06-17-16 On the River and Vienna

By late afternoon on Thursday we were underway – heading towards Vienna some 300 Kilometers away.  There is something peaceful about cruising along the river with beautiful hillsides, small villages and vineyards along the way.  The further along we went the more dramatic the scenery – steeper hillsides, terraced vineyards, castle ruins.

Castle ruin 1  Vineyards along the Danbue

As we got close to Vienna, we went through our second lock (the first was at 1AM so I didn’t take any pictures).

danbue lock 1
Entering the lock
danbue lock looking back 1
The Captain checking our “fit” as the gate at the stern starts to close.

With still 1 1/2 hours to Vienna, there was still lots to see along the shore.  This place looked like a nice weekend cottage – maybe it’s a AirBNB.Danbue house on bank  Further along was a freight area and train yard.

Danbue silos?
Could not decide if these were silos or apartments! Very strange either way.
danbue freight yard
Train freight yard close to the river – stuff could go on barges or rail from here.

As we drew to our dock in Vienna, this church – Saint Francis of Assisi.  Church    Once we were all docked and organized, we got on the bus for the tour of Vienna including a visit to the Opera House.  Along the Ring Road – where the moat and wall used to be located around the city is now the major road that circles the inner city.  The City is a mix of old and new – all depending on what was destroyed during WW II.

Vienna street scene 1
Pedestrian streets in the center of town make it very pleasant to walk around.
Vienna bus tour horse statue
Of course there were statues.
vienna tour outside opera house 1
This was right outside the Opera House.

We were dropped off and walked past this lovely fountain

Vienna fountain
This fountain had Danu representing the River and Gaia earth mother representing Vienna.

The Opera House was significantly damaged during WW II – a bomb fall through the roof into the audience area destroying all the boxes and stage.  It was rebuilt but can never recapture the original grandeur of the original.

Vienna Opera House stage
Resetting the stage for the nights performance.

The Theatre cycles a different event every day – with about 10 different things happening every two weeks.  That means, every day they have to break down the stage and resent – could be opera, could be ballet, could be a concert.

Vienna Opera House boxes


Vienna Opera House seats us 5
I was ready!

After we had our tour of the Opera House, we walked around the shopping area and eventually we stopped for a sweet and a beverage.

vienna cafe cake vienna cafe cake 1

I had the Chocolate and Janeen had the Apricot.  Both were out of this world.

On the way back to the boat, I took this picture of a floating swimming pool in the canal next to the river.  Vienna floating pool I also did a quick grab picture of this hardware store.  Note the display on the right side of the window.  gun shop 2

After dinner we headed out again – this time to the abbey of Klosterneuburg.  This abbey was built 1000 years ago and is still maintained by the church.  About 5 years ago they had the exterior of the buildings cleaned – really making them beautiful.  As part of our tour we went into the Church, along some various hallways, saw some relics and the monks private garden.

music night outside of church music night chruch inside music night alter music night hallway inside church music night garden  The trip to the abbey was really for a concert of Mozart and Strauss music.  music night violin players music night singers

After a very full day, we got back to the boat and off we went again along the Danbue.  I was sorry we didn’t have more time in Vienna but I can certainly see us coming back here again sometime.

06-15-16 & 6-16-16 Final days in Budapest

We checked out of the hotel and took a cab to our new home – the River Princess.

River Princess
The River Princess
This ship, operated by UniWorld, will be our new home for the next week or so – and go on the Danube River from Budapest to Nuremberg – and then a bus to Prague. Of course there are stops in various places. Our room, while small, covers everything we need – and is a better layout then we have had on other river cruises we have been on.

River Princess Room 1
Janeen getting us settled in for our Cruise

River Princess Room
A nice room and well set up for our cruise.

shoe's download
This was a moving memorial – sad to think about the various families, father, mother, children who where all shot along here.
After checking in, we headed out again and made a special trip to see the Shoes on the Danube Bank.


shoes on the Danbue family
Work shoes, kid shoes, woman’s shoes – all together.
This is a memorial to honor the Jews who were killed by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen during World War II. They were ordered to take off their shoes, and were shot at the edge of the water so that their bodies fell into the river and were carried away. It represents their shoes left behind on the bank.

