Thursday, May 20, 2021

Death of a Jacuzzi Tub, part deux

Remember that little problem we had with the floor tile in our new shower?  Wellllllllll........turns out the tile wasn't dirty after all.  I scrubbed and scrubbed, tried all the remedies people told me to try, and even had the tile professionally cleaned.  The white film remained.  So I looked for the tile on the Floor and Decor website and found it.  Guess what it said on the listing?  NOT FOR USE ON FLOORS!!!!  It's meant for backsplashes only.  UGH!!!

This is the old tile.  And shortly after we had this experience, F&D added a sign below the sample saying "Not For Floors". 🤪 

So Tony and I gathered all our F&D paperwork plus the one sheet of tile we kept in case we ever had to replace a broken tile, and we schlepped it back up to F&D -- about a 30-minute drive.  We spoke to the in-house designer, who was very gracious and apologetic.  She explained that our original salesperson was new and shouldn't have been on the floor yet.  Whatever.  Anyway, she and the store manager helped us pick out a new rock flooring and gave us a very generous discount.  As they should.



A sample of the new rock tile on top of the old tile.

The new rock tile, up close.

Soon Nelson, our wonderful tile guy, was back in our shower with his "no Ingles" sidekick, Josue ("Joe-zway"), chipping away at the old tile to remove it.  In a week the new floor was installed, grouted, and sealed.  We are much happier, and we actually like the new floor better than the bronze subway tiles.  Win-win!!


All finished, and just beautiful!


Who knew it would go so much better with the wall tile than our first choice?  Even cute little Nelson from the Dominican Republic said we should have picked this one in the first place. 


BONUS: It feels like a foot massage when you stand on it!!



Friday, March 26, 2021

Death of a Jacuzzi tub

 


Ever since Tony and I moved to Water's Edge in April 2016, we have wanted to partially remodel our master bathroom. The sink area and water closet are great, but our shower was too small and we never used the built-in Jacuzzi tub that took up nearly half the bathroom. This year we decided to finally tackle the project. The wonderful contractor we've used in the past, Brian Airis with North Texas Handyman Services, was the logical choice since he's the best in the business.


On one side of the bathroom is the dual sink counter and water closet. On the other side was the tub, shower stall, and linen closet.



We decided to use the space previously occupied by the tub to create a new shower. The existing shower and linen closet would become a large walk-in linen closet. Exciting, right?  So demo started Monday, January 13th promptly at 8 am.





By Wednesday evening a lot had been done. Concrete was poured for the shower floor around the drain, and the new closet was framed in and partially dry walled.



Thursday the drywall was mudded and looking like an actual closet!  The next series of photos will be self explanatory, just more of the construction sequence.









Incidentally, I chose the shower wall tile and Tony chose the floor tile, which I absolutely love.  But our hard water is wreaking havoc on the tile and grout, leaving an ugly white film every time we turn on the water.  If anyone has any ideas how to clean it, I'm open to any and all suggestions.  I've tried several products and have even scrubbed it on my hands and knees with a brush, to no avail.  It's so pretty and I'm so bummed that the beautiful bronze color is covered in a coating of white.  Somehow there has to be a solution.






TA-DA!!  All finished, and boy, do we love our new walk-in storage closet and huge shower (affectionately known as "The Ballroom")!!!  It was a lengthy project but so well worth it.  Now we're contemplating what to do next! 😵








Thursday, December 31, 2020

 December 2020

            Joy to the World, the Lord is Come!!                               

What a magnificent time of year, when we can celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ with family and friends!  Tony and I pray you’ve had a good year of health and prosperity.  (Disclaimer: I’m not going to discuss the China virus or the stolen election; this is going to be an upbeat letter.)

Our family continues to be healthy and happy, and this year it has grown by 2 new members.  A sweet 6-year-old Pug named Miss Puggie was given to Erika, Josh, Leo, and Etta, and she has been a joy for the whole family.  She’s the best trained dog we’ve ever been around, and we all adore her. 

Some of you know I’ve been wanting a dog for quite some time, but Tony has not been exactly on board.  Raising a dog in a condo isn’t the easiest task, especially if that dog is a puppy.  But I just couldn’t accept the fact that our days of living with and loving a dog were over.  So my dear friend from childhood, Terry Rodman Brearley, searched the internet for the perfect puppy for me to adopt.  In October her diligence paid off; through her contacts with East Mississippi Animal Rescue, she found the most darling puppy, aptly named Boo because she was found close to Halloween.  The only problem was that EMAR doesn’t transport west of the Mississippi; if we wanted Boo, we had to get her ourselves.  So….the day after the election (I worked the polls during both early voting and on election day) Tony and I drove to Meridian, MS to pick up Boo.  The next day we drove back, and Boo was precious, cuddly, and sweet in the car the entire way.  She’s been a real joy despite the seemingly endless “piranha teeth” teething phase, and she’s doing great with housebreaking.  We decided to continue calling her Boo because she was already used to it, but her full name is Bartsi Boo: BA-Barnabas (“son of encouragement” and the name of the dog in my beloved Mitford book series), R-Rush Limbaugh (a great American patriot), T-Trump (another one), S-Slava (“glory” in Russian), I-“Independence” (added by granddaughter Maggie), Boo-in honor of the wonderful folks at EMAR.  I’m in the process of getting her DNA tested so we can figure out her breed mix.  The vet estimates her birthday to be August 26th.

This past July was supposed to be a fantastic trip to Hawaii with my sister Lisa, her husband Bob, our cousin Pat Warski, and her husband Jeff.  Obviously that didn’t materialize.  But dear, precious Aunt Olga Warski orchestrated a way for the 6 of us to be together and enjoy each other’s company despite missing our vacation.  At nearly 94 years of age, Aunt Olga went to heaven in September to be reunited with Uncle John, and we were blessed to be able to celebrate her life in our hometown in New York State.  It was a sweet time of family, fellowship, tears, tons of photos, and cherished memories.  That was so like Aunt Olga, always caring for others with never a concern for herself.  She is missed and remembered with the lifetime of love she gave to her family.

The kids are all doing well.  All 6 are back to in-school learning and are very happy after several weeks of at-home learning which none of them enjoyed.  The 3 oldest-Zoey, Leo, and Ruby-are in orchestra, with Zoey and Ruby playing the violin and Leo playing cello.  Sports have been greatly curtailed this year, but limited volleyball, flag football, and gymnastics are being enjoyed nonetheless.  Our adult kids are coping with all the challenges presented this year and are handling them admirably.  God’s grace and perfect plan are evident in their lives.

