The Slacker's Travelogue Rants

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Hammer and Tongs in the Morning at the Hyatt Regency (Colorado Convention Center)
November 21st 2013 to September 12th 2016
[note to readers; this rant got left up so long due to slackness on my part, and not because this hotel was actually that horrid or deserving of being ranted at for almost three years...  they just got pretty unlucky to be the last thing i ranted before going into hibernation.]

Denial of Sleep at the Hyatt Regency (at Colorado Convention Center)

Yesterday, I laid down to a nap around 1pm in my hotel room at the Hyatt Regency Colorado Convention Center, but it was not to be.  In the room above me, some demolition was in action, perhaps carpet replacement.  I was treated to all the sounds of hammering, stomping, moving of furniture, and for some reason the repeated dropping of objects (sizes very small to perhaps hammer sized).

The worst was the sawing though; the sound of it completely penetrated my room, so that it really seemed like it was *in* my room.  The nap, a disaster, had to be aborted.  But hey, maybe that was just my problem, for expecting some peace and quiet after my lunch.

Unfortunately, noise seems to be the rule at the Hyatt Regency at the Colorado Convention Center.  In my bed at 7am, the morning after that obnoxious noise festival, I am awoken by the repeated dropping of small objects, more furniture movement, hammering, and more stomping.

This time, feeling like it was my right to continue sleeping at what I considered an early hour, I called down to the front desk.  The assistant manager couldn't be located, but I was told I'd be called back.  Hey, it wasn't like I was asleep anyway, right?

When the assistant manager called back, she was apologetic and said that someone else had talked to the workmen 20 minutes earlier.  Perhaps I was not the only one they were disturbing.  But she said she would go up herself and see what could be done.  Apparently what could be done was absolutely nothing, because the banging and noise continued unabated.

So now I write this review of my ruined sleeping experiences at the Hyatt Regency at the Colorado Convention Center.  Many other things about this hotel are fine, but apparently the walls and floors are paper thin and the workmen have no concept that people mainly come to hotels to sleep, and that they are ruining the chances of sleep with this kind of noise.  Further, it appears that the management has no control over these workmen, so that the noise generation continues, as if it were a special feature of my room I should be enjoying.  Sadly, I did not enjoy it at all, because I do like my sleep in the morning.

So to my fellow conventioneers, if for the remainder of the day I seem out of sorts, this write-up of my experience may help explain why.  The godforsaken noise is still going on right now, even still, and I would perhaps be forgiven for going up and screaming at the noisy workers myself.  But making so much noise myself would be inconsiderate, wouldn't it?

The hotel assistant manager was quite sad that the workmen had not stopped banging around above me after she asked them to go away and/or be quiet, and she comped part of my bill from the hotel restaurant. 
That was pretty nice.
  Apparently the demolition wasn't supposed to start until 9am, so whatever construction company is being employed does not read their contract very carefully.

pps: On the other hand, after getting back to my room at 5pm, the banging and junk-dropping was still going on above me.  I went out to dinner.  After getting back, I took another little nap despite the noise.  I was awakened again by banging noises around 8:20pm local time, and the construction/destruction noises above me just keep going on and on.  Is this intended to go on all night?

ppps: Yes, it was intended to go on at least until 12 midnight.  Although the new assistant manager asked the workers to bang more softly, it was still ridiculously loud and disturbing.  The noise of things being dragged around and dropped just kept goingBut by 10pm, Hyatt Regency at Colorado Convention Center took pity on me and they did move me up 7 floors so that I was no longer near the construction floor.  They put me in an "executive suite", aided by the rapidly ebbing convention occupation, but I could finally chill out without the noise and get some sleep.

pppps: The next morning was my last at the hotel.  Ironically, I laid down to a short nap before my shuttle ride at 9am.  And on the floor above me (the 15th instead of the 8th this time), the noise of things dropping started up again.  At least above the executive suite, the contractors actually kept to the hotel's instructions not to start "renovating" until 9am.  Odd that.

[posted November 21 2013]

Vietnam and Cambodia 2012
September 17 2012 to February 4 2013
fred's trip journal, travelling to exotic Viet Nam and Cambodia in 2011

Tuesday 2011-11-08
First full day in Hanoi.
    Flight was awful, except worse than usual for us, being 14 hours to Korea, then another 5 hours to Hanoi.  Got some tasty shrimp at the Korean airport in Incheon, at the "Food Capital" as opposed to the "Food Square" across the hall.  Both of the restaurants looked identical, and both had an escalator up to the ordering and eating area.
    Our first outing of the day was to the Ho Chi Minh Museum, which is in Hanoi here rather than in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).  It was an impressive building and we got to see the embalmed Ho Chi Minh.  He looked pretty peaceful and really creepy.  [sorry to those who worship the guy, it's just my natural reaction to this kind of display of a long dead corpse.]  Afterwards, we took a walking tour through the old quarter on a variety of streets named after products, like Candy Road.  [These streets used to be known for having many vendors and shops offering that product, although this is not totally the case any more.]  We got to see a fried dog carcass, which they really do eat here.  The only dogs that don't look really nervous are ratty little chihuahuas, which presumably have too little meat on them.
    After lunch, we continued our trek, with the indefatigable Tony leading us.  We went to the fairly worthless museum of ethnology, which had very few exhibits open.  The most interesting stuff was outside, where they had preserved several different types of thatched huts, a longhouse and other wooden buildings.  Next to the museum is another incomplete museum which is shaped like a kite.  They apparently ran out of money before completion.  [I should note that inside the ethnology museum was a toilet room, and that room had the worst, foulest odor of anywhere that I had to smell something in Vietnam.  Just a warning to future travellers.]
    Then, after we were already really tired, they took us to the Temple of Literature, which was cool [looking] and had a topiary (with animal shapes carved from the plants).  This should have been the big trip, rather than the ethnology museum.  They had a huge
statue of Confucious near the end of the park/temple.
    Dinner was at a forest-themed restaurant and it was great.  They gave me veggie equivalents for the meat dishes and they were all quite tasty.  Local beer is not so great and seems modelled on Budweiser.

Wednesday 2011-11-09
Hanoi day two
    Travelled to Hoa Lo Prison in the morning, which is also known as the Hanoi Hilton.  Tony said the government claimed that they never tortured John McCain, but conditions in the prison were torture all by themselves.  Trash food, continual restraint positions [e.g. being stuck kneeling with your hands behind your back for days at a time], etc...  To me that equals torture.  [Just to be fair, I don't approve of Guantanomo either, and I'm a believer in the importance of the Geneva Convention.]
    Then a flight to Siem Reap in Cambodia.  [Our hotel has a] really nice and high quality buffet dinner and five dances of Cambodia for us.  Then much tiredness and sleep.  Supposedly wifi here is not free.  Tersucken.