After our visit the skies opened up with rain, lightening and thunder! Fortunately we had been able to stop for a beverage and were out of the rain and were able to call a taxi to get us back to the boat.

The following day (Thursday) I took the bus tour and Janeen took the walking tour. Her adventure took in various public transit options – subway and trolley with stops along the way.

Budapest subway
Heading to the underground for a trip!

Janeen at a fountain Budapest
Of course, Janeen found a garden to visit on her tour.

Sidewalk Scuplture
Several nice public art installations.
My tour via bus went to first to the Castle District, at the top of the hill on the Buda side of the city and to a visit to the Matthias Church and area.

Castle dcl Castle church area

Saint Stephen found his way to the area of present day Hungary in 1015 and was able to convert the King to Christianity – thus started the Catholic Church in this area. At the top of the hill, is the Matthias Church a Roman Catholic Church with the Fisherman’s Bastion at the heart of the Buda Castle District. The current building was built in the second half of the 14th century with extensive restoration in the late 19th.  The roof of the church is very bright – with the roof tiles made from ceramic materials.

This Soviet era car was a result of the Soviet Union realizing they had a large amount of cotton and plastic waste that they didn’t know what to do with. So they sent it to their East German comrades, so they could build themselves a car. The Germans combined the cotton/wool waste with recycled plastic and resin, calling their new solid-ish (and extremely flammable) material “Duroplast”. Some say it was the first ever eco-friendly car, being the first to use recycled materials in its construction.

Soviet Era Car
There was a posting on the window asking for donations to restore the car. I didn’t contribute…

Driving down from the Castle District, we drove by a World War I Museum with this large sculpture out front.  Budapest didn’t fair well during this war due in large part to their alliance with Austria.

WW 1 museum 1 WW 1 museum 4

After visiting the area, the bus cycled the Pest side of the city passing by several highlights – WW I museum and an interesting sculpture depicting an artist’s impression of the Iron Curtain.

Iron Curtain art   Iron Curtain dl

The Soviet Union didn’t leave until 1989 – just a few years ago. With all that has happened over the last 100 years, the resilience of a people is fantastic. We saw interesting sites, had wonderful food, met really nice people and thoroughly enjoyed our visit. Now it’s off to Vienna!



06-14-16 A lazy day in Budapest

We joined up with our friends Gloria and Jerry and walked over to the hop on – hop off giraffe bus and headed out for the day. This 2-hour bus ride had something like 23 different stops but we only hopped off a couple of times. Commentary covers the sites and some Hungarian history and cuisine,  bus tour top of bus bus tour dcl & jpl  so it is a lovely way to meet Budapest on a sunny June day.

dinner 5-14 drinks group 2
Celebrating a nice dinner with great Rose.
dinner 5-14 Restaurant entrance us
Lovely restaurant.
wine at lunch
Rose, snacks and a nice place to just sit and relax.
Linden Tree
The flowers on these trees were perfuming the air all around.

Our first stop was the covered market, because a hat and mementos had to be purchased along with a food snack or two.  Vendors were selling all kinds of foods – meet stands,   Yellow bus - market nuts 1  nuts  and  market stuff gifts of all kinds.  Janeen and Gloria were on the hunt for a new hat  market jpl smiling  for Gloria and they both got new a new purse. market us with new purses   Architecture that stands out are the 18th and 19th century buildings, but there are plenty of 1000-1600 examples as well. outside market fancy building top 1  This building had a lovely mosaic at the top and appeared to have been recently restored.  Our entire route was scented by the blooming Linden trees that Janeen had to find out about.     Having traveled full circle, we found a late afternoon table for a snack and bottle of rose  before returning to the Corinthia Hotel to set our appetites for Italian hospitality and Hungarian recipes as well at Comme Chez Soi.  This Italian flavored restaurant is listed as #1 in Trip Advisor and we had a lovely time!

boat tour parlament 10
Parliment Building
boat tour - night sky
The evening sky over the Buda side of Budapest
boat tour castle 3
The Castle on the hill above Buda.

