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Friday, November 28, 2014

Western Hemisphere start

After my unplanned diversion in Amsterdam it was a smooth trip home where I had ten days to recuperate and get ready to leave again for four months to Mexico and South America. First, the ferry to Seattle where I stayed with Demian and family for a couple of days then flew to Albuquerque where I visited my cousin Lance and his wife Kathy for a few days. I always enjoy time there. It's such a beautiful area and an interesting city.

Lance and Kathy are great to be with, very involved in their community with a huge circle of interesting and equally engaged friends.

We walked in the bosque (forest) that flanks their home near the Rio Grande,

admired the Sandhill cranes that stop in a nearby field on their way south, stalked by the wily coyotes,

celebrated Lance's 70th birthday in company of many friends (one of whom is a retired Met opera singer who treated us to a tune from the Mikado with custom lyrics honouring Lance), accompanied Kathy as she conducted one of her historic walking tours of downtown Albuquerque,

The high end part of town
Andaluz Hotel
Yes, we got our kicks

attended a Sunday morning concert at the Church of Beethoven, visited galleries in Santa Fe, attended a Turkish Thanksgiving celebration, went to a tapas exhibition, new shows at the art gallery, ate Kathy's fine cooking and generally enjoyed our time together.

Flying is so much fun. Just before boarding time in the Albuquerque airport on the way to Dallas Fort Worth enroute to Mexico, an announcement came on advising us that, due to high winds, the flight would be delayed. Stand by for further announcements. I was to meet my friend, Phyllis, at the airport in Mexico City as she was flying in around the same time and we were traveling together in Mexico. This was her first time there, she speaks no Spanish, so it was particularly important that I connect with her. The tension mounts. We did take off an hour or so late and got to Dallas Fort Worth in good time for me to make my connection that also was delayed about half an hour. Arrived in Mexico City and was greeted by a humongous line at Immigration. Two officials to process what must have been multiple planeloads. That took over an hour. Grrrrr! Arriving at our agreed upon meeting place, there was Phyllis! A big sigh of relief. She has some mobility issues so had whisked through the immigration lineup in a wheelchair and arrived much earlier. A wild, high speed taxi ride, blasting through red lights to Anys Hostal, my preferred accommodation in Mexico City, a greeting by the ever gracious Alfonso and a most welcome bed ended a long day.

It's warm in Mexico City!! Ahhhhh. Seems like I've been cold since Cappadocia. Our first day was a Monday when most of Mexico City's attractions are closed. Lonely Planet said the National Palace, the federal seat of government containing many Diego Rivera murals and all sorts of palatial stuff, was open. No dice. So we wandered the streets around the huge zocalo,

sampled a huaraches for lunch,

had a beer on the roof of the library overlooking the ruins of the Aztec capital, toured the Metropolitan Cathedral, a monstrous, opulent Spanish colonial pile built on the site of the Aztec city, Tenochtitlan, which the Spaniards destroyed.

Having gotten a late start and still a bit weary from the long day of travel, we headed back to Anys to rest after which we went out for a nice pozole dinner

followed by a game of crib and an early end to our first day.



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

More movies




Wachau, Austria

Lunchtime entertainment

Monday, November 10, 2014

Notes and miscellaneous

Thought I'd add a few comments, impressions from along the way. This might not be the best time, sitting on this plane awaiting departure in Germany for the flight home. Another delayed flight. One of many. Arrived to Düsseldorf yesterday afternoon from Turkey. The airport scene in Kayseri, our point of departure in Turkey was a gong show. Shouting, pushy (why bother waiting in line), rude people, tiny, uncomfortable, cold airport, flight delayed. (An announcement just came on that this flight will be delayed getting into Schiphol and it will be iffy getting my flight out. Oh joy.) Had a nice dinner and pleasant evening with Heike. (Now there's a shrieking kid behind me while his mom yells into her cell phone, and she just goes on and on.) Up very early this morning, too anxious to sleep long. Easy U Bahn trip to the train station, found the train to the airport and went to wait for it. It seemed awfully quiet in the station and the information signs were blank. I asked a guy if this was the correct stop for the airport train and he informed me that there was a train strike. What!! Again!! So I grabbed a cab to the airport and got sorted out there and now here I sit on this plane going nowhere. Why the frig did they put us on the plane if they knew it was delayed. This is going to take some years off.

Later...... As it turned out, the flight was delayed an hour and a half. Fog in Amsterdam. No hope to make my connection. Went to the transfer point in the Schiphol airport and, of course, it was a madhouse since I wasn't the only one to miss their connection. I tried the automated service to see if there was a flight I could connect to. It informed me that I'd just missed a flight home via Calgary and that I'd have to go to the counter to rebook. Four hours later I reached a preliminary desk where I was informed that I could have gotten on that Calgary flight. Groan. Another half hour and I was actually at the desk where I was told that were no flights today and I'd have to fly tomorrow. Groan again. They put me up in a swanky Ramada Inn in Amsterdam so here I sit with a nice view over the city having just had a nice buffet dinner, full moon and a nice walk earlier where I again admired the bicycle scene here, all compliments of KLM.

The upside: lovely sunrise this morning viewed from the 17th floor dining room.

Next to the hotel is Rembrandt Park, a large, lovely park with lakes, a children's zoo, crisscrossed with foot and bike paths.

Looking out the window, I'd noticed what looked like a community garden in the park and I went to check it out. It is a School Garden I learned from the teachers, Wiek and his colleague, Pieter.

There are 13 of these School Gardens around Amsterdam with a total enrolment of around 6.5 thousand students between the ages of 9 - 11. The students learn the basics of gardening and life cycles by doing their own plots with a little classroom work when it's winter. From there I continued my walk around the park and came across the zoo where there was a little herd of some sort of pygmy goats, emus and some very unusual pigs.

Turkish cats. Cats are everywhere in turkey, mostly living on the streets. Some people feed them and I understand that some restaurants give them scraps. When dining at outdoor restaurants, they can be very aggressive jumping on the table and constantly lurking around. One place even had a spray bottle to fend them off. They're all over the ruins and swarming around and in dumpsters. (Sorry, no cat videos.)

Men in Turkey love to play games and there are game rooms and sidewalk cafés everywhere where men gather to play okey, a tile game, backgammon, cards, drink copious amounts of tea and smoke cigarettes. No women to be found.

Turkish Airlines is reputed to be the best in Europe. Not so sure about that but it was a far cry from the low fare ones. Here's what we were served:

Looks good on paper. Oh, and we're out of the chicken