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May 2009
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We were in Paris for five days for the Paris Air Show, which happens every two years.  This is the first time D has attended.  The event is geared mainly towards military and commercial sales. 

Here he is in the flight deck of the gigantic Airbus 380.  If you want to experience it for yourself, click here for a 360 view of the flight deck.




The A380 is the world's largest passenger plane.  The cabin has 50% more floor space then the next largest plane (the 747-400) and holds 525 people in the typical three class configuration.




It is a four engine, double decker, wide body.  Yep, that IS a pretty wide body!  Later in the day the A380 flew a demo flight which D said was unbelievably quiet for such a large beast!.







The next day, D was off very early (7 am) for a day crammed with meetings.  Between the meetings, he was able to catch the F18's demonstration.  As I mentioned, the Paris Air Show is geared towards the military so their flight demos are much more extreme than a normal air show. 




The F18 fighter jet was his favorite.  It has the ability to come to an almost complete stop mid-air.   We did not take the photo above, but I wanted to show what one looked like.

And......What did I do while D played with planes?  I wandered the city, shopped, and enjoyed a lovely meal at an outdoor cafe with a little glass of wine!






I was invited to attend day two's evening event - a cocktail reception at the Louvre!  How cool is that?  We we not sure I would be invited to any of the events, but luckily I packed a black dress just in case.


It was an invitation only event and the Louvre was closed to the general public.




  It was a beautiful evening.  At the entrance they had the dancing girls in a bubble.



This must be the hot new event "thing" as Brussels had bubble dancers at the Iris festival a few weeks ago.  Very fun to see in person.



The reception took place in the grand entrance of the Louvre.  They had open bars everywhere and all kinds of fancy appetizers.  My favorite was the crab meat in an avocado sauce served in a martini glass.

Me, lost in the crowd!    



It is amazing how late it stays light in Paris and Brussels.  This photo was taken at 9 PM and it looks like early afternoon.



We were allowed to walk and see the Mona Lisa (look closely she is behind us).  We were not allowed to take our drinks in that section.  I wanted my photo having a glass of champagne with the Mona Lisa.



The main hall leading up to the Mona Lisa.



 I thought this was an interesting view of the Eiffel Tower as it has a replica of the Statue of Liberty.  Did you know our Statue of Liberty was given to the US by France?


This shot was taken as we were driving.  I really like the feel it gives the Eiffel Tower.



This shot is for Tammy and all you Lady Di fans out there.  This is the road leading into the infamous tunnel.....


and here we are in the tunnel at the point of the curve where the deadly accident occurred.  Very sad.



A few photos of the Sacre Coeur in Montmartre, which was built at the end of the 19th century.  




Many famous painters have featured it in their art.  


Our hotel was just down the street.  This is a different part of the city from where we usually stay. 




Remember the big bunnies from the restaurant in Belgium?  Well they hopped on over to Paris for an appearance. 





A carousel in the city. 




The final day, we ate at a sweet little french cafe. 


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And last but not least....the ice cream photo!  This had to be the most beautiful, unique cone we have ever had.  Look closely and you can see the flower they created by scooping the second flavor around the first to create a flower.  Ice cream was excellent as well.



Off to the US for two weeks.  Next trip...Provence for the Lavender. in bloom.









Croatia, Bosnia, and Montenegro

Dubrovnic stitch 1

Donald was asked to give a presentation in Dubrovnik, Croatia.  I know what you are thinking......who has a conference in Croatia?  He really did, and his presentation went very well!  We ooooed and ahhhhed as we drove along the coast and caught our first glimpse of the city. 

Dubrovnic view

Our Ameri-Brit friends Dave (D2) and Allison (A) had been talking about visiting these countries too, so they met us there!  We had a blast!


We started in the city of Dubrovnik, a cliff-side city on the Adriatic sea.  It is known as the pearl of the Adriatic and once you are there, it is obvious why it has this name.  Absolutely stunning!


We stayed in the center of the old town which is made up of beautiful white limestone and is completely surrounded by an ancient stone wall built during the 9th century. 


The streets are car-free and are made of a polished white stone. 