After dinner, we boarded a boat for an evening tour along the Danube which was lovely.

Tomorrow we check out of our Hotel and board the River Cruise!

06-13-16 Bus Tour and Jerry and Gloria Arrive

Today, after a coffee at the corner Starbucks, we purchased the hop on – hop off bus tickets for 2 days.  Just as the bus arrived it started to rain!  Fortunately most of the bus is covered bus tour us on bus  so wasn’t a problem but did make taking pictures more difficult.  The bus goes through both Pest (where we are staying) and Buda the area across the river.  Crossing the river we got a nice shot of the Castle Bus Tour 1 riverfront and a bit better once we were heading up the hill to the overlook bus tour castle buda 5  We see all of this again tomorrow and again once our River Cruise formally starts.  Once back on the Pest side, we hopped and had lunch at a nice little spot – and watched it rain on and off about 4 times while sitting inside!  lunch outside shot.  After lunch, and picking up a bottle of the local wine, we got back to our hotel and waited for the arrival of our friends Jerry and Gloria.  Fortunately the Air France strike didn’t impact their plans and they arrived around 5 and off we went to the New York Cafe for a light dinner.  group at NYC 2

Tomorrow we will do the hop on bus again hitting more sites – and the weather appears to be great – sunshine and high in the upper 70s!

06-11-16 & 6-12-16 – Venice and Budapest

We left Venice early Saturday morning via water taxi on our way to the airport and Budapest.  Taxi to airport  When we got to the airport, they put us on an earlier flight to Rome where we had a 3 hour layover until our flight to Budapest.  budapest airport 1   Once we got to the hotel, the beautifully restored Corinthia Hotel is one of the grandest luxury hotels in Budapest.  An impressive landmark building with an imposing Neo-classical façade and soaring glass atrium.  Our room on the 4th floor is everything we could want.  After getting settled in, we went down to the bar for a beverage and light snack – seems it is football time (soccer) and the bar is all decked out to celebrate the event.

Sunday, we slept in and walked to the New York Cafe for breakfast to start the day.  Stepping foot in the New York Café means taking a step back in time: magnificence and sophistication welcome visitors, enveloping them with the charm of the Belle Époque.New York Cafe inside jpl New york cafe inside New York Cafe.  Beautifully  restored this place was a major focus in the 20’s and 30’s.  After this we walked around ending up walking by the Zsinagoga Synagogue known as The Great Synagogue or Tabakgasse Synagogue, this is the largest synagogue in Europe and one of the largest in the world.

jewish place jewish place 4

After this we walked to the St. Stephen’s Basilica – built in the mid 1800’s and dominates the area.  Church 1.  After a cup of coffee, we ventured out and found the Opera House where we had a light lunch and toured the building.  The Hungarian State Opera House is a neo-Renaissance opera house originally known as the Hungarian Royal Opera House, it was built in the 19th century using virtually only Hungarian materials. The tour included a visit to the Royal Box, the main floor area and various hallways and bars around the building.

opera tour looking at royal box opera tour 3 opera tour the boxes stage 1 opera tour us

Once back to our hotel, we rested and got ready to go to dinner at a pop up restaurant called Meet & Eat.

eat-meet  This is operated by Suzie and her parents using locally obtained produce, meets and wines to serve a great meal.  Held in an apartment on the 6th floor it is quite an unusual location – no signage and you have to have the building code to get in.  A group of 14 people – some from Italy, Germany, England, Vermont,Minnesota and of course California.  This was a three course meal paired with local wines starting with a soup Meet course 1 paired with a nice Rose followed by Duck Meet course 2.1 The duck was so good everyone had seconds!  This was followed by dessert Meet course dessert 2    Conversations went from various cultural discussions, food ideas, where people were from and their jobs to what they were doing in Budapest and how they ended up at this Pop up restaurant.  I was a bit uncertain at first but it was a lovely evening and would do it again given the opportunity.

