As always in our business, after the story is over it’s time to roll the credits and give mention to all those who were so helpful in making our trip possible and pleasurable. But, before one more word is written, I want to address a question that will come up…especially from members of the AFN affinity group.

“What? You were in Munich in September and you never went to Oktoberfest?” Attending Oktoberfest was certainly on the bucket list of things to do, but frankly, after traveling for weeks on end, we just didn’t have the energy. Alex said, “I’ll take you but it is on a weekend, the lines will be long, the beer will be cold but so will the chicken and there is the drive home afterward.” We took the easy way out and watched it on TV…while drinking beer of course. I figured the AFN’ers have plenty of Oktoberfest stories to share and it will be just like having been there. OK, guys. That’s your cue.


Now, back to the credits. Our European experience began on 2 September at Los Angeles International airport when we boarded Flight #453 for an eleven hour 30 minute trip to Munich, Germany. We owe thanks to Oliver Maatsch, Lufthansa Duty Station Manger at LAX for handling ticket details and for making the boarding process and flight trouble-free.



We were met in Munich by our hosts for the next month, Astrid Fischer and Alexander Rudolph.  We have known Alex since the 1980’s when he was high school exchange student with my cousin Sparky Brandt and his wife, Gaylene.  Alex came to visit us for a week in Los Angeles and then again for a month the next year.  We loved him then as we do now and have maintained our relationship as he attended college, medical school, dental school and through his studies to be a maxillofacial surgeon.  He now has a practice in Munich and commutes some 50 miles daily to Schliersee.


They provided a beautiful, completely furnished apartment for us in their home but we do owe thanks to Astrid’s 19-year old son, Ludwig, for giving up this area for the whole month of September.  We enjoyed our time with him but we’re sure he was glad to reclaim his man cave.


One of the major highlights of the trip was taking possession of a brand new, 2016 Audi Q5 SUV at their factory in Ingolstadt.



It all started with Kirstin Huey, Overseas Delivery Manager at The Auto Gallery in Woodland Hills. She made all the contacts with the factory and kept us informed from the day they started construction until the delivery in Ingolstadt. Thanks to Kirsten for staying on top of things.


On 7 September at 2:00PM exactly, they called our name and led us to the Audi Q5 that was to be the newest vehicle in our family. After one hour of careful instruction, the door was raised and we headed for the nearest autobahn.


To make sure our autobahn driving skills were cutting edge, we spent a half-day at Audi’s new Driving Experience Center on the Danube River.


Since I was the only English speaker in the class I was given my own instructor, Mark Allison, a native of South Africa. “I lived in Southern California once,” he said. We were almost knocked over when he said, “I sold time shares in Woodland Hills. Have you heard of it?”





While I was busily learning emergency techniques on the skid pad, Louise made friends with all the staff of the driving center and was able to fill me in on all the inside gossip.

imageThat same evening we headed for Nidda, Germany, some four hours away. The event was a birthday party for Evi Stadler, wife of Michael…the couple that bought our MG four years ago. They wanted us to meet 100 of their closest friends. We didn’t check into our hotel until 1:30AM.




Ray had a chance to reprise a Sunday night tradition he took part in four years ago. Michael Stadler and his friends get together to talk about cars, food, drink, and politics in about that order. The evening is always capped off with schnapps.


We made it a point to introduce our first car to our latest car and to wish Evi and Michael good luck in their new business of restoring automobiles.



From there we began a marathon-type trip of northern Europe beginning with Leipzig where we toured the Stazi museum, a reminder of the cruelty and domination of the Communist state over East German citizens.


A major highlight was the time spent in Berlin. Thanks to Karin Berning, former American Forces Network staffer, we had a chance to see parts of her city that we might have missed.



Dresden was an outstanding example of a city rebuilt after the ravages of war but our lasting remembrance was the guy playing his grand piano in front of the statue of Martin Luther. Always wondered how he got it home at the end of the day.