Thursday 2011-11-10
Siem Reap Cambodia (first full day)
    Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom...  Fascinating and monumental works of art, many 3D carvings on the walls of Ramayana events.  Angkor Wat was originally a Hindu temple, and Angkor Thom was a Buddhist and Hindu fusion.  Really amazing relics.  Angkor Wat built around 1150, Angkor Thom around 1200.  [Need some pictures inserted here...]
    Dinner was at a Cambodian style restaurant and was really tasty...  Shrimp cakes, Siem Reap fish soup and sweet & sour "bar" fish.  Delicious.  Now tired and still stuffed.

Friday 2011-11-11
Siem Reap day 2
    Trip to Angkor Artisans Center, where people were learning how to make traditional crafts.  They had a great number of really nice items in the gift shop.  Afterwards we went to a market that was a bit of a letdown.
    [Hmmm, not sure what else happened this day...]

Saturday 2011-11-12
Siem Reap day 3
    Silk farm visit -- skipped.
    Woke up when Dad did for his visit to the silk farm, then tried to go back to sleep.  Instead, got up and packed and exercised.  Four hour trip through Cambodian countryside (Holiday in Cambodia...) seeing how rustics live...  Not super well.  Much poverty, many small land holdings.  This country needs a lot of help.  People here are wonderful and deserve assistance.
    Got to Tonle Pandaw Mekong, our river boat.  It's a beautiful, mostly wood boat.  Before dinner, a torrential rain despite their promises.  [Crew was apparently promising good weather.]  I opened the cabin door to check out the rain and was assaulted by a flying mass of little black beetles bent on suicide.  They came into the room but quickly bashed themselves to death [against the walls and lights; it was bizarre].
    Tasty supper, but it seemed that the fish was wrapped in uncooked bacon.  [I would not like that even if I still ate bacon.]

Sunday 2011-11-13
[onboard boat, stops along way, where was this?]
    300 steps up the mountain to the temple.  Hundreds of kids helped us [by holding our hands while we walked up], two to each tourist (and there were about 60 of us tourists).  At the top, many beautiful recent temples and many people selling coloring books for the kids.  I bought a bag of gel candies for kids--piranhas swarmed.  My two kids were a little upset at only getting one each of the candies.  I gave them each a buck though, before going back down.  [One American dollar goes a long way in Cambodia.  Plus they were a pretty funny duo; I think the sister was the older one, and the brother was fascinated by my digital camera, which surprised me as I would have expected him to have seen a lot of tourists before.  But he was pretty young, maybe 5-6 and his sister was probably 7-8.  The kids in this village apparently only get to do this "help the idiot tourists up the mountain" activity on Sunday, since they're in school the other days (not sure about Saturday).]
    In the afternoon, we went to Amica village.  Many water buffalo bathing at the entrance area.  Kids there were super polite.  Many families (104? 140?) living in the same area, some making crafts.  Poverty conditions but people are striving for something better.  This is a good charity.  Sim's also seems like a great one.

Monday 2011-11-14
Phnom Penh first day
    Travelled via cyclos to the Silver Pagoda and other imperial buildings.  This was a long dragon train of bikes with one of us per bike, and a driver.  Super hot though.
    Afternoon trip was to 521, the school turned into a torture and detention center by Pol Pot.  Horrid conditions, terrible tortures, hundreds killed there.
    Then after that joy burst, we went to the killing fields (choeung ek) and saw a stupa filled with skulls from Pol Pot's genocide.  Lots of depressions in the fields that had been mass graves.  Incredible sadness.  What a scumbag dipsh*t redneck madman animal Pol Pot was.  What horrid fools and killers his followers were.  A low point in human history--one of too many.

Tuesday 2011-11-15
Phnom Penh second day
    Tripped to the National Museum, where we were not allowed to take pictures.  It was pretty cool though and had many images of Siva, Vishnu, Brahma, and the Buddha.
    Afterwards we travelled to Watt Phnom, another temple.  It was very beautiful inside, with painted walls and differently composed Buddhas (e.g. stone, gold, emerald, etc.)
    Afternoon gave us a trip to the central market, where I splurged on a bunch of stuff, including a watch that was supposed to be water resistant but which was not (as shower on the 16th proved).

Wednesday 2011-11-16
    On the ship all day on the way to Chouh Dokh(sp?) in Vietnam near the border...  (aha, Chau Doc).  Not much going on this day.
    [This day turned out to be the traditional day for Dad and I to argue about something stupid.  We have one somewhat heated stupid argument per trip, but generally do well the rest of the time.]

Thursday 2011-11-17
    Morning in Chau Doc, a boat ride to the floating villages. 
To get to the village, we had to cross a "monkey bridge" at the dock, which was quite precarious.  [It was a strong base rope and two somewhat usable railing ropes, where one walks along on the base rope and hopes to weigh less than the unknown weight limit.]  Village was very poor, with some 5 kid families living on the same very small boat.  After some boat trouble [and a few Keystone cop style boat switches with the other tour group], we got back and took a rickshaw ride around the city.  Somewhat bouncy and dangerous, but very interesting.
    In the late afternoon, we took another boat ride to the island of Cu Lao Gien, where a nice Catholic church exists.  We walked around it and nearly melted.  Not much going on there, but we heard about the tumultuous past of the Roman Catholics in Vietnam (killed en masse by some of the Viet kings).
    [An aside]  The boat...  beautiful hardwood floors and walls.  Toilet doesn't work right--must hold flush handle continuously.  Shower water heat is nuts, water flow drops off randomly, dining room cramped, saloon cannot hold everyone.  [Beautiful but not super functional.]

Friday 2011-11-18
    [Took] sampans to the Sa Dec market.  Amazing amounts of fresh vegetables and still wiggling fish.  Rat carcasses, pre-cleaned.  Also the house where "The Lovers" takes place.  [Forgot to mention that] on the morning tour, we saw a brick factory with multiple huge beehive ovens, including one still being constructed.
    Afternoon trip to Ca`i Be` village.  Cai Be has many tasty treats being made: coconut milk candy, kind of like toffee...  Rice paper for spring rolls...  Puffed rice cooked with hot sand...  Rice crisps, tasty crackers of rice...  Rice whiskey, very strong, some with snakes in it.  Quite a fun trip.
    Last dinner on ship, farewell dinner.  They hosed me pretty well with a supposed vegetable spring roll that was actually loaded with pork.  I got pretty mad and spat it out.  ****ers.  Do they not know that pork is not a ****ing vegetable?  Glad this is our last day on this veggie-unfriendly ship.

