Grand Canyon Bound

The trip was a fundraiser for Wheels Museum so we met there before hopping on our Amtrak train
We’re all settled in on the Amtrak train to Flagstaff.
From Flagstaff, we took a shuttle to Williams and the Grand Canyon Railroad hotel. This is the lobby.
The rooms were spacious and comfortable and they had a lovely pool
We had breakfast at the Fred Harvey restaurant before walking over to the train station across the street.
The Grand Canyon rail goes from Williams to the Grand Canyon. On our way, we saw antelopes, javalinas, an elk, a coyote, cows, ranch horses and wild horses.
Scenery along the train route.
The Grand Canyon is spectacular.
Another view of the canyon.
We found cephalopods and other fossils in the original grand canyon soil.
Another beautiful view of the canyon.
A great vegetarian sandwich at El Tovar.
The view from our lunch table at El Tovar. To have a chance to snag one of the rare window seats, make the earliest lunch reservation and cross your fingers.
My friend’s sandwich
Apple caramel creme brulee. Yummy.

A super rich chocolate dessert.

We saw a beautiful sunrise on the way back to Albuquerque on Amtrak.

Escape from Michigan snow

My oldest granddaughter, Ayley, came to visit recently. Back home in Michigan, it was still cold and snowy, so she really enjoyed our warm new Mexico weather. We booked her at the newly built Chaco hotel, which she really loved.

The hotel lobby has the sense of a historic kiva. Ayley also enjoyed our walks through the bosque.

One of the chainsaw sculptures in the bosque.
The rio grande, unsually high
Pinon pancakes at the Range cafe were a hit
Lots of fun art on the Range cafe ceiling
Ray and Ayley discussing serious things
A tempting case of delights
More fun art
We enjoyed some beers at the native owned Bow and Arrow brewery

We all had a great time and we’re sorry to say goodbye. Till next time.

Almost Time Travel

Amtrak train approaching la Posada hotel gate

Taking a train trip via Amtrak ( to Winslow, Arizona from Albuquerque, New Mexico is as close as one can come to time travel to the old wild West without a time machine.

The train ride was smooth enough that one lady wrote and addressed 100 postcards. I jotted down notes in my journal using my fountain pens, and admired the beautiful scenery. The trip was sponsored by the Wheels Museum in Albuquerque. The train was immaculate and comfortable, with lots of leg room. There is a cafe onboard, with light snacks and a wonderful observation deck with huge windows.

For booking cheap travel, I found the wanderu ( website helpful and often easier to use than Amtrak’s beautiful but sometimes overwhelming site. Wanderu also can be used to find deals on buses, trains, cars, and hotels.

Arriving after dark, guests exited the train to be immediately welcomed by the hotel lights. The train stops at the hotel’s back gate.

The train stops right at la Posada.
Every bit of this hotel is filled with wonderful art, plants, and details
Guests with mobility issues should request a ground floor room. There is no working elevator in this historic building.
One example of the beautiful woodwork art showcased throughout the hotel.
A beautiful headboard in one of the rooms
There are lovely seating areas throughout the hotel.

La Posada was designed by one of the first women architects, Mary Colter. Like Gaudi and Frank Lloyd Wright, she wasn’t a registered architect, so she wasn’t the architect of record on the blueprints, but she did the design for this and many other buildings in the Southwest. She also designed the lovely gardens with all their quiet conversation spaces.

One of many garden seating areas
Signs make it clear that the hotel is the official boarding site for Amtrak
The sign for the hotel
Another view of la Posada
Burro art in the gardens
More garden seating
Peggy from the Winslow Harvey girls gave an amazing presentation about la Posada and the Harvey girls. She’s an extraordinary storyteller and is available for group tours at just $5/person. Call Peggy Nelson at 928-289-4160 or 928-587-2287 to arrange a group tour. It’s well worth it.
Peggy took us on a tour of the paintings, including this suicide painting by hotel co-owner Tina Mion. Her paintings are exquisitely done but not necessarily themes you’d want for your house.
Another Tina Mion painting
Tina’s description of the painting
The turquoise dining room. The panels to the right are stained glass Santos.
A wickedly good dessert souffle
Half of a vegetarian platter (we split it, and it was plenty)
A chicken dish

An absolutely incredible corn/bean soup. The ladies are part of the group from the Wheels tour.

Winslow is known for the song Take it Easy by the Eagles. It includes the line “standing on the corner in Winslow, AZ”.
Ray and I stopped at a soda and sandwich stop in Winslow. This is a black cow, a root beer float with chocolate syrup. Prices were very reasonable.
Street scene from Winslow.
Winslow is on old route 66, one of the most famous roadways in America
The local market

Mail call while traveling

Recently, I was in New York City for two weeks visiting a new grandbaby. Since it was an unexpected trip, I had a lot of unfinished business back in Albuquerque.