Our time spent in Prague could be described as a lesson in architecture of the middle ages. Since it was not destroyed in WWII, the city is a perfect example of how structures evolved over time.


Especially impressive is the fortress that looms over central Prague. It is like a little city all its own and an obvious magnet for tourists…including us.


Medieval times must have been terrible since almost every major structure was designed for defense. It must have worked since the buildings in Çeský-Krumlov are still intact and a tremendous draw for the tourist trade in lower Czechoslovakia.


We offer a special thanks to Krista Rudolph, mother of Alex and Oliver, who not only showed us around her hometown of Vilshofen, Germany, but also fed us and put us up for the night. She is proud of her boys and made sure we knew it. Of course, she has a good reason.


After an epic tangle with our GPS, Schatzie, we still managed to eke out some time with old friend Charly Page in Romont, Switzerland. Our visits are never long enough so we re-extended our offer for him and Huguette to visit us in Los Angeles.


 We have never spent time in the French Alps but that was remedied with our visit to Briançon, just miles from the Italian border.


 While we enjoyed the scenery, the real purpose was to see the two-month-old baby of Estelle and Tim Young who were visiting her parents, Michelle and Alain Aymard. Alain already has a few cars in his collection in mind for little Marcel.


We spent the day at their mountain chalet high above Briançon


 And enjoyed one of those typical three-hour noon meals for which the French are so famous. After the meal, the wine, and the 7,800’ altitude, a nap was a logical conclusion.


Unfortunately, on the day we spent in Varenna, on the shores of Lake Como, the weather was gloomy so we never enjoyed the special magic that sunshine brings. That gives us a good reason to plan a return trip.



The final stop in our “On the Road Again,” tour was Venice and it was a great capper to our adventure.




 Piazza San Marco has been described as the most beautiful square in the world and I can’t deny that. It is also a wonderful place to view the world as it passes.



 Another feature that no other city can offer is traveling the Grand Canal. It is alive with boats of all kinds and offers glimpses of how this major city lives in a grand style.


 Our return to home base at Schliersee was no less grand as we drove through the Tyrolean Alps of Austria. We are still impressed with the grandeur of the mountains as they fairly leap from the ground without the assistance of the foothills we are so used to. We’ve started a new bucket list with a promise to return so we can really soak it in.



We spent our last day in Europe with our friends Astrid and Alex as they showed off the areas where they live and play. The mountains are everything here as they provide year-round recreation, clean air, great vistas, and outstanding Bavarian beer.

We’re now back home in Woodland Hills and savoring the memories of the past five weeks that just flew by. We want to thank all of you who chose to share these memories with us…not only for your patience, but also for your helpful comments. Now, does anyone have any suggestions on overcoming jet lag? We’re afraid it might be permanent this time.

Love from Louise and Ray



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The last day of our European “On the Road Again” vacation began at 6:00 AM when Alexander Rudolph pounded on our apartment door. “OK, time to get up,” he shouted. “Los geitz.” This came as no surprise as we’d spent the prior evening planning the next morning’s drive to Munich, some fifty miles away. That we’d spent this time sampling product from the local single-malt whisky (don’t call it Scotch) distillery didn’t make the early call any easier.

“We’ll leave at 7:30 AM, en punto,” said Alex. This didn’t leave us time to enjoy one of Astrid’s sumptuous Bavarian breakfasts so some toast and coffee had to do. We left on time and hit the autobahn just before traffic got heavy. Our plan was this: Lufthansa flight #LH452 departs Munich’s Franz Joseph Strauss airport at 12 Noon. We must be there two hours before departure for pre-board, etc. Audi has a facility at the airport to receive European purchased automobiles. “It will take approximately 30 minutes to process your car,” Audi instructed, “And it must be washed, free of any personal items and have 1/3 to 1/2 a tank of gas before it can be passed by Customs.” That was clear enough. So, it was just a simple matter of back timing with a little fudge thrown in for the unknown.

