road trip

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A fierce rainstorm occurred Saturday, the first night in Arizona, closing a long run through the desert. A slanting rain battered the front side of the motel, leaving the other two sides dry as the desert we’d just driven through.

IMG_1412The route through New Mexico went quick as a blink, but we paused long enough for me to buy a pair of silver and turquoise earrings at a roadside shop, then Texas, the state with two time zones. Are we out of Texas yet?

To my surprise, Texas turned green as we rolled farther east, leaving behind miles of desert landscape peppered with sagebrush. The countryside became lush and pastoral, woods and fields and ranches tucked back from the long gray tongue of highway, giving me a view of Texas I didn’t know existed.

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We reached Houston well before noon on Monday, and rolled onto Beaumont, finally leaving the Lone Star state, after a somewhat anxious run through El Paso.  I stopped just before the end of El Paso and filled up–thank goodness because ahead was a long passage where there was nothing but miles and miles of empty land, beautiful beneath a wide blue sky. (By the way, gas prices drop dramatically once you leave California.)

Louisiana at last! (My home state which I have not been to in decades.) Unfortunately we hit Baton Rouge during rush hour and was caught in the confluence of traffic clogging the 110, 10 and 12 eastbound freeways. Realizing our choice was to crawl for possibly 85 miles maybe or get off in Baton Rouge, have dinner and try again on Wednesday morning, we opted to escape the coil.

The next day Wednesday we blew right through Mississippi, barely noting its casinos and fishing trawlers, crossing two state lines and entering Alabama on the wings of a rainstorm, thunder and sheet lightning flashing on the horizon.

We arrived in Andalusia before 9:30 a.m. and was at my new home via back roads (’cause I missed the exit I was supposed to take and picked up the next one which sent us through winding country roads on a pleasant scenic route.)IMG_1421

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Musée d’Orsay, Paris

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Stepping into the main hall of the Musee d’Orsay, I paused to take in the magnificent ceiling and the great clock. The Musee d’Orsay in its gorgeous Beaux-Arts building, built between 1898 and 1900 on the Left Bank, was once the Gare d’Orsay, a railway station that operated until 1939.

The museum has the largest collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist art in the world, and you can take photographs. Jean-François_Millet_-_Gleaners_-_Google_Art_Project_2 I’ve always liked Jean-Francois Millet’s The Gleaners; it was a treat to see it up close.

To my delight I discovered Portrait of Emile Zola, 1868, by Eduoard Manet. Zola’s novel of adultery and murder, Therese Raquin, is a favorite. I’ve read it twice (and will probably read it again) and watched two movie adaptations. I prefer the 1980 film with Alan Rickman.IMG_0328

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was an  exhibition of beautiful Art Deco furniture and magnificent sculptures in the main hall.

Along the Rhine and the Main

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Tuesday, November 24

Passed the confluence of the Moselle and the Rhine at Koblenz. Now on the Rhine, passing through Koblenz.

IMG_0814This afternoon we’re floating through the middle Rhine with its pretty towns, vineyards, forested hills, and castles. We’ll soon be in Weisbaden and then Rudesheim. It’s too cold to stand outside on the veranda suite’s balcony and take photos but I have great photos from the 2012 Rhine Cruise of this region.

 

November 25, 2:18 pm

IMG_1018We’re on the Main now, sailing from Heidelberg to Miltenberg where the ship will dock and pick up the passengers who went on the Heidelberg excursion. I did that excursion in 2012 on a sunny June day (loved Heidelberg!) But too cold for me this time so decided to stay onboard. We’re floating past serene, rain-wet countryside, past villages and thick hillside forests tipped with gold, the deciduous trees having turned. In the distance picturesque clusters of houses and town buildings cupped by the hills. Mists hang in between the hills. Miltenberg, a lovely provincial city on the river. My companions and I took a walk on our own since the scheduled city walk would be in the evening dark.