This year I, like most of my high school friends, turned 70.  Celebrating during this most challenging of years was different, but my family made it so very special.  Here is a glimpse of what took place at our condo on April 8th.

Tony and I wish all of you the joy and hope of this beautiful season, and we especially wish the world a peaceful and healthy 2021.  “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.” Isaiah 60:1 

Header photo, back row: Dave Cribbs, Jenni Leo Cribbs, me holding Boo, Tony, Josh Wiese holding Puggie, Erika Leo Wiese.  Front row: Zoey (almost 14), Ruby (11½), Maggie (almost 10), and Sam (8) Cribbs; Etta (almost 10) and Leo (12) Wiese.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

The Apocalypse of 2020

Having much extra time these days, I thought I'd muse a little on the life-changing events of this winter and spring, namely COVID-19 (coronavirus disease #19), or the China virus, or the Wuhan virus.  Since China is never forthcoming or honest with the rest of the world, the source of this pandemic is still in question.  Some say it started with a Chinese national who ate soup made from infected bats in an outdoor wet market.  Others say it came from a medical/lab facility in Wuhan.  Conspiracy theorists, of course, are proposing this was all a ChiCom plot to bring the United States to its knees economically.  Actually, this is not such a far-fetched idea.  China and Russia are our greatest threats during this time in history (although Iran, North Korea, and Iraq have grandiose ideas that they are our worst enemies--scoff, scoff), and these two superpowers would conceivably stop at nothing to do major harm to our sovereign nation.  Right now it seems the prevailing theory of the cause of this worldwide pandemic is an accidental release of the virus from a lab in Wuhan.  We may never know the whole truth because it is, after all, China.

Let me just interject a truth here: I know with all my heart that God is in control of this, and every, situation we experience.  I've read ahead in His Book.  We win.

Okay, back to our current apocalypse.....here's a little chronology of how things have manifested here in our generally serene existence in Lake Dallas, Texas.  On Monday, March 16, 2020, our family planned to use the first official day of Spring Break to celebrate daughter Erika's 41st birthday, which was February 27th.  We were going to meet for a hike, then enjoy the lunch buffet at a Mediterranean restaurant her husband Josh recommended.  By this time, there were already rumblings of this virus becoming an epidemic, and restaurants were taking precautions.  When we arrived at the restaurant, a sign was posted on the door that meals were being served, but the buffet was closed indefinitely due to caution about spreading the virus.  We decided then to grab lunch wherever we wanted, then rejoin at the Lakehouse, the clubhouse at Tony's and my condominium complex.  We didn't think anyone would be using it on a Monday afternoon, which turned out to be true.  We enjoyed our lunches and spent some time playing games, walking down to the lake, watching a movie on the big screen, and just talking and chilling.  It was wonderful just having the 12 of us (2 daughters, 2 sons-in-law, 6 grandkids, Tony, and me) together enjoying each others' company.

After a couple of hours, the president of our condo association came in and let us know he was posting quarantine signs on the doors to the Lakehouse and workout room next door.  The pool and hot tub would also be closed indefinitely.  We were the last people to use the facilities for an extended period of time because of coronavirus fears.  What had been a minor inconvenience suddenly turned into a serious concern.

One of the urgent/yet not urgent considerations we're facing right now is the likelihood of the well-planned, much-anticipated, expensive July trip we've had on the books since last fall.  Our travel posse, consisting of my sister Lisa and her husband Bob, our cousin Pat and her husband Jeff, and Tony and me, is scheduled to fly to Honolulu on July 9th.  We are to spend 2 nights there at the Trump Hotel, then take a 7-day cruise around the islands.  But now it looks as though this is not going to happen, at least not this year.  Fortunately, I have the most wonderful travel agent advocating for Tony and me who, I'm sure, will do everything in her power to adjust the timeline in order for us to take the trip in July 2021 instead.  Marcia Madzy Sholtes is the travel agent's name, and I highly recommend her.  Marcia and her younger siblings actually grew up across the street from my family in Endwell, NY, and I was their babysitter for several years until I left for college.  She now lives in the Charleston, SC area and thoroughly enjoys planning trips for people.  Poor Marcia is swamped right now with clients trying to deal with trip cancellations and postponements, but when she's able to get to us, I have complete confidence that she'll steer us in the right direction.

Here are just some of the ramifications brought on by COVID-19 so far:
The pandemic officially declared March 11, 2020
*Gas currently $1.25/gallon
*School closed through the end of this school year; kids still doing online school at home
*Social distancing measures still the routine
*Tape on the floors at grocery stores and others to help distance shoppers (6ft) from each other
*Limited number of people inside stores and lines of people outside the store doors
*Non-essential stores and businesses mandated closed
*Restaurants serving only by takeout or delivery
*Parks, trails, beaches, and entire cities closed
*Entire sports seasons cancelled
*Concerts, tours, festivals, entertainment events cancelled
*Weddings, family celebrations, holiday gatherings cancelled, including proms and graduations
*Churches are closed, so many offer online services and studies
*No gatherings of 5 or more
*No socializing with anyone outside of your home
*Shortage of masks, gowns, gloves for our front-line workers
*Shortage of ventilators for the critically ill
*Panic buying resulting in no toilet paper, no disinfecting supplies, no paper towels, no tissues, no laundry soap, no hand sanitizer
*Shelves are bare
*Manufacturers, distilleries and other businesses switch their lines to help make visors, masks, hand sanitizer and personal protective equipment
*Government closes the border to all non-essential travel
*Fines are established for breaking the rules
*Stadiums and recreation facilities open up for the overflow of Covid-19 patients
*Press conferences daily from the President and his task force giving updates on new cases, recoveries, and deaths
*Government incentives to stay home
*Barely anyone on the roads
*People wearing masks and gloves outside
*Essential service workers terrified to go to work
*Medical field workers afraid to go home to their families


I'm writing this mainly to document everything happening right now that has turned most lives upside down.  Although this virus has not touched our family or anyone we know, it has been terrible for our country and for the world.  It will be interesting to see how history treats these weeks in which many nations nearly ground to a halt over something that could easily have been prevented.  

Monday, December 16, 2019

MERRY CHRISTMAS 2019!!!



