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2017 Cannot Believe We Saw So Much

It is funny that when you love to travel and enjoys seeing new places how one plans multiple trips and continues to get out into new areas. 2017 was not an exception. We began in Biarritz ( Basque Country), on to CA for family with a stop in Dublin on the way home, followed by a trip to Milan and Lake Como and then Paris to see a visiting friend. It just flew by. 2018 was also a very busy year, but that will come later.

So beginning with a quick trip by train to Biarritz, we were off to a great start. While early in the year, we pretty much had good weather and enjoyed seeing where the Pyrenees Mountains come into the Atlantic. The food was spectacular, and the visual aspect offered countless photo opps.

This bridge was designed by Eiffel( yes the Tower designer) and links mainland to this small island to see a great view over the bay.
Surfing was introduced to France in the fifties during the filming of a Hemingway story. One of the crew brought his board from CA.
Jan is happiest when traveling to new places. Hat comes from the neat shop in Vezelay. ( earlier post)
Beach with Casino and 5 Star Hotel. Visited by A list celebs for years. Site of the G7 meeting 2019
St. Eugenie overlooking the beach
Interior and Altar of St. Eugenie, Biarritz
The City has several historic homes belonging to “old Money families
The Aquarium was really well done and a welcome retreat from the one wind/rain storm we encountered. Loved this sign over the tank displaying Piranha.
The Granite rocks that are from the mountains are a stark contrast to the beach. In front of us, is the protected harbor at low tide. The fishing boats rest on the sand.
The coast is beautiful with the Pyrenees running from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic.

So in May we had the pleasure of traveling to CA. Our agent had us try Air Tahiti which basically flys from Paris to LA to Tahiti or the similar route thru San Francisco. Shortly after takeoff, the uniforms disappeared and the the flight attendants were in floral shirts and dresses. Made a relaxing fun filled flight. The main reason on this trip was family and Xander’s Graduation from grade school Cannot believe how fast they grow up. As I write this he is already in high school on a special campus where he is enrolled in College level classes. Of course like all our trips to the states, it starts with a few days in Paris.

Had to visit the Frank Gehry designed Louis Vuitton museum.
The exhibits are continually changing. At this time, art from contemporary African artists. Loved this display.
The Arc de Triumph taken from the 18th Arr, ( other side) Yes, I am standing in the middle of the Champs Elysees.
La Defense, or new business district looking the other direction.
Ollie’s school play, followed by mid season indoor soccer and he loves to cook.
This is a fast game where the sidelines are used to bounce and forward the ball, like in hockey
He loves to help with breakfast.

Part of our honeymoon was in Santa Barbara and we have always loved this town, so once the boys were back in school for end of year testing we took a short trip north.

Simpson House B&B. Circa 1874. Rated in top 10 in the states, ( Conde Naste)
Not just the Mission and Stearns Wharf, but ,many other historic places in Santa Barbara
My College Roommate and friend Keith was married in this church
Xander’s Graduation Day. Here with his best friend.
Xander in a Saturday morning art class. Taking after Grammy Jan. Doing some great work in water colors, pastels, and acrylic paints.

So after two weeks we were on our way home, but thanks to our agent, we stopped in Dublin for a few days. We need to go back to Ireland. So much to see. Our only regret, the choice of hotel. We saw lots of really good reviews for the Ashling. It is well located close to hop on, hop off, and other transportation. The staff was fantastic, BUT the room was in dire need of being remodeled. Furniture was badly worn and when we asked for a quiet room, we were given one right on the main road and the tram line, so noise all night. Being we had just arrived from a long flight from LAX, too tired to request a move. Views from the room were nice. So obviously, Guiness and Jameson are must do visits. Along with St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Trinity College, Phoenix Park, etc.

Other views over the river and park, but had to post the Guinness factory, hard to believe how large it is.
They really dress up the exterior of the pubs.
Brazen Head Pub, oldest in Ireland
Nancy Hands, dating to the late 1700’s. Each of these places were fun to visit
Entrance sign at National History Museum
Museum is actually housed in Old Army Barracks. House several thousand soldiers.
A first for us, a mixed use Church
Main Altar
Dublinia
Not the Bridge of Sighs
Presidential Mansion, inside the Phoenix Park, Several thousand acres with wild deer still living in the area. Several monuments to famous military figures.
Trinity College and St. Patricks Cathedral was also great stops along our visit.

