday, the final day of the weekend ,is a sparkling brunch with several different food stations and lots and lots of sparkling wine.  A wonderful end for the weekend and a time to say goodbye to old and new friends.  While we have enjoyed our time both in the Willamette Valley and at the IPNC there is no guarantee when we will get back to this part of the world as there is a lot of world yet to explore.

7-30-19 The Interstate Highway System

For those of you who have been following along on our adventures you know that from time to time we take a step back and drop off the radar for a while. Not much has been recorded recently,  so I thought I would put up something letting our readers know what’s happening and a little bit of history at the same time.

After celebrating our granddaughter’s 4th birthday (albeit a few days early) we packed up our stuff and headed west towards Oregon. In order to make this trip we have to thank President Dwight D. Eisenhower. It was with a stroke of a pen in 1956 he signed into law the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways commonly know as the Interstate Highway System.

This network of controlled-access highways forms part of our national highway system and allows us to travel throughout this wonderful land in great comfort. This system has often been called the Greatest Public Works Project in History and has changed the daily lives of everyone . All drivers , car and truck owe a great debt to this network of roads that travel across the country – both east and west and north and south.

This was our route across the country.

The new highway system didn’t help the small towns along the way as it created high speed corridors by which travelers can zip past a lot of the iconic roadways– all you have to do is think about the demise of Route 66 – the road from Chicago to Los Angeles and all the small towns that supported the travelers along that path who now don’t have the traffic to support them.

We travelled along I-80 for the better part of 2,000 miles

There has always been a “rumor” that part of the highway system was designed with long stretches of straight road that could be used for airplanes to land. Usually, this myth says the requirement came from President Eisenhower or the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. However, no legislation, regulation, or policy has ever imposed such a requirement. Airplanes do sometimes land on interstates in an emergency, but the highways are not designed for that purpose.

It seemed each Interstate rest area has some sort of dedication This one was in Pennsylvania⁩

Currently, the Interstate System is 46,876 miles long. The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 imposed a statutory limitation on the Interstate mileage that would be built with Interstate Construction funds under the new program (41,000 miles at the time). Later legislation increased the limitation to 43,000 miles, of which a total of 42,795 miles has been used. Separate legislation allows the Federal Highway Administration to approve additional mileage if it meets full Interstate standards and would be a logical addition or connection.

At one rest stop in Illinois, there was this dedication – Christopher Columbus Memorial Highway

The first project to go to construction with Interstate Construction funds under the 1956 Act was in Missouri. The project on U.S. 40 (later designated the I-70 Mark Twain Expressway) in St. Charles County got underway on August 13, 1956. Officials erected a sign stating, “This is the first project in the United States on which actual construction was started under provisions of the new Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956.”

Interstate 84 took us from Salt Lake City to Portland for about 800 miles

Kansas had begun a construction project on U.S. 40 (I-70) west of Topeka before the 1956 Act, but awarded the final paving contract under the new legislation. Because this was the first paving under the 1956 Act, Kansas erected a sign claiming, “This is the first project in the United States completed under provisions of the new Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956.”

Janeen and Cherlyne during our visit with them in Star Idaho.

The Interstate numbering plan was based on the plan used to number the U.S. numbered highways, but in mirror image (for example, U.S. 1 is on the East Coast, while I-5 is on the West Coast; U.S. 10 is in the north while I-10 is in the south). In both plans, numbers ending in zero are used for transcontinental and other major multi-State routes. However, one of the rules for Interstate numbering is that numbers are not duplicated on Interstate highways and U.S. numbered routes in the same State. Duplicate numbers would be confusing for motorists; for example, if told to take “Route 50,” the motorist might follow the wrong one. Because the Interstate numbering plan is a mirror image of the U.S. numbered highway plan, I-50 would be located in some of the same States as U.S. 50 (Ocean City, Maryland, to Sacramento, California). Therefore, “50” has not been used for an Interstate route.

Max, the 3 year old Saint Bernard who lives in Star Idaho with the Allens

Our route going West was along I 80 to Salt Lake City and then North on I 84. Along the way we visited friends in York Nebraska and Star Idaho – it’s nice to catch up with old friends. Once we made it to Portland Oregon we took shelter with my sister Marilynn and actually had a moment with all my sibling.s It was quite by happenstance that we were all in the same place and able to get together.

David, Marilynn, Richard and Georgia. We always stand in birth order with Georgia the first born and me the last.

