Salzburg – We Needed to Spend Some Time with You

Full disclosure, I had this post without pictures in my drafts to complete since Bob and I went to Europe with my sister and her husband four years ago. When today’s blogging challenge writing prompt suggested a travel post, I thought maybe it was time. I enjoyed reminiscing. I hope you’ll forgive me for waiting four years to post this, but better later than never.



When I came to realize that the Sound of Music was set in Austria, I knew I had to go there.  Maybe it was the lure of the mountains, maybe it was the leiderhosen, maybe it was the fact that the highest point in Florida is just above sea level, I don’t know.  But if those hills really are alive with the sound of music, by golly I was going to hear it.

The Sound of Music tour was fun.  Picture a bunch of strangers and strange people on a bus being led around by a cute, young English lady in traditional Austrian leiderhosen.  In between stops we would sing along with the movie score. It was there that I discovered that my sister, Chris, who was traveling with us, could yodel. She’s very talented!

Sound of Music Tour

We visited the lake in the back of the house where Maria and the children, while dressed in curtains, fell out of the boat. The lake was not at the actual back of the house used in the movie.  They filmed in two different locations.  This would have been where you would have expected to see the gazebo where 16 going on 17 was sung, but that has been moved to a different area.  It used to be in a private backyard, but the people who owned the house grew weary of strangers leaping around in their backyard at all hours of the day and night so they donated it to the city, who moved it to a park.

Bob and I were actually dating when I was 16 going on 17. We never had a gazebo to dance around in though.

Of course, the church where movie Maria married the Captain was spectacular, as was sitting in a cafe eating apple strudel during a break in the tour.

This church was chosen for Maria’s wedding to allow for great views from above of the long train on her wedding dress.

We also visited the lake district even though it is barely featured in the movie.  It offered some of the most spectacular views I have ever seen.

Bob and I in the Lake District. For some reason we keep singing and raising our arms.

A highlight was Mirabell Gardens, which we visited while waiting for our tour bus.  I came to realize that these beautiful gardens were the ones featured in the movie.  Our April visit was perfect for the commencement of spring flowers, which added to our enjoyment of the park.

After the tour, we wandered around the old town and found ourselves in an area that looked more like Rodeo Drive than Salzburg.  There was even a Starbucks there.  It seemed wrong.  So we pulled out our trusty Rick Steves Guide and sought out a place to eat.  Rick always encourages his readers to go to Europe through the back door. The door we went through seemed to open into a different city altogether, so we were happy to put our hands in the hands of the man who travels Europe for a living.  We found our way back into the charming Salzburg that we had so quickly fallen in love with.

Mozart’s birthplace. No pictures allowed inside.

First time we stopped at Mozart’s house, it was closed. I tried knocking but nobody was home.

Just down the way from Starbucks was the house where Mozart was born, and thanks to Rick, nearby we found a restaurant called Gasthaus zum Wilden Mann.  We felt like we had entered someone’s private home.  It was rustic and charming.  The owner, Robert, greeted us as we entered.  I offered my “Gruss Got” greeting, and then inquired if I had used it correctly.  He smiled and said, “Yes, we always like to praise the Lord when we greet people.”  Gruss Got literally means God is good.

We sat at the corner table under a crucifix.  So we had a bar in one corner and Jesus in the other.  Antlers were on every wall. Robert sat with us and helped us choose our dinner. He said, “You need to spend some time with me.” We heartily agreed and by the end of our meal, we felt like we had been with an old friend. He sat with us for our entire dinner. It was as if he had nothing better to do.

This was a great example of hospitality and slowing down to smell the roses, or in this case sausages and beer. Thanks to Rick Steves for showing us the back door.

“You need to spend some time with me.”


This is Post #11 in the Ultimate Blog Challenge to post every day in April.

Oh My Gosh, Oh My Gosh (Europe Part 6)

Here is a perfect example of you cannot judge a book by its cover.  Or, in this case, you cannot judge a hill town by how it looks from the outside.

As we approached our resort, we rounded a bend and saw this view.

All four of us exclaimed in unison, “oh my gosh, oh my gosh.”  It was magnificent, towering in front of us beckoning us to come in.