Tomorrow new adventures in Budapest and hopefully the arrival of our friends Gloria and Jerry.


06-10-16 A Walk around Rialto Market and to the Jewish Ghetto

Fresh fish, fruit, vegetables, spices and lots of wonderful things to see. It may not be the biggest market we have ever been through but it certainly was a treat. Whole swordfish,  Rialto Market  lots of squid, sea bass and just about any local fish   Rialto Market 1   Rialto Market 2   you can think of was available. Rialto Market 3

After this we walked along the main shopping street finding several shops to browse and even a couple to purchase one or two things. After crossing over the Grand Canal on the Rialto Bridge,we head towards the Ca’d’Oro for a morning visit.


Ca’ d’Oro, correctly Palazzo Santa Sofia, is a palace on the Grand Canal and we can see it from our hotel room. One of the older palaces in the city, it is known as Ca’ d’Oro (“golden house”) due to the gilt and polychrome external decorations which once adorned its walls. The palace was built between 1428 and 1430 for Ca de Ore  Ca' D'Oro tapistry Ca' D'Oro arrows   the Contarini family, who provided Venice with eight Doges between 1043 and 1676. Following the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797, the palace changed ownership several times. One 19th century owner, the ballet dancer Marie Taglioni, removed (in what today can be considered an act of vandalism) the Gothic stairway from the inner courtyard and also destroyed the ornate balconies overlooking the court.

Ca' D'Oro patio

In 1894, the palace was acquired by its last owner, baron Giorgio Franchetti; who,throughout his lifetime,  amassed an important art collection and personally oversaw its extensive restoration, including the reconstruction of the stairway and the Cosmatesque courtyard with ancient marbles. In 1916, Franchetti bequeathed the Ca’ d’Oro to the Italian State. It is now open to the public as a gallery: Galleria Giorgio Franchetti alla Ca’ d’Oro.

After touring the Ca’ d’Oro, we had a light lunch and continued our stroll towards the Jewish Ghetto. At one point, Janeen went off shopping so I found Serenissima for a beverage ,eventually sitting for a couple of hours (she joined me between jaunts out to shop) .

Ghetto 1    Rialto Bridge

Aperol spritzers and G&T finished, Espresso and Grappawe continued on our way finally crossing back over the Grand Canal on the Ponte degi Scalzi bridge   Bridge View us   Bridge 1   and returned to the hotel, found a garden to have a light meal and then to our room  to start packing for the next leg of our adventure – Budapest!


06-09-16 Quite Day in Venice (with rain)

Herb Garden Docent interest kicked in, and Janeen wanted to see the Palazzo museum with emphasis on perfume ,Palazzo Mocenigo. Palazzo Mocenigo front from canal   The display covering the four perfume “families” woody, floral, oriental, and fresh (like lemon)had scent and product examples and also covered an interactive display explaining the different distillation methods used for each type of source. One room also displayed a perfume organ used for blending perfumes and distilling apparatus . Janeen at Perfume Organ Perfume Organ download

Surrounding the display room were cabinets containing a superb collection of perfume bottles over centuries, especially the Venician glass ones acquired by one family. The display in the lobby will be auctioned off in October. Venice monopolized the eastern perfume and scent trade during its reign of all things eastern. This week also included lace makers exhibiting their craft and historic samples , including BuranoPalazzo Mocenigo bottles in display   Palazzo Mocenigo perfumes

Mecenigo family portraits framed in gilt ,rooms full of ornate furnishings and Murano glass chandeliers and household tableware set on embellished cloth were on the upstairs floor. Palazzo Mocenigo vest    Palazzo Mocenigo dresses   Palazzo Mocenigo vest room