Saturday 2011-11-19
Off Ship and Saigon
    My Tho was where we were docked?  [When, yesterday?  today?  maybe both.]  Then we travelled to Saigon (or as it is known now, Ho Chi Minh City [many of the vietnamese people who spoke English still called it Saigon]).  Worthless tours followed--Reunification palace (okay [but very humid and I was stupid enough to carry my full backpack around through the whole place]), Central Post Office (bleh), Notre Dame Cathedral (notably lame, plus closed).
    We ate lunch at Pho 2000, or Presidential Pho.  Very delicious, but the spring rolls had pork in them again.  [Pho 2000 is so called because that's where President Bill Clinton visited and ate Pho in the year 2000.  It was really good pho, plus they had an actually vegetarian-seeming veggie pho.  The place was plastered with pictures of Clinton eating the soupy noodle dish and smiling.]  We basked in the sun and splashed in the pool at the hotel for the afternoon.  Dinner was at "The Deck" restaurant, which was tasty but as organized as a drunken spider's web.

Sunday 2011-11-20
Saigon second day
    Toured Chinatown in Saigon, was interesting and I bought a crappy, knock-off bag (supposedly North Face, but obviously not actually that brand).  Ate lunch at Saigon Bar, supposedly where journalists gathered during the Vietnam War.
    Then a tour to the War Remnants Museum, where we were reminded what horrid beasts Americans are.  Unfortunately true to some extent, given the effects of Agent Orange and dioxins America used on the jungles.  [We were constantly reminded of these by the many deformed people who sold souvenir materials around the museums, and by the band playing music at the museum, which was composed entirely of children with genetic deformities supposedly caused by Agent Orange.]
    After the war remnants museum and propaganda festival, we went to Ben Thanh market.  Another exposure to overly aggressive sales people [of all ages; I got snagged to buy some expensive bookmarks (two bucks?) by one persuasive
little business person (a girl of maybe 8).  It was hard to turn them down, despite the hard sell.  But if you buy anything, a swarm of new sales people gathers around you.  Another little girl berated me for buying the bookmarks, because she had offered me a better deal previously.  I sent her and others towards my brother and sister in a cowardly attempt to hold onto some of my cash.]  Conned into buying bookmarks and a few fans and possibly some other things.
    Dinner was at the Vietnam house [, which was a slightly sad parting of the ways party.  People who we hadn't talked to all trip, because they were on the other of the two busses for tours, pretended to care that we existed.  Quite nice of them really.  The food was pretty great, although I didn't write anything about it at the time.]

    This trip to Vietnam and Cambodia is the farthest we've gone, and is the most different culture from our own that we've visited.  The theme continues that human beings can be great and amazing anywhere, even if their folk patterns are entirely different from what you're used to.  The Cambodians we met were wonderful people still recovering from a staggeringly bad governmental oppression, but it was clear their spirits were not broken.  The Vietnamese we met were really nice to us, regardless of the bad history we shared in the 60s and 70s.
    The communist government in Vietnam was mostly out of sight, except for their blocking of Facebook when we were in Saigon.  They did have smallish party buildings at regular intervals throughout the cities and countryside, but seemed in no great rush to do anything oppressive to us or their own people.  The way our guide told it, it seemed like the Vietnamese Communist Party figured out that having no private property meant both that the shared public property was not valued by people, so it was always trashed, and that people also didn't strive towards anything, since they always made the same amount of money regardless of their jobs.  For a while the party did try to totally equalize everyone, where Vietnamese people had very small apartments, such that some in the family would sleep in the kitchen, and the apartment would share a bathroom between 12 people, etc etc.  The notable exception to this equalization was the communist party member housing...
    But this kind of lifestyle sucked, and the common areas were not kept up, and things generally decayed, the economy stagnated, etc.  So, they reversed that trend and started allowing people to own property, have different salaries for different jobs...  In essence, they reembraced capitalism.  This did seem to lead to a renewed burst of life in their economy and culture, so despite the government still being communist in name, it's at least not the reality-distorting type of communism of elsewhere...  It's not the type of Communism that led to massive collectization and starvation in Russia, and certainly not the lowbrow anti-intellectual twaddle of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge.  Given that the Vietnamese army invaded Cambodia in 1979 and rescued the Cambodian people from the Khmer Rouge, the world actually has a debt to Vietnam for halting a humanitarian disaster that was still spiralling downwards at the time.

[posted September 17 2012]

Finland and Russia 2010
July 23 2012 to September 16 2012
fred's trip journal: touring Finland and Russia in 2010

[comments in square brackets have been added by the editor, who is also fred, but from a later point in space-time.]

2010 05 01 saturday
    getting ready to leave tomorrow.  just wrote up [last year's] trip notes, the day before we leave, so i have sunk to an even deeper low for getting this stuff online.  what's next, uploading the notes while i'm on the next trip already?  [no, apparently it's being two years behind, which i now am, in 2012.]
    sunday, i'm going out to dad's house early and will get to see archie the dog again.  [we need to drive to dulles airport that afternoon, after dropping archie off at the dog spa.]  then we leave at 5pm from dulles.  we will see if my physical therapy exercises for my back fend off airplane-seat related pain.

2010 05 02/03 sunday & monday
    another hellish air plane flight.  scandinavian airlines is okay, since they had free booze, but only two drinks [were] allowed [for free].  dad was stopped by the nice danish "TSA" for having a bullet-shaped flashlight in his bag.  a free bonus for supporting the NRA [getting shaken down by danish security].
    [we travel on another plane or bus to finland after being in denmark, presumably, since the rest of the trip is in helsinki finland.]  now at the hotel after a humorous mix-up, where the driver took us to radison blu instead of radison blu plaza.  are they trying to mess with us?  [really, who spells blu without an 'e', and why have another hotel named so similarly in the same city?]
    now feeling some tension about trying to write funny journal entries after bud & barb liked last year's so much.  [they will surely be disappointed.]  must get back on auto-pilot [with writing this journal] so i still get each day documented a little bit.
    had dinner at aino, a restaurant named after a character created by a famous [finnish] folklorist.  very delicious perch, tasty porter.  afterwards kyle and i went to the grand casino and i lost 20 euros.

2010 05 04 tuesday
    today, a walking tour that started out in the rain, but then turned to snow.  kyle and i headed back [at that point] luckily.  [it's worth noting that it's odd that kyle's in finland, since he didn't come with us. but he was working in london at the time and popped in for a day of our trip.]  later a few of us walked to the big white lutheran church, which was much more interesting on the outside than the inside.  the day was slow, and much napping occurred.
    for dinner, we went to savotta, which was a finnish logging-camp themed restaurant.  the food was pretty good, although i could not finish the vendace fish sticks i was served.  possibly [filling up on] beer and the fish soup were the culprits.  [note: i said fish sticks to be polite at the time.  the fish were more like sardines dried in a shoe, under a foot, until they reached a weird fishy-salty-leathery consistency.  but the rest of the food was excellent, and i figured this was just a finnish comfort food my stomach wasn't programmed for.]
    after this [dinner], everyone but dad (too smart) went to the casino and contributed some more euros to the local economy (27 for me this time).