When the day arrived for us to visit the Oh My Gosh (as we like to call it), we were shocked. It’s actually in the town San Casciano de Bagni.  Today it is a medieval ghost town.  Amazing on the outside and deserted on the inside.  We still enjoyed the view immensely but it was surprising.  I guess that’s why Rick Steves does not mention it in his guidebooks.   Oh, Rick, we are sorry we deviated from your guidance. It won’t happen again.

Languarge Barriers (Europe Part 1)

In preparation for our trip, Bob and I each decided to make efforts to learn to speak German and Italian.  He embraced this by using Duo Lingo to learn German.  Italian was left up to me.

Instant immersion CDs were my weapon of choice. I used the Spanish version before we went to Spain in 2013.  With Spanish I was building on the shaky foundation of my high school Spanish course and found myself communicating with the locals.  It was a rudimentary communication, but it was helpful.

Meanwhile, Bob has been embracing his inner German (even though he is of Swedish decent).  So dedicated was he to this endeavor that he would not go to bed at night unless he had completed at least one lesson.  He progressed very well and before long he reported that he was even dreaming in German.

Things were not going quite as well for me.  My plan was to use my car time to learn Italian.  This proved to be a two-fold problem.  First off, I am usually in my car sporadically.  Therefore, I never could quite remember where I left off.  And, without having ever studied Italian, I found myself lost (unless you count my lapses into Spanish).

Secondly, the first CD got stuck in my car player.  I wasnt sure how far I would get in Italy from that CD as it only covered the alphabet and different countries of the world.  At least that is what I think it covered.  I really don’t  remember.

To sum up, Bob is practically fluent in German.  I might get by if I meet an Italian who speaks Spanish.  And only if they speak slowly.

But since I have been in Rome, I have found no real problem with my lack of language skills.  In Rome a smile goes a long way.  The people are kind and patient.

Bob and I are traveling with my sister and her husband.  They live in Washington state and we met up with each other in Rome.  The four of us have met people from all over the world.  On our coliseum tour we witnessed a family run into a group of their friends.  It really does seem like a small world sometimes.

We were discussing this while riding the metro to our Vatican tour when a nun spoke up and said, “And who would have thought you’d run into a nun from Chicago.”

We chatted all the way to the Vatican.  In fact, she guided us to the exact place where we were to meet our tour.  We had an instant, though momentary friendship.

The Sister, My Sister and Me

The Sister, My Sister and Me

St. Peter's

St. Peter’s



One side of the courtyard hug

One side of the courtyard hug

Our tour guide of the Vatican pointed out to us that the courtyard in front of St. Peter’s Basilica is shaped in the form of a hug.  It begins at St. Peter’s with an arm extended from each side. It doesn’t get much friendlier than that.


Heading for La Dolce Vita

Life on the Lighter Side is going to Europe.

Bob and I are getting a jump on our 40th wedding anniversary celebration, which is in August.  We chose to travel in April for a couple of reasons.  It’s not prime season.  That means smaller crowds and cheaper flights (allegedly).  Also, I will do just about anything to keep from sweating.  (The irony of that statement combined with the fact that I live in Florida is not lost on me.)

We have been planning this trip for months.  Of course, that means Rick Steves has become our best friend.  We love his travel books.  I follow him on face book, which is how I discovered that he is in Italy right now, paving the way for us.  That also means I have the opportunity to stalk, I mean look for, Rick.  It will be my version of “Where’s Waldo.”

Besides devouring Rick’s books and making a steady diet of watching his PBS shows, I have been working on getting myself in shape so that I can best enjoy our trip.  Our destinations include Rome, Tuscany, Austria, and Bavaria.

My workout regime focuses on four main areas.

  1. Walking.  We will be doing walking tours.  The last time we were in Europe we walked everywhere.  When I got home I missed being able to walk to a destination instead of doing the much less inspiring laps around the block in my neighborhood.
  2. Bike riding. We will do a bike tour of Munich.
  3. Spinning.  Not to be confused with any form of biking.  We will be doing the Sound of Music tour in Austria.  You know that part of the movie where Maria walks up the hill, makes a dramatic spin and belts out “The hills are alive?”  I plan on doing that.  The problem is I get queasy with the slightest twirl.  That’s why I’ve been working out.
  4. Drinking wine. I love wine.  Especially red wine.  One of the big draws of Tuscany is the myriad of vineyards and local wines.  I have been pretty much a one-glass-of-wine person.  Two makes me sleepy.  My sons like to tease me about this and have suggested that I try to increase my endurance in this area.  So, I’ve been working on it, but only for the good of my trip, mind you.