For now, we are heading south from the Portland area to Los Angeles stopping along the way in Sonoma and the Bay Area again to visit friends. This piece of the trip isn’t on the Interstate but historic US 101 along the coast of Oregon and California. More as the venture continues.

Not a sign you see often – this is along Highway 101 in Oregon.

07-04-2019 Thomas Jefferson & James Monroe – Presidental Homes

Monticello – Thomas Jefferson’s Home on the Hill

Monticello is neoclassical style design.

At the age of 26, Thomas Jefferson inherited approximately 5,000 acres and began plans for his home having independently studied the principles of architecture; he based the design on a neoclassical style developed by Andrea Palladio who was a popular Italian Renaissance architect in eighteenth century Europe.  The home was to be built on the top of an 850-foot mountain located on the property and Jefferson named it Monticello an Italian word meaning “little mountain”.

As work began on the building in 1770, Jefferson lived in one of the outbuildings on the property known as the South Pavilion.  A few years later, in 1772,he married Martha Wayles Skelton and construction still had not been completed on the house.  Sadly, Martha died in 1782 and Jefferson left Monticello to go to France, undertaking a political position as Minister of the United States.  The construction on this first version of Monticello was considered finished in 1784 while Jefferson was still in France.

Displayed in the Entrance Hall are a large collection of maps, Native American artifacts many collected by Lewis & Clark while Jefferson was President.
Family and friends would gather in the Parlor for games, music, and conversation, and it was the site of weddings, dances and other important social events. It held most of Jefferson’s art collection, including portraits of many people whom he admired or considered noteworthy.
Another picture of the Parlor

Europe changed how Jefferson looked at his project and he wanted include French design elements.

At the top of the Mansion is the Dome Room. A unique feature Jefferson added after his time in France.

By 1794, Jefferson had returned to America to serve as the first Secretary of State for the newly formed United States followed by a stint as President.

The Dining Room was where Jefferson sat down with his family and guests to eat the two main meals of the day, breakfast and dinner.
In the dining room, this fireplace has a dumbwaiter for wine bottles. Put an empty in it, lower it down and magically a full bottle comes back on it’s return journey.

Although the building was considered completed in 1809 Jefferson continued to make improvements and changes on structure throughout his lifetime.

Jefferson’s bedroom.
The second bedroom on the upper floor – it shares the wall with the James Madison bedroom which would be to the right.
James Madison on his frequent visits to Monticello ,stayed in this room.. The room is decorated with distinctive trellis wallpaper; the current reproduction is  a pattern originally purchased by Jefferson in Paris in 1790.

Thomas Jefferson died in 1826 and per his request he is buried in the Monticello cemetery.

Here was buried Thomas Jefferson
Author of the Declaration of American Independence of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom & Father of the University of Virginia

At the time of his death,  the estate was more than $107,000 in debt (which was a considerable amount of money at that time).  Jefferson’s daughter, Martha Jefferson Randolph, found it necessary to sell the Monticello plantation including the house and surrounding property, she also sold the furnishings of house, livestock and farm equipment and the plantation’s slaves to pay off the debts.

Proof we were there.

Over the years, Monticello had many owners until Uriah Levy bought the property in 1834. The Levy family continued to own the property for almost 90 years.  Levy, a former commodore in the U.S. Navy, had long admired Jefferson and he chose to restore and preserve the home and property.  In 1923, the Levy family sold the property to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, a private non-profit organization.  The Foundation now owns and operates the house as a museum, maintains the grounds of the property and administrates an educational center.  Monticello is a National Historic Landmark and in 1987 it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with the nearby University of Virginia where Jefferson had also designed many of the buildings on the campus.

Montpelier – James Madison’s delightful home

The front of Montpelier – very large expanse of open space in front of the house.
A view of the other side of the house.

Located a mere 30 miles from Monticello, and doing basically the same thing throughout his live, our fourth President James Madison lived in his family home called Montpelier. We visited Montpelier the following day, after visiting Monticello, on our way back home to Springfield.

In 1723, Ambrose Madison, James father, received a large parcel of land located in Virginia.  By 1732 he had built Mount Pleasant, the original family homewhich became the home for his wife, Frances Taylor, and their three children.  Upon his death, it was believed ,but never proved, that one of his slaves had poisoned him.His oldest son; James Madison Sr. inherited the tobacco plantation.