We hope this finds you well, happy, and prepared to enjoy celebrating the Reason for the Season.  This year so many friends have lost loved ones, and it makes me smile to think of many of them celebrating in heaven with the only One in history whose birthday is so meaningful.  That is, after all, what Christmas is about – the birth of Him who alone can save us and give us eternal life.

This has been a rather quiet year here in Lake Dallas.  Tony and I did some condo improvements, but mostly we just enjoyed friends and family, church, and Bible study.  We spent a week in June at Blue Mountain Beach, FL, with Erika, Josh, Leo, and Etta, and we were able to briefly meet our new great-nephew, Connor Boyd Taylor, who is now 7 months old and a perfect doll.  It’s hard watching him grow and develop from such a distance.  Now I understand why my sister Lisa (Connor’s beloved Mimi) has always wanted to come out here so much as our grandkids grow and change.  We hope to get to see Connor again soon.  He’s at such a darling age! 
Speaking of the delights of our lives, the grands are thriving and are such a delight.   Zoey will become a teenager (!!!) Dec. 28 and is the loveliest and most loving young lady.  She never fails to tell us how much she loves us, and we absolutely adore spending time with her.  Zoey is now in 7th grade, at the upper campus of Corinth Classical Academy which houses middle (7th-9th) and high (10th-12th) school.  The other 5 are at the lower campus: Leo and Ruby in 5th, Etta and Maggie in 3rd, and Sam in 1st.  They are all doing so well in school and in all their extracurricular endeavors.  Leo is so sweet and kind; his memory is a steel trap, so if you ever need anything remembered, Leo is your go-to guy.  He plays flag football and basketball, and he is a math Olympian.  All the grands get along really well and love spending time together.  Leo and Ruby have always been besties—maybe because they both have Papa’s servant’s hearts.  Ruby quietly and devotedly serves in the school’s Philanthropy Club and participates in many benevolent projects throughout the year.  She has a very dry sense of humor and gives Papa a run for his money.  Etta is our sparkly cuddle bug.  She loves anything glittery, and she’s very affectionate.  She and Maggie are good friends, which is special since they’re only 10 days apart in age.  Maggie is our veterinarian-in-training.  She is passionate about every animal and insect, and her bed is so covered with stuffed animals we sometimes can’t find her among them.  This year all 4 girls are playing volleyball and basketball.  And then there’s Sam.  He is such a typical (yet at times enchantingly atypical) little boy, and we adore him.  Sam approaches every situation with enthusiasm, and he’s interested in everything, especially how things work.  He’s definitely his father’s child.  He’s excited to start his first year of Upward basketball.  All the kids also enjoy participating in church activities and marathon family bike rides.

Jenni, Dave, Erika, and Josh are great, too.  Jenni’s doTERRA essential oils business is flourishing and she works very hard at it.  I’m proud of her and all the effort she puts into educating herself and others about the benefits of oils.  I was a little hesitant to try them at first, but I’ve become a believer because they really do work, and it’s so much better to use products from nature instead of chemicals in the medicine cabinet, around the house, and on the body.  Dave is still enjoying his teaching career at Parish Episcopal School in Dallas.  His robotics and Rover teams do better every year and have achieved high praise.  The Cribbies continue to spend 3 months every summer at Kanakuk K-7 Christian Kamp near Branson, MO, pouring into today’s youth who will become tomorrow’s leaders.  Erika teaches preschool 3 days a week at a church in Denton and enjoys loving on her little ones and teaching them Biblical truths.  She is so devoted to her job; they are very fortunate to have her.  Josh is still loving his job as creative art director at Irving Bible Church.  He is so talented, and his freelance skills are also in high demand.  We are extremely proud of all 4 of our kids, and we are so blessed to all live within 10 minutes of each other.

Right now as I’m typing this I’m looking out our back windows at the bare trees and squirrels jumping from branch to branch.  I love this season because when the leaves fall, we are able to see much more of the lake and enjoy its beauty.  We haven’t had snow for several years now and are hoping for some this year.  However, today is in the 70s and all windows and doors are open to let in fresh air, so we may end up with another mild Texas winter.  Whatever God provides we will enjoy with glad hearts. 

Tony and I wish you the best of the season.  May your Christmas be full of joy and your 2020 be abundantly blessed.  We send you our love and prayers.   MAGA!!!

  
Cover photo, left to right: Dave Cribbs, Sam Cribbs (7), Jenni Cribbs, Maggie Cribbs (8 11/12), Ruby Cribbs (10¾), Zoey Cribbs (a few days shy of 13), Leo Wiese (11 1/3), Erika Wiese, Etta Wiese (8 11/12), and Josh Wiese, with Papa Tony and Grammy/Bammy in front 

Saturday, March 30, 2019

3 Russians and their guys take on Europe......

PROLOGUE, September  2018

After months of planning, Tony and I were off to Europe to meet up with my sister Lisa, her hubby Bob (Dr. Bobby), our cousin Pat, and her husband Jeff (both podiatrists--very handy to have along when planning to do a lot of walking).  Our overnight flight got us into London the next morning at 8:45, and the other four would arrive a couple hours later. We planned to converge at our hotel near the Tower of London to unload our junk and begin exploring. So exciting!!


This trip was initially thought up by Lisa when Tony mentioned off-handedly that he would someday enjoy visiting the WWII landing sites in Normandy, France. Since neither he nor I had ever been to London or Paris, this seemed the perfect time to incorporate those cities into the mix. Then Lisa mentioned how much we had all enjoyed the beautiful Alpine lakes region of northern Italy when we took an Alpine Countries tour in 2007, so we decided to find a trip that would allow us to visit all the areas in which we were interested. Lisa knew someone who had used European Destinations/Tripmasters in the past with good results, so we decided to book our trip through that company. This allowed us to select the cities, flights, hotels, excursions, and length of stay in each city in one package, and the cost was very reasonable.


Our itinerary would start in London when we arrived on the 14th, and we would spend the remainder of the day exploring on our own. Our hotel was the DoubleTree by Hilton Tower of London. Saturday we had tickets to take a Hop On/Hop Off bus tour around the city. We’d done these bus tours before and always enjoy taking them because the commentary is usually very good--even entertaining--and we can jump off anywhere we decide to spend some time, then get picked up again when we’re finished.  We would spend 2 nights in London, then Sunday we would take the Eurostar train through the Chunnel to Paris.


The evening we arrived in Paris we would have a lovely dinner cruise on the River Seine, then home to the Augustin Astotel to get some necessary sleep in preparation for our bus tour to Normandy the following day. We were all very excited about finally seeing in person the places where American troops landed during the second World War, and the American Cemetery where so many of them are buried.