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We visited stately Johanneskirche, a Roman Catholic church built in 1897,  strolled a cobbled street uphill past an old cemetery, and walked down centuries-old stairs past a garden of winter-bitten vines back to the main street. We viewed another old church with a medieval tower and baroque architecture side by side. We didn’t care to climb the hill to see it properly so stood in the street and looked up beyond a brick wall to where it rose in medieval splendor on its hill.

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Bamberg, Bavaria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bamberg was charming, its midtown clustered with buildings in the medieval and baroque styles. Harassed by a wintry wind, we made our way through narrow cobbled streets, watching out for cars wending along through tourists and residents. Despite the cheek-biting cold, I had to freeze my fingers getting a shot of the gorgeously painted town hall dating from medieval days, built on the river.

You might be wondering why in the world sun bunny me would take a European river cruise in November–it was a very, very good deal! Not only because it was in November. The Cities of Light cruise is a 15-day trip and is expensive even in the winter. Viking offered it this year at a third of the cost with round trip airfare out of LAX for $195 (free if you flew from the east coast) and veranda staterooms, which I could never afford otherwise. (Usually I’m in a cabin at the waterline.) I couldn’t pass it up.

Rainy days

Eiffel Isle de FranceTuesday, November 16 – Paris

Paris lay under gray skies in more ways than the obvious, but I was glad to be there, to finally see Paris as I’ve wanted to for a long time. The cruise wasn’t until Saturday so had five days to explore Paris. After getting settled at The Pullman, right next to the Eiffel Tower, my friends and I took a walk in the not entirely unpleasant evening cold to the Eiffel. I was impressed! The Eiffel Tower is enormous. Photographs do not do it justice. It’s quite a sight. We bought sandwiches and drinks at a boulangerie and strolled back to sit near the tower and have a late meal.

The next day after a buffet breakfast at the hotel, a delicious spread of eggs, a variety of sausages, ham, bacon, cheeses, fresh juices, fruits fresh and dried, nuts, breads and muffins, omelettes made to order, waffles, hot and cold cereals–you could eat yourself into a coma at breakfast–we took a taxi to Gobelins Manufactory, established in the fifteenth century by the Gobelins family who made dyes at first and later tapestries, which became their hallmark and brought them great wealth, prestige, and status. We toured the museum, viewing furnishings and military objects from Napoleon’s campaigns in addition to the Gobelins tapestries.

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Thursday, November 19 – Paris

Montmartre

Strolling about Montmartre, discovered the Musee de Montmartre and its exhibition dedicated to the painter Suzanne Valadon in honor of her 150th birthday. She lived and painted in Montmartre when the windmills were still there and Sacre Couer was under construction. She’d been an artist’s model and was the first woman admitted to the Societe Nationale des Beaux-Arts.

Suzanne Valadon’s atelier

Saturday, November 21

Coming out of Paris, the highway travels through woodland and sparse suburban areas, large corporate buildings spread here and there–Toyota, SMC, gas stations, small villages and long stretches of pastoral woodland. Today, Saturday, November 21, 2015, the weather is cold and rainy. Typical November. Gray skies, thick gray clouds on the horizon, patched by sunlight.Autoroute East Champvoisy

 

 

 

 

 

On the eastbound highway through Champvoisy, traveling toward Rheims in Champagne province. Rheims was where the kings of France were crowned (in the town’s own Notre Dame Cathedral), except Napoleon, who crowned himself emperor in Paris. Pastoral countryside, sparsely wooded hills and dales bleached yellow by winter.

At 10:25 a.m., stopped at a highway rest stop. The wind is bitterly cold and dipped with rain. Got an espresso–it came with Rocher chocolates, figuring out the machine was a comedy of errors. The espresso maker wouldn’t accept the coin. The cashier helped. She  forcefully tossed the coin into the slot and that did it. On the way to Luxembourg now.