In the early morning and late afternoon the city was quiet and peaceful, but during the day the very large cuise ships would dock


and hundreds of people filled the streets.  We were there before the tourist season, we could not image it during the high season.


D2, A, and I played while poor D worked.  The three of us walked up one of the cliffs where the view was breath-taking. 


I was very sad that my poo-pie was not there to enjoy it with us.


But D2 and A quickly found a way to cheer me cream!  I had pre-screened five or so ice cream shops the night before so I knew exactly which one I wanted to go to.  


A success!  I was a happy again.  Donald who? 

Excellent ice cream.  Even our guide said it was THE best in the city.  Do I know my ice cream or what.


We went back the next day so D could also enjoy the view,



D2 and A did not know we have a check list that people need to pass before we are willing to travel with them.  Number one on the list is must like, no LOVE, ice cream.  They passed.  D2 with flying colors.  He went back one night for seconds.  As much as it hurt, I did not partake in a second cone.


We took a walking tour of the city which was very informative.  The woman who gave the tour lived there during the war of 1991/92 with her young daughter.  She really could not talk much about her personal experience as it was still very emotional for her.  Hard to imagine living through an ordeal like that. 

Saint Blaise, Patron Saint of the city, always shown holding the city in his hand.


Our guide told us to go to the main square at noon and see the pigeons.  Dubrovnik is one of the only cities in the world who actually feeds the pigeons on a daily basis.  We were a bit skeptical, how interesting could this be?  It turned out to be quite a site.  A few minutes before noon hundreds of pigeons circled the square waiting for the feed guy.  As soon as he dropped the food, they covered the square.


On the other side of the pigeons (red and white umbrellas) was a local market, where we bought figs, nectarines, apricots, and candied orange peels for snacking.


Late afternoon, we walked the entire ring of the castle wall,


which gives you magnificent views of the city, 

Roof panorama 2  


and the sea.



The city was beautifully restored and hard to even see the signs of destruction.  We toured an exhibit showing before and after photos and the damage was quite extensive.  Shells hit 68% of buildings in the old town.  The stone of the street and the walls were also badly damaged.  But the Croats worked hard to rebuilt their city.


The weather was perfect, so one morning I made myself a make-shift balcony at the apartment so I could have my coffee outdoors.


We found a really cool bar, Buza, (hole in the wall) on the side of the cliff. 



We liked it so much we went back the second night to enjoy the sunset.


For more pictures, click on the Croatia Bosnia Album on the first page of the blog.  Once you are in the album, click on the smaller image to enlarge.


Mostar, Bosnia Herzegovina


We drove along the Dalmatian coast and every turn we took presented a magnificent view.   On one side were the mountains and on the other side blue ocean and green islands.  Except for the few miles of coast line that we drove through, Bosnia Herzegovina (will refer to is as just Bosnia) is completely landlocked.  In fact, within a 15 minute span, we drove from Croatia, through the small strip of Bosnia, back into Croatia and then again into Bosnia and headed inland.  And had to cross the border patrol for each one!



We stopped at a seaside village and had a delicious lunch.  The three of us had seafood pasta and were given bibs.  We had grilled calamari as an appetizer - we all agreed it was the best we'd ever eaten.


Allison did a great job mapping out a route along the Dalmatian Coast and had selected several stops for us along the way.  She even read to us from the guide book between stops.  I really should have tipped her for her service!


Here we are at the ancient Radimlja necropolis in Bosnia, where there were 122 medieval tombstones carved in the 13th-15th century.



Our next stop was the town of Pocitelj where the most striking site was the Sa hat-Kula, a silo shaped fort that towers from the top of the hill above town.   It is a UNESCO world heritage site.  We walked to the top and explored the fort. 


It provided spectacular views of the town.


Bosnia has a heavy Turkish and Islamic influence throughout the country; 44% of the country's population is Muslim so we saw many minarets and heard the call for prayer often during our visit (they call five times a day).



By early evening we made it to our destination, Mostar Bosnia.  Many of you will recognize this famous bridge, the national symbol of Bosnia that was heavily destroyed during the Yugoslav civil war of 1993.  It was rebuilt in 2004.