We will touch down in Rome tomorrow morning.  I plan on blogging (wifi permitting), so if you’d like to follow my adventure, stay tuned.  I’ll share the highlights with you (assuming that second glass of wine doesn’t put me to sleep).

Europe Part 7 – Fun in France, or, I’d Rather Be Called a Pig in Paris than Anywhere Else in the World

20140122-132043.jpgIf you have planned a trip to Europe, you probably have been warned of pickpockets and scammers. These warnings are appropriate. One morning as we were walking to the Musee d’Orsay, some space opened up between Aubyron and me and Bob and Joe. As Aubyron and I looked ahead we saw a woman try the ring scam on the guys. I was so jealous. I wanted to have a scam attempted on me. I felt like my Parisian experience would be incomplete without one.

I was explaining this to Aubyron when it happened. The same woman walked toward us, bent down and scooped up a gold ring which she found right in front of us. I was so excited! I did what you’re supposed to do and walked past saying a simple, “No,” without making eye contact, which is the Parisian way. My heart was racing as I checked another experience off my list.

In case you don’t know, the premise of the ring scam is that the scammer finds the ring near the scammie. She asks you if it is yours and you say it is not. The kind-hearted scammer tells you that it’s not hers either. She shows you a mark that indicates it’s gold and since it must be worth something, offers for you to take the ring and sell it. Of course, she suggests that you give her a wad of your hard-earned cash as a way of splitting this amazing find.

I found it hard to believe that anyone would actually fall for this. Doesn’t everybody read Rick Steves’ Tourist Scams and Rip-Offs in Europe? Aren’t we all suspicious of everyone nowadays?

20140122-131625.jpgHours later as we crossed a bridge and headed back home we came across this same woman. (Evidently scammers have long shifts.) I saw her pull a middle-age couple into her scheme. The wife was obviously being duped while the husband stood back trying to assess the situation. We went a little past them, and I looked over my shoulder and saw she still had them in her clutches. I made a wide U-ie and circled back gaining the husband’s attention. “Be careful. It’s a scam,” I mouthed to him and turned back to catch up with my family.

He moved in, took his wife by the arm and walked away. I experienced the same exhilaration I had that morning, which came in handy because now this woman was following us. I wasn’t afraid. She was a tiny woman and I felt like I could take her, but it still kind of gave me the willies. I wanted no part of a brouhaha while crossing the Seine.

I didn’t understand everything she said, or should I say every name she called me, but there were definite slurs mixed with words that are universally insulting. She made it clear that she was mad that I had kept her from earning money. How’s that for irony? She called me a pig and sushi, which must be more insulting in French than in English. And that unspoken French rule of no eye contact – that was out the window.

But, c’est la vie. I love Paris! The city makes you feel so alive.


Europe Part 2 – Monkey Business

I woke up this morning with one question on my mind – How does one dress for monkeys? I don’t mean how should I dress to impress a monkey, but how should I dress in case a monkey jumps on me? This can only mean it was our day to travel to Gibraltar.

Gibraltar is part of the British Empire, complete with bobbies and double-decker buses. The currency is the pound, but for a fee most merchants are happy to take euros. Before planning this trip I didn’t know Gibraltar was its own nation. I confess I had only heard of the Rock of Gibraltar. In my mind it looked like Alcatraz, i.e., The Rock. This was quite a diffferent experience.

To get there, we headed west down Spain’s version of A1A for about 1.5 hours. Mountains were to our right and the Med Sea to our left. It’s quite breathtaking. At long last, there it was looming large in the distance. The Rock of Gibraltar is quite a presence.


Thanks to Rick Steves’ guidebook, we were prepared to park in Spain and walk across the border. This saved a lot of headaches. To walk across the border you cross a live air strip of the Gibraltar Airport. No planes were coming or going at the time, so that made it a little less exciting. Still it was a strange experience.