New baby makes unexpected travel a pleasure

Fortunately, I was able to track my mail with the USPS informed delivery service. It let me see what was arriving each day, so if I needed to follow up on something,I could have my husband open it, PDF it, and email it. If you don’t already have this service, you should definitely sign up. If mail is predicted, but doesn’t arrive, a quick check mark alerts the USPS to the problem.

Beautiful birds

Snow geese relaxing on the water

Recently, we visited Bosque del Apache to see the snow geese and sandhill crane migrations. The ideal time to visit is at sunrise in mid November, so one can see the cranes vortex up to the sky at dawn, and when the cranes and geese are at peak numbers. Still, even in January, there were still a lot of beautiful birds to see.

Sandhill cranes enjoying a leftover grain party

The preserve leaves plenty of grain in the fields for the birds. They seem appreciative, dancing and chortling in big groups.

A different view gives an idea of how many birds are there, even on an “off day”

We saw lots of hawks and eagles

As usual, the skies were bright against the gold’s of the terrain

We stopped at Socorro Brewing in Socorro on the way back. Unfortunately, the new owners hadn’t gotten their new beer and wine license yet, so no IPAs for us, but the food us great, and the license should arrive soon.

From ancient ruins to taggers

A not-so-reassuring sign in Trier that they don’t do snow removal so one should walk at their own risk.

There was a lot of lovely public art everywhere

One of the cool figures surrounding a sundial near the basilica.

The sundial with carvings and figures

Basilica in Trier commissioned by Emperor Constantine I at the beginning of the fourth centur AD. Now it is used as the Church of the Redeemer

The imperial baths (kaisertherman) were constructed in the 4th century AD

Close up of maintenance on the baths

Porta Nigra gate, the largest Roman gate north of the Alps, built in about AD 170

The house where Karl Marx was born is now a museum of his life and the birth of communism

Streets were lovely and festive

We stumbled across a great pen shop in Trier!

James Dean Mont Blanc pens

All the colors of the Lamy’s

The first time we saw a note saying free room we were startled before realizing they actually meant room available.

Tagging and graffiti are popular in Germany, particularly in Berlin. Here are railroad siding tags

A full discussion of when graffiti is art and when it is merely tagging is linked.

A Cathedral, Cologne and Chocolate in Köln.

The beautiful cathedral is a landmark that stands out even among the Christmas markets

It is hard to capture it in a viewfinder

The detailing is stunning

It’s almost unimaginable that this architectural masterpiece was started in 1248, long before modern building tools and equipment were available.

After being left unfinished in 1473 for hundreds of years it was finally completed in 1880. Now the most visited landmark in Germany, it survived bombing during World War II although it was badly damaged. Still, almost everything surrounding it was flattened, and it was restored in 1956. Since then, maintenance repairs are continual. The Cologne Cathedral has an extensive and interesting history.

Cologne also has a more fragrant history. Some might say that it is the birthplace of fragrance as eau de Cologne has been made here since 1709 by the Farina House. The house still has a small collection of scents, including ones based on astrological signs but it is most notable for hosting the Fragrance Museum.

Cologne shop and museum

The museum is only open on guided tours (currently 5 euros). While they are offered in several languages, reservations are a must. You can make them online or in person.

Cologne is also home to the classic German 4771 cologne.

Since around 1799, the spicy citrus notes of 4771 have delighted fragrance lovers. It still has a flagship store in Cologne.

The eye-catching “The Golden Bird” artwork atop the Cologne City Museum arrived in 1991. The museum itself is much older, as it is housed in a former armory from the 6th century.

Instead of “when pigs fly”, “when cars fly.”

There are lots of interesting museums in Cologne, from Roman artifacts to a mustard museum. I’d like to come back here and spend a week exploring, and museum hopping.

The mustard museum

One museum I took time to see was the Chocolate Museum, a well curated and informative museum for all ages. Yes, I got free samples. We also topped off our visit with hot chocolate in the Chocolate cage

Giant chocolate bears

Chocolate molds

The chocolate mascot guides kids to kid friendly displays

An early chocolate butter press

Modern high tech equipment

A chocolate fountain where the lady dipped wafers in warm chocolate for guests

They also had the option of purchasing a custom chocolate bar specifically for you. Yum. 45 minute wait for that–just enough time to drink a hot chocolate.

Another museum had a display of Oskar, the friendly policeman public relations art.

And of course there were multiple Christmas markets. The fun details were adorable.

A polar bear and his elf

Elves riding their own ski lift

Traditional market fronts

Lots of Christmas tents in front of chocolate museum

Strike Season in Germany

Our plans for today were derailed, literally, by a massive rail strike in Germany. We got to the rail station a few minutes before our train was due to depart and saw an alarming amount of multi hour delays popping up on the boards. What the heck?