2010 05 05 wednesday
    no official tours today, so we hopped on the tram to ride to the rock church.  we rode past the proper exits and back around the city again until a very nice lady told us which stop to get off at.  the rock church was pretty cool, with a huge copper dome and an exterior of massive rocks.
    then we went to the [um, name not included] museum and wandered through the exhibits (jeff, donna, barb & i).  dad and bud skipped the museum [which was probably a wise choice].
    after that, a stop at stockmans (or chapmans as bud insisted on calling it).  [this is] quite a huge department store with about ten stories.  for dinner we ate at the nepalese restaurant, which everyone enjoyed (despite a botched beer order).  now we're shoving all our stuff back in the suitcases and getting ready for 6:50 am departure tomorrow.  no casino losses tonight at least.
    [interesting cultural note: it seemed like there were a lot of nepalese restaurants in helsinki, and the cuisine in them is what we in the USA get from what are called "indian restaurants" back home.  not sure if the two countries' cuisines are really that close or not.]
2010 05 06 thursday
    [now a] long train ride to st. petersburg.  the train had terrible and expensive food.  at the custom zone crossing the russian border, there was a lady pacing back and forth endlessly in our train car.  [she seemed to be] clearly kgb or whatever they call that now.
    on the boat we get an embarcation briefing that i manage to sleep through.
    during dinner, we have a frantic, barely trained wait staff.  our waiter (named maxim) is eager to please, but is flitting around like a hummingbird and is unable to remember 30% of the things we ask for.  they are a green staff from the ukraine, we hear.  after this trip, they say the staff will be swapped out for filipino people.  [we called it] an early night after the awful train trip.

2010 05 07 friday
    an action packed tour day.  we go to the hermitage for a four-hour tour.  our bus driver and our tour guide are [two people named] victor and victoria, which is really weird given the movie title of a similar name.  victoria keeps reminding us that the life of a tourist is hard.  [that is her catch phrase apparently.]
    the hermitage (Эрмитаж) is humongous and we see a very small portion of it.  many priceless artworks.  we hear the story of a crazy idiot who threw acid on a rembrandt.  [he had hidden acid in his drink bottle, so "thanks, jerk", because we weren't allowed to carry water around the museum...  sure, damage to the priceless artwork is terrible, but oh the inconvenience and mild thirst.  but really, no one is that well respected of an art critic that this behavior is okay.]
    later that evening, we go to a ballet performance of swan lake, which is pretty great.  the music alone is worth it.  the ballet house is fantastic and lush, similar to the hermitage.
    russian letter sound analogs:
        В = V   Р = R   П = P   Л = L   Ж = ZH
        Н = N   И = I   Ц = TS   Ч = CH   Ш = SH
Г = G   Щ = SHCH   Я = YA   У = U
    oy russian and cyrillic are neat...

2010 05 08 saturday
    a trip to tsarskoe selo in the morning, the summer palace.  very posh and so forth, with gold leaf on pretty much everything.  we got to see the amber room, so dad was pleased.  very luxurious and richly appointed place, and we got to hear about katherine the second's affairs and funny habits, like making all the men dress up as ladies and all the women dress as men.  she enjoyed dressing as a dutch sailor so she could show off her gams [or so they said].
    in the afternoon, we took an interminable bus trip around the city and took lots of pictures.  it was hot and vexing a lot of the time, until near the end of the day when thunderstorms rolled in.  dinner was quite tasty (beet soup and plaice [a type of fish supposedly]).
    after dinner, we went to a cossack dance review with lots of spinning and acrobatics.  i bought a cd of their music.  now i'd like a beer but i'm not sure i'll get one.  [did your "money to beer" converter fall off?  wtf.]

2010 05 09 sunday
    a calm relaxed morning with breakfast, a nap and lunch.  in the afternoon, we went to yussupov palace, where rasputin was murdered.  the yussupov family was the wealthiest in russia, maybe more wealthy than the romanovs.  the movie they played [about rasputin's death] was very nice, but all the valuable artworks were missing [from the house, as
] they had been taken to the hermitage.  that evening we left st. petersburg [on our boat, travelling down the neva river,] and passed a castle that guarded the entrance to the lake ladoga, a very large lake near finland with 70 rivers feeding it.

2010 05 10 monday
    our planned trip to kizhi island was cancelled [due to parts of lake onega still being frozen!], so we'll be on the boat a bit longer.  they've pumped up the activities on board to compensate [wow, i wish they wouldn't do that].
    today we stopped at mandrogie island, which is a tourist trap of large proportions.  [they did have a variety of nice native crafts, which were being constructed by native-dressed craftsmen, some masters and some apprentices.]  i got some "nikola cola", which was foul and reminded me of moxie.  not much else going on this day.
    [it only strikes me now what genius it is to have a tourist trap on an island...  they could literally trap you there.  "very sorry folks, but boat have to go up river for little while, perform few crazy ivans, be back so soon."  but this island also did have a vodka museum, with hundreds of types of vodka on display.  we had a free tasting included in the price of admission, where we tasted three or four types of vodka.  i need to remember that cherry vodka is too much like cough syrup.]

2010 05 11 tuesday
    all day spent on board ship, with lots of lectures.  a romanovs lecture in the morning, plus a lecture on religious icons, and a russian language lesson as well.  at night, a concert by vadim vidogradov(?) on "john" gershwin (that is, george), which was okay despite so much improvisation that it was hard to find the original tune.  now quite drunk and ready for bed [which is how i usually am writing up these journal entries].

2010 05 12 wednesday
    ha, demo day at work.  hopefully skipped all that.
    in the morning we took a trip to the kirillov monastery [kirillo-belozersky monastery is the official name] in vologda oblast.  it was pretty cool [useful adjectives have escaped me] and ancient, having been started in the 1300s.  only 6 monks currently, but that's up from 3 monks last year.
    a nice sleepy afternoon for me.  dinner was followed by a vodka tasting, which was a riot.  six types of vodka and i was given full shots for some reason [whereas others were given partially full shots...  i think perhaps the wait staff wanted to hurt me.]  dad got giddy and laughing.  we were all pretty ripped afterwards, like right now as i am writing.  a pretty fun time.