Tuesday we would have our Paris Hop On/Hop Off tour, taking in the iconic sites in that beautiful City of Lights.


Wednesday we would head to Milan, Italy, our home base for the duration of the trip. In Milan we would stay at the Crowne Plaza Milan City Hotel, and here we did not plan to take a Hop On/Hop Off because we wouldn’t be staying in Milan most of the time. We had 3 day excursions planned: The Bernina Express train trip to St. Moritz, Switzerland; a bus tour to Lake Como (including a boat trip along the lake) and Lake Lugano; and a train trip to our favorite of all the lakes, Maggiore, where we would take a ferry out to the gorgeous island of Isola Bella, home of the exquisite Borromeo Palace and gardens.


Thursday, September 13, 2018


Well, well, well…...not even out of the country and already a glitch. Lisa’s and Bob’s flight to Heathrow was rerouted from JFK through Atlanta. Sadly we would miss each other by just a little more than an hour.  Their new flight was scheduled to arrive pretty much on schedule, but they wouldn’t be flying with Pat and Jeff as expected. Hurricane Florence, a strong and huge Category 2, was heading straight for Wilmington, NC, and was already wreaking havoc on flights along the east coast. We were hoping to be able to fly above it and not be affected.



Bon voyage!!

Friday, September 14, 2018

Even though we were warned by some friends who travel to London frequently, we ended up taking a black taxi from the airport to our hotel because I was unfamiliar at that point with the Uber app and was nervous about using it. Unfortunately, the one-way trip cost us nearly $100. Following that shock we used Uber every time we needed transportation with our luggage. Lisa, Bob, Pat, and Jeff used Uber from Heathrow to the hotel and split the cost that totaled less than half of what Tony and I paid. It was our only faux pas, albeit a costly one.

After we left our luggage at the hotel (DoubleTree by Hilton Tower of London--very nice!), Tony and I went to find a Starbucks, him for a latte and me for a London Starbucks mug to add to our collection. We aren’t necessarily Starbucks fans, but we have a collection of Starbucks coffee cups from every country we visit. Then we walked around a bit while waiting for our room to be readied. Once we got to the room, Tony immediately conked out on the bed while I got the lay of the land. By then the other 4 had arrived, so I went down to the lobby to meet them. After a short time while they got settled in their rooms, we went out to explore the area around the hotel.

The hotel was actually in a great location, about a block from the Tower of London, the Tower Bridge, and the convenient HoHo (Hop on/Hop off) tour bus stop. After walking around for awhile, we got a recommendation from the concierge for a good fish and chips place. We didn’t think it was going to be a very long walk, but it turned out to be much further than expected. By the time we got there about an hour later, we were pretty hungry and thirsty, and the folks at Poppie’s took good care of us. The walk back wasn’t quite as long because we found a more expeditious route, and by then Tony and I were pretty much ready for bed. The others wanted to go up to the rooftop bar for a drink since they had had a later flight and they were able to sleep a bit on theirs. We showered and hit the sheets for a lovely 10-hour nap.


 Tower of London
Poppie's
 First London dinner--fish and chips!!
 The iconic phone booths were everywhere!
 Pat, Lisa, and me
 Tower Bridge from the hotel's rooftop bar

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Today (Bob’s 70th birthday) we took the HoHo around London, seeing the popular sights from the top of a double-decker, open-air bus, and getting off whenever we wanted to be more up close and personal at the various locations. London is a very busy city, and the architecture is an unusual mix of centuries-old and modern buildings. The historical aspects of the city are staggering. I found myself humming “Tower Warders, Under Orders” from Gilbert and Sullivan’s Yeomen of the Guard every time we were near the Tower of London, and “P-a-r-liament” as we passed the gorgeous Parliament buildings. Big Ben is undergoing massive restorations, so we weren’t able to see much of it or hear the bell.  We walked around Buckingham Palace but didn’t see the changing of the guard because the Queen was vacationing at her country home in Balmoral, so the infamous guards were not on duty. We enjoyed a delicious lunch and some drafts at a cute pub, Bag O’ Nails. The guys and Lisa had fish and chips again, and Pat and I had a delicious beef and ale pie with mashed potatoes and veggies. After lunch we jumped back on the tour bus to see some more sights, ending up at the River Thames. Our HoHo tickets allowed us to take a short river cruise, which handily let us off at the stop closest to our hotel. It was a really nice, full day, and the weather couldn’t have been more cooperative.


**Note: Unbeknownst to us, we arrived during Fashion Week in London. This major event involves street closures, crazy traffic, and some of the most bizarre-looking human mannequins on the planet. Not only this, but Fashion Week somehow seemed to follow us to both Paris and Milan. The excess traffic caused several diversions on all the HoHo routes, so we didn’t get to see everything promised on each tour. If anyone is planning a trip to Europe in the fall, I strongly advise checking the Fashion Week schedule and avoiding it if at all possible.


 Big Ben, undergoing restoration
 Pride of Paddington
London welcomed our NFL
Piccadilly Circus
 Parliament
 Buckingham Palace 
Buckingham Palace 
Bag O' Nails for lunch
After lunch stroll in St. James Park
St. James Park
 Duck Island Cottage in St. James Park
 Duck Island Cottage
Burberry Car for Fashion Week
 Burberry Bear for Fashion Week
Dome of St. Paul's Cathedral
𝅘𝅥𝅯"Feed the birds, tuppence a bag..."𝅘𝅥𝅮
 Londonistan
 Will bagpipe for food
 3 Musketeers: Bob, Tony, and Jeff
 The London Eye
 Ubiquitous IBM from our Thames River cruise
 Approaching the Tower Bridge from our cruise boat
 Happy Thames River cruisers
Tony made friends with a local pigeon

After resting and cleaning up a bit, we went up to the rooftop lounge at our hotel to see the view at sunset and have a drink before dinner. It was really spectacular to see our section of London bathed in the colors of sunset and then watching the twinkle of evening lights coming on.  Following that little interlude, we walked across the Tower Bridge to a nice riverfront Italian restaurant, Cantina del Ponte, where Lisa and Bob treated everyone to a celebratory dinner for Bob’s birthday. It was lovely--good food, good wine, good company. We had some nice conversations with 4 guys from The Netherlands at the next table over who were in town to watch a soccer match. Everyone is so friendly in London!