As we were admiring it's beauty, we noticed a few young men looking as if they were going to jump off.  Allison had seen a postcard with a daredevil jumping so we got very excited in hopes we could see one jump.  Sure enough, they would walk along the bridge edge collecting coins from the tourist in order to make the jump.  Once they collected enough (around $40) off they would go into the cold waters 60 feet below. 


Look closely above and you can see the jumper mid-air.  Below is a close-up of the jumper.  It was quite exciting to watch.


Mostar had all the beauty you could image yet still scared heavily with guns wounds and abandoned and burned buildings.











It was interesting to see buildings side by side, one repaired, one damaged.  Slowing they are working to repair their city.


We stayed in a cool historic museum hotel called the Muslibegovic house.  It was built in the 18 century and was untouched by the war. 


The photo below is the shared hallway that lead to our rooms.  Our rooms were in the same building as the museum. 


Because of this, we were required to take off our shoes before entering the hotel.


We had a very relaxing two days in Mostar.  We ate a lot of traditional Bosnian food, mainly grilled meats and fresh grilled fish and checked out the local scene.

Monk 2

My ice cream posse!



The city was particular photogenic in the evenings.



Goodnight Mostar!

Our last night we crossed back into Croatia and stayed in the seaside village of Mali Ston, know for it's great seafood.  And we did enjoy a terrific seafood dinner that night.  Our hotel rooms had stunning views of the water.


and lots of snails!


On the way to the airport we had a little extra time and decided to "make a run for the border!" 


The Montenegro border that is.  We were sooooo close, we all wanted that extra stamp in our passports.


Quick, snap a photo, turn around and cross back into Croatia.  Technically we should have at least eaten lunch there  :   )

What a FUN trip with great company.  We are already planning our next rendezvous for the fall!



IRELAND - wet and sunny. sunny and wet.


Our new friends - Rua and Blaskett

I am jumping to the end of our eleven day trip to Ireland because this was the highlight of our vacation.   A co-worker of D's recommended that we do the "Hawk Walk" at Ireland's School of Falconry at Ashford Castle.


It was an experience of a lifetime.  I was a little apprehensive when I was first given my bird Blaskett, a ten year old male.  Okay, maybe apprehensive is too soft a word.....I was really scared!  


I listened carefully as the trainer promised me he would not bite my face off.  D of course was laughing his butt off, watching and photographing my fear.


Okay, I am now comfortable with my new buddy Blaskett.


D admiring his bird, Rua, an eight year old female.  She is one of their best hunters.  I think they may have bonded.


We were very fortunate to have the owner, Deborah, as our guide.  The walks are private and last for 60 minutes.  We ended up having 90 minutes because this was a new pairing of birds and she wanted to give them a little more time together.  Her knowledge of this magnificent bird is impressive.  She and her husband started the school twenty years ago.  What a cool job!


Once Deborah gave us a quick lesson on how to hold our birds, we walked about 10 minutes into the woods before letting them fly.  As soon as she unties the strap on their legs they take off into the trees.  She then puts a piece of meat in our gloved hand and they FLY back to us for their reward.


It is absolutely AMAZING to watch the birds come straight down from the tree at a pretty fast pace, full wing spread, directly at us.  As we walked along the path they followed us, flying from tree to tree.  She did not give them any signals or calls.  I think they watch when she lifts her bag as this means she is pulling out their treat.


After devouring the treat, they would sit for a few minutes on our finger which gave us the opportunity to really get a good look at them.  I felt like Blaskett was looking directly in to my soul.  Deborah told us they are not affectionate and do not become close to anyone, even her.  She said they really do not look at you either - it just appears as if they do.


We highly recommend taking a hawk walk if you ever have the opportunity.  The Harris Hawk is a fascinating bird of prey.


We were very lucky on our walk; we actually had a sunny day.  Let me just say it now......the weather sucked!  We had rain EVERY single day and we missed several sights (Ring of Kerry, Cliffs of Moher, most of the Burren) because of the rain and fog. 