After inheriting the plantation, Madison Sr. acquired even more land and the estate grew to over 5,000 acres making him the largest landowner in the area.  Mount Pleasant soon became a prosperous plantation and Madison Sr. established several more businesses, including a distillery and ironworks.  With a growing family a new house was in order and in 1764 the new home – a two-story brick Georgian style house to be called Montpelier was completed.

Stairs at the entrance to the house.

The future president, James Madison Jr. was the oldest of their children and while the young boy enjoyed life on the plantation, as he grew older he realized that he wanted to pursue a career in public office.  He eventually went to school at the College of New Jersey and then on to Williamsburg and Philadelphia.  While serving in the new nation’s capital of Washington as a congressman, Madison meet and married a young widow, Dolley Payne Todd, in 1794.  By 1797, construction had begun on the front portico and a 30-foot extension on the main building at Montpelier.

These are the stairs we took to the second floor rooms.

A number of additions were made to the house over the years to accommodate the family and to provide entertaining spaces due to James Madison’s rise in public office from Secretary of State to President of the United States.  Finally in 1817, after serving two terms as president, James Madison and his wife Dolley once again left Washington and retired to Montpelier.

Dining room – set for two.

After leaving public office, James and Dolley Madison lead a very full life and together they spent many years editing his presidential and personal papers.  They also enjoyed entertaining political statesmen and diplomats as well as their personal friends and neighbors.  When James Madison died in 1836, the estate went to his stepson Todd Payne.

Guess what, a bedroom.
And here’s another bedroom.

From 1844 until 1900, Montpelier went through a series of six different owners.  In 1901, William DuPont Sr. bought the property.  The wealthy DuPont family was very influential in the development of Thoroughbred horse racing in the United States and for this reason several barns, stables and other equestrian buildings were built on the property.  After the death of William and his wife Annie, their daughter inherited the estate in 1928.  Despite the renovations made on the Madison’s former home, Marion meant to preserve the original footprint of the estate, gardens and additional grounds. At the time of her death in 1983, Marion DuPont Scott bequeathed the property to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Temple that offers spectacular views of the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains. This is just to the left of the front of the house.
The Annie DuPont Garden – this was put in while the DuPont’s owned the place.

Since 1984, the National Trust for Historic Preservation took ownership of the estate and the organization has worked to restore Montpelier to how it would have looked during the time of James and Dolley Madison.  From 2003 to 2008, the Montpelier, former home of James and Dolley Madison, underwent a $25 million restoration project funded by the National trust to remove the renovations created by prior owners and the DuPont family to restore the building to its original 1820 look. The restoration was able to recreate much of the color scheme from the Madison period along with some of the wallpaper.

Proof we were there.

Our visit toured the interior of the property and much of the grounds. While there really are few furnishings left from when Madison owned the property, the house is furnished with period pieces and much of the history is brought to life by the docents leading the tour.

Adjacent to the property is a large forest – which was an old growth forest during Madison’s time.

The estate includes a Landmark forest which Madison preserved for house use in fireplaces. 

Some of the Tulip trees are hundreds of years old.  He also was an advocate of preserving natural resources. A Witness Tree stands near the slave quarters and back of the main house.

The tree next to the building is called the Witness Tree as it was there when the building was first built.


5-13& 14-19 Monet’s Garden – Paris

We started this adventure at the end of February 2019 in the South of France – the Cote d’Azu, specifically outside of Nice in a village called Vence. It all started with Janeen saying she wanted to go to the Violet Festival that is held annually in Tourrettes-sur-Loup. Since we arrived in early spring it was lovely to tour around and see spring blooming, mimosa, magnolia all around us. As we traveled north through Aquitaine and Bordeaux, first to Brussels and then Amsterdam the weather continued to be wonderful. After the second river cruise ended in Basel, and we started our Glorious Switzerland tour, the weather took a decidedly colder turn. Once we left Switzerland and landed in Paris for our final 3 days of this almost 3-month trip, we could not have wished for nicer weather.

Paris was beautiful! Over the last several days, rain had cleaned the city and now we had warm and sunny days with lots to see and do.   Our goal, in Paris, was actually to go to Giverny and see Monet’s Garden.

To accomplish this we took first a subway and then a train out of Paris. I admit, we have now traveled in France quite a lot and I’m more comfortable getting around than our first trip in 2004 and while standing in the train station was able to offer advise to several Americans looking for directions.