 Nighttime view from our hotel rooftop bar
 Tower of London from our rooftop
 River Thames from our rooftop
Shards Building at night
Cantina del Ponte, right on the river
 Bob, Jeff, and Tony at Bob's birthday dinner
Me, Pat, and Lisa at dinner

After walking back to the hotel we went to our rooms to repack and try to get a decent night’s sleep for the train trip to Paris in the morning after breakfast.


Part of the festivities Lisa arranged for Bob was the receiving of a lot of birthday gifts and greetings from strangers, thanks to stickers she had prepared ahead of time and brought with her that we secretly placed on his back. They said things like “Hi, my name is Bob and today is my 70th birthday”. Folks would see the tags and wish him happy birthday, buy him drinks, bring special desserts, etc. We toyed with the idea of keeping the birthday thing going the entire trip, but it kind of fizzled out after the one day. Still, it was lots of fun watching a startled Bob wonder how people knew it was his birthday.



 Happy Bob on his 70th birthday
 My sister is a hoot!!
Birthday Bob, none the wiser

Sunday, September 16, 2018


We got down to breakfast early, checked out of the hotel, and made our way to St. Pancras station to catch our Eurostar train to Paris. It was pretty hectic at the station, really crowded. We were squashed like sardines in our seats in the station waiting area with our luggage. Fortunately, we were seated next to a fun American couple who entertained us with their stories and experiences. Our train was finally called for loading, and we boarded with all the other sardines. Oddly, our 3 couples were booked in separate cars, so we weren’t able to sit together on the 3+ hours to Paris, but the journey was pleasant through the French countryside (which looked a whole lot like your average American countryside).  I had been a little apprehensive about riding the train under the English Channel, but it was really quite a short portion of the entire train ride and not frightening at all.


The train station where we arrived in Paris.

We took an Uber from the train station to our hotel (Augustin Astotel) and checked in. It was surprisingly very smooth and easy using Uber over there and, as we discovered from our cab ride from Heathrow to the hotel, much cheaper. Our hotel was very cute and boutique, meaning tiny with miniscule everything--elevator, room, bathroom. But the room had a charming little balcony window, which turned out to be a good thing since nights were cool and our room’s air conditioner was pathetic. After we checked in and left our luggage in the room, we went for a stroll around the 8th arrondissement--our neighborhood for the next 3 nights--taking in the sights, grabbing some Euros from a local ATM, and looking for a Starbucks. Tony and I needed a mug from Paris to go with the one we bought in London. We scored almost immediately, since there was a Starbucks right around the corner from the hotel. We also noticed a bunch of nice-looking cafes for future meals, beverages, and people watching.


Augustin Astotel
Lisa and Pat from their rooms

**Interesting fact: Although Starbucks can be found in abundance in just about every major city in Europe, Italy has never allowed Starbucks to plant stores in any of its cities, probably because it doesn’t need the franchise. Italian coffee stands on its own merit. But in the last year one Starbucks has been allowed to open in Italy, and to our delight and good fortune, it opened in Milan. So I was hoping to get a Starbucks Italy mug to add to our collection.

Since it was Sunday, the pace of our area was very relaxed and pleasant, unlike the frenzy of weekdays. There were families on bicycles, couples strolling, kids playing in the park and the weather was glorious. We had really been blessed in the weather department thus far, although it had actually been a little warmer than the outfits I packed, so I had been uncomfortable more than a few times.  This is after checking, double checking, and triple checking the weather forecasts for each city many times while packing.



**Interesting fact: meteorology is the only profession in which its practitioners can be wrong 100% of the time and still command 6-figure salaries. LOL

 Our Paris neighborhood
Pretty church, Eglise Saint-Augustin, just steps from our hotel
Inside Eglise Saint-Augustin
Cafes on every corner.....

....within walking distance of our hotel

We headed back to the hotel to clean up and change for our first Paris adventure, a 3-course dinner cruise on the River Seine at 8:30. The hotel concierge helped us figure out a route on the metro which would take us straight to the Eiffel Tower and to the wharf where we were to catch the cruise bateau, just beneath the tower. When we left the metro station and saw the tower for the very first time ever, time stood still. It was simply breathtaking, rising above the river in magnificent glory. It is so iconic that to finally see it in person was almost surreal. And the tower really takes on a life of its own as the light changes from day to night, changing colors multiple times in the different lights of sunset.
 First glimpse
 Just one of about a thousand Eiffel photos we all took
Another one. Sorry.
 Again, sorry.  Couldn't help it.
We could hardly believe we were here! 
 Cute carousel on our way down to the Seine
 Carousel from below

We walked down to the wharf and found our boat. It was a pretty bateau mouche with a glass roof so we could look up and see the buildings and bridges as we rode slowly by. Once we were seated, we were greeted by our waiter who brought little puff pastry appetizers and champagne. We ordered our dinners and relaxed as the boat pulled away from the dock. There was no commentary during the cruise, but we had been given little maps which pointed out all the major buildings as we passed by, including the Musee d’Orsay, Notre Dame cathedral, the beautifully lit Eiffel Tower, and many other famous attractions. It was so lovely and tranquil.

Our dinners were surprisingly very good, with acceptable red and white wines. While we were eating, the gentleman next to us suddenly got down on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend. It was the sweetest thing ever! They’re from Vancouver and had been dating 12 years. They both have grown children, so I guess they felt in no hurry to get married, but it was still very emotional for both of them. We all enjoyed witnessing such a tender moment, and everyone on the boat celebrated with them.

We were given maps of the route the cruise would follow, complete with landmarks.
 The big moment
 Bob's unimpressed.
 So sweet!
A roving photographer took pictures of cruise guests then tried to extort ridiculous prices for them, so we took our own pictures of the pictures.

During the cruise we passed a little “beach” area on the shore where dozens of couples danced to recorded music.  It looked very spontaneous and fun, and everyone was having a great time!

After about 2½ hours we were returned to the dock, but not before we stepped outside to view the spectacular Eiffel Tower light show. What seemed like millions of white lights sparkled and flashed for several minutes while everyone oohed and aahed. Paris certainly isn’t shy about showing its beauty to its best advantage. What a glorious evening!!





 Even more gorgeous from the river
 I never got tired of gazing at and photographing the tower.....
.....from every angle.
I don't know what we were laughing at, but we had tons of fun the entire trip.