We traveled through the main square taking in all the Britishness of the place and stopped for a typical British lunch, cottage pie.


As we entered the city, taxi drivers and tour guides taunted us to buy their tour. Ha! We laughed at their taunts that we would regret going it on our own. The gondola took all of six minutes to get us to the top viewing area. How I wish we had bought a ticket for the ride down!

We were excited to see Africa off in the distance. It was beautiful and seemed to beckon us to come. Sometimes the world seems small and close. The views of Spain were also amazing. But, we wanted to see monkeys, the famous Gibraltar apes. So, ennough of the landscapes and seascapes, on to the monkeys.


Our son, Joe, was on a mission. He really wanted a monkey to jump on him. Honestly, we all did, even Aubyron (our daughter-in-law), but she preferred a small one. You shouldl know that a large fine will be imposed for anyone taunting, feeding or approaching the apes. They are serious about this. So you just have to make yourself available, you know, hang around the various monkey haunts until one gets curious. We practiced looking nonchalant.


Bob was the first to have an encounter, but unfortunately I didn’t see it; but it counts. It was starting to get late and we were in need of more monkey business. I prayed that God would have a monkey jump on us (yes, I really did). We approached a few and sent out that “hey, we’re just chillin'” vibe. Joe took the high route and Aubyron and I took the low route. I leaned against the wall and looked over the sea with my most I-don’t-care-if you-jump-on-me-or-not attitude. Honestly, for a minute I wasn’t thinking monkey, and then it happened.

Yes I was groomed by a Barbary macaque (Gibraltar monkey). It was awesome! Not that I want to do this on a regular basis, but how often do you have this opportunity. He was surprisingly light and surprisingly happy to comb through my hair. I had read that if one jumps on you, you should squat down as they like to launch off of people. My monkey was quite content to groom me for about a minute and a half. Cool.


Bob and I were ready to go down. Joe was not. He had not had the full monkey experience and was dedicating himself to retaining it. At this point, we separated. Joe and Aubyron went off to see monkeys and find a way down the rock and Bob and I started walking down. I should mention that it was nearly dusk at this time and it appeared as if we would be the ones to lock up the rock. We had not calculated our return trip and I suppose the annoying taxi drivers were indeed getting the last laugh. We started walking down, down, down. There were no other tourists in sight. We saw parts of Gibraltar that are not on the tour – a child riding his bike, guard dogs barking, a gang of street youths that looked scarier than the apes did.

We were tired and it appeared that we had a long walk down ahead of us. I saw a woman watching her child play and offered to pay her to give us a ride. Bob told her it wasn’t necessary and she declined. I guess she would have anyway. I started hitchhiking every time I would see a car, which was infrequent. Bob had to instruct me on proper thumb placement, but I got the hang of it. The woman had suggessted that someone might pick us up and we might consider limping to look more sympathetic. Limping was no problem. Our entire bodies hurt. We figured we must have walked more than 10 miles up and down hills. We did find ourselves doing well considering, but the more we walked the further it seemed we had to go.

Finally a tour guide with two ladies in his van stopped for my hitchhiking thumb. They graciously gave us a ride down. He is my new best friend.

When we separated from Joe and Aubyron we decided to meet up at the All’s Well Tavern in town. Seemed appropriate. When we arrived, the sun had completely set and all the places of business were closing up. Time to pray again. This time for Joe and Aubyron to get down the rock. Twenty minutes later they arrived.

We decided to head across the border and have dinner in Spain. That would give us an opportunity to rest before the drive back. The border had its own idea. The line to cross the border looked like a bad day at Disney World. We waited 1.5 hours to walk across. The lines for cars were even worse. Periodically they would show their disapproval with a chorus of car horns. Yep, another new experience. Finally we crossed and saw those wonderful Golden Arches. Dinner at McDonalds sounded good to us. Food and a little rest made for a happier drive back to our resort.

As I prepared for bed that night I looked like a monkey had been going through my hair and I was tired. It was a great day.

Today we did nothing as we required rest. Tomorrow we will venture out again.