2010 05 13 thursday
    a bus tour to yaroslavl, which will celebrate its 1000th year anniversary.  we stopped at a beautiful cathedral, where only jeff got pictures.  then we circumambulated a different cathedral (assumpcion?).  in between was a brief shopping trip and a visit to the flea market for a suitcase or bag for me [i always need additional luggage for the return trip], and in the middle of shopping, we had a beer at a trendy cafe with a bunch of young people.  [i thanked some guys who moved chairs over to our table for us with an enthusiastic "spasibo", which i'm sure i pronounced poorly.  they were just other customers who decided to help out the yankee tourists.]

2010 05 14 friday
    got to uglich and and visited their kremlin (fortress), which no longer had any walls.  the town has a watch factory, so we stopped in a couple shops to look at [clocks and watches].  i bought a wall clock [which even now adorns my basement wall and keeps really good time, despite some jokes about russian timekeeping from our tour guide].
    there was also the chapel of the spilled blood, where ivan the terrible's youngest son dmitry was killed.  we got to photograph the iconostasis in that church.  the guide told us that, during the communist period, the icons were covered with burlap and the main display in the church was a tractor that had been ridden by the first female tractor driver in russia.  after communism it [the tractor] was moved outside to its own display case and the church was reconsecrated.
    later that night, we had a talent show by the passengers.  [oh the horrors...]

2010 05 15 saturday
    [today we were entertained by a] bus tour of moskva (moscow) that ended up at red square in the moscow kremlin.  very very cool place.  unfortunately, dad's knees went berzerk and he had to go back early.  [his knees are feeling a lot better these days, luckily.]  we had a beer at "gum" [pronounced goom] (ГУМ) department store, using up part of our 30 minute break.  [the moscow kremlin by itself is the size of a small city, so this was not much free roam time.]
    afterwards, there was a really compelling and artistically wonderful concert by the moskva orchestra [as they called themselves].  they had an opera singer sing on 2 or 3 songs also.  additionally, a multi-instrumental goofball played on one or two songs, and he was amazingly good too.  that is the the cultural high point of the trip so far.  the conductor and orchestra had a great sense of humor as well as awesome talent.

2010 05 16 sunday
    in the morning we took a trip to the "new maiden's" (novodevichy) monastery, where sofia, peter the great's sister, was sent.  there are a couple of very nice chapels, and we went into the active russian orthodox church during a service.  very beautiful inside and it seemed to have a vibrant community of believers.  dad's knee is feeling a lot better today.
    afternoon was slow.  jeff and i went for a beer at a local cafe where the cashier savagely raped my wallet [because i was paying in american dollars and he did not feel like honoring anywhere near the exchange rate].  later on, we got our apology trip (for missing kizhi island earlier), which was an eminently forgettable bus trip around moscow in the dark [and the imminent rain].  many blurry photos through the bus windows was the result.  [rock on, viking river cruises!  no, actually this was really boring.]

2010 05 17 monday
    a botched tour of the kremlin today, where i was booted off the bus and separated from the family
during the kremlin armory tour [due to there being a person on the bus who was not planning to leave the bus for the armory tour, who therefore did not need a ticket for the tour, and who also did not speak up about it.  this could have been dealt with better by the tour staff also...]
    the afternoon was uneventful, with reading and snoozing [preparing for leaving early the next morning].  dinner was hosed up also--a buffet for our "special" last dinner on the ship?  &$$es.  the wait staff were great as usual though.  [not sure how this jibes with earlier comments about the staff; i think maybe the mainly filipino staff may have been swapped in during the trip?  or perhaps the comment was utterly sarcastic.]
    [the higher ranks in the crew were really great though, like the guy in charge of the dining room who we continually referred to as "harry potter", because of his glasses and, oh come on, he just looked exactly like harry potter.  he was our vodka coach that one night for the vodka tasting, and he also didn't make an appearance the next day for some reason.  similarly, another member of our own family group was struck by a bad case of the vodka flu.]
    [this tour did seem to end on a bit of a down note, as viking had numerous foul-ups, many of which seemed pretty avoidable.  i don't think the frozen lake was their fault at all, but the mystery bus tour in the rain as compensation was largely a "bullshit" response from them.  this is a technical term used by tourists when they feel the tour company is just trying to burn up their time with something worthless.]
    [but one night at dinner stands out as the lowest of the low points; at dinner, we were way back in the early salad course waiting for some scraps of food, while other diners were already on the dessert course.  usually, the pace is that everyone's doing soup, then later the entree, etc, all of us river cruisers happily munching on basically the same courses...  but for this dinner, we were sitting there without any food on the table wondering if we had been very, very bad somehow.  this stands out as the most egregiously bad restaurant experience i can remember.]
    [the vacation was great overall, despite this commentary; most of the outings we took were very cool, most of the meals we got on ship were really tasty, and we learned a lot.  it was just that the tour company morphed into a jerry lewis movie for some reason.]
[posted July 23 2012]

Danube Trip 2009
May 1st 2010 to August 19 2010
fred's trip journal, travelling on the Danube from Czech Republic through Germany to Hungary

2009 04 25
just entered last year's trip notes into the rantose web page. this is a new height (or low) of slackness. using today (saturday) to prep for trip. need to pack sufficient underwear in order to avoid having to interpret czech waist sizes. do not want a repeat of
[last year's] embarassing attempt to buy right size of undies from clerk who cannot hazard a useful guess at my size, with a mutual language barrier [i found the one clerk in germany who could not speak perfect english when i needed translation the most].

2009 04 29
plane ride hell. 8 hour flight to frankfurt. arrived there in early morning of next day.

2009 04 30
took bus tour of prague and tour of prague castle. this was a hot trek and we were totally exhausted and without sleep after the plane ride. [ugh] our guide made a strange trilling noise when she wanted to gather us. we learned that people often get thrown out of windows in prague.

2009 05 01 fri.
nizbor glass factory tour, quite interesting. our guide margetta was really well spoken and friendly. [she was very convincing on the point that beer is medicine, and is really good for one's health even for breakfast. i think i'm in love.] wandered around downtown for a while and ate lunch at a small cafe. cab ride back to hotel after lunch was 3 (or almost 4) times as expensive as night before. we are saps? [we were told later at the hotel that if one suspects the cabbie is breaking the price controls, you can ask for a printed receipt which can later be used as evidence if necessary, but which usually makes them behave and charge the right prices.]
nice dinner at pivovarsky club, which was quite delicious. when we got back, we went down to the casino [in our hotel]. i lost 300 koruna on stupid slots. barb won about the same amount. [the balance of the universe is maintained.]