We followed Alexander to the airport and to an adjacent gas station/car wash well within our time limits. The night before I had regaled Alex with a story of how I was once stuck in a car wash on the way to an important meeting. The damn thing just quit and there I was. He just laughed and said we were in Germany now, not in some phony-baloney Hollywood car wash so not to worry.   I put in the required gas and got in line for the car wash. The German attendant approached so I rolled the window down, and in my best Coffee-break German said, “Guten morgen.” He nodded and said a few instructions in German and motioned for me to roll up the window. I wasn’t sure if I was going to drive through the car wash or be propelled through. He made a motion like, “Let’s go,” so I put it in gear and entered the car wash. Half way through I was getting dangerously close to the car ahead so applied the brakes. I felt a bump and then all the brushes and water spray just stopped.   I sat waiting for it to resume and heard a knock on the window. I rolled the window down and the attendant was screaming at me in German. I responded with, “Ich verstehe nicht.” He looked puzzled and repeated his instructions, only louder this time. Once again I replied, “Ich verstehe nicht.” By this time his face had turned red and he was shouting at the top of his lungs and pointing at the gear shift. Fortunately, Alex had picked his way through the still dripping car wash and took over with the apoplectic attendant. “He says, leave your car in neutral and stay off the brakes. The car wash will push you through.” So, that was it. The cars were pushed through by a small roller. When I put on the brakes the roller hit my tire and the software shut the wash down.

When we finally emerged from the car wash, not only had we lost valuable time but the car was only wet, not washed. That meant another trip through but by now a long line of taxis had formed and it would mean almost an hour delay. Poor Alex ran up and down the line of taxis explaining what had happened and convinced them to let us cut the line. Afterward he said, “You said ‘Guten morgen’ to the attendant with no accent so he thought you were German. He gave you some brief instructions thinking you understood.” So, that was it. My lessons from Coffee-Break German were so effective that I shot myself in the foot. I didn’t know whether to be pleased or embarrassed. For Alex that was no problem. He was clearly embarrassed for me.

By the time we got the airport, our carefully thought out plans began to unravel.   Instead of turning in the car first, we rushed in to the airport to check luggage and get pre-boarding passes. Then we left Louise with the carry-on baggage while Alex and I returned the car. In going over the items to be returned we found the Garmin GPS was missing. I ran back into the airport, removed the missing GPS from Louise’s purse, and ran back to the Audi. It was gone, as was Alex. In a classic case of miscommunication, he’d asked me to wait with Louise but I didn’t hear that. Now I was wandering around a strange terminal with a GPS in my hand that was of no use. I began searching for the Audi return office, wandering from Audi building to Audi building with no luck. Finally I heard Alex calling my name from a distance. We both rushed to the Audi turn-in office and stood in line with the paperwork. When it was my turn I stepped to the counter and the woman called the name of the man behind me. I had missed my turn. She said, “I can take you at 11:30 but I see your plane leaves at Noon. You won’t make it.” The man in front, a guy named Mike from Atlanta, said, “Go ahead. Take my slot. I’m in no hurry.” By now it was 11:00AM and the clerk moved me ahead grudgingly. Her final act was to ask for the GPS. As I handed it over I said, “Her name is Schatzie,” and I was rewarded with a half-smile and then she sank back into a frown.

We rushed back to the terminal, collected Louise and the carry-on’s and started the TSA procedures. We waved “goodbye” to Alex who seemed almost relieved to see us disappear into the crowd. Just as we were collecting our things, the TSA agent said, “You have a knife. May I see it?” It was my Swiss Army knife, the one I usually put in the luggage before flying. He called a Supervisor who opened up the blade, ran his finger along it, and nodded his head “OK.” I guess he assumed I was a safe risk because he said, “You might want to sharpen that when you get home.”