Monday, September 17, 2018


We rose very early to be picked up at our hotel for our Normandy D-Day Beaches and American Cemetery excursion. The van dropped us off at the central office of the tour company where we and about a thousand of our closest friends stood in line to be checked in for the day’s various tours. We then boarded a nice touring bus and settled in for the several hours’ ride to the Caen/Bayeux area for our first stop, the WWII museum. We strolled along the various exhibits and watched a very good film recapping the events of WWII in this area of Normandy. I wish every American child could view this film because it accurately presented the true (not rewritten) history of this period in time.



Inside the WWII museum


In front of the museum

After that we spent some time visiting Utah and Omaha beaches, which are both breathtakingly beautiful. We were actually able to go into one of the German bunkers at Pointe du Hoc and see where the German soldiers waited for the American troops to land. The enormity of standing in the exact place where the enemy slaughtered our young men was very sobering.

The first 24 photos were taken at Pointe du Hoc, Utah Beach. The weather was perfect!





















 Apparently we aren't supposed to step off the cliff and drop to our deaths.
 Pat and Jeff selfie at Pointe du Hoc
This is one of Pat's artistic shots, one of many at various locations.


These next 15 photos were taken at Omaha Beach, where we actually dipped our toes in the English Channel.















The last stop on the tour was the American Cemetery. Pictures do not do this place justice. I’m tearing up right now just thinking about it--row after row of gleaming white crosses and Stars of David marking the graves of our brave young men who gave their lives to ensure our country’s freedom. The cemetery sits on a bluff overlooking the clear deep blue water of the English Channel, and it is meticulously maintained. None of the 6 of us had any known relative or friend buried there, so we never had a Private Ryan moment, but it was a very moving experience nonetheless.





 Outside the memorial chapel at the cemetery


 Inside the chapel

 The incredibly beautiful mosaic dome inside the chapel 

 And the crosses!  Acres and acres of pure white crosses and Stars of David honoring our fallen heroes.



As we all paused a moment, looking up at the majestic American flag above us, Pat, Lisa, and I were moved to softly sing a trio of our National Anthem. I’m just sad we didn’t think to record it, but it’s probably a good idea that we didn’t because we all got so choked up we could hardly finish. We are all so glad we were able to spend some time in this meaningful historical site, and I’m happy our brave young heroes have such a beautiful place to be recognized and remembered.



After a relaxing bus ride back to Paris and van ride back to our hotel, we found a cute cafe nearby and had a nice dinner (with some surprising elements--like my huge plate of tuna tartare when I was expecting something completely different--since our French wasn’t the greatest). Our waiter was so cute, though, a Noah Wyle clone! Then we went home to shower and crash to rest up for the next day.

 Not a lot of elbow room at the cafes, but they're very charming.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Today we did our Paris Hop On/Hop Off tour to see all the sights and take the requisite photos. It was a great way to see the entire city in a day, especially since we didn’t have the luxury of many days to visit every landmark individually. We did get off at the Arc de Triomphe and were going to go up to the top to get a better view of that part of the city but it started raining--the only rain we had the entire trip, and it didn’t last long--so we found our bus and moved on to the next stops.

 One of the double-decker buses all over the city
 But of course!
 l'Arc de Triomphe
 The bas reliefs are incredible.
 Looking up inside the arc
 Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from WWI with eternal flame
It was very moving. 
Americans in Paris
 The rain finally cleared up.
 The Louvre
I didn't write down the name of this plaza. My bad. Anyone???
Place de la Concorde with Cleopatra's Needle
 The tranquil Seine, next 4 pics




 I couldn't visit Paris without including the Opera House.
 So much beautiful architecture
 Parisistan
 Disclaimer: I have a bunch of church interior photos, but I'm not exactly sure which ones go with which church. Still, they're very beautiful. Use your imagination!
 I'm pretty sure this bunch is Notre Dame.



 The exterior ones are definitely Notre Dame.









 Pat's and Jeff's selfie outside Notre Dame
Party of 6 selfie

Last on our day’s list was a stop at Montmartre where the beautiful Sacre Coeur church rises above the city on an unexpectedly tall hill. We had lunch at a cafe across the street from the steps leading up to the church to fortify ourselves for the climb ahead. As we were finishing eating, Tony and Lisa revived their old running rivalry and challenged each other to a race up the 120 or so steps to get to the top. Bob, Pat, Jeff, and I laughed ourselves silly watching them huff and puff and pant and stagger up those concrete steps to try to beat each other. In the end, they tied and realized their racing days were probably best left in the past. The rest of us climbed at a normal pace and met them at the top. The church is stunning, both inside and out. It is much more impressive and beautiful than Notre Dame, I think. We spent a good bit of time strolling around the interior of the church and taking photos, then we left to wander around the souvenir and artisan shops of the Montmartre area. It’s probably the coolest area of Paris, full of life and art and vitality.

  Strolling the streets of Montmartre
We enjoyed the shopping here more than anywhere else in Paris.
 Macaron patisserie-I didn't even go inside because I'm not a fan of macarons.
Just a few of the steps one has to climb to get up to the cathedral.
"Yay, I did it!"
 Sacre Coeur from below
 The church is heart stoppingly gorgeous.
View of lower Montmartre from Sacre Coeur
 Overlooking Paris from Montmartre.

Young French soldiers 
Sacre Coeur up close
 The inside of Sacre Coeur
Breathtakingly beautiful dome

After this we walked back down all those steps and caught our HoHo back to the stop closest to our hotel, where we repacked and readied ourselves for the next day’s flight to Milan.

Just a moment of levity from our day of touring....during the brief rain the bus personnel handed out flimsy little rain ponchos. They were a little tricky, and Tony got stuck trying to get out of his once the rain stopped. We laughed til we cried!

**Note:  We took Ubers to and from airports and train stations mainly because we were a party of 6 with large, unwieldy suitcases, but the rest of the time we either walked or took the metro Subways. They were all very easy to use, but we had to be very careful during rush hours when the crowds were at their peak. Pick pocketing is rampant in Europe, as it is in most major cities, and one can never be too careful and protective of one’s wallets and passports.


Wednesday, September 19, 2018


Today we were able to sleep in a bit and then walk the couple of blocks to Starbucks and a local bakery for breakfast, which we ate at little cafe tables outside the bakery. Afterward we went back to the hotel to collect our things and took an Uber to Charles de Gaulle Airport to catch our Air France flight to Milan. We arrived late in the afternoon, and of course transportation is hard to get during rush hour, but we finally got a van and made it to our hotel before dark. The Crowne Plaza Milan City was the best of our 3 hotels, very nice and accommodating. The front desk attendants were extremely helpful and never got frustrated by our endless questions and needs. And the metro was right outside the front door of the hotel!
Our hotel
The sweet courtyard where we met every evening for drinks and relaxation
Just across the street from our hotel was this gorgeous church, Basilica di Sant'Agostino.