We were home for just a few weeks when the planned trip to Milan and Lake Como came. It is an easy flight from Bordeaux to Milan, one of the longest parts of the trip was the taxi ride from the Milan airport to the city center. Took nearly 45 minutes, due to distance and some heavy mid day traffic. Regardless, we enjoyed this trip very much. Our hotel was located just a block off the main Plaza in front of the Milan Cathedral so it was really easy to get around. Great shopping streets, a balcony bar in the Vittorio Emanuelle was great for people watching, and so many really good places to dine. I am ready to go back. May make it part of another Italy trip that will include Verona and maybe parts of Umbria.

Great shopping area, filled with restaurants. Our bar is just to the left on the second floor
Interior shot, yes, I get up early to get better light, And NO people if possible.
This building with the arches stretches in both directions from the center of the mall.
Huge statue in the middle of the plaza in front of the cathedral
Minutes before this rain storm hit, there were several hundred people in the plaza. They scattered like leaves in a wind storm. All the bars are now full.
Sun coming up behind the Doumo
Difficult to describe all the carvings on the building.
The Doumo is really beautiful inside, and as I said before, it is huge. View of the main altar.
Wandering around I discovered several hidden courtyards like this one. Once the homes of business men, traders, etc.
Had to buy some candy in this shop. Windows draw you in.

After three days in Milan, we headed North to Lake Como. Milan is a large city so the train station was about a 20 minute cab ride away. My only discomfort on any of the travels we did was in this train station. All the tickets are sold by machine. The local trains( like to Lake Como) are not reserved seats, and the times are really difficult to understand. Luckily, I found one of the agents in the area and he assisted with our tickets. We had just missed a train so grabbed a quick snack in one of the shops. The lake is actually quite long with small villages scattered around the shore. Como, Bellagio, Varenna are three of the largest. We choose to stay in Varenna as we could reach it directly by train. Como requires driving as does Bellagio (it can be reached by ferry from Varenna.) Our hotel the Royal Victoria was lakefront with stunning views. We had no issues with our room, but in passing the front desk a few times, we did hear several other guests vigorously discussing issues with the desk staff. So I think we would give it a second chance, although, I might train to Varenna then ferry over to Bellagio for a different experience.

View from balcony looking south
View looking North
View looking West
View of the lake, Jan must have taken this photo.
Seems that almost every balcony had flowers.
We soon learned that the spectacular mountains running down to the lake ( an into it, making it very deep) meant a lot os stairs.
More stairs with small pedestrian bridges crossing sideways.
The is the passenger only ferry we took to Bellagio, other ferries take autos as well.
Varenna from the water
Approach to Bellagio by ferry
Lake front in Bellagio
So we met this guy driving the 65 Mustang. He insisted he take my photo in the car. Who am I to say “no”
Obviously I need to do this next trip. Why share a ferry when this is available.
Bellagio too has stairs everywhere, but at least they put out chairs for those needing a rest.
Enjoyed lunch under the trees at this place in Bellagio. View was pretty nice.
Our hotel is the yellow building in the middle just in front of the church. Our room top floor with the red flowers on the balcony. Private beach at lakeside. (plus a heated pool just above)

We went back to Milan for two more days after this visit, then home to Bordeaux, but not there long as Jan’s good friend Patti was arriving in Paris then coming to stay in Bordeaux for a few days.

Jan and Patti at the metro stop in Montmarte. This stop, for those of you that know is not easy. It is about 75-80 steps up from the train to the ground level.
The Sacre Couer, really worth the time to visit.
No description needed from the Champs de Mar
Paris is about fashion thus one sees a lot of models being photographed.
Rodin’s home. Love seeing this place with all the sculptures and paintings

As this started 2017 was a busy year, but it is not finished. We still have the Christmas Market in Strasbourg France, but I will do a separate post on all the markets we visited.

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