The Grand Tour, One Last Time

December 11, 2017

It has been while since posting. No excuses, no writers’ block, just taking a break.

So we decided to take a real break and tour some of our favorite places in Europe. We decided to go in the late fall to avoid the crowds. And that worked out for a about half of our tour. When on our last visit, there was a 2 kilometer line to get into the Vatican Museum, this time we walked right in with no waiting. When there was a 4 hour line to get into the Ufizzi Gallery in Florence (which we declined and never got to visit one of the world’s great museums) , this time there was no line at all. And the weather was clear and in the 50s and 60s. So, visiting Italy? Late November is about as good as it gets.

Austria in early December is another story. Just around freezing every day and lots of snow in the mountains and our last day in Vienna the city had a nice white blanket.

Note: I’ll put links on each of my pics in case you want to do a little travel reading.

Rome (Roma), the eternal city

The Travelers (on the Spanish Steps, Rome): Darin, The Navigator, in charge of Uber, AirBnB, and GPS; Pikun the Warrior, all final decisions made by her; Lorenzo Medici (aka The Magnificent, aka Hugh), the Banker.


The Colosseum, Rome. Every seat with a good view.


The Trevi Fountain, Rome (of Three Coins in a Fountain, and Anita Ekberg in La Dolce Vita fame). They say if you toss a coin into the fountain then you will be sure to return to Rome. In 1971 I threw a coin in. In 1999 I threw another coin in. So I guess it really works. In 2017 one more coin went in. But I may have to wait on my next life to visit Rome again. I am sure it will still be there.



St. Peters Basilica, Rome. Upon entry into the cathedral it was the first of many times on our tour that Darin’s jaw dropped to the floor. I got to see Michelangelo’s Pieta once again – first time in 1965 at the New York World’s Fair. Still in love with her.


Florence (Firenze), into Renaissance art? This is the place.

The Duomo, Florence. One of the first great domes. Situated in a great piazza with a beautiful bell tower (seen in the picture) and baptistery. Here seen from a balcony of the Ufizzi Gallery.


Santa Croce Basilica, Florence. The graves of Michelangelo, Galileo, Rossini, Enrico Fermi, Machiavelli, and Dante, are here. Santa Croce was right around the corner from our AirBnB and we had no idea what was inside. The picture shows Michelangelo’s last resting place.


Michelangelo’s David. An old friend. He was there still waiting for us. This was the second time Darin’s jaw dropped to the floor. I have to admit, mine did too even though I had seen him before.


One of the few Michelangelo’s paintings (aside from the Sistine Chapel), Uffizi Gallery.


Primavera, Botticelli. At the Uffizi.


Magic. My magical friend from Bangladesh. I know how this works – but I won’t tell.


Venice (Venezia)

We had train tickets from Florence to Venice. We gave ourselves enough time to get to the station – the taxi stand was just around the corner (no Ubers here). It was raining when we set out to the taxi stand with all our bags. When we get there all there is is a yellow police line. I use my Italian and find out that today is the Florence Marathon. All cars are banned from the city. If all things go smoothly on your journey then you have no stories to tell. Well, we will long tell of our mad 45 minute dash in the rain (me in my crocks). We made it, damper than we had planned for, and even in time to put on a real pair of shoes.


Got $100. Then you can get about a half hour on a gondola. We took the “vaparreto“, the water bus.


Masks for the Venice Carnival

The Rialto Bridge, right outside our hotel.


San Marco, another jaw dropper.






Vienna (Wien)

I get to check off a long held Bucket list item. Darin’s friend Owen, who came to visit us from Paris sat next to an American opera singer on the flight, Rebecca Nelson. She said she had a few tickets to Mozart’s The Magic Flute for tonight, where she would be singing the part of Pamina, daughter of The Queen of the Night. Anybody interested? he asked. Waaa? Yessss! So I checked the “See an Opera in Vienna” item off my bucket list.

And to top it off, we went out with Pamina (Rebecca Nelson) and The Queen of the Night (Beate Ritter) for drinks after the show. The whole tour was Made on that evening.  Thanks Owen.

The Magic Flute, Dec 1 2017, Volks Oper (Folk Opera), Wien (Vienna)


Shonbrunn Palace, Vienna, the Hapsburg’s answer to France’s Versailles. Jaws drop again.


Apre l’opera: With Pamina (Rebecca), and The Queen of the Night (Beate), both of whom did a wonderful job, and behind them there’s Lorenzo the Magnificent, Darin the Navigator, and Owen, the Ticketmaster.
In case you have never heard The queen of the Night aria from The Magic Flute, here is one of the great queens, singing with Pamina. Now pick your jaw up off the floor.


And the grand tour comes to an end after a 30 hour, 4 flight, journey back home. The two highlights of my trip happend in the last few days. Listening to Mozart in Vienna of course, and introducing my son to Mozart; and having the absolutely best hot dog I have ever had, a kaisekrainer (I think – not sure it could have been a bosna, it was dark red and way spicy; there were a dozen different kinds at the sausage stand) at an Austrian Christmas Market.


At a Vienna Christmas Market: In a long life as a hot dog aficionado, this was the best.

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