We asked for and were directed to a nice restaurant just a few doors down from the hotel for a delicious meal of pizza. And wine, of course. It’s going to be a chore to detox from all the carbs and wine when we get home, but I’m determined to get back to no sugar/no grains/no alcohol/no caffeine ASAP.


**NOTE: Best laid plans, etc.  I never did get back “on the wagon” regarding sugar, grains, and all, so was counting on my 2019 New Year’s resolution to get back on and stay on.  I do feel so much better when I eliminate these toxins from my body. Not there yet, but hopeful.


After dinner we walked back to the hotel to shower and get a good night’s sleep. Since our pickup for tomorrow’s excursion was before the hotel opened for breakfast, we asked the front desk folks to arrange a take-along meal for the bus/train ride to St. Moritz, and they were more than accommodating.


Big plus: our room’s air conditioner was the best of the entire trip. The weather was unseasonably hot in all 3 cities, and we definitely appreciated the coolness at the Crowne Plaza after our sweaty days outdoors.


Thursday, September 20, 2019


We snagged our bag breakfasts at the desk and were picked up very early in the morning by van to meet our tour bus at the Zani Viaggi tour company main office. It was an absolute zoo, which did not bode well for this excursion, and we were right. When we booked the excursion, it was called the Bernina Express to St. Moritz, a little red train which we understood would take us up into the Italian and Swiss Alps for a nice day in the beautiful mountain lake town Lisa, Bob, Tony, and I had fallen in love with in 2007. We couldn’t wait to get back to stroll the town, relax by the lake, and maybe enjoy a delicious fondue lunch. Boy, were we wrong!


When we arrived at the Viaggi office we were joined by myriad people of various nationalities, a crush of more than a hundred warm bodies all vying for position to get on the bus as quickly as possible to snag the best seats. Most times on tour buses and trains it’s a free-for-all to get seats, with every man for himself. Fortunately in this case the tour guide had a list of names, and we were near the top of the list because Lisa’s and Bob’s last name begins with D and the list was alphabetical. (We all were able to get in under their name in most cases since we were traveling together, thank goodness.)

**Note: In our travels, especially internationally, it’s been our experience everywhere that tourists from certain ethnic groups, one in particular, have no regard for age (i.e., us old folks are not offered seats), sex (females are not offered seats if males, even young boys, are already sitting in them), and propriety. They push and shove to get to the front of the line so they can get the best window seats on buses and trains, never caring about couples wanting to sit together, and they stand up at the windows while taking pictures, blocking the view of everyone else. I don’t like profiling a certain culture, but it really got old having the same struggle on every excursion or HoHo. We pay a lot of money for these international trips, and it’s just not right to have to constantly jockey for position. I always thought this culture trained its children to be polite and deferential.


So we boarded the bus and got seats with a little table, which was great since we had those nice bag breakfasts from the hotel. We started spreading out the seemingly endless items from our bags to enjoy our breakfasts but were quickly stopped by the surly bus driver, telling us there was no eating on the bus. Hmmmph. At first I thought it was to keep the bus clean (already a fail, since it wasn’t that clean to begin with), but we soon found out what I think was the real reason.


On previous trips to Europe we’ve found that tour companies often schedule stops at the most off-the-wall locations at times when stops aren’t really necessary. We think these places have arrangements with the tour companies in which the tour companies get some sort of kick back from the businesses. There is no other logical explanation for some of the ridiculous stops we’ve made on various tours.


Anyway, midway through the bus ride to Tirano, where we were to pick up the Bernina Express train, the bus stopped at a restaurant so passengers could use the restrooms and purchase snacks.  It was very nice, kind of a glorified truckstop. We found a table on the patio where we were finally able to eat our bag breakfasts, and we bought nothing. But all the other tourists on board more than made up for the Euros we did not spend.


We finally made it to Tirano, a nothing little village on the Italy/Switzerland border. Instead of boarding the train right away and heading for St. Moritz, we were informed that we would have a good bit of time in Tirano. Our guide escorted us to a historic church which did have one cool feature: a huge, magnificent pipe organ made of ornately carved ebony. Pictures don’t do it justice. We didn’t get to hear the organ, but just looking at the detail of that gorgeous wood was enough. Apparently someone at this church had once seen a vision of the Virgin Mary, so it’s considered a spiritual landmark. We could easily have skipped it. Following a few minutes of oohing and aahing over the organ, we left the church and explored the rest of Tirano, which took about 3 minutes.




 Pretty carved doors



Gorgeous carved ebony organ

 Mo and Pat selfie
 Probably the only highlight of Tirano, but we were too full to indulge.  I can't believe we had gelato only once the entire trip!

We thought we might board the train and finally be on our way to St. Moritz. We thought wrong. Our tour guide announced that we had at least an hour and a half until the train, so it would be a good idea to find a place for lunch. Well, since we had eaten our breakfasts not long before, and since we were still hoping for fondue in St. Moritz, we really had no desire or appetite for lunch at that particular time. But she was adamant that we have lunch, so we gave in and found a cafe. The food was okay; we just wanted to hurry and get out of there and get to our primary destination. After what seemed like hours out in the hot sun, our tour guide finally handed us our train tickets and escorted us to the little red train.


Naturally, by the time we got to our car, all the choice seats had been taken and there were only single seats on the aisle left, meaning any good photo opportunities were pretty much nil (see note above). But we did enjoy the gorgeous scenery of mountains, forests, waterfalls, and glaciers, plus the definite drop in temperature.
 Lovely Swiss countryside
 Gondola up to a mountain peak
 The front of our train on a circular trestle 
 This is how I imagine Heidi's house.
 Stunning mountain and river views
 The train went past several huge glaciers.


 Little mountain lake nestled in a valley




After several hours on the train, we reached picturesque St. Moritz. Then our tour guide dropped the bomb. We were only allowed ONE HOUR in this glorious Swiss mountain village before we had to board a bus back to Milan. We were shocked, dismayed, disappointed, and frustrated over this turn of events. The information we’d received when we booked the tour was very vague about how much time we would have in Tirano and St. Moritz, and I’m sure this was the reason. I doubt there would be so many people taking the tour if they discovered beforehand that they would have three times as much time in Tirano as in St. Moritz. We love this beautiful town so much, but sadly we only had time to take a few photos and use the restrooms.

