These are some of the gardens next to Claude Monet’s house and studio.
Janeen certainly was wearing the right coat to be in the gardens on this day.

Monet’s Garden has been on our bucket list for a number of years. The last several times we have been in France it was after the season and the place was closed. This time, all the stars aligned and we had a beautiful day and lots of time to explore and discover this beautiful area. To say it is lovely is an understatement.

I guess we could find a more beautiful place but it would be hard

Sure they have a more traditional garden with beds of beautiful flowers but clearly the showcase area is the ponds and more specifically the lily pond area.

Happy Wife – Happy Life
You guessed it, yes these are Lilly pads
More wisteria to admire
Janeen particularly liked these hanging flowers

First you walk through the more traditional garden and then down some stairs and under the road that separates the water garden from the house and traditional areas.

Lots of flowers – nice to come during spring for sure.

It’s not as big as you might think but it is well laid out with view points at a number of spots where Claude may have stood and painted. Having seen a number of his paintings over this trip it was great to see where his vision took flight and created the paintings.

Words really cannot describe the beauty of this place
I really could have just sat and relaxed here for a very long time.


By late afternoon we were back on the train then to our B&B in the Bastille District for a lovely walk around.

The following day we had a lunch reservation at Le Réminet – a place we have visited every time we have been in Paris.

Le Reminet – sometimes they have a few tables on the sidewalk but not today.

We had made a lunch reservation and decided to walk from our apartment to the Restaurant. Along the way we walked over the small island of Île Saint-Louis that affords a view of the back of Notre-Dame.

It had been a month since the fire at Notre Dame and it is really sad to see it covered with scaffolding, cranes around it and the roof covered with a tarp.

Most of the area around Notre-Dame is blocked with various temporary construction structures, security and a variety of other things. Over the last 700 years the church has had more than one fire resulting in a number of restorations. This fire will be no different – fortunately the main structure, the façade, the flying buttresses and the exterior walls were all saved and while I’m sure they have some damage they still stand showing the structure still very much in place.

As of this posting, according to the French Senate, Notre Dame will be restored to its “last known visual state” by 2024 in time for the 2024 summer Olympics being held in Paris. We will certainly be watching the progress

While it is going to take a while to make the repairs it is clear that the City of Paris and the Country are both strongly in support of its restoration. Hopefully we will be around to see it reopen but who knows how long it will take.

Our lunch at Le Réminet was everything we have learned to expect.

Norbert – He has been working at Le Reminet for a very long time and does a wonderful job.

Norbert, headwaiter, manager, guy in charge, was welcoming and enjoyable to talk to. It seems the fire at Notre-Dame has impacted their customer base but hopefully that will change with the summer season heating up.

I don’t know what it is about these White Pearl #3 Oysters but they are the BEST.
Janeen had the fish with foam – fantastic.
David’s main dish – delicious for sure

After lunch we walked to Jardin des Tuileries – a lovely park along the Seine.

The River Seine – we could not have had a more beautiful day to walk along this iconic river.
Here’s the same fountain we say in Lucerne – sorry about the tractor in the background – but you can see the water flowing into Janeen’s hand.
Janeen is ALWAYS much happier with flowers around or in virtually any garden.
Jardin des Tuileries – When we were here in December this was a really cold spot for sure.

After taking the better part of the day to enjoy Paris we went back to the apartment to organize our luggage for our flight home.

This Green Wall is in the departure lounge at Charles de Gaulle airport. Very nice. One of our last views of the beauty of Paris

As of this posting, we are now back in Springfield Virginia enjoying spending time with our two granddaughters and trying to figure out our next adventure.

This is why we are in Springfield!

For now, we haven’t got anything planned for a foreign trip but that could always change. In July we will be driving across country stopping in Portland Oregon for the International Pinot Noir Festival and then heading south to SoCal stopping along the way to visit friends and relatives. So, while we have been blogging for the better part of 8 months I expect the next couple of months will be less reported but you are encouraged to come back (subscribing is actually best) to see what we are doing and follow our progress.

One last comment for this blog. We have been traveling for the better part of two years (started in June 2017) and really don’t know when we will actually stop.  Places still on the bucket list include: Alaskan cruise; extended trip to Australia and New Zealand; Egypt; Sicily; Croatia; Russia; and the Far East.