Now came going through customs and the long, long trek down the terminal to the very last gate where flight #452 was waiting. Boarding was already taking place and we entered the aircraft looking for seats 58 G and H. It turned out they are the very last seats in the plane. One more row and we’d be serving drinks and handing out meals. But, what the hell…the seats reclined and I had a window. Who needs to be upfront anyway?   Frankly, there are some disadvantages to Row 58. When mealtime came it took almost an hour for the meals to reach our seats. All this time I could smell the roast beef and savored the idea of gravy over mashed potatoes. When the Flight Attendant reached us she asked, “Would you like pasta or pasta?” She tried to make a joke of it, but after seeing my disappointment, she went the extra mile and located a roast beef meal on another cart.  She also  promised, when the next meal was served, we’d be first served.

I took some time to familiarize myself with the aircraft, an Airbus 340-600. On the trip over I mentioned we were in an Airbus 320. One sharp eyed reader said the 320 was a short-range aircraft incapable to intercontinental flight so I should correct the error. I’m tempted to say that would explain the extra-long briefing on ditching at sea and the reason the pilot killed the engines in order to glide into Munich, but that would be sour grapes. The error stands corrected.


Determined to make the best of the 12 ½ hours in the air, I pulled out the iPad and set up shop on the tray table so I could bring the blog up to date. I plodded on until I was making too many typing errors and gave in to sleep.

We were about an hour out of LAX and still waiting for the second meal. Once again it slowly made its way toward the rear of the aircraft. The Flight Attendant who promised us first service was now serving another part of the plane and the word hadn’t been passed along. When the meal finally reached us I asked for a doggy bag but by then, the Flight Attendants had been on duty for 12 hours and were not easily amused. It became a race to finish the food before the command of, “Tray tables stowed and seat backs in an upright position.”

I’ve always enjoyed the approach to LAX starting over Palm Springs. As the plane adjusted nose down for a landing approach, I suddenly felt a drop of water land on my bald spot. Then another and another. I asked Louise to check and she said, “Water is coming out of the ceiling and falling on you.” It was not a lot of water, mind you, but certainly more than I expected. This went on until touchdown at LAX and when the pilot engaged reverse thrust on the engines, almost a cup of cold water splashed down on my head. My first thought was, “We overshot the runway and we’ve landed in the Pacific,” but I was the only one who was alarmed.

After taxi-in, I approached a senior Flight Attendant and told her I’d been doused with water. “Oh, you must be in 58H,” she said laughingly. “We call it the douche seat.” She went on to explain that over the duration of the flight, humidity is removed from the cabin and is stored in a tank just over 58H. When the plane goes into a nose down attitude for landing, water accumulated in the tank moves forward into an overflow pipe and drips on the unfortunate occupant of 58H. In this case, that would be me. When the pilot puts the engines into reverse thrust, the water changes from a drip to a wave explaining why I was doused on landing. “Most people are just relieved to be on the ground,” she said, “So, we have hardly any complaints.” I understood the explanation and we had a good laugh while she patted my hair dry.  Please don’t get us wrong.  Lufthansa is one of the premium airlines in the world and we’ve always been pleased with our experiences flying them, but there are one of two things that could be ironed out.  After this we’re sure they will be.

So, our adventure is over and we are back in Los Angeles, safe, sound and dry. Our daughter, Lisa, was waiting for us and even loaded our luggage for the trip home. Once in our kitchen we enjoyed a celebratory glass or two of wine and looked forward to our final reward. After five weeks on the road…a night in our own bed.

Goodnight from Los Angeles.

Louise and Ray

P.S. We’ll be doing a short reprise of the trip with proper “Thank You’s” for all involved. We appreciate your following along with us during this adventure and urge you to stay tuned.

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It’s time we tell you a bit more about the Bavarian town that has been our home for the past five weeks. We have no idea what “Schlier” means, but “See” means lake and this town has capitalized on it’s little body of water.


Aside from being a magnet for tourists, it also doubles as a place for the townsfolk to gather on a weekend afternoon for a picnic and some local beer.