2009 05 02 sat.
we explored prague, using the subway and trams to get to the funicular and the "eiffel" tower on top of the hill. we rested in a nice garden [with beautiful plantings and nice round walkways with benches under cover] for a while and then rode back down.
we ate lunch at the staropramen restaurant near the brewery, which was delicious. afterwards we went on the brewery tour, which was a bit underwhelming. [we did at least get free beer samples, which were delicious.] [also, there seemed to be some kind of circumambulatory death march involved in finding either the restaurant or brewery or both, where we walked around the entire complex of buildings three or four hundred times.]
that night, we went to the folklore party with dinner, which feature traditional czech music and dancing. we drank quite a bit, starting with an appertif, then on to bad wine, immediately followed by switching to beer, and then had champagne with dessert. everyone was pretty toasted. [the only endearing thing about the wine was the way it was served by a bald-headed man holding a wacky glass apparatus who would like stand on his head or something to serve. however, the wine held inside his magical glass wine flute was crap and we could not drink it.]
note: the toilets here all have two types of flush--half and full.
and last night at the restaurant (5/1) i nearly got locked in the toilet stall. [it was malfunctioning and not unlocking, while meanwhile everyone else had filed out of the place.]

2009 05 03 sun.
lounged around the hotel before bus trip to nuremberg. bus trip was 4 hours and very boring, plus painful due to lousy seats. [sorry, some amount of griping may occur.]
got to viking [corporation's] ship and got interminable orientation briefing. dinner was okay but not great, wine and beer were not free and in fact were expensive. 7 euro corking fee if you bring your own wine [to the table]--outrageous! cheap tour company this viking seems to be. [oh, get over it, yoda.]

2009 05 04 mon.
nuremberg tours (nürnberg) to coliseum, built by the nazis and never finished. we also went to the parade grounds, where the big rallies were held.  the facility there had been partly demolished since the war.  then we went to the imperial castle and walked through it.  afterwards we got to the center of town and stopped at a bratwurst place to have beer, which was tuchen dark.  [my apologies for the incredibly brief summary of the incredibly historic bits, clearly my mind is more on beer than history or
architecture during these trips.]  dad insists on spelling the beer name incorrectly.  [was he claiming it was tuckus dark?]  although i also thought the guide's name was 'speeder' instead of 'dieter'.  [so perhaps we are even on whatever doofus scale that is.]
a boring meeting at 4pm for knot tying--retarded.  an orientation at 6pm--also boring.  dinner at least was nice, although they had no vegetarian soup.  we drank vicki's wine and a moravian (we think) bottle [purchased back in prague].  after dinner, we had a short port party in jeff and donna's room.
a note to viking--having the pa system pump music on the same channel as announcements--very stupid.  it's bad music too.  make these separate or ditchy the lousy music.  many [passengers] seem to turn off the pa system in the room entirely to not have music, and then they get no announcements.

2009 05 05 tues.
viking cruise line internet sucks.
today we went to regensburg on a walking tour and checked out the jewish quarter.  there was a synagogue that had been rebuilt after the evil
[expletives deleted] nazis burned it on kristalnacht in 1938.  there was a previous pogrom forcing all jews from regensburg in 1518 or so too.  one boat of them [the fleeing jews] sank with no survivors in the frozen danube.  nazis [of any era] suck [expletives deleted].
later we went on a danube boat trip on a ferry boat, which was super cold.  we got to the monastery (benedictine) in weltenburg, where we saw the beautiful baroque monastery with 12 monks in residence.  afterwards, we quickly drank their dunkel [dark] beer before going back to the bus.
entertainment at night was "hans", a national embarassment for bavaria.  he tooted a bicycle horn and blew a whistle and capered about like an idiot.  [his act was both depressing and obnoxious, and i wonder how many of my fellow american passengers felt like they had finally met a 'real' german.  argh.]

2009 05 06 weds.
nice walking tour through passau today.  we ended up at an incredible baroque style church for an organ concert, with more than 1700 pipes.  [unfortunately, i seem to remember thinking that perhaps we were used as a teaching concert for chimpanzee organists in training, given some of the not so heavenly tunes that were jumping out of that thing.]  we ate lunch at an innstadt restaurant which was very good.
after lunch we took the bus up to the passau oberhaus, a large castle that has become a museum.  it has at least 5 museums in it (the first we walked through (1), then middle ages (2), then an apothecary museum (3), a bohemian forest museum (4), a metalworking museum (5))  we didn't get to see all of them.  jeff lost his phone, but luckily found it on the return bus.  after that, dad and bud and i went for a beer at a nice bar called simplex, that might have been a gay bar.  it at least had good beer.

2009 05 07 thurs.
forgot to mention--last night, zuzana the maid created an elephant out of towels.  see picture.elephantowelie
travelled up to the melk abbey, which was another amazing cathedral, as well as a school with active benedictine monks.  a huge complex with many beautiful rooms and a huge (100K books) library.
at 4:30, a fun wine tasting with zoltan, the maitre'd.  i managed to spill a red wine on myself and dad and a woman next to me.
at night we went to a strauss and mozart concert at a concert chamber in vienna.  it was really pretty great.  they had a pair of dancers also and a pair of singers and a 13 piece orchestra.  they played some favorites and ended with blue danube and another piece my dad thought was from the 3rd man (the movie).  very nice despite the painful chairs.

2009 05 08 fri.
vienna bus tour this morning and a trip to the imperial winter palace of franz joseph, which was a mammoth ornate place.
afterwards we ate a sundae at a small cafe in downtown vienna and then bud and dad and i had a beer before heading back to the boat (we got a staro brno[?] at the wienerwald restaurant).  [i believe wienerwald means sausage forest.  i also believe in ufos.]  [actually it seems to mean vienna forest.  this trip has been like being lost in 'sausage forest' though.]
back at the boat--surprise--more food for lunch.  an afternoon nap pretty much decimated the rest of the day until the captain's toast and captain's dinner, which was very good.  we had matus, instead of our more frequent waiter tamas, but he was good too.  baked alaska for dessert.  then our 3rd little port party in j&d's room.

2009 05 09 sat.
budapest walking tour.  boat parked in pest, and we took the bus up to buda and went around the old town and cathedral.  stayed in town for lunch and i had a nice fish soup (4 types of fish).  then we had a tortuous walk in the heat back down to pest.  now overheated and exhausted.  budapest overall is cool but also dilapidated; many buildings look dirty and crumbling.  communist rule had not been good to this place.

[flew out of budapest early early on sunday.]

2009 05 12 tues.
last day of vacation.  spent monday in a semi-comatose daze, sunday was infested with air travel, which was not totally horrible but also not so great.  ass is totally numb from airplane seats.  tuesday was mellow, went to star trek movie that came out prior thursday, theater was deserted.  back to sort of normal here.  work tomorrow--weds.

[posted May 1 2010]

Rhine 2008
April 25th 2009 to April 30th 2010
fred's trip journal, travelling along the Rhine River from Switzerland through Germany to The Netherlands.