5-11-19 Lucerne and Mount Stanserhorn

Last up on our Discovery of Switzerland was Lucerne. Lucerne is a compact city known for its preserved medieval architecture and sits amid snowcapped mountains on Lake Lucerne.

The view from our hotel room to the mountains
A castle overlooking Lucerne – now a high end hotel

The Old town is colorful with decorated buildings and wondering cobblestone streets. One of the main attractions is the Chapel Bridge and Water Tower.

The Church Bridge from the Old Town end
More proof we were there.
Lucerne- painting under the roof of Chapel Bridge showing a legendary wild man (giant)
Another painting decorating the bridge,Symbolic death appears in all of them, here a red hatted woman
Here we are on the covered bridge – always good to have several pictures proofing we were there.

The Bridge is a covered wooden footbridge spanning the River Reuss diagonally between the two sides of the river. It is probably the oldest wooden bridge in Switzerland dating back to the middle of the 14th century. It also has old paintings under the roofs.

The facade of the building was lovely.
Decorated buildings in the square
Cobble stone streets, old buildings and lovely shops.
The face of the building was interesting from our hotel balcony
A fountain in we came across just walking around.

Some of it was rebuilt in the 20th century after a fire. The bridge traffic also provided Janeen with a sighting of a St. Bernard puppy. The northern end of the bridge once lead directly into St. Peter’s Chapel,

Inside St. Peters Church

today a riverside promenade separates the two.

The view of the lock on the river
The white tents of the market along the river.

Another notable site to see is the Lion Monument. This Monument is dedicated to the memory of the Swiss mercenaries who, in the service of Louis XVI King of France were killed during the French Revolution in Paris when the Tuileries were invaded on August 10, 1792.

The Lion Memorial – note the shape of the opening looks like a boar.

The inscription “Helvetiorum fidei ac virtuti means” To the loyal and bravery of the Swiss”. The Lion’s Swiss Cross Halbard is covered by the fleur- de- lys of France, which the soldiers had pledged to protect.  The Danish sculptor, Bertel Thorvaldsen, designed the Lion Monument when he was in Rome in 1819. It was installed in the sandstone rock in 1820 or so and is 6 meters high and ten meters long.

Proof we were at the Lion Memorial in Lucerne.

Mark Twain praised the sculpture of a mortally wounded lion as “the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world”.

After walking around the Old Town and enjoying the sites (peonies in the flower market)

Janeen checking out the peonies , note the wine red ones.
Lucerne was enclosed in a city wall – this is a portion that remains.
St George the Dragon slayer on the side of a building.

and sounds (church bells) of the city market (it was market day after all) we went back to our hotel to get ready for our boat ride and cable car ride to the summit of Stanserhorn arranged for the following morning.

Our Lucerne boat trip begins.

We had opted for the Lake Lucerne cruise for a chance to take in the wonderful mountain scenery from the water and enjoy a leisurely lake cruise before boarding our coach again for a quick ride to the funicular and open top cable car to the top of Mount Stanserhorn.

On Lake Lucerne
Village nestled at the base of the snow capped mountain.
A monument to those who sail on the lake
Lucerne is ringed by snow capped mountains.
Part of the new section of Lucerne

We have been on several funiculars throughout Europe so this wasn’t as impressive as the cable car.

The base of the funicular station.
The funicular coming into the station.
The funicular cars pass midway between the two stations.

This is the world’s only sun deck cable car with an enclosed cabin below and standing space on the roof!

Here’s what the cable car looks like

The double cable system gives a very stable ride and was quite impressive as we climbed to the mountaintop at over 6,000 feet.

On the way up, we were in the cabin of the cable car.

At the top, which still had snow, we had a lovely hot chocolate and headed back down seeing a double rainbow along the way!

OK, it was cold!
Janeen trying to get as much sun as she could
At the top overlooking the valley – just a moment before the clouds blocked the view.
Janeen on the top of the cable car with a rainbow behind her
The two of us in the corner of the roof of the cable car. It was a bit chilly.
If you look closely you can see a double rainbow!

That evening was the final gathering and dinner was delightful. The following morning we were off to Zurich and the airport for a flight to Paris.

Our Insight Tour Group




5-10-19 Train Rides and the 4th smallest Country of Europe

We started the day in a very relaxed mode – a train ride from St Moritz to Chur.  This was a lovely run over the Grison Mountains but unlike our previous train the windows won’t open so the pictures were not as great.  However, the views continue to be amazing and beautiful.  Along the way we say a number of small villages, open meadows of green grass, some brown cows and ice capped mountains.

