Denali National Park, Alaska

We managed to get away for a twelve day vacation to Alaska before I have to have a medical problem taken care of. We flew up from Los Angeles and stayed one night in Anchorage and rented a car. The next day we drove up to Denali National Park. Of course, it took all day to get there because I had to stop to take photographs of the incredible scenery. We stopped in an old town; Talkeetna that maintained an historic main street. Many of the original log cabins were still standing.

But the best part of the trip north was a turn out to see Denali in almost clear skies. Just one cloud covered the middle of the mountain.

We spent the night at the Denali Princess Wilderness Resort where the mosquitoes were already roaming the area looking for fresh blood.

Today we went into the Park and met some very helpful and cute park rangers.

We drove down the one 15 mile road looking for critter and were very lucky to find a few. We saw a grizzly bear but he was too far away from us to take a photograph. But we did see an Arctic ground squirrel , and two caribou.

We leave tomorrow to return to Anchorage. It has been an exciting adventure.

We drove back to Anchorage from Denali Park. There were some stunning snow covered mountains. Thought I would add these photos to this blog.

Enjoy the beauty of this part of the world.

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Our RV relocation experience; what you need to know

We met a lot of very nice people, particularly in connection with our flat tire the first morning, which happened to be a Saturday.
After our first night on the road we woke to this flat tire.  RV flat tireRVs nowadays don’t have spare tires, which came as a surprise to the RV service support line you’re supposed to call if you have a problem. Practically, this matters a lot, as service trucks are equipped to change tires, not repair them. As it happened in our case, we were only two miles from town, so the driver took off the tire, took it to his shop and repaired it, and brought it back in under two hours. If we’d been a hundred miles farther west in the middle of South Dakota, this would have been a very long delay.  Between the late start and having to deal with the flat tire we lost one day of our time to drive to Las Vegas.
The screw we found in the tire was identical to a couple we found loose in the RV. Just sayin’ it could have been “supplied” in the pickup lot of the factory.
When I booked this adventure, and again when we picked up the RV, I asked if roadside assistance was included, and was told that it was. So I didn’t extend our AAA coverage to include RVs. Turns out, “it’s included” means “we arrange it, but you pay for it.”
Apollo ( the rental company that purchased the RVs and for whom we were locating them) has a great business model for preventing giving you a credit. They collect $1000 as a deposit, not just a hold but an actual charge, and refund it at the end. So you have to pay for the tire repair, and there is no way they’re gonna give you any credit for that, or the loss of the extra day you bought. In fact, their logic about the latter was “Well, you got 10 days for $1 each and 2 days for $145 each. That’s $25 a day average, I can give you that…”
We picked up the RV on a Friday. Although we arrived at 11am, there were dozens of parties also picking up their RVs and we didn’t get done until about 4pm. The briefing was … brief. The water tank had never been filled or tested. You know, the one they say to sanitize and flush before use. The sewer hose was stuck in the carrier, and without fittings. The holding tank valves hadn’t been closed, so when we tested the drains, water ran out. But the A/C and heater worked, the slides didn’t get stuck, and 90% of the cabinet and drawer hardware was correctly installed and stayed shut.  Sometimes going around corners the fridge door would suddenly open and the contents would crash to the floor.
The RV was a Winnebago Outlook 27D, which uses a Ford E450 base and got about 7.5 mpg overall. Driving it varied from very smooth, on a good road with no wind and under 60mph,  to a highly stressful experience when all those conditions were reversed and you’re being passed by a semi at 80mph, in which case it feels like you’re driving a 27-foot sail.  There are a lot of roads in the midwest with 80mph speed limits. I never felt safe much above 72, so there were lots of times when those semis were charging past.  Plus if you have 3 people as we did, the third person is seat belted behind the table.  The seat is very uncomfortable for an adult as you are tossed around a lot and cannot see out the front window.
Wal-Mart is everywhere, and a great resource to RVers, because they sell EVERYTHING in one place (except, oddly, alcohol in Wyoming, for which you have to go next door), there’s always easy parking for huge vehicles, and the price is right.
Here’s our summary opinion of the RV experience: it was nice for a national park experience when you’re planning to spend a few days, and the alternatives are tenting or $350 lodge rooms.  Wow, at $14.08 a night, the senior rate in Yellowstone is unbeatable, even without any hookups. But driving it is kind of a pain, so it’s not so great for the road-trip experience, where you have to move 300 miles a day. We could also see that this mode would be stressful during summer, when RV parks fill up. Even in mid-May, it isn’t “the season” yet in Yellowstone, and places weren’t too hard to find along the way.