 The town is a perfect example of small town Bavarian life. It is home to almost 7,000 people and has just enough “gemutlich” to let you know you’re not in Munich anymore.


As with most towns in this region, everything extends from the church but tourism takes over quickly after that.  Please note that the church steeple is not tilting.  It is just the wide angle lens of the Go Pro camera.


There is a miniature golf course in town but this one has a twist…at least for us. Before leaving home I chanced to mention to Dirk Hermann, a mushroom vendor at our local Farmer’s Market, that we were going to Germany. “Oh, where?” he asked. “It’s a little town in Bavaria called Schliersee,” I responded. “That’s my hometown,” he said. “You’ll have to look up my brother who runs a miniature golf course there.”


That’s why you’re looking at a picture of Sven Hermann, who was surprised to see me since we’d met a year or two before when he was visiting his brother. Whoever said, “It’s a small world,” hit it right on the head with this one.


Astrid and Alex were anxious to show us a bit more of the area where they live, work and play. Alex is almost like a Chamber of Commerce for Bavaria. “We have no earthquakes, tornadoes, typhoons or hurricanes,” he says. “As well, we have four distinct seasons with recreation for all four. We hike, fish and swim in the summer and ski all winter.”


Warming up, he continued, “We have no forest fires, no droughts, no floods or coyotes.” “What about avalanches?” I asked. “Well, yes,” he admitted, “but we can control those with great success.” All in all, I couldn’t find much to disagree with. It certainly is a beautiful place to live.


This conversation was going on in a gondola as we ascended to the Tegernsee ski area, not 15 minutes from their home.


The gondola takes you to this lodge that sits at 2,451 feet above sea level…not super high by Mammoth Mountain standards,


but a good launching point for the many ski runs and hiking paths available.

Screenshot 2015-10-30 16.33.03

Skiers consider this a good hill for those with intermediate skills and there are matching runs on the other side of the valley.  The arrows point at the beginning of the gondola and the top of Tegernsee.



Someone has taken the time to do a template of the opposite mountain range on the window of the lodge. “Every one of those mountain tops has a cross on it,” said Alex, “and Astrid and I have been to many of them.”


Well, if you’re on top of a mountain and you’re not going to hike or ski, what is there to do? In Bavaria, “Have a beer” is  the answer, and so we did. What a way to spend our last day in Germany…beautiful scenery, great friends, and outstanding beer.

Schliersee Restaurant 2

For our final meal together, Astrid and Alex came up with another of those classic Bavarian restaurants that are off the well-traveled roads but known to all locals.  The Gasthaus Wurz also doubles as a hotel whose rooms are as welcoming as the restauant. The link is: http://www.zum-wurz.de/restaurant/restaurant.html  in case you’re ever in the neighborhood.  This one is especially proud of the quality beef they serve but they also have a sense of humor.


A speciality…although not on the menu…is this animal known only to this area although rarely seen. It reminded me a bit of the “Turducken” that shows up on Thanksgiving tables in the U.S.


We were joined by Johanna for this special event. Judging from this photo, Astrid’s good looks have been successfully passed along to her daughter.

Schliersee Restaurant1

“This is our treat,” Louise and I insisted. “It’s a small token toward the wonderful hospitality you’ve shown us.” So, we all ate and drank heartily but I should have checked one thing beforehand. “We don’t accept credit cards,” said the waitress when the check came. “We prefer cash…in Euros, danke.” Unfortunately, we had been spending down our Euros before leaving and could come up with only half the amount. Poor Alex had to reach into his wallet so we wouldn’t have to do dishes or scrub floors.


Perhaps that’s why he’s barely smiling in this photo. Perhaps it’s why I am. It was not how we intended to end our wonderful experience with them, but that’s just the way it was.

Tonight we pack for good.

Gute nacht from Schliersee.