The route of our scenic train ride along part of the route of the Glacier Express, across the Grison Mountains and through the unforgettable scenes of ice-capped mountains, stone-built villages and lush meadows.
Arron and June – always a good laugh and great conversations.
Lovely village along the way dotted the hillsides as we traveled along.
Lovely view of the river as we rolled along on the train.
Just another little village along the ride
Green fields and storm clouds – lovely
Your guide on this Adventure – taking it easy on the train

After the train we boarded our couch and headed to the 4th smallest country of Europe – Liechtenstein.

Liechtenstein, officially the Principality of Liechtenstein, is a land locked German-speaking microstate boarded by Switzerland and Austria. It is the fourth smallest country with an area of just over 62 square miles and a population of just 38,000. While we were visiting we did get a stamp in our passport!

Main street Liechtenstein⁩.
Liechtenstein is home to a number of banks – this street has several.
Gutenberg Castle of Liechtenstein.


Our Insight Tour was a great way to learn about Switzerland and its people and culture.  Throughout our adventure, Rob our Tour Manager, did a good job of giving us just enough information to appreciate how the country has evolved over the years and how it has been able to maintain its neutrality for the last 400 years.

Rob our Insight Tour Manager – a Brit enjoying way he does for a living for sure



5-9-19 St. Moritz and the Glacier Express Train Ride

After our adventures in Zermatt and the beauty of the Matterhorn and Italy we climbed aboard our coach and off we went. The first stop, along the way, was a photo op at Julier Pass. At the top of the pass are remains of a Roman temple and cart tracks showing the importance of this pass all the way back to Roman times. The road was constructed in the 1820s. The pass is at 7,493 feet! ;and on a clear day offers stunning views.

Juliet pass – naturally


At the end of the our day was St Moritz. Now this place is clearly a resort town and basically open only during the winter. St. Moritz may be small, but it’s a heavyweight in the world of fashion.

Lots of lovely stores – all closed waiting for the season to open and ‘rich’ visitors to stop in.

From Armani and Gucci to Zegna, the Alpine resort’s selection of renowned fashion labels is second to none. Fortunately for my wallet virtually all of the stores were closed between seasons.

St Moritz is certainly situated in a beautiful spot but is clearly a winter paradise for the ‘rich and famous’. Not many visitors in town while we were there

The following day we boarded the train to ride along part of the route of the Glacier Express,

We boarded the train in St Moritz

across the Grison Mountains and through unforgettable scenes of ice-capped mountains, stone-built villages and lush meadows. I will let the pictures tell the tale of this trip.

As we went up the mountain the tree line changed.
A level part of the journey.
I expect they have skiing all year long.
Lots of snow and the weather throughout the trip was wonderful.
The weather was mixed as we went over the pass.
Stunning views
Located in the Aiguilles Rouges nature reserve, one of the most beautiful mountain lakes, famous for its unique panorama facing the Mont-Blanc massif.
Another snow and train view.
It’s dark as we are going through one of several tunnels along the way.
The train curves around and runs slowly enough that you can put your head out and snap a picture or two.
The village of Cavaglia has a permanent population of 24 and is at 5,587 ft
The small town of Privilasco nestled in the valley of Poschiavo.
We had a lovely time riding the rails.
As we topped the pass and headed down the views were still fantastic
We were stopped at this station and noticed the cable car in operation taking skiers to the top of the mountain.   Thanks to June for this picture.

Once we reached the end of the line our couch picked us up and we headed to Liechtenstein and Lucerne but more about that latter.

We had a number of nice conversations with June and Aaron throughout our adventure.
Our Coach for the trip through Switzerland



5-7 & 8-19 Zermatt, the Matterhorn, Simplon and a night in Italy

Having viewed Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) from Geneva and Montreux, we journeyed south via coach to Tasch to ride the cogwheel train from Tasch to Zermatt.

The Zermatt Shuttle runs frequently bring ing day trippers to Zermatt to ski and explore

About 20 years ago, Zermatt realized they were developing a smog issue and all public vehicles (except outside construction) have been electric since the 1970s.

The station in Zermatt – all vehicles in the city have to be electric – no emission issues as a result.