With rain threatening, we headed for the restaurant Antiche Carampane for an earlier seating of our lunch reservation.   Janeen - Antiche Carampane Awning  We were unable to eat there last night because Georgio Armani was hosting a private party to celebrate a new opening. David put us in the hands of the staff for house specialties: starting with cone shaped paper with little tiny flash fried shrimps Lunch amuse bouche 1  followed by smoked scallops appetizer,  Grilled Sea Scallops with smoked Burrata, black summer Truffle 1squid ink baby squid in house made tagatelle   Tagliolini with baby Octopus,   Primo, then Sea Bass grilled Wild grilled fish (sea bass) with little salad on side,   Segundo, paired with a northern Italian Fruili white wine, Lunch wine front Ronco Delle Betulle  followed by cheese,  Cheese plate espresso with biscuits and grappa (longest list of grappa selections I have ever seen.)

Although we spent the full 2 hours over lunch, we were close to our room and made it back in “sprinkles” before the skies opened into thunderstorms causing a brief power outage (lost our net jazz music, but that was all we ‘suffered’) Lazy rainy afternoon, a real luxury for drought tired soCal residents.

Gondola in the rain  This   Gondolier is anxious to get out of the rain – not much business.

06-08 Day trip to Lido

A day of relaxing and not doing much.  We took the water bus to the Island of Lido.  The Lido, or Venice Lido, is an 11-kilometre long sandbar in Venice just off the main island. It is home to about 20,000 residents and a favorite spot for vacationers as the beach is large and inviting. It is just a water bus ride away – about 15 minutes across the bay.  After arriving the first big surprise was to see cars, buses and scooters all over the  place!  This, after being in Venice that has NO cars what so ever was a surprise.  We stopped for a nice espresso and sweet before walking towards the beach.  Lido Espresso stop  While we didn’t actually walk on the beach, we could see it as we strolled along.  As this is Venice, really, there was of course a canal.  Lido canal but the bridge over it was not steps!  (every bridge over a canal in Venice is at least 8 steps up and 8 steps down….so finding a bridge without steps was nice!).

After our stroll, we stopped at Glacial, a nice little spot along the main road.  Janeen had pasta and clams and I had a 4 cheese salad.  Lido David's lunch Lido David's salad Lido Janeen lunch Lido janeen taking picture of clams 5  The pile of clam shells after she finished her lunch was huge.

After lunch, we went back to the landing and hoped on the water bus to get back to our hotel.  Along the way captured a few nice pictures of sites along the way.

Statue of horses 2  This equestrian statue was quite impressive.  Navy Monument This pole was part of a navy memorial.   Us at Rialto Bridge 4 Here we are after passing under the Rialto Bridge -It is the oldest bridge across the canal, and was the dividing line for the districts of San Marco and San Polo.  It was built in 1588.

For all you construction folks following along, this is a picture of a dumpster.


Yet planned for the day is an afternoon with G&T’s at our hotel, dinner out and a rain storm to follow.


ps…if you are following along please let me know….

06-07-16 Venice – Saint Marks and a Grand Canal Tour

Tuesday – another day to explore this wonderful part of Italy with a walking tour of Saint Marks and the Doge’s Palace.  We started off taking the water bus and took a great picture of our hotel.  Our hotel Our room is on the 2nd level (3 floor for all you untravelled folks) on the left side of the for “arched” windows in the middle.  Nice place.  After getting off the water bus, we walked through the Campo Santi Glovanni e Paolo area and did a bit of shopping.  Janeen in shop buying stuff  where Janeen got a couple of unique glass pieces of jewelry.   After a nice lunch,  Lunch on tuesday david 2 Lunch tuesday janeen 1  we went to Saint Marks Square to hook up with our guide for a walking tour.  This included great info about Saint Marks, the building of the place (it’s over 1000 years old!) and general information about the Islands of Venice.  This Clock Tower – with the Bell Ringers on the top has a digital clock!  Bell ringers close up  IMG_4228

in this picture you can see it is 3 O’Clock!  Way cool and VERY old. 3 O'clock in the afternoon