After another really long bus ride back to Milan (with once again a stop at a roadside truck stop/restaurant), we were discharged at the original meeting place and told we had to find our own way back to our hotel.  I guess we didn’t read the fine print, because we assumed we’d have return transportation to our hotel as we had with our other excursions.

That evening we took the metro to the Piazza del Duomo to explore the area, wander the lively streets as we looked for a place to have dinner, and discovered the brand new Milan Starbucks!

 Shopping area adjacent to the Piazza del Duomo 

 Starbucks Milano!!   It's a brand-new building designed to fit into the old architecture of the area.



 The nightlife is very active in Milan, with streets lined with al fresco cafes. 
Gelato?  Yes, please!!
 Duomo Milano by night
 More of the plaza
Duomo Milano selfie

 Friday, September 21, 2018


After the very long and tiring day traveling to and from St. Moritz, we 6 had a pow-wow and unanimously decided to skip the day trip to Stresa, Lake Maggiore, and Isola Bella. It would have been a lovely day together, and we would have been in control of the itinerary. But we were pretty much done in by the previous day’s experience, and we really hadn’t seen any of Milan. So we decided to stay in Milan and see the beautiful city. After another delightful breakfast at the hotel, we headed off by Metro to the center of the action, the Piazza del Duomo, anchored by the exquisite Milan Cathedral. Since it was our cousin Cheryl’s birthday, Pat, Lisa, and I did a little video for her in front of the beautiful cathedral, singing a trio of “Many Years” in Russian. We considered touring the cathedral but the line was hours long and it was already getting hot, so we opted to look for a HoHo bus.

 Duomo Milano is exquisite day or night. 
Plaza pigeons
 More Duomo
 Incredible carved Duomo doors
Outside Starbucks Milano

The line to get in, wrapped around the building
 Welcome to Starbucks Milano!
 I had to take a picture of the incredible ladies bathroom.
 Starbucks Milano has a lot of separate gathering areas for enjoying coffee and pastries.
 Beautiful marble staircase leading up to the mezzanine
 The Roastery
 Beverage ordering bar
 This gentleman, one of the hosts/bouncers controlling the lines, was so cute and funny. Security was extremely tight and obvious at this Starbucks, probably because it was so new and novel.
Suave security guard
 The world-famous La Scala opera house in Milan. If an opera singer is fortunate enough to perform at La Scala, his/her career is pretty much guaranteed.
 La Scala
 La Scala entrance 
 Marquee at La Scala 
 Al fresco dinner at Cafe de Ville 
 Incredible "Vertical Forest" residential tower in Milan. Here is a link describing the project.  It's amazing!
My honey riding the metro in Milan

Saturday, September 22, 2018

This was a truly delightful day! We took a bus to Lugano, Switzerland and had a really good tour guide this time, Katerina. She was very engaging and informative, with lots of fun facts and suggestions for our time in Lugano. This is where we bought most of our chocolate to bring home to friends and family. We strolled around town and along the lake, taking in the beautiful scenery. We didn’t buy anything else because 4 of us had been to Switzerland before and had all the souvenirs we needed. Some others on the tour detoured to purchase watches, Swiss Army knives, etc.

 Lovely fountain near Lake Lugano
 It's a small world after all!
 Strolling toward the shops
 There's always a profusion of plants and flowers in European cities.
 We really wanted some, but it wasn't open for business yet. (sad face)
 So we bought chocolate to bring home instead!
 Beautiful Lake Lugano
 One of the most beautiful lakeside strolls ever
 Lugano from the walking path
 And from further down the path


Soon it was time to reboard the bus and head to Lake Como. The ride was not terribly long and was very relaxing, with more interesting commentary by Katerina. When we arrived in Como it was lunchtime, and Katerina suggested we try one of her favorite restaurants. She accompanied us there and joined us for a truly delicious meal. Afterward we had to hustle to pick up the ferry which would take us around Lake Como, past lakefront villas owned by celebrities or used in movie sets. Since it was a ferry, we stopped every so often at little towns along the lake to discharge or take on passengers. It was a truly lovely ride lasting several hours. At the end of the boat trip, we reboarded the bus to head back to Milan for our final night.

 Lake Como waterfront


The uphill climb to the restaurant 
The restaurant where we had lunch
More al fresco dining
My lunch--local walnut ravioli with walnut cream sauce--was one of the most delicious meals I've ever eaten.
 The next 16 photos are from the thoroughly enjoyable ferry ride along Lake Como.  A couple of  the homes belong to George and Amal Clooney, but I can't remember which ones.















Heading back to Milan


We went back to the wide street with all the al fresco cafes for dinner and had a wonderful, leisurely meal. Afterward we went back to the hotel to pack and get a good night’s rest for the flight back.


Sunday, September 23, 2018


At Malpensa Airport, standing in line for the second time to have our passports checked to exit Italy, we were several people behind a sweet African family: a husband, wife, and little boy about 12-15 months old in his mother’s arms. Since it was a back-and-forth snaking queue like the ones at theme parks, we got to see them quite a few times. The mother was a tall, statuesque beauty in the most gorgeous long dress of red decorated with jewels and flowers. It had a low elastic neckline which the little boy would pull down to gain access to her breast to nurse whenever he felt the urge. For a moment I did a double take seeing the woman’s breast completely exposed while he nursed and then pulled away, but my culture shock soon gave way to pure delight as the little guy nourished and comforted himself in the most natural way possible. His parents were completely oblivious of anything out of the ordinary.

The flight home was pretty uneventful, just really long. Neither Tony nor I could sleep a wink, so we watched 3 or 4 movies each on our personal seatback screens. I wish we could figure out the secret to sleeping on planes. Certainly if we ever go transatlantic again, we will upgrade to at least coach plus. It’s worth the extra money to be comfortable on such long flights.
 The lovely Italian Alps from the plane
What a glorious end to a fabulous trip!

Would we do this again in the future? Me, most assuredly. Tony, maybe not so much. He can’t understand why we always want to go abroad when we have such a beautiful country right here to explore. I agree, but my sister’s and my thinking is that we only have so many travel years left, and we still have exotic places to visit. Later on, when we’re older, we can stay in the USA. Sounds good on paper. We’ll just have to wait and see. But we will definitely plan more trips with our travel posse of 6. We had too much fun together!