After a short walk from the station we arrived at the Alex Hotel. We checked in and were assigned an elegant suite with balcony overlooking the iconic peak, The Matterhorn.

Just a short walk from our hotel was this view of the mountain. Could not have been a more beautiful day to take in the site.
A view of the ‘city’ the Matterhorn would be on the right of this range of mountains.

The next morning, a part of our group of 37 ventured up the peak for Alpine views and the remainder of us enjoyed sunshine, hot chocolate, and strolls through the town.

Note the building and see the rock on the top of the post between the two buildings? Used to keep mice and other vermin from gaining access to the area where food would have been stored during the winter.
Another shot of the old town – not much happening in this part mostly places to stay.
Janeen taking in the sun

Zermatt is at an elevation of 5,249ft and lies below the iconic Matterhorn peak. Its main street is lined with boutique shops, hotels and restaurants all with a lively après-ski scene.

Just a short walk from our hotel is the Matterhorn Museum.

The entrance to the Matterhorn Museum – all the historical stuff is underground.

The Museum has gathered cultural-natural displays of a Matterhorn village attempts to “conquer” the Matterhorn plus a number of significant artifacts are on display. It was an interesting place to spend an hour or so.

Inside the Matterhorn Museum they have recreated some of the historical structures that would have been around at the time of the first ascents of the mountain.
Various displays reflect some of the early climbers of the mountain.
This is a re-creation of one of the huts that would have been at the base of the Matterhorn used as a staging area prior to a climb.

Our evening in Zermatt included a delicious dining experience where we got to know members of our group and prepared for our morning departure that included a coach ride over the Simplon Pass into Italy.

Simplon Pass – a significant road over the mountains.
Just another beautiful view
The sites were lovely throughout Switzerland for sure.
This is a military installation at the top of the mountain to protect Switzerland from a land invasion during WWII still maintained however.

Napolean led his troops through Simplon Pass (6,578 ft.) on his grab for empire, but probably did not record the stellar views en route like our tour did. Our coach brought us to Baveno Piedmont Italy on Lake Maggiore in a cloud of rain. After checking into the hotel, a fairly large sub-set of the group boarded a boat for Isola Bella estate.

Isola Bella is a privately owned island with a Palace and lovely gardens.

Isola Bella – Owned by the same family since the early 1600’s.

Owned by the same family (bankers from Milan) since the mid 1600’s it was built to impress the guests and it clearly does that very well.   Originally we had been hesitant to sign on for this optional tour as we had visited the Palace during our trip to the Lake District of Italy a few years ago. However, even in the rain the tour was wonderful (fortunately our tour was primarily for the interior of the Palace) as our guide

Our guide did a wonderful job explaining the Palace.
There were a number of these curio cabinets around

was very knowledgeable and brought the place to life during our tour. and even the rain outdoors didn’t dim the experience. Having been owned by the same family for generations,

Here we are in the main bedroom

it has been decorated over several decades, and reflects decorative changes, but always with a focus on impressing.

The music room – lovely.
The ‘throne’ not used by the King but available should he visit.

Multiple Venetian glass chandeliers reflect the intent. The Grotto, constructed in the lower level of the Palace, gives the impression of sea caves and is very creative and imaginative.

Janeen pointing out an crab feature in the Grotto
One of the rooms of the Grotto with a gift statue of carrera marble
It took over 8 years to complete all the mosaic pebble  work of the Grotto

Despite a gentle drizzle, white peacocks roamed the gardens, and the dogwood and azaleas splashed color.

Janeen under the flowering dogwood
Part of the garden – note the white peacock on the head of the statue.

After completing the tour and visiting the gardens, we adjourned to a short boat ride to Fisherman’s island nearby, and a splendid Italian meal with music, wine and many courses.

5-5 & 6-19 Geneva, A Castle and a Statue of some guy

After visiting in Bern we drove to Geneva,the starting point for our Insight Tours – Glorious Switzerland adventure. This fit perfectly into our schedule and filled the gap between the end of our river cruise and our departure on the 15th of May. Neither of us had really been to Switzerland and signing on for this tour seemed a good way to get an overview of the Country.

Geneva – Situated along the banks of, you guessed it, Lake Geneva is the Headquarters of Europe’s United Nations,

The Headquarters for United Nations – every member nation has a flag

the Red Cross, UNICEF and a number of other world organizations. Aside from all the. international organizations, it is also the headquarters for some of the best known watchmakers in the world including Rolex, Patek Philippe, Raymond Weil and many others. It also has a very large banking operation so the City isn’t lacking for money.