Inside St Marks, it is fantastically beautiful with the entire structure covered with mosaic tiles – with gold leaf so they really shine.  St marks view of domes  We saw the four bronze horses st marks 4 horses and talked about the details of the exterior st marks detail of top  st marks view of main door  truly an amazing feat of construction during a time when everything was done by hand.  After our walk through of Saint Marks, we went next door to visit the Doge’s Palace.  Doge's Palace exterior elevation  This was the center of Government until the late 1700’s with large spaces meant to impress foreign delegations -such as the ceiling over the stairs going to the various rooms.  Doge's Palace stair ceiling  and the ceilings and walls of those rooms Doge's Palace ceiling Doges palace big room   The last part of this tour was to the various jail cells and across the Bridge of Sighs.  italy-venice-doges-palace-bridge-of-sighs (1)  Not a lovely spot to have to spend any time – cold, damp, little light and really no way to see the sky.

After our walking tour, we were scheduled for the Grand Canal boat tour which took us through the entire length of the Canal pointing out historical sites – all of which are incredibly maintained over the ages.

boat tour fancy home with mosaic

boat tour - bar da nina 1  boat tour peggy g 3  Including the oldest gondola builders in Venice.  boat tour - boat builder 1.

Harry’s Bar which was opened in 1931 and has hosted a number of notable customers have included Charlie Chaplin, Alfred Hitchcock, Richard Halliburton, Truman Capote, Orson Welles, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, Princess Aspasia of Greece, Aristotle Onassis, Barbara Hutton, Woody Allen and now David and Janeen Lee! Admittedly it was a bit pricy but hey, now we are associated with some really famous people. Admittedly the food and service where top notch, but so was the cost of the meal.harrys david  harrys janeen  After dinner, we caught the water bus and headed home.  Another 10,000 step day!

06-06-16 Day 2 in Venice

After crashing for 10 or 12 hours, we got up and had a delightful breakfast at our hotel.  I think we were the only ones who figured out how to get a cappuccino at breakfast – and they were good.  With nothing really planned until 5PM we headed out and just walked around.  First we threaded our way through the Rialto Market – but it wasn’t up and running, so nothing really to report except we will hit it again in the next few days.  There always seems to be a nice view of the Grand Canal so, naturally I have to take our picture.Bridge overlook by Academia 1

After a while, we found our way to Saint Marks Square and had tea and scones with jam.Saint Marks Square  For entertainment, of course with an added fee, was this little musical group playing wonderful traditional Vencian music.Morning tea break music  From there, we headed towards the Accademia Museum but first we walked through a number of shops and stalls without buying anything!  Stalls by Royal Gardens  Janeen at towel stall


We did have a lovely lunch, and bottle of wine, in Saint Stefano Square

Sqyare where we had lunch 1 Square where we had lunch

Janeen had the menu of the day, Risotto with clams and mussels and I had a Caprese salad along with a great local white wine.

Lunch - JPL

For dessert, we trekked across the Grand Canal and went to a fantastic shop (very highly rated) for Gelato!  FANTASTICJqneen Gelato

We had scheduled to be on a Grand Canal Tour at 5 so we head back across the Canal (getting lost of course) only to find the tour had already been sold out!  Frustrating for sure (we booked another cruise for tomorrow).  We ended up buying a 3 day pass for the water bus so headed back to our room and had drinks on the patio.  Beverage at our hotel 3  Not a bad spot to relax for sure and the prices are really quite good!  Two cocktails for 14 euros.  As Janeen was hungry, we got a recommendation from our hotel and walked over to Muro – about 1000 yards from our pace and had wonderful pasta (Janeen) and lamb (David).

Dinner Pasta  Dinner Lamb

Tomorrow afternoon we have a walking tour of Saint Marks and the Grand Canal tour – both in the afternoon / early evening so will have the morning to just explore.    I can certainly say we are getting into the vacation / travel mode very easily and it’s only the second day!