I read a quote, "if you don't like the weather in Ireland, wait five minutes".  How true this was.  As we stepped out of the rental car agency we had to make a run for our car as it was hailingWelcome to Ireland.  With all the rain, we did see some spectacular rainbows.  They are very hard to photograph.  We even saw a full rainbow - which was a first for us both.  No photo as we were in the car.


Donald did a great job driving. Ireland, the driver is on the right hand side of the car and you drive on the right side of the road.  A guy on the plane said just remember the driver is always in the middle and passenger on the outside.  Here is a typical road in Ireland.  You tell me where the middle is.  And yes this is a two-way road!


Our trip consisted mainly of ruins, castles, pubs, peanut butter and jelly, and sheep.  Of course we will show you all the sunny photos and you will think I am lying about the rain.



Above is the Minard Castle in Dingle.


 The photo below is one of my favorites of the trip. We are both snapping pictures at the same time.   Look closely and see if you can tell which one of us took this photo.  

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I really like this one too; I think it looks like a watercolor painting.


 Most of the ruins and castles we deserted. 

We were the only people there, which gave them a very eerie feel.    






This was probably our favorite ruin.  It was on a golf course, Adare Manor.  We had to walk quite a distance on the course to get to it.  Good thing D is a golfer as he knew when and more importantly when not to cross the fairways. 


A few more shots of the golf course ruins.




We visited Kylemore Abbey.  It was built between 1867 and 1871.  In 1920, the Benedictine nuns from Belgium who fled during the war purchased the castle and in 1923 turned it into an international boarding school for girls.  I would have liked to have gone to school here!


The Swiss Cottage is a delightful little thatched roof cottage built in the early 1800's and was used for the wealthy to entertain guests.  It was usually on the same property as their castles.  It was sort of like a play house. 


This rugged terrain is the Burren made up of limestone.  Because limestone is so porous; it is susceptible to erosion by water.  


The shapes that are made by the erosion are called karren. 


As you know, we are big foodies.  Ireland is not a place for foodies.  When you are out driving around, there are very few restaurants.  So we ate many pb&j's.  In the car.  There are also very few public toilets.  You can do the math on this one  :  )


Time for our obligatory ice cream shot.  On the ice cream ratings scale, good not great.  D had brown bread ice cream and I had Bailey's Irish cream, both local favorites.  It was very expensive.  Actually everything in Ireland was very expensive.


We were able to catch a few scenic cliff-side photos in between the raindrops.


This photo captured what I was expecting Ireland to look like; beautiful, idyllic, peaceful.


With all that rain, you can image how green everything was.


There was a lot of stone which was used around the houses and on the farms.  Even with all this stone, there were very few stone houses or farms.  It was only used for fences.


The fog created a very beautiful scene.



This is the Gallarus Oratory believed to be a very early christian church built  between the 6th and 9th century.  It was built without mortar.


We had fun photographing all the goats, sheep, and baby lambs. 


How sweet!


 Being spring, there were hundreds of baby lambs.  Even in the roads. 


This is "tea-party goat".  She is all dressed up with her fancy nylons and her pink hair.


The day we were in Galway the Volvo Around the World Ocean Yacht Race was coming through.  Unfortunately they would not be getting into port until 3 am.  We still enjoyed the festivities.  The Irish Yacht came in 3rd.


And last but not least - the Irish pubs! 


We visited many.  There are no fast food restaurants to be found, if you want a quick bite, you pop into a pub.


All you beer drinkers should know the beer of Ireland is Guinness. 


Doesn't that creamy foam make your mouth water?


I am not a beer drinker, but discovered that I really enjoyed the cider.  And it has as much alcohol as the Guinness.


In Dingle, we went to listen to traditional Irish music live.  There were four musicians slated to play, but four more joined in so they had a jam.  We enjoyed listening to them.  Both of the female singers had beautiful voices with that Irish lilt.  The music, coupled with the cider...had me doing the jig.


Of course we have many more photos for your viewing pleasure....just click on the photo of the castle ruins on the upper right hand side of our main page.

Next trip - Croatia and Bosnia!  See you then.