Louise and Ray

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Venice air view4

As the day grew long we left the Piazza San Marco and headed in search of a vaporetto (water bus) that would return us to the Hotel del Sole. One has to be careful which kiosk you buy a ticket from as you could end up on one of the many islands surrounding Venice. Our choice was fairly easy because the sign read, “Canal Grande,” that big reverse “S” canal. This turned out to be one of the better Venetian bargains, as the cost was $8.25 each and the ticket is good for one hour. For that amount we got to ride all the way to the car park, which is just “two minutes” from our hotel. The vaporetto is very popular with locals so you can plan on standing for a while. The trick is to work your way back to the rear platform so your camera can have an unobstructed view of life in Venice.  That’s what we did.


Right off the bat you have an up close view of San Giorgio Maggiore Island which began life in the 1500’s as a monastery. Today it is the headquarters of the Cini Foundation arts centre and known for its library. It also is home to the Teatro Verde open-air theater. Too bad there’s not enough time to explore all.


 As the vaporetto heads into the grand canal you are never out of site of impressive architecture. Having a palazzo here must be like having a home in Beverly Hills that overlooks the San Diego Freeway.


It’s no surprise the gondoliers bring their passengers here but if they’re looking for a quiet, romantic float through Venice, they might be disappointed.


 This is a fluid freeway and expensive water taxis shoot by the gondolas and vaporettos like they’re in the slow lane.


The Rialto Bridge is but one of 15 stops our vaparetto will make on its way to the transportation terminal. Another water bus is seen on its route to Piazza San Marco.


We’d often seen scenes of Venetian buildings with the “barber poles” out front and wondered what they were for. We still don’t know, but can guess they’re used for tying up a boat. If you know for sure, let us know.


When you reach the end of the line there’s no ceremony. A conductor comes through the bus waving his arms like shooing chickens, leaving no doubt you’re to debark quickly because new passengers are on their way in.


While crossing a canal bridge a guy offered Louise some roses. When she said “No” he shoved them in her hand anyway. He kept saying, “Pakistani refugee,” over and over so she dug through her purse and gave him some coins. He looked at them carefully, said “Not enough” and took his roses back. All we got for the trouble is this silhouette.


That evening we ate in the neighborhood at one of those 15 table restaurants where you sit cheek by jowl with other diners. In our case they were two mature Italian ladies. We politely ignored each other for the duration of the meal but near the end, a small green bug fell into Louise’s wine glass.


Using her spoon, she fished it out and put it on the table where it wandered in circles. By now the ladies were intrigued and watched every move. Finally, in heavily accented English, the one next to me said, “At least she saved his life.” I countered with, “But now he’s dead drunk” and we all had a laugh. Just then the waitress came by our table, spotted the drunken insect, squashed it with her thumb and scooted it off the table.


We reacted as one saying, “Oh, no” to the startled waitress. In honor of the newly departed drunken insect, we raised our glasses, said, “arrivaderci” and went back to ignoring each other.


Back at the hotel, while Louise finished packing the suitcases, I busily pounded away on the Blog. By now I was a week or two behind and dependent on notes to remember names, places and things so you all would read every important detail.


Next morning we followed our usual practice of loading up on breakfast in preparation for the trip. One unusual occurrence though. When I went to make my morning latte, the window on the coffee machine said, “Password please.” Not knowing what to do, I leaned down and whispered “Coffee.” Believe it or not, it dispensed my latte. I mentioned it to a waitress who said, “Oh, it always asks for a password when it is cleaning itself. Just wait and it will come.” So much for the power of the whispered word.


Not wanting to exhaust myself carrying suitcases again, the hotel called a porter service. They arrived with a boat but carried the suitcases only. “I have no license for passengers,” said the owner, “but I will walk you to your car.” So, in a way, we had an escort on our departure from a wonderful few days in Venice. He raised his hand and said, “Arrivaderci” as we pointed the Audi toward Austria’s Tyrolean Alps.