A cross-country relocation RV trip

We have always wanted to take an RV ( recreational vehicle) to see if we would like to purchase one.  An opportunity came up to relocate a new RV from Iowa to Las Vegas for $1 a day plus gas in 10 days, sounded like a dream come true.  We took this trip from May 4 to May 16.   We include my sister Sandi in this trip. We flew into Minneapolis and drove to Forest City, Iowa to pick up the RV.  RV photo I will not talk about the particulars of how the trip went as David has promised to deliver one of his data packed posts to fill you in on the details and the actual costs of the trip.  What I will say is that we had a great time in the places that we stayed, but there was way too much driving for me inspite of the fact that we purchased 2 extra days at $150 per day to extend the time.

The first place we stopped at was Mount Rushmore.  It was quite inspiring.  None of us had been there before and we enjoyed the spectacular mountain carvings.mt rushmore heads 5x7We then drove to Yellowstone National Park.  This was my favorite part of the trip.  The park was still snowy in places and the animals had just had babies.  The hot springs and geysers were stunningly beautiful.  Here are some photographs.

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Moma buffalo and baby Red dog

 

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Dave on right checking into Madison Campground

 

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Yellowstone hot pool

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Sandi and David

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Old Faithful

We spent 3 days here and it was wonderful.

We then moved South through Jackson Hole.  It was so cold and rainy there we only stayed overnight and then headed south to Bryce Canyon.

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Jenny Lake, Grand Tetons

Bryce was sunny and warm.  It is hard to capture the magnificence of the rock formations in photographs, but I tried.

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Bryce Canyon

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Linda & Sandi on the Bryce Canyon Lodge porch

We drove to Las Vegas the next day , spent the night and returned the RV in the morning.  Rented a car and drove home.  I was so happy to sleep in my king size bed with my honey that night.

Versailles Paris a magical place

I wanted to see the Versailles Palace and grounds when we were in Paris and I am glad we paid for a two day visit.  We were there in the end of October and the weather presented some problems.  The first day there was a lot of fog.  This was not great for the photographs.Versailles clock foggy day 5x7 net Though it did give a soft effect to the clock of the Sun King on top of the palace.Versailles fog trees 5x7 net

We took a tour of the Palace ( 6 euros, I think)  which is the secret way to get in and not to stand in the long lines trying to enter.  Everything inside the palace is covered with gold and lined with crystal.Versailles fireplace 5x7 net

 

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Hall of mirrors Versailles 

 

This is over the top decor is not my taste but it was an amazing bit of spectacle.  As you can see there were a lot of people in the palace with us which made the viewing uncomfortable.

The next day we went back on the train and the sun was shining.  This changed the entire experience.  I wanted to go back and see Marie Antoinette’s Village.  King Louis XVI built her a hamlet away from the main palace where she could play act being a milk maid and a country woman.  This delightful village was the best part of Versailles for me.  We spent all of our second day there , taking photographs and seeing the farm animals.  Here are some of my favorite photos.

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The Queen’s hamlet

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The gardener’s cottage

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One of the gardens

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So tying up this blog post,  my recommendation is to go for 2 days, try to go on a sunny day and do not miss Marie Antoinette’s Hamlet.

 

Good bye Paris we leave with a gift of a nasty cold

 

Well, you have not heard from me in a while. We are home in California now and I need to catch you up on our travels. The last four days in Paris, I came down with a nasty cold. Really bad words, I wasted most of four days in bed trying to get better before we had to travel to Barcelona on a 6.5 hour train ride. I did not think that our train companions would enjoy hearing me coughing, sneezing and blowing my nose for all 6 hours.
We got to Barcelona at night and had the next two days to see the Sagrada Familia basilica and Montserrat before boarding Norwegian Epic to sail home to Florida.

So let’s start with Paris; I loved this city. I went to the Louvre and saw the Mona Lisa and many other stunning works of art. louvre mona lisa 5x7 netNot to mention the architecture of the Louvre, the glass pyramid and all the other buildings that have been there for centuries (the Louvre was formerly a palace).Paris Louvre pryamids 5x7 net

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Medieval work of art at the Louvre

I also went to an exhibit of a turn of the century dress designer called Fortuny. He created dresses from tiny pleats that could be rolled up and shaken out and worn.fortuny dress 5x7 net

We visited two of my favorite, Sainte Chapelle and Notre Dame. Sainte Chapelle was built by King Louis IX to house his relics from the Holy Land. The royal chapel upstairs has an amazing set of medieval stained glass windows.sainte chapelle 5x7 net