Crossed into Luxembourg about 1:25 p.m. Evening is falling now, but during the afternoon we stopped in Luxembourg city. It was cold, so cold, and I was without my mittens, but I had my shawl and of course my coat. The bus dropped us off at the Christmas Market where we grabbed lunch at a busy cafe. I enjoyed a warming soup of rice-shaped pasta, the savory broth dappled with zucchini and carrots. After lunch, back out into the cold afternoon to do a brisk city walk.IMG_0921

Luxembourg City set my imagination to spinning–its steepled nineteenth century buildings, the winter-bare trees, the lower town clustered against ancient fortress walls–the place has a fairytale quality.

After the city walk we took the bus to the American Cemetery. The day was bitterly cold and the rain turned to snow while we were there.

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I was deeply touched by the spreading rows of white crosses and Morgen Davids. I’ve never visited a military cemetery like the American Cemetery honoring soldiers of WW2. All those crosses, all those young men who gave their lives. I took a photo of the Dedication Monument but not the graves.

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Old city wall, Luxembourg, separating the upper town from the lower

Now it’s 5:05 pm, 3 degrees C and we’re a couple minutes away from Trier and the Viking Idun. IMG_1142

 

 

 

 

 

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The Ponte Nigra (Black Gate), Trier, Germany. This was the northern gate to enter the city of Trier in Roman times.

I’m not the best photographer, but here’s a few visuals of my Cities of Light, Paris to Prague cruise with Viking. We traveled three rivers, the Moselle, the Rhine, and the Main.IMG_0996 Shown are the old bridge house of the city of Miltenberg on the Main in Germany, floating down the Main on a rainy day, the ancient city wall of Luxembourg with the upper and lower town, and the Eiffel Tower. I spent 5 days in Paris before the start of the cruise and it’s true what they say. Paris is lovely in the rain. IMG_0414IMG_0924

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doubt

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The Bone Box, 22,242. No new narrative this week, but lots of story notes on The Bone Box, trying to get it moving again, and The Serene Widow–just planning notes and research. Travel prep is the external reason why I’ve not been writing; doubt the internal. What I fail to realize, and I’m seeing that now, is I have my stories in hand and I should run with my thoughts; I don’t have to reinvent the wheel or twist my brain into a pretzel trying to come up with some mind-blowing idea when all I need to write a great story is already there in the words I’ve written, in my thoughts, and in my story notes. I only need to keep writing and move forward, but instead I stop.

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The problem is DOUBT. I doubt every word I write. That has got to stop. Doubt is why The Bone Box has stalled again. Doubt is why I have several unfinished short stories concretizing in my files. Doubt isn’t a demon or a weasel; it’s that person I see in the mirror.

Tuesday I’ll be in Paris, the start of the cruise! I’m taking work with me. Besides The Bone Box, which I’ve uploaded to my Kindle Fire documents folder, I’m taking 3 short stories–one a possible flash fiction–that I plan to work on during the trip. I’ll have time at Marksburg, ’cause I’m not climbing that castle again as marvelous as it was the first time on the Rhine tour, I can’t take those steep rocky walkways and narrow winding stairs again. Loved Heidelberg, but I’m skipping the city walk and castle this time in favor of getting some writing done, although I hope I have a chance to find that one little chocolate shop in Heidelberg Old Town and buy some chocolate! My cousin complained when I didn’t bring him back a larger box.

We will be in France, Germany, and the Czech Republic. Prague! I’ve wanted to see Prague for a long time. So looking forward to getting a look at this beautiful old city. I was very pleased with the photos (and video) I took using my mini iPad and my iPhone on the Danube tour so I’m not taking my camera this time, but my new iPhone 6S Plus, my Kindle Fire, which has a camera, and my iPad. I plan to use the iPhone most of the time.

I’m also not taking my laptop. Rheumatoid arthritis has crippled the little fingers on each hand and I can no longer touch type as my hands won’t fit over a keyboard anymore–I have to two-finger it, and I always fret about losing my laptop while going through security. I’ll be going the low tech/no tech route with the writing–good old pen and paper. I’m taking my Moleskine journal plus an additional journal to write in, and my travel journal for scribbling about places and things.

