J’aime Paris!

Paris, the city of lights, is just magical. Despite being such a large city, it has a quaintness that is difficult to put into words, and I am completey enchanted.  I had the benefit in staying in two different neighborhoods, first in the Left Bank, then in the Rue Cler, which is just so lovely.  I didn’t photograph the neighborhoods, as I felt I couldn’t fully capture their essence, particularly Rue Cler, and it would have been awkward and very non-Parisian to be snapping photos in this neighborhood.  But you can do a web search and see plenty of photographs from this area.

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Burgundy Wine Region

The drive from Switzerland into France was beautiful, with more rolling hills of green and vineyards beginning to turn to gold as we got into the Burgundy region of France. We stayed one night in the town of Beaune, and similar to our short stay in Rothenburg, Germany, as well as our brief stop in Orvieto, Italy, I could have stayed longer — it was so lovely. Upon our arrival at our hotel, we met with the hotel owners in the inner courtyard, where we had a proper French welcome. They were lovely, and so happy to have us, saying that they have special reverence for Americans because of our history in their liberation during the war, as well as the recent event of several American soldiers stopping the shooter on a French train; she even had a magazine to show us with them on the cover, which was so touching.

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The Swiss Alps

Switzerland is definitely one of the highlights of my travels thus far. The green pastures, the beautiful lakes, and of course the magnificent Swiss Alps, which were far beyond what I imagined. We were in the Berner Oberland region of Switzerland, just south of Interlaken, in the Lauterbrunnen valley, staying in the tiny town of Stechelberg. It was pretty rustic, but charming. We had the treat each morning of watching the cows being lead from the barn to the open pasture across the road, following a simple call from one of the farm hands, but otherwise walking on their own, with the young calf typically following at the end. Animals have a great life here, with the most beautiful green pastures you can imagine. Nothing like the commercial farms in the U.S. These were indeed happy cows.

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The Italian Riviera

On our way from Rome to the Cinque Terre, we had a mid-day stop for a couple of hours in Orvieto, one of the many hill towns in central Italy, and it was just incredibly lovely and beautiful. It is definitely going on the list to visit again when I have more time. Cobblestone roads, where every side alley is an awaiting photo, the quintessential Italian image of my mind’s eye. To add to the charm, the town had various four-legged residents, all too happy to make your acquaintance in any language. I fell in love with two labs in a yard on one of the back streets during my wandering, one black and one yellow, as well as an Italian cat that greeted me with many hellos.

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A Room With a View

I was unexpectedly charmed by Florence, and enjoyed it more than I had thought that I would. While it was unusually crowded per our guide, due to both a Chianti festival and a marathon to benefit breast cancer, our short visit was lovely. We found ourselves in the middle of the Chianti festival on our first afternoon in Florence, which was a site to behold, with a ceremonial march through the town square, with the procession all dressed in renaissance outfits, and a huge stack of chianti bottles on a carriage being presented at the front of the Duomo. It was a great surprise to wind up in the middle of this special celebration. We continued our walking tour, seeing Palazzo Vecchio (thought of you, Megan!), a walk around the outside of the Duomo, and going to the Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David, which is incredible to see. We then met for dinner in a lovely restaurant and had absolutely the best meal thus far. It was so delicious, I could have wept from joy. I’m in food heaven in Italia!

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Venice

Thursday morning we left Reutte, Austria for our drive to Venice, Italy, which took us through the Austrian and Italian Alps, and they were stunning, partially shrouded in clouds and fog. By now, I was starting to get over the disappointment of not having good enough weather the day before to ride an alpine luge, and the anticipation of crossing over into Italy was now front and center in my mind.

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Bearing Witness

We left Rothenburg this morning and drove to Dachau concentration camp near Munich, which was the first concentration camp, later used as a model for all future camps. Dachau was a work camp for political prisoners, also serving as a school of violence for the SS men. In the twelve years it existed before the liberation, this camp imprisoned over 200,000 people from all over Europe, the majority of which were Jewish, and the rest were a mix of people that were deemed non-compliant to the regime, including physically and mentally disabled, those of opposing political or social mindset, as well as homosexuals, and an estimated 41,500 died here, but the real numbers are impossible to know, just like the death toll of other such atrocities. Per the printed guide, “The Memorial Site on the grounds of the former concentration camp was established in 1965 on the initiative of and in accordance with the plans of the surviving prisoners who had joined together to form the Comite International de Dachau.”

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Discovering Deutschland

We left Bacharach early for the road trip to Rothenburg on the Tauber river, arriving around mid-day. It’s an interesting town, and classically quaint, with shutterbugs all over town during the day. It touts itself as the best preserved medieval town, and it’s definitely worth seeing. The original part of the city is surrounded by an old stone wall, the tallest part of which has a cover and railing, so you can walk along it and see the town from the wall. It’s far more touristy than Bacharach, but with an equal charm and interesting history. I was finding myself wishing we had two days there instead of two days in Bacharach, especially comparing the hotels, as the place we stayed in Rothenburg was much better.

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