Our first evening included a welcome dinner at a local restaurant (did I mention we were staying in a 5 star hotel? Hotel d’Angleterre which was wonderful) and tastes of local dishes. Dinner included adult beverages which is always nice.

The Duke of Brunswick gave the City of Geneva his inheritance on the condition they create a mausoleum in the late 1800’s overlooking the Lake for his remains. This is what happens when you have a lot of money to give to a city.

The following morning on the coach (that sounds so much better than bus doesn’t it?) off we went. First stop was The International Monument to the Reformation but usually just called the Reformation Wall.

Reformation Wall – An impressive site .
Here we are at the Reformation Wall

This honors individuals, events and documents of the protestant Reformation depicted as statues and bas-reliefs on the wall.

We have seen this style of fountain (there is a constant stream of water in the middle)  in several different cities both in Switzerland and France!

This is in a lovely park and could certainly get crowded so it was good we were there early.

In memory of the joining of the State of Geneva to the Swiss Confederation

After a stop at the Floral Clock

The Floral Clock – maintained by all the watch makers who have headquarters in the City

we drove by many of the headquarter buildings for the various world organizations.

After leaving Geneva, and driving along the shores of the lake, we stopped at a medieval castle, Chillon. This Castle is a fortress celebrated for its beauty and is widely regarded as one of the best-preserved medieval castles in Europe.

The front of the Castle from the road.
The Chillon Castle as viewed from the water.

The Castle is the former home of the Counts of Savoy (Major power for a very long time in the middle ages) and was immortalized by Byron’s poem, ‘Prisoner of Chillon’. It sits on an outcropping of rock along the banks of the Lake and was a defensive installation and also a place where taxes were collected for goods passing along the road on one side and the river on the other.

The road side of the castle.
Only this one bridge allows access to the castle.
You can clearly see that this place was built on the rock structure
The “cells” of the castle.
On the right is the rampart, on the left a defensive position should anyone get over the rampart.
One of the interior courtyards of the castle
Seems they make wine too! We didn’t sample or buy any of the juice.

Our guide toured us through the structure and pointed out a number of very interesting areas. It was interesting to see the construction of the place and how well it has been preserved over the years.

After touring the castle, we continued our travels around the lake ending up in Montreux.

A view from the coach of the lake – lovely.

Now all I really know about Montreux is they have a world class Jazz Festival each year and have been doing it since 1967 making it possible the longest running festival of its kind and to which I would love to go.

The poster from 1983 festival

This event is 2 weeks of music along the Lake and maybe sometime I’ll be able to attend. There are several other music events throughout the year and the place really is beautiful as it is situated on the Lake with the Alps all around.

Last year a movie was released called Bohemian Rhapsody. I hadn’t seen it prior to being in Montreux but I soon learned the movie was about Freddie Mercury – lead singer for Queen. During the ‘80’s I wasn’t a Queen fan so really had no clue about Freddie or knew anything about him. Well, turns out he spent a lot of time in Montreux and after his death the City erected a statue in his honor

Freddie Mercury looking out over the lake
Janeen doing her Freddy Mercury impression

and there is a Freddie Mercury Montreux Memorial Day festival that has been on-going since 2003. So, of course, we had to stop at the Statue had take a picture or two.

Janeen found some lovely flowers in Montreux
I even got to be in the picture!

After walking around and taking some lovely pictures we had a very nice Italian lunch.

Janeen had a Caffè corretto – an espresso with a shot of grappa. This was the most impressive presentation of taking grappa out of a bottle we have seen.

After leaving Montreux we were off to Zermatt and a visit to the Matterhorn.

5-13-19 Towards the End….

Just a very quick note to let you know we will be updating our blog in a few days.  Things have been very busy for the last week (Geneva, Montreux, Chillon, Zermatt, Matterhorn, Baveno, St Moritz, Liechtenstein, Lucerne, Zurich, Paris….) so there is a lot to tell and show but not enough time right now.  Check back in a few days for updates.  Here’s just a few pictures lots more to come.

Freddie Mercury at Montreux.
The real Matterhorn – not the one in Anaheim
In the Grotto at Isola Bella – Lake Maggiore Italy
Janeen an Monet’s Garden

David & Janeen