We could not have asked for a more beautiful day to drive through one of Europe’s most striking mountain ranges. We chose not to use the autostrada or autobahn, but selected a route directly through the center of Austria. Pastures were still vibrant green, but tree leaves were turning to fall colors.  With huge mountains that just leaped out of the ground, the scenery was spectacular…as were the roads. From sea level to mountain passes, the Audi Q5 took it all in stride. I expected some power loss at higher altitudes but felt none. The roads were snake-like as we went up and over the Tyrolean Alps. After a few hours my hands were chapped from gripping the leather steering wheel but the car handled better than I expected. If ever a new car had an ultimate test, this was it…and it passed beautifully.



We reached our home base in Schliersee well before dark. Astrid was waiting for us with another of her delicious home-cooked meals while Alex poured another of those Bavarian beers he touts so highly. We were home safe with our minds full of memories.  Could life be any better?

Tomorrow we begin to wrap things up for the long trip home. Where did the time go?

Gute nacht from Schliersee.

Louise and Ray

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Our long, slow walk ended when we suddenly spilled out into Piazza San Marco in Venice.  We then experienced one of those, “What do we do now?” moments. The first thought is, “Can we stop walking and sit down for a while.” That was not to be since the famous piazza has no park benches, no patches of grass, or any other way to get off your dogs. After getting the obligatory picture taken, the only places to sit…without paying…were the marble steps that lead from the arcades to the piazza floor. Oh well, any port in a storm.


Piazza San Marco is considered one of the most beautiful squares in the world and is the center of Venice when large events occur. The Basilica of St. Mark, currently undergoing some external restoration, dominates the square at its eastern end.


The exterior art over the main entry promises more to come inside, but you must stand in a never-ending line to enter the basilica


It also comes with  conditions, including some that are very current.


The killer to the interior tour was the provision that personal belongings (cameras, devices, etc.) would be collected and available a block or two away after the tour. We passed.


The architecture is impressive here, starting with the freestanding Campanile bell tower of St. Mark’s church. The bell tolls hourly and smothers all other sound. It was restored in 1514 and then rebuilt in 1912 after a 1902 collapse. That fact made the long line for a trip to the top less attractive. It could happen again, y’know.


Who hasn’t seen pictures of Piazza San Marco with people feeding pigeons? It’s a wonderful place to be and hundreds of pigeons think so too.


Some pigeons are exceedingly brave. Matter of fact, so is this guy.


One thing that always seems available in Europe is the outdoor café. In Venice it goes one step further with professional musicians playing classical music while you sip.


With the Procuratie Vecchie (former homes & offices of St. Mark’s officers) as a background, it must be easier to be inspired while playing for an audience drinking the most expensive cup of coffee in the world.


The arcades shelter the many stores that line the piazza. There was so much going on that Louise wasn’t even tempted to window shop.


After spending too much time watching people taking selfies or pix of their friends, we headed toward the piazzetta (little piazza) that leads to the lagoon.


This area seems to be a gathering point for access and egress of the piazza. Here we found a woman in a bride’s costume. We assumed she and the groom were here to draw money out of our pockets. “But, they don’t have a can to collect money,” I pointed out to Louise. “Just check the size of her bra,” she said. “That’s where the money goes.” Well, I had checked it, but that thought never crossed my mind. When the rest of the wedding party arrived, they disappeared. They were for real after all…and so was her bosom.


Other people seemed oblivious to the crowds, like these two lucky women who found a free place to sit while writing their own blogs.


The lagoon is the launch point for many of the gondolas that hope to entice lovers or would-be lovers into a cruise of the Venetian neighborhood canals. I have this lasting image of a bunch of gondoliers poised to leap into a waiting boat when their number is called. Never heard one of them sing though.


The lagoon is also where all other forms of water transportation come together. Boats to the other islands, to the mainland and to the Grand Canal are all found here. We decided to spring for a ride on a vaporetta that would take us back to our hotel. It would provide a leisurely and photo rich ride as a bonus.

That’s coming up in the next episode.

Louise and Ray

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