The departure board filled with delays

A nice civil engineer who was also hoping to travel explained. “It’s the strike” she said. “It will end at 9 am but the trains, especially the international ones will be all snarled up till tomorrow.” She thought our local train to Cologne (Köln) might run somewhat on schedule so we waited awhile. But soon it became clear that we weren’t going anywhere today. It also explained why last night’s train was stuffed to overflowing. Germans knew the strike was likely, and were rushing to their destinations early.

It could possibly also explained the preponderance of extremely lackadaisical conductors on that train. They probably weren’t interested in conducting but merely being sure to get home before the strike started. It was only a four hour strike but affected such key personnel that the railways were totally immobilized.

So, we went to pull Euros from the ATM, and it didn’t work either. It had been locked when we used it the night before. Since it was Sunday in the states, we couldn’t call to straighten it out till the next day. I had U.S. dollars in cash, so we went to the bank. No account, no money exchange. So we asked the hotel if they exchanged money. No, but she arranged to go with us to her bank which would do the exchange through her account. We opted to try one more thing before making her leave her post to help us. We used another ATM card and withdrew enough Euros for the rest of the trip as we hadn’t called this bank to let them know we were traveling so it would probably be locked after one use.

So we aren’t going to go hungry and it’s another rainy day in Koblenz. So we had a nice hot lunch with beer and wandered around the Christmas market.

Sometimes, our travel “disasters” are really memorable, at least when they’re over. What are yours?

Travel Travails But Still Fun

Ray and I learned some lessons about German trains today. It wasn’t horrible but I want to pass on what we learned to other travelers so you don’t make our mistakes.

We were on our way to Heidelberg, when they announced the Stuttgart station. Whoops. That’s further along the train route than Heidelberg. We were at the right platform at the right time so we either forgot to check the side panel on the train to confirm our train number or Ray didn’t double-check the itinerary for that particular train to make sure it wasn’t an express. In either case, we went the right direction but didn’t stop at our city. It wasn’t a big deal. We got off in Stuttgart, did our research and were on a train that did stop in Heidelberg within about 10 minutes. Unfortunately, I did not pick up a brand new Porsche while we were in Stuttgart.

Later, when we returned from Heidelberg at about 5 pm on a Sunday night (peak time), we didn’t have a seat for half the trip because having a pass or ticket guarantees one a ride on the train but not a seat. Seats are reserved separately. Normally, that’s not an issue but this was peak travel time and and an ice 1 style train (so lots of compartments, fewer seats, and most riders had reserved seats (a separate process.) So if you’re traveling on Friday or Sunday evening, it might be worth booking a seat on the train you’ll be using.

Despite those minor glitches, we had a great time in Heidelberg. Coming out of the railway station, there was an ocean of bikes. In the distance we could see a cool statue.

A closer view if the statue

Another wild statue in one of the squares

There were also done huge wall murals but I spotted them on the way back when we we’re getting drenched so I didn’t try got pictures.

Heidelberg was also decorated for the holidays

Not sure whether this is a cat or a bear. Still cute

Christmas roses were on sale everywhere

I especially liked these star lights against the steeples in the distance

So what’s unique about a hip hop hotel?

I thought the Coyote Cafe was in Santa Fe!

Lamy’s flagship store was not open on Sunday

But I got pics of the pens in their windows. Drool.

And their website has great pics of the interior.

For my perfume loving friends, there was a perfume store. Closed on Sunday, of course.

Interesting mix of Christmas and woodsman chic

Ray needed this beer!

My delicious maultaschen (meat filled pockets) along with spicy potato salad

Ray had weiswurst (white sausage) and pretzels

Not sure what the deal is with moose’s but they’re everywhere we’ve been in Germany

So it was a great day; we learned a lot, and we made it back safely to our hotel. What more can one ask?

Train trip to Cochem

After a quick walk to the train station, we hopped on the first train to Cochem. Once on, we showed our 7-day rail pass to the conductor, who stamped it with a start date. He was supposed to check our passports as well but I guess we looked sufficiently foreign so he skipped that step.

Cochem is a picturesque town

A cute train for the children’s Christmas

Gnomes in the garden

High water marks for two horrible floods. Now flood protection prevents this sort of devastation.

Everything was decorated for Christmas

Gingerbread houses to go

Weird little figures on the fountain in the square

The squares (several) are all decorated

Waffles with fruit (in this case, cherries) and sherry whipped cream or ice cream are a big hit here. After trying one, they’re a big hit with us!

Ray had a pressed ham hock terrine and potatoes with his beer. It was served cold in a gelatin.

Hot cocoa is always nice on a rainy day

Goat milk cheese with red peppers and parsley on a thin cracker crust was my lunch choice

Interesting mosaic mural

After a day in the rain, we picked up wine and headed home.

A castle along the route home

We picked up wonderful fresh German bread and had a supper of Rhein spätlese wine and bread.