    Night before leaving to fly to Portland Maine and connect up with my family.  Totally scrabbling to get packed.  Soon to be in the land of beer and sausages.

    On 6/27/2008, flew to LaGuardia from Charlottesville.  Flight 3054 got cancelled from LaGuardia to Portland.  Had to hop to Manchester New Hampshire, where Dad and Bud picked me up.  Drove back to Portland and got in around 1 am.
    On 6/28/2008, drove to Boston, got on plane to Heathrow London.  3 hour layover there.  Baggage nazi was a total dick to us, in the guise of being secure.  He needs to be fired.  Flight on British Air was tasty for food but super uncomfortable for all of us.
    Got to Switzerland at ~1 pm.  Tour guide was odd and nervous, and the bus ride to the boat was conducted without A/C, despite vocal complaints from entire bus.  Turkish driver appeared to want to kill all of us with heat prostration.  Got to the boat.  Captain gave funny safety speech while wearing wooden shoes.  Dinner was superb, including Cappuccino Mushroom Soup.  Carrot souffle was gross.  Dessert was chocolate "mouse", shaped like a mouse but made of mousse.  Yum.  Grand marnier as dessert wine and too much wine [with dinner].

    Went to Strasbourg France this morning and saw more imnpressive cathedrals.  It seems like a great college town with an incredible amount of history.  Had Serge as our tour guide but he was a bit hard to understand.  Then later we took a tour of the Black Forest.  Stopped and saw traditional building styles there.  Then went to Adolf Herr's black forest cuckoo clock store, plus other stuff and had free Schwarzwalderkirche and coffee.  I bought a mini-sword there.  Will not carry it on flight.  Dinner was really good again.  Walked across the new (2004?) bridge between Germany (Kehl) and France (Strasbourg) to say we had done it.  Tomorrow is "German Dinner".  Internet here [on the boat] totally sucks.

    Lolled around in the morning and then went on the hot march to Heidelberg.  We saw the gate that Friedrich 4(?) built for Elizabeth.  They were both 16 when married.  He was stuck in circumstances that led to the 30 years war, due to his being a prince elector in the Holy Roman Empire, but also a protestant.  The castle itself was partly ruined but still immense and beautiful.  We went to a section of balcony where a knight had supposedly tried to leap to his death in full armor, but landed and left a huge footprint indentation before he rolled down the hill and survived.  Stepping in his footprint supposedly means one will return to Heidelberg and life happily ever after, since his love's father lamented [relented?] and let the knight marry his daughter.  The castle otherwise is huge and hangs over the city.
    We went into the city proper also and saw the bridge monkey.  Also had a couple beers.  Did I mention this was all done in insufferable heat?

    We walked into Mainz and toured the Gutenberg museum.  Saw an old printing press and some original Gutenberg bibles (1.5 of them).  We also went to the "Dom" church where they have a bishop associated.
    Later, we took a super hot little fake train to the mechanical music museum, which at least was cool inside.  This was in Rudesheim.  We also stopped at a nice cafe for Rudesheimer Kaffe, with brandy and whipped cream.  Back to the ship by 4.  Later we will have the German Dinner.
    German Dinner was quite good.  Luckily they gave me salmon instead of pork.  Lots of music during the whole meal, including schnapps x 5 chugging machine.  Also an oompah congo line.

    Travelling through Rhine Gorge.  Fantastic castles and beautiful little towns line the banks and climb up into the hills.  Unfortunately, my camera got full so I'm down in the cabin now downloading it.  Or rather, first deleting the pictures I had forgotten to earlier then will download.  [d'oh!]
    Later we did a walking tour of Koblenz and saw the huge statue of Willhelm the Great (is that Kaiser Willhelm?).  We travelled further and got trapped in a cathedral by the rain.  We also learned the banana system, whereby an artist showed his approval of a museum or art gallery by painting a banana on the outside.

    Did a walking tour of Koeln, including the massive church constructed from 1248 to 1880.  
Most of the town was destroyed in World War 2, except for the cathedral.  Dad and Bud and I managed to find a place that would sell us a Koelsch before 11 am.  [Apparently German people don't start drinking before noon.]
    We had a nice break to take our naps, but since [our] room 315 had a defective door lock, it had to be replaced which interrupted the nap.  Later, there was a play performed by the crew with multiple acts.  The chef appeared to like dressing in drag very much, as he did it twice.  Now we are a bit drunk and testy.

    Morning trip was to canals of Amsterdam.  Saw many nice houseboats and floating garbage nests for water birds (coots?).  Could not get good pictures due to backwards seating on inside away from window, plus the seats were super uncomfortable on the canal boot.
    The afternoon trip was to Zaanse Schaans for windmills and wooden clogs (klompen).  Got up to deck around windmill, which seemed a trifle unsafe.  They make natural dyes in that windmill.  The klompen shop had machines that duplicated the rough outer shape of an existing shoe and another that copied the inside shape by boring out the shoe.  Did not buy any klompen.
    Tonight is last night of tour...
[posted April 25 2009]

Portugal 2007
November 16th 2007 to April 24th 2009
fred t. hamster's portugal journal 2007
----being a not entirely unredacted chronicle of the author's first trip abroad, to portugal----


the night before we leave the island and go to barb's.
last minute frantic packing is going on.
oddly, i seem to be the most ready.
this is wednesday.  tomorrow is thursday.
friday we fly.

8/19/07 sunday
now in portugal.  8/16 (thursday) was the trip to barb's.
we stayed there on thursday night and took a plane to frankfurt
starting on 8/17 (friday).
the flight left at 4:20 pm for some reason.
we got to frankfurt at 11:15 pm our time, 5:15 am their time on the 18th.
then the flight to porto left at 9:30 am their time and got in
around 11:30 am in porto.  hustle and bustle at the airport
and much luggage wrangling.
the rest of the 18th (saturday) was some dazed tourism.
actually we were allowed on the boat almost immediately.  (they had
been making noise about our having to wait on the top deck for
the rooms to be available.)
dad and i both chose to use the time for showers and a nap.
around 4pm, we woke up and went out to wander
on the shore nearby.  [ed: shore here means the fancy array of shops
and restaurants in vila nova de gaia, near the dock where
the douro prince was moored]
saw a couple of nice buddha statues.
jeff got everyone psyched for a carriage ride,
so after a bit we went out on a ride in a horse drawn
carriage--two big black horses and a rider dressed
in a black zorro costume.
we rode along the shore and saw some great scenery.
one whole length of the facade of city wall was just that--balconies
and windows with nothing behind them.  but then in among the
deteriorated ruins were often functional buildings
with modern glass doors and very classy houses and apartments inside.
after we got back, i ended up buying one of the buddha statues i had
liked.  we had a really tasty dinner, but our table was
the most overdressed.
after dinner, donna and jeff and i went walking along the
shore again.  we ate some disgusting greasy churros before coming back.
much wine and beer was consumed all evening, as well as a tawny port.
the buildings were all lit up beautifully at night,
especially the big round tower up on the hill.  then some zzzz....
today (the 19th), we're supposed to go to a monastery for dinner, with a tour
of porto during the day.