 

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Angels holding the crown of thorns

Notre Dame is a famous and wonderful medieval church. We were able to go to Mass there on Sunday.Notre Dame outside 5x7 net

We took a river cruise on the Seine. It is a tourist thing to do, but worth it to see Paris from where the city began 1,000 years ago.Seine boats 5x7 net

The last night I pulled myself out of bed and we went to have a French dinner under the Eiffel Tower. It was so romantic to sit at the base of the tower and see it shining  in the night.Eiffel tower lights 5x7 net

 

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Linda eating dinner in Paris

 

The next day we were packed and went off to the Gare De Lyon train station to catch our TGV (very fast train) to Barcelona. I will talk about our two days in Barcelona and the ship in the next blog.

Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris; graves of Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde

We had an afternoon to spend in the famous Pere Lachaise cemetery here in Paris.  It is a remarkable city of the dead.  We will be going back before we leave because 2 hours was not enough time to take some of the photographs that I wanted to take.  This cemetery was founded in 1804 when the city of Paris needed more room to bury the dead. Pere Lachaise is the largest cemetery in the city of Paris.  Père Lachaise Cemetery has more than 3.5 million visitors, making it the most visited cemetery in the world.

 

Many famous people who died in Paris are buried here.   The most famous and the most visited  is the tomb of Jim Morrison of the Doors.

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Jim Morrison’s grave, died 1997 in Paris

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Edit Piaf, famous Parisian singer

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Oscar Wilde’s grave  

There were many French Jewish families that were sent to German concentration camps when Germany occupied France during WWII.  There are several memorials to these innocent French citizens in the graveyard.  Here are a couple of them;

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Memorial to the children killed by the Nazis

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memorial to the people killed in concentration camps

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And on a much lighter note; here is the grave of Victor Noir.   He was a French journalist who is famous for the manner of his death and the sculpture that lies on top of his grave.   I could not think of a good way to word this description so I will let Wikipedia do it for me.

“A life-sized bronze statue was sculpted by Jules Dalou to mark his grave, portrayed in a realistic style as though he had just fallen on the street, dropping his hat which is depicted beside him.

The sculpture has a very noticeable protuberance in Noir’s trousers. This has made it one of the most popular memorials for women to visit in the famous cemetery. Myth says that placing a flower in the upturned top hat after kissing the statue on the lips and rubbing its genital area will enhance fertility, bring a blissful sex life.”  As you can see from the wearing away of the crotch area, many women have taken up the idea since he died in 1870.Pere chaise Victor Noir 5x7net

Over one million people have been buried here and there are many famous French politicans, inventors and artists who are scattered among many family mausoleums.  It is a cemetery that has many monuments and statues to commemorate the dead.   Here are some of the more interesting photographs that I took.

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And we found one live woman practicing her clarinet in the middle of the monuments.  The music was enchanting.Pere Lachaise girl clarinet 5x7netMore views of Paris to follow.

Battle of Hastings re-enactment 2017

We went to the town of Battle to see the Battle of Hastings re-enacted on the original battle field that it happened on in 1066. It was an exciting piece of theatre that put you into the time and the event.  I took lots of photos of this event that happens every year around the time that William the Conqueror from French Normandy beat King Harold of Saxon England for the crown of England in 1066.  I had known about this battle that changed the course of the English nation from my history books in school.  But it was an entirely different experience to understand the story and see where and how it unfolded.  If you are ever here in South Eastern England in October you should try to go to this pageant .

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Actors that told the Battle of Hastings story before the re-enactment

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Re-enactors come from all over Europe to camp for the weekend of the battle

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Lady Liz from Wales

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Battle supplies

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English King Harold on his horse before battle taking a last drink

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The English troops line up

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Time for a last chat with a friend

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The bishop gives last minute confessions

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King Harold gives a battle talk to his troops to inspire them

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Duke William has brought horses from France and they charge the English shield wall

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Half way through the battle William falls off his horse and the men thinks he has died.  He quickly finds another horse and rides in front of his troops to show that he is still alive.

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Unfortunately, late in the battle, King Harold is hit by an arrow that goes through his eye and he dies. The English troops lose heart.  Duke William’s troops overcome and kill all the English on the battle field. William goes on to London and is crowned the new king of England on Christmas day in Westminster Abbey.  We enjoyed this event and give the English Heritage organization a good review for organization and presentation.

We are off to Paris tomorrow for 16 days of sight seeing, then Barcelona for 3 days and on to the ship for the cross Atlantic voyage home.