Who knows–maybe I’ll finish The Bone Box aboard ship.

Meanwhile this morning I’m going to open up The Bone Box in Scrivener and see if I can at least get a nifty 350!

spinning wheel, twists of floss

Pierre Etienne Theodore Rousseau

Not a productive week, my time fractured by minutiae and mundanities, dealing with storage, nursing newly-spayed and very unhappy Loki, (who has to wear a cone for ten days) and planning for the Cities of Light cruise, departing in ten days. I did write a little, no new narrative, but many story notes in the Moleskine, covering not only The Bone Box, but my thoughts on The Friendship Killers and The Serene Widow. Attended my writer’s group and read the first 8 pages of The Serene Widow, also read two delightful Regency novels, Liliana’s Letter by Alina K. Smith and The Curate’s Brother by Wendy Van Camp. I also read my way through Shawn Coyne’s Story Grid. So while I didn’t get much actual writing done on The Bone Box, it was never far from my mind, but I’m nowhere near making my November 10 extended deadline so let it go, bear.

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One thing I’m very much looking forward to on the cruise is the stop at Cochem an der Mosel. Snagged from Wikipedia, this panoramic photo shows Cochem nestled in the heart of the Moselle Valley below the Eifel range and that knobby stone structure on its hill to the right is Cochem Imperial Castle. We lived in the heights of the Eifel range above Cochem when Dad did his tour of duty in Germany. He was stationed at Hahn Air Force Base, a three hour drive away from where we lived, on economy, as it’s called when you live off base.

On the Eifel is a small German military base, and back in the day, they gave us American families four townhome-style buildings in the housing supplied to German military families. My family lived on Lilienstrasse. I and my friends would catch the bus down to the village  to hang out. We’d wander the cobblestone streets, buy rich, soft vanilla ice cream from the street vendor, poke about the shops with our hands in our pfenning-less pockets, sit on the river wall and watch the tour buses unload. We of course were not tourists; we lived there.

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We attended school at Hahn. Every weekday morning our van, supplied by the German base, would arrive at 5 a.m. to pick up the six of us (I think there were six) and drive us to Hahn and would bring us back in the afternoon when school was over. I liked that long commute. Our driver was a young, friendly German serviceman. Along the way we’d pass through wine villages on the riverbank, shaded by steep forested hillsides, vineyards and orchards carved out here and there.

I had my favorite landmarks that I’d look for every morning. One was a lone red brick wall, stained with black, all that was left of a building bombed during the war. The other was what appeared to be the ruins of a Roman temple tucked up on a hillside. I could barely glimpse its columns standing like sentinels in a grassy field. And then there was the pear tree growing high on a hillside. Every spring it bloomed in white blossoms and was a lovely sight.

Once one afternoon, when it was the end of grape harvest season, our driver stopped on a pastoral road and let us scramble up a hill to a vineyard hung with harvest leftovers. We happily snatched handfuls of green wine grapes and scrambled back down to the van. Memory still holds the sharp, sweet tang of those pilfered grapes.

I hope I’m able to treat myself to my favorite snack–pomme frites and mayonaise–french fries and mayonnaise. Street vendors would sell a cone of freshly done french fries with a generous dollop of thick mayonnaise–num, num! German mayo, creamy and flavorful, tastes nothing like American and I can’t wait to relive this old memory.

Another fun food memory… my little sister was crazy about brochen, German bread buns, crunchy-crisp on the outside, soft and buttery on the inside. In the afternoons a bread and pastry truck would cruise through the neighborhood, its music playing merrily. My sister would beg five pfennigs from Mom and fly down the stairs, along with the rest of us to meet the brochen truck. Yep going to have to have a brochen or two.

Tomorrow is my writing progress report meeting so must get to pulling it together,going to have another cup of coffee and some kind of breakfast too.

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Images courtesy of Wikipedia