monastery last night was amazing, lots of priceless art works
like ming vases and a pregnant madonna sculpture.
the dinner was quite good and i got to talk to ken and joan a bit.
they had a breathtaking view
of the valley below [ed: the monastery, not ken and joan]
today we travelled to lamego,
where the church of the redemption? [ed: remedies] is located.
it's another incredible and huge church, with fantastic religious art
everywhere.  too bad it's not buddhist.
jeff, donna, barb, and i walked down the 700 steps to the town
below and then shopped for a bit.
we met back up at another church which had marvelous frescoes
on the ceiling, and a lot more of the gold gilded carved wood
all over the altar.  [ed: "gold gilded carved wood" is apparently
the phrase that was repeatedly uttered by the portuguese tour guide]
now back at the boat again, very tired.  also, managed to
*clang* my head against the top of the covered portion of the deck
which had been lowered to go under a bridge.  this is not feeling
too bad yet and hopefully it won't.  now in the room with my
dad who is fidgeting around after a shower.
dinner soon.

8/21/07 tues
last night they had traditional portuguese music, which was great.
it was very moving and a bit rowdy.  about eight musicians,
with a couple traditional fado songs, where the singer wears
a black cape.  today we're going to vintage house, which is a
"wine academy".

8/23/07 thurs
on 8/21 (tuesday) at night, they had traditional spanish dancing,
which was pretty cool.  four spanish beauties performed several
dances with much foot stomping.  [ed: they stomped on the floor
of the "bar lounge" so hard it seemed they would inevitably break
boards]  then on wednesday, we went on a walking tour of salamanca spain.
they had many beautiful churches, some of which we visited.  also, we
went to the art deco museum to start off the tour, and then we wandered up
to the plaza mayor(sp?).  after that we got off course and lost,
but finally made our way to the hotel monterrey again.  then...
the official walking tour began, guided by anthony.  he was a fountain
of knowledge.  he showed us where the frog was sitting on the skull
on the church front.  [ed: or, on the front of the church]
after that, back to the boat and everyone seemed pretty bushed.

8/23 part 2
tonight we had dinner at the vintage house, which was exceedingly
tasty.  salmon in crepe followed by (for me) more salmon.  [ed: the
author is a piscatarian, who only eats vegetables and fish, and the
tour supplied him with food options other than the pork and beef everyone
else was having]  there was white wine followed by red wine
followed by port.  all were much better than the wine at the spanish
hotel in salamanca.  during the day, we travelled to castelo rodrigo
and tromped around in this quite small town (80 inhabitants).  later
we came down the mountain to figuera de castelo rodrigo (with 2200
inhabitants).  they had a market going on, but it was muito underwhelming.
at least at dinner we had got talking with some brits and one guy
(mike?) was appreciative of fawlty towers and monty python.
back at the boat, people again passed out early despite this
being the penultimate day of the trip.  got on the internet
again finally today also, made contact with bob (sort of) and shredder,
and had a nice chat with quag.  [ed: these are three of the author's
bizarro friends]  soon to bed though.

leaving today and on bus to aeroporto right now.  yesterday we
had a tour in the morning to castelinho rodrigo?
getting fuzzy on all the destinations now.  this was a nice
castle town but the main gov...  oops.  no.  that was the 23rd.....
[ed: the author had been about to riff on how the main governor's mansion
in the castle town was destroyed by angry torch wielding serfs at some
point in the past and had been left as mostly a pile of rubble.  there
seemed to be a back story that some jerk was appointed as the local governor
and he spent all the money the crown gave him (for the town's upkeep?)
to instead build a huge mansion for himself.  democracy prevailed and his
fancy pants house was taken away from him by an unaccepting proletariat.
they burned it to the ground.]
actually, the 24th (yesterday) was a visit to castillo mateus.
this is the image on mateus wine, but it's pronounced
"mat-te-oosh".  it was all very beautiful but they served terrible
cappuccino.  the castle itself was very ornate and beautiful.
we went through the usual tourist circumambulation.  they had
a walkway under cedars that was like a tunnel to magical gardens.
their personal vineyard was medium sized and the grapes were
getting ripe.  the trip back was on winding mountain roads
again.  so wishing i could go off on a personal tour with infinite time
and all.  they have many fun little shops here in portugal.
strangely enough, most every farmacia has an electrically lit
green cross outside on the wall (kind of like our barber shops
here with the spinning barber pole).  so overall, it was a great trip,
with very few inconveniences.
hopefully the flight back will be reasonable and as quick as
can be expected.

8/25/07 part 2
back again.  the day was miserable with travelling.  now lying
on my nephew's bed in his old room at my sister's house,
after just finishing stephen king's "lisey's story".
soon to pass out hard.  can't wait to get back to the island
again, where it's cool.  it's nasty hot and sweaty here.
also more provisions are at the island, because things are
very scant here.  [ed: apparently the author requires a great
quantity of food]  zero changes of clothes are left.  ugh.
brought back one _tiny_ bottle of port, but now i feel
equipped to shop for the good stuff.  snooze on, mighty spaceman.

back to island yesterday (8/26).  much fooding beforehand, eating
brunch at moody's and buying food at shaw's.  walked the rows
looking for good port and found none.  back at island this
afternoon and took a lovely nap.  today, almost first thing
was a visit to the island PA (doc) to check on supposed
spider bite on my ass.  he thinks it's shingles, which is
fine with me.  gone in two or three weeks, probably won't
come back, essentially it's a resurgence of chicken pox.
hopefully he's right.  spent some time just now at the library
getting caught up on the internet.  right hand is tired from
writing, now using left.
[ed: the quality of the writing gets dramatically worse at this
point, and it was never very good to begin with]
sprint pcs support web site is so poor it boggles the mind.
have snagged a couple more gifts--pens from the library.
thinking about a nap, but i should finish burning these
dvds of photos for people.  dad's providing blanks to ensure
he gets a full set from everyone.  [ed: the author's
family is trying to get all the digital photos together from the trip;
most of the pictures are blurry shots of people's shoes]
now can practically taste my house and feel my cats,
homeward bound time is so close.  had a little private
meditational time last night with the small bottle of tawny port i got
to bring back...  port at midnight, and it was the delicious
real stuff.  urf, now thinking about snoozing a bit...  zzzz end.

